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Belarus Cracks Down On VKontakte

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the nice-firm-clapping dept.

Censorship 111

decora writes "On several recent Wednesdays, Russian language social networking site Vkontakte has been blocked by the government of Belarus. The blocks are partly to prevent the organization of 'Silent Protests,' in which citizens gather in city squares, and clap in protest against president Alexander Lukashenko. The government has designated the people involved as "social network revolutionaries" and charged many with disorderly conduct. One VKontakte user, Mikhail Karatkevich, is to be put on trial August 10 for 'organizing a mass rally' after he posted a meeting notice onto his page. According to Charter 97, the regime has even set up fake proxy servers to capture the unwitting; Tor is the suggested solution."

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+1 Like (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36994370)

+1 Like

Re:+1 Like (1)

Garridan (597129) | more than 3 years ago | (#36994516)

I, too, like silent protests. I like them so much, I applaud when I show up to one.

Our jokes backfired! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36994372)

In Soviet Russia, they applaud YOU!

For being a lousy leader...

Jeez Louise the LHC must be working overtime in this universe...

Re:Our jokes backfired! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36994556)

They still haven't taken down the parody of the Belorussian entry for Eurovision 2011:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSH7vA33Zbs

(no, it's not a rickroll)

Captcha: disdain

Re:Our jokes backfired! (1)

_KiTA_ (241027) | more than 3 years ago | (#36994840)

That's because that's not the right URL for the parody. This is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0 [youtube.com] (yes, it's a rickroll) Captcha: Not found

Richard Stallman's penis (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36994378)

is my cock

Re:Richard Stallman's penis (1, Funny)

r.stallman (2030484) | more than 3 years ago | (#36994570)

I only like others to have the freedom to use my software, not hardware

Time defeats all (1, Insightful)

William (Dthdealer) (1704286) | more than 3 years ago | (#36994486)

When internet access becomes a human right, the action of censorship will become illegal

Re:Time defeats all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36994566)

After the fall of certain dictatorships north of Central America.

Re:Time defeats all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36994572)

When internet access becomes a human right, identities will follow your internet identity and this worlds censorship will continue to exist.

Re:Time defeats all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36995068)

"In the long run, we are all dead" (John Maynard Keynes). Your attitude must have be a solace to everybody who ever suffered from dictators.

I'm also glad to learn that human rights are never violated, especially not in countries like Belarus.

After 120 years is a telephone a human right yet? (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995234)

What about a radio or TV?

So whats so special about the internet?

Crawl out of your basement and get in touch with the real world pal.

Re:After 120 years is a telephone a human right ye (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36995282)

You have it the wrong way around, you should be thinking of it more in terms of Freedom of the Press.
The internet is special because it is the only medium that is both massive and two-way.

Re:After 120 years is a telephone a human right ye (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995380)

"The internet is special"

No it isn't.

"massive and two-way."

So was CB Radio back in the day. Perhaps that should have been a human right too?

Idiots who claim the internet should be a human right clearly have no idea about real human rights and where and how they're being abused or they wouldn't trivialise them int his way. A human right is not having your water polluted by industrial conglomerates or your land stolen by a corrupt government, its not about some middle class western kid being able to twitter BS to his friends.

Re:After 120 years is a telephone a human right ye (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995606)

The internet may not be a human right but it is unique in that the entry cost to making yourself heard to millions of people is almost nothing. CB Radio limited your message to a few dozen weirdos.

There is nothing in history that compares to the scope and power of the internet.

Re:After 120 years is a telephone a human right ye (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 3 years ago | (#36996536)

"CB Radio limited your message to a few dozen weirdos."

You think people who spend all day on farcebook or twitter are normal??

Re:After 120 years is a telephone a human right ye (1)

RazzleFrog (537054) | more than 3 years ago | (#36997084)

No but those are millions of weirdos :p

Too little too late (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36994522)

Last Wednesday there were almost no protests, and this Wednesday no one even organized any.
People calmed down after recent devaluation and inflation of belarus currency. Moment is lost.
Opposition is talking about moving all mass events to autumn, but imo they cant just admit defeat.

Congratz to " the evil regime", they've actually won. Have a happy next 20 years of ruling.

Tor? (1)

beat.bolli (126492) | more than 3 years ago | (#36994532)

Now who do you think would also set up a few Tor servers to listen in?

Re:Tor? (1)

rbrausse (1319883) | more than 3 years ago | (#36994564)

as VKontakte is a clone/rip-off of Facebook I would imagine that the EULA regarding real names are similar instructed and enforced. (can't prove my point, I don't speak/read Russian)

  it is kind of senseless using an anonymizing network to write something with your real name attached...

Re:Tor? (1)

beat.bolli (126492) | more than 3 years ago | (#36994590)

How would VKontakte (or Facebook, for that matter) enforce that someone enters their real name? It's not like you have to present an ID when you register. Special-interest groups (dissidents?) could agree on pseudonyms out-of-band and use them just on the social network.

Re:Tor? (1)

rbrausse (1319883) | more than 3 years ago | (#36994704)

Facebook actually block accounts when someone (or the software) believe the name is fake.

Social networks are great tools for organising protests, with the big advantage of openness and the big disadvantage of openness. The currents uproars (North Africa, Middle East, Belarus, ...) are driven by the masses; the demonstrations are successful because a notable percentage of the citizens are participating. Using of pseudonyms would slow down the information flow, and this would (arguable) the end of the protests: The strength of the movement are the people on the street.

Re:Tor? (1)

TangoMargarine (1617195) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998106)

Facebook actually block accounts when someone (or the software) believe the name is fake.

[citation needed]

If this is actually true, I want to read it from an authoritative source.

Re:Tor? (1)

rbrausse (1319883) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998410)

out of the head one quite recent example (okay, I had to google a link...): Michael Anti/Zhao Jing [dailytelegraph.com.au]

Re:Tor? (1)

TangoMargarine (1617195) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998542)

Okay, in that regard, yes. I'm thinking of the people who make nonsense profiles for a stuffed, pink dolphin "Pink Floyd." Which is somewhat different, I suppose...

Re:Tor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36994690)

I do speak Russian.

They tried to enforce real name registration or associating your account with your phone number, but setting up a fake account is still doable - not sure about Belarus, but in Russia and Ukraine one can buy a sim card anonymously anywhere.

Re:Tor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36994862)

First, it was only started as a clone/rip-off, today it is much more original and independant project than it was initially. And second - no, there is no policy of banning users with false names or pseudonyms. There are some measures taken against obvious obscene/inflammatory/spam nicknames and avatars, but there is absolutely no policy of banning 10,000th John Smith. So yes, it is pretty useful to any social protesters, and there is nothing strange in Lukashenko trying to ban it.

Re:Tor? (1)

Nysul (1816168) | more than 3 years ago | (#36994888)

If they are similarly enforced, my dog has a facebook page, so I think as long as you use any realistic sounding name it doesn't have to be linked to your real identity at all.

Re:Tor? (1)

mrogers (85392) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995804)

But your dog isn't (I assume) a political activist. Facebook doesn't go out of its way to track down accounts with false names, but if someone complains that your account has a false name, it will be suspended until you provide legal documentation of the name, such as a passport or driver's license.

This has happened, and continues to happen, to activists around the world. Michael Anti [wikimedia.org] , the Chinese journalist, was one high-profile case. There's a Facebook fan page about him, but he's no longer allowed to have a Facebook account.

Re:Tor? (1)

klapaucjusz (1167407) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995188)

Tor is not only for hiding your identity from the server; it's also useful for preventing your ISP from learning who you're connecting to, and for tunnelling aroud any firewalls that might be in place (as long as tor itself isn't blocked).

For example, I commonly use ssh over tor. Since I'm authentifying to the server, I'm obviously not hiding from it, but I prevent my ISP from knowing where I ssh to.

-- jch

Re:Tor? (1)

utkonos (2104836) | more than 3 years ago | (#36996080)

EULA? It's enforced by connecting your account to a cell phone. You can buy a SIM card anywhere with no ID and no questions asked. Sometimes in Russia places like Evroset will ask for ID, but most places don't, and nowhere in Ukraine asks for anything at all except money.

Re:Tor? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 3 years ago | (#36996252)

If Vkontakte allows HTTPS connections, install the Perspectives addon and let them. They can listen to garbage.

Third party services (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36994574)

I'm curious if they managed to block third party services like https://imo.im/ [imo.im] (since it goes over SSL)

Re:Third party services (1)

rbrausse (1319883) | more than 3 years ago | (#36994668)

I just tried it with an open proxy in Belarus (213.184.241.106:3128) and neither vkontakte.ru nor imo.im are blocked...

Re:Third party services (1)

Plunky (929104) | more than 3 years ago | (#36994790)

friday is not wednesday

Re:Third party services (1)

rbrausse (1319883) | more than 3 years ago | (#36994800)

oops, I thought it would be an ongoing block. And not only friday is not wednesday, but additionally the post on charter97 is wednesday, July 20.

There's like mass revolutions everywhere (1, Insightful)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | more than 3 years ago | (#36994630)

I wonder if dictators are getting scared with the mass amounts of revolutions everywhere. It is like revolution fever! It is just simply sad about how many people are losing their lives in these. It just goes to show you how corrupt the governments are when people are getting killed for non violent protests.

Re:There's like mass revolutions everywhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36994914)

Which kind of makes people think whether those revolutions are genuine or organized by third parties, somehow interested in public unrest and instability in those specific countries. This is no other sensible explanation.

Re:There's like mass revolutions everywhere (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#36994940)

Or it could just be a bandwagon effect. Nothing spurs people to actually do something they were considering like seeing others doing it.

Re:There's like mass revolutions everywhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36995102)

Not this time. Too many coincidences - "mysterious snipers" shooting both rioters and the police in every country in exactly the same way to put the blame on the police and increase instability, media coverage starting almost BEFORE the event, sudden loss of all coverage then crimes or so-called revolutionaries came to light. Heck, same people have been spotted acting as corpses for different photo sessions. This is not just fishy, for many people there is no doubt that those things are organized and in no way spontaneous.

Take Libya for example, the country with very high standard of living with no real reason for revolt. Very bogus reasons. It's like if Wall Street decides to revolt against the US government citing low wages and random government-sponsored torture of financial workers as the reason.

Re:There's like mass revolutions everywhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36995376)

The conspiracy theorist's paradox: They (whoever They are) have sufficient resources, staff, and organizational finesse to execute chillingly devious and wildly successful operations, to incite revolutions, to topple world governments while escaping those same governments' attention, but They are also stupid and lazy enough to be detected by conspiracy theorist.

They plant "mysterious snipers" to provoke incidents and manage never to have one captured by a government motivated to breach the conspiracy, despite doing it over and over again with the same modus operandi so obviously that conspiracy theorists on the internet can figure out it, though the police and military and intelligence agencies can't. They rig media coverage that starts before an event (a flagrant violation of the conspiracy theorist's golden rule of post hoc ergo propter hoc), but no one notices except for the conspiracy theorist. They use the same agents to pose as corpses again and again, They're so obvious that it's almost comic, and no one with a vested interest in stopping them -- no other dictators sure to be next in the crosshairs, no major transnational corporations, no media outlets however otherwise willing to hack into phones, work with Wikileaks, or out CIA agents -- no one puts Them in the spotlight except the armchair internet conspiracy theorist. Of course not: They are powerful enough to quash the story, to suppress information, to control the flow of data and ideas, except of course for the conspiracy theorist's rambling on the internet, the one thing They can't control. Don't trust the pictures, the videos, the proof: it's all been faked; it's the moon landing all over again; the only truth is what someone on the internet thinks might be credible, not what the camera records.

This must be the case, because we all have long known that Libya offers a very high standard of living with no real reason for revolt. This is credible, because we've all seen the Libyans' palatial homes, because we admire how their cutting-edge technology makes their lives easier than that of their European neighbors across the Mediterranean, because Ghadafi is a lovable man who didn't come to power by military coup and keep himself in power by any means other than winning the genuine affections of his adoring people.

Obviously, the wave of revolutions has nothing to do with frustration over food prices globally rising faster than the incomes of the poor, with regional and global economic issues hurting employment, on top of decades of simmering resentment against oppressive regimes, a newfound availability of cheap and ubiquitous communications equipment that quietly disrupted those regimes' formerly valid assumptions about the people's ability to share information and coordinate actions, and a growing number of resourceful young people from the upper classes educated overseas, who brought home with them not only medical and technical knowledge but also foreign ideologies and disaffections. These larger socioeconomic issues that can't be assigned to one person or one small cabal of plotters of course can't possibly be responsible for social unrest in precisely those countries where their confluence is most noticeable, namely the tin-pot dictatorships of the less fortunate parts of the Arab and formerly communist worlds. No: instead foreign snipers and rigged media coverage are the forces acting on the situation, under Their control, whoever They are. Much as how we know lightning and thunder aren't natural phenomena that occur under specific circumstances, but rather the expressed wrath of the gods, so too we know that widespread social upheaval isn't the result of socioeconomic and historical circumstances that occur in similar and specific regimes, but rather a manifestation of Their conspiratorial power.

Good thing we're here on the internet, ready and able to catch them being stupid about it.

Re:There's like mass revolutions everywhere (1)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995558)

+1, they approve of this message.

Re:There's like mass revolutions everywhere (1)

the gnat (153162) | more than 3 years ago | (#36996494)

This may be damning with faint praise, but that was one of the most insightful posts I've ever read on Slashdot. Thank you!

Re:There's like mass revolutions everywhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36994950)

As long as the protesters are quiet/peaceful and only clapping...the dictators have nothing to be afraid of.
If they do it a few too many times, the police will just mow them down in gunfire.

Re:There's like mass revolutions everywhere (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999438)

There have always been revolutions. In fact, compared to the late 1700's, I'd call this pretty tame.

Maybe the Belarus revolutionaries could use more guillotines?

Facebook is equally complicity in allowing (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36994640)

authoritarian governments to track down dissidents. On Thursday, Al Jazeera, broadcast a documentary about how authorities in Bahrain were able to efficiently utilize Facebook to apprehend dissidents.

[quote]
It tells the story of Ayat al Qurmezi, a 20-year-old woman, who first attracted attention from authorities by publicly reading a poem that was critical of Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa and the king.

Her actions, at Pearl Roundabout in Manama, the focal point of the demonstrations, led to a Facebook page calling for her torture and arrest.

Thousands of pro-government supporters flocked to the page, where they goaded each other to post horrific messages such as "I spit on you whore!" and "God willing the security forces smash her mouth and teeth", before demanding the woman's arrest.

The film alleges that this page, and others like it, were allowed to stay live for months instead of being pulled down by moderators.

And as the documentary reports, those wishes were granted when with the help of the Facebook page, Ayat was tracked down and taken into custody.

"What we've heard is that Ayat was tortured and put in the military hospital," Ayat's mother says in the 50-minute film. "I'm going to die from worrying about her."

It was only three months later that Ayat turned up on state TV, to issue an apology that the family says was obtained by force.

The documentary also alleges that Facebook pages which showed photos of known protesters were set-up and left active for weeks, in order for authorities to track them down and arrest them. Each of the pictures was 'checked off' as the protesters were captured.
[/quote]
Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/08/04/al-jazeera-documentary-to_n_918188.html

The documentary is titled "Bahrain: Shouting in the dark", and is available to watch here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaTKDMYOBOU .

Well done, Zmagary! (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36994766)

Silently standing and clapping hands -- that brings passive-aggressive behavior to the whole new level!

Re:Well done, Zmagary! (1)

mjwx (966435) | more than 3 years ago | (#36994864)

Silently standing and clapping hands -- that brings passive-aggressive behavior to the whole new level!

The summary said "stand there, and clap".

Maybe a large number of them are infected with chlamydia.

Re:Well done, Zmagary! (1)

TangoMargarine (1617195) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998134)

Because you think protesting aggressively in a former Soviet republic would go off well...?

Re:Well done, Zmagary! (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999890)

No, because protesting involves EXPRESSING WHAT EXACTLY ARE YOU AGAINST, AND WHY.

So far, "protests" look more like "we hate everything about everything here, and hope some foreign invaders will replace it with something we will like".

Re:Well done, Zmagary! (1)

TangoMargarine (1617195) | more than 3 years ago | (#37000504)

Or they think that the thing they're protesting against is so obvious they don't have to come right out and say it.

Sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36994776)

But I must confess that when I read the title, I thought it was due to the insane amount of copyrighted staff you can stream on that social network.

not a wealthy dictatorship (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36994816)

I don't see anybody trying to bring democracy to that country, might it be that there is nothing to take there? No oil and the only gas is coming out of that gas bag of a 'president'? Lukashenko is even more pathetic than the Dear Leader of North Korea, he can't even threaten anybody with anything except his own citizens.

Voice out of epSos.de (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36994884)

We love the government. We love the president.

Belarusians deserve this (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36995016)

Belarus is a country of about 9.5 million people in Eastern Europe. When the Soviet Union and other communist regimes fell world over during the late 1980s and early 90s, Belarusians did nothing. It is one of the last reminiscences of Soviet-era communism in Europe – when the other Eastern Bloc countries started the transition to democracy, market economy and European integration as soon as the Russian dominance fell, Belarusians chose to remain a closed, authoritarian, communist society. Now, when even Russia has moved towards democracy and continues to have one of the most liberal economies in the world, Belarus' position to remain a poor, backwater communist regime cuts it off ever more severely from normal Western cultural development. In the end, the blame lies on the Belarusian people, who failed to stand up and revolutionize the society in the 1990s.

It is both encouraging and sad to see these few courageous citizens standing up to the oppression, but sadly it feels like they have already missed the rain by two decades. Knowing that these people could end up with long prison sentences and potentially capital punishment, one can only admire their courage. Maybe the Arab Spring will one day reach as far north as Belarus..

Re:Belarusians deserve this (5, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995034)

Now, when even Russia has moved towards democracy and continues to have one of the most liberal economies in the world

- wow, what a load of crap! What does it mean 'liberal' in this context? What Russia has today is an insanely controlling top heavy government, which is involved in shaking down all of the businesses that are not the largest raw material and energy exporters. You can't do business in Russia if you actually follow the rules, you will never make a single ruble of profit by following the rules, which are almost on purpose designed to discourage any business activity. You can only do business in Russia if you do things in various shady to semi-shady ways, only then you can actually have some profit, and I believe this is done on purpose, so that nobody can be 'crystal clear' and everybody always has something that he can be incriminated with, because that's the way the government likes it - making sure they can always throw you behind bars and confiscate your business, which they often do. Of-course they can do it even without finding anything actually shady, they can come up with insane 'evidence' and people who will support it and put you behind bars regardless of any evidence, and the courts are told what to do.

If THAT is what you consider liberal, then it's liberal.

Re:Belarusians deserve this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36996008)

Exactly. That's what I am talking. Where money and political power are one and the same, there's the true economical freedom. Most of Western world has got it totally wrong with their antitrust, patent, minimum wage, subsidy, corruption and whatnot legislation. Compared to Russia, most of Western economies that make a big number backed by million-dollar "independent" propaganda campaigns of appearing to be "free" are actually very controlled economies. I am not saying that regulation was necessarily a too bad thing for the vast majority of the population, but when we talk pure economical freedom plain and simple, Russia just stands as #1 class world citizen along with countries like Liberia, Somalia and Cambodia.

Most of EU and North Americas has fallen victim to 20th century social democracy with its hostile attitude towards free competition. People in these countries might be living safe but dull lives, devoid of any real, unobstructed economical opportunities in the foreseeable future.

Re:Belarusians deserve this (1)

slater.jay (1839748) | more than 3 years ago | (#36997002)

I'm pretty sure you're a troll.

Stop using the term "cracking down" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36996470)

Journalists REALLY need to realize what they're doing when they use the term "crack down" as a substitute for oppression. By doing this they are helping to reduce the impact of the situation -- exactly as the oppressors desire -- making it seem more benign or routine than it really is. The term "crack down" implies that (1) the people being targeted are in fact doing something wrong, and (2) government is merely "getting around to fixing it", as if it was always on the list of things to do, just routine job that got pushed back because they were busy with other things.

The reality is the exact opposite with this case, and in many other cases it is the exact opposite. A government doesn't "crack down" on political dissent. A government oppresses political dissent. That is the correct term. That is the term we need to use to properly describe the situation.

"Cracking down" is something a parent does when a teenager starts coming home late. Somebody that, despite giving out a harsh scolding, merely has the teenager's best interest in mind. Oppression is the polar opposite of this. The harsh scolding is physical, not verbal. And the government engaging in oppression certainly doesn't have your best interest in mind.

Re:Stop using the term "cracking down" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36996506)

you are probably correct, but what does it have to do with my comment?

You are an idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36995080)

Utter complete BULLSHIT!

Russia is full totalitarian dictatorship. Putin vs Chodorkovski anyone?

Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36995086)

My frient currently in by, using the govermntal phone company just accessed vkontakte with no problem,....

Not that surprising from Belarus (4, Interesting)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995126)

Journalists who visit Belarus (and there are very few that are allowed) often come back saying that Belarus is the last Soviet republic. One party system, state controls everything, massive corruption, deteriorating everything, you name it. All the negatives of soviet style communism with none of the positives of actual Marxist ideals. People are often rated as being more free to criticize their government in China, Cuba, or Iran than they are in Belarus.

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (5, Informative)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995270)

All the negatives of soviet style communism with none of the positives

Belarus avoided the collapse that plagued all other former Soviet republics (including Russia) by keeping its system intact and has a higher standard of living than the others because of it.
http://www.elenastravel.com/cgi-bin/view.cgi?action=belarus#eco [elenastravel.com]

Better to have a corrupt dictator running the country who otherwise believes in what he's doing than to have normal business interests running things, it seems.

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36995348)

You set pretty low standards. Markets, corrupts, military, enlightened leaders, whatever. All shit. Who should be running things is the people. Everything else should be infrastructure. And we should not settle for anything else.

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995536)

How could my standard be so low when my standard is simply to say that it's better than every other country with that shared post-Soviet history?
And how will the people have the authority to run things? Liberal democracy? The people couldn't be more disconnected from what's happening in government in the rest of the CIS, or the USA for that matter. What would these people demand, anyway? Food? Shelter? Education? Employment? They already have that. Perhaps they will demand that the government sell all its assets to the mafia like they did in Russia! Enjoy your liberal democracy!

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995520)

i'd rather be free and poor than a well-to-do slave

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (2)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995560)

Free how? In the USA it's free to be homeless if you can't find a job. But apparently Belorussians will all be slaves until they have unrestricted access to Facebook.
You disrespect all who have suffered in slavery.

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (2)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995740)

if you don't have freedom of political expression, you are a slave

it's not about facebook, it's about the right to speak your mind and to choose your government. if you can't choose your government or openly criticize it, yes, you are a slave

that is not disrespectful of the history of slavery, it is an accurate word to use to describe the use of power in despotism: all citizens are slaves. you have no rights. 100% accurate: you are a slave. i am not cheapening the word or disrespecting the history of slavery, i am accurately describing the state of the freedoms and rights of those who live under despotism

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995604)

i'd rather be free and poor than a well-to-do slave

I'd like to believe I'd think that, too, except I have never experienced poverty. Those are easy-to-say words.

Free can mean many different things, but even in a free country there are lots of rules.

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995754)

i am not talking free as in the teenage idiotic definition of freedom: freedom from responsibility

i am talking free as in the adult intelligent definition of freedom: an open participant in the formation of your government and the right to speak whatever is on your mind and criticize anything and anyone you want without fear of official repercussions

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

karuna (187401) | more than 3 years ago | (#36996064)

You can criticize the US government without any issues in Belarus. :)

On the other hand, wikileaks activists have a lot of trouble in the US.

Discounting this, the US has more freedom but it still has very strict limits. I would say that Belarus people has as much freedom as China. Most people tolerate the current status in exchange of economy growth. Lukashenko will die or be forced out one day and then it is better to have country in order instead of ruins.

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#36997600)

this an argument i hear a lot: "freedom better than despotism, but despotism better than chaos"

however, much of chaos is just different ethnic groups wanting their own countries, in old world countries which are old empires fraying at the edges

so my response to you is: perhaps the old empire should crumble in the name of freedom, rather than a strong man keeping the old empire together in the name of stability, no?

the stability of the empire is an excuse used by the strongman. chechen bombers don't bomb moscow subways if moscow lets chechnya leave. but the strongman will use the bombings as an excuse to crackdown on all of russia, not just chechnya

so i'm sorry: "freedom better than despotism, but despotism better than chaos"

i don't buy the argument, it's a lie put forth by strongman, that you unfortunately believe, to your detriment

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

karuna (187401) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999274)

Provide a better alternative if you can. In reality it is hard, very hard. The USSR was discontinued because people wanted freedom but it destroyed the economy and created widespread unemployment and poverty. Next to Belarus is my country, Latvia, and people are leaving it in droves to better European countries even though Latvians have democracy. It has failed to ensure economic prosperity and the freedom alone is not enough.

It is easy for those who live in rich western countries that were developed with hard work of your forefathers and often with great social injustices like slavery or working conditions that were close to slavery. Belarus may have less political freedom but the life there isn't slavery.

While the Belarus people should demand more freedom, they should learn more diplomatic ways to achieve it. First, they should understand how politics work and why their current protests are just a waste of time.

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999406)

well said

i can't argue with you, as you know the subject far better than i

however i would simply add the example of finland: latvia can build a strong economy. if finland can, why not latvia?

i think you blame the economic conditions on some events that were contemporaneous, but not causative. although yes, there will be an extended social and economic hangover after emerging from the imperialist shell of ussr/ old russia. but it's like growth pangs, and being stuck between two very different social statuses, and still having a long way to go

latvia should do its best to emulate finland, and become the home of the next nokia/ angry birds software publisher (rovio?)

the future is bright. latvia is a gem of a country, nice towns and cities. people will live there gladly IF they can work there

so latvia should do its best to steal software development companies from your nordic neighbors ;-)

you just need a good economic policy, and latvia will be like ireland pre2008 real estate burst

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36996716)

You could make a movie about teenaged zombies. That would be great.

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#36997270)

i am not talking free as in the teenage idiotic definition of freedom: freedom from responsibility

i am talking free as in the adult intelligent definition of freedom: an open participant in the formation of your government and the right to speak whatever is on your mind and criticize anything and anyone you want without fear of official repercussions

By that definition Germany is not free, because a particular political party has been officially banned. I'm not suggesting for a minute that that particular group of people should rise to power again, but it's an example of a now enlightened country learning a lesson on "freedom" the hard way, and placing limits on themselves so they don't repeat the horrific mistakes of the past. If you stand in a German town square and say that former leader should be honored and there should be a return to his prior ways, you will be officially arrested and jailed for such speech. They have rules, yet I consider them a free country.

Here in America, we have always held that permitting such speech, even hate speech, is an absolute right. I suppose this allows the extremist elements to blow off steam safely, because they usually appear as stupid to most people as they generally are. But there is a always a significant percentage of any population of people who have proven themselves happy to follow the voices of various extremists. In many examples throughout history, religious leaders have been able to rally many of the faithful to their cause. In the 1920's Germany's extremism began as a secular movement, but it was based on strong biases against various sets of minorities, especially minority religions. The American right wing became as powerful as they have only because a few decades ago they aligned themselves with the group of religions that most citizens follow to some degree; although they occasionally are forced to acknowledge the establishment clause, they have come close to creating their own tyranny of the majority. And they are still trying, with laws attacking the practices of minority people they don't approve of.

Freedom of speech is necessary, of course. Women would not have the vote without it. Homosexuality would have remain outlawed without it (and there are still many official biases against it, including the "defense of marriage" bill.)

Even still, there are blatant examples [slashdot.org] of the authorities attempting to use their position of authority to twist the laws to silence critics. They couldn't arrest anyone for publicly speaking ill of them, but these people have used a cyberstalking statute to get a judge to order a subpoena to identify their anonymous critic. Therefore, all you have to do now is "offend" the wrong official and they'll find a way to throw you in jail. I can only hope the ACLU can convince the Department of Justice to bring these corrupt officials up on charges of abuse of power, otherwise there will be no end to the number of petty officials suppressing free speech across this country.

So, is any country really a "free" country? I think there's always a line.

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#36997388)

all you are saying is that because free countries are not 100% perfectly free, they are the same as countries who deny you your freedoms

this is an incredibly moronic way to view the world and the concept of freedom

look: you will never be 100% free, in any society made of human beings, ever. accept that

and so because you are at 99%, 95%, or 90% freedom on society A, does not in any way mean your society is the same as society B, that is 20% or 10% or 5% free on the scale of political expression

your'e one of those people who can't understand concepts except in terms of idealistic ways. and if you can find some way to nitpick how your realty is not 100% like your idealistic view, it's the same as nothing at all

you're an idiot, you really are. and the shame is, there's a lot of gasbags out there like you who complain from the same stupid premise of reality not matching your idealism. IT NEVER WILL

learn to criticize and think about your world from relative positions, not from the absolute position in your mind that will never exist. it means your thoughts and criticisms are useless

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#36997772)

Wow, that was a disturbingly hate-filled diatribe, with no point at all. Are you attacking me for pointing out something like "America isn't as free as you idealistically claim it to be"? All I said originally was "there are rules" and you jumped on me as if I was burning the Stars and Stripes at a NASCAR race.

I'm in no way suggesting Belarus and the US are identical in terms of freedoms or restrictions placed on those freedoms. I am saying that you can't claim America is "ideologically free" when there are indeed limits on that freedom.

The limits around ideas such as freedom are better defined by"areas", not "lines". But in conflict with this is the idea that our laws have defined fairness to be based on lines, not areas. Court cases push these boundaries around, claiming one particular activity is permitted while another is not. And different courts can give different results in similar cases, leaving the area looking a bit scarred at the end of the day. But no, our "free" area is still quite wide open in comparison to a dictatorship.

I think the "freedom area" here in the USA is about as good and as big as they get, and is even quite well defined and protected by the Constitution. But there's always someone trying to change its boundaries in order to box out an unpopular opponent, to keep a particular minority opinion away from them. And there are people who are more than willing to abuse it completely for their own petty ends. I want them punished harshly, as they're the biggest threat to our freedoms.

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998072)

i am attacking you for only dealing from the position of your absolute idealism, rather than from the position of relative realism

i know tons of people like you. all very loud, very dumb, and utterly without consequence, because the ivory tower from which you cast your judgments is not a viable or respectable perspective

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

plover (150551) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999386)

And my original reply was that I thought your idea of "i'd rather be poor and free than a wealthy slave" was naive and sloganesque. Now I realize it was simply spoken out of ignorance.

Forgive me for trying to engage you in rational thought. I won't make that mistake again.

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

karuna (187401) | more than 3 years ago | (#36996096)

There is a saying: Poverty is the cause of all vices. This is exemplified in India which is technically democracy but the extreme poverty only creates corruption and misery. You don't have to be obscenely rich but without decent standard of living you will not be free or safe.

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36995680)

i'd rather be free and poor than a well-to-do slave

I liked to be free and poor, however you just cannot when you have the wife and child. At least it is like here in Russia, that's why is so little free software is written in poor countries. However, if you'll take the look at Microsoft offices, nowadays you will find a lot of ex-third world citizens. Guess why?

Only the world government probably can stop huge inequality and finansical unstability.

And yes, you may be a rich slave as well, sometimes. Or, you may think you are rich, while in reality you are not.

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995760)

http://www.storyit.com/Classics/Stories/citycountrymouse.htm [storyit.com]

A country mouse invited his cousin who lived in the city to come visit him. The city mouse was so disappointed with the sparse meal which was nothing more than a few kernels of corn and a couple of dried berries.

          "My poor cousin," said the city mouse, "you hardly have anything to eat! I do believe that an ant could eat better! Please do come to the city and visit me, and I will show you such rich feasts, readily available for the taking."

          So the country mouse left with his city cousin who brought him to a splendid feast in the city's alley. The country mouse could not believe his eyes. He had never seen so much food in one place. There was bread, cheese, fruit, cereals, and grains of all sorts scattered about in a warm cozy portion of the alley.

          The two mice settled down to eat their wonderful dinner, but before they barely took their first bites, a cat approached their dining area. The two mice scampered away and hid in a small uncomfortable hole until the cat left. Finally, it was quiet, and the unwelcome visitor went to prowl somewhere else. The two mice ventured out of the hole and resumed their abundant feast. Before they could get a proper taste in their mouth, another visitor intruded on their dinner, and the two little mice had to scuttle away quickly.

        "Goodbye," said the country mouse, "You do, indeed, live in a plentiful city, but I am going home where I can enjoy my dinner in peace."

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36996582)

You could do a movie about mice zombies. That would be great.

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

zoom-ping (905112) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995796)

Belarus avoided the collapse that plagued all other former Soviet republics (including Russia) by keeping its system intact and has a higher standard of living than the others because of it.

What the fuck have you been smoking? No, I don't want any.
They have the one of the lowest standard of living, only places like Moldova can compete. I'm from Estonia. We had our collapse and built a better system. Belarus wasn't doing that good in the 90s either, but they haven't really made any progress either. My friends who have visited say that the country is an alternate universe where the USSR never collapsed.

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

karuna (187401) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995976)

Estonia is that much better either. The standard of living is higher but not by much. GDP (PPP) of Estonia is $18,518 vs. $13,909 in Belarus.

Estonia is that much better either. The standard of living is higher but not by much. GDP (PPP) of Estonia is $18,518 vs. $13,909 in Belarus. Besides unemployment and emigration to better European countries in Estonia is much higher.

Of course, Belarus politically is backwards country and Lukashenko is a dictator but Belarus has considerable higher standard of living than Molodova ($3,082) and Ukraine ($6,656).

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36997130)

I grew up in Belarus, still have family and childhood friends who live there and have followed whats been going on even though i do not live there. Let me start by saying that the stable economy you are suggesting is in some way better than Russia's is not what it seems. It is not an economy but an allowance from a much larger Russia. Until recently it has been HEAVILY reliant on Russian Oil and gas, in exchange for control and access to Europe. Lukashenka, the long standing Belarussian dictator, idolizes Stalin (google his pictures) and modeled the Belarussian economy after the failed soviet policies. The oil and gas profits used to make up 3/4 of gdp at one point, most of it the direct result of Russian subsidies, while most of the rest of businesses including banks are state controlled and run at a net loss. Lukashenka used to regularly fake election results and bribe the sitizens by paying higher pensions and wages than elsewhere in CIS including Russia. So in effect its a puppet government. Trouble is, the money ran dry. Belarus has had record inflation in the past couple of months. Some of that is due to Russia cutting off the air supply for Lukashenka in the form of subsidies so that they can gain control of the gas pipeline instead of continuing with the subsidies. The sad part is that Belarussians were willing participants in this scheme as long as there was a little stability despite the insanity of the regime in many ways similar to North Korea. But now that there is high inflation they finally get out in the streets to protest. Nothing will change in Belarus, its an aging country with a dwindling population. Those that have the means to leave are leaving in droves. The west has turned a blind eye because they dont want to step on russias turf. So, still think that economy model is better than yours?

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

karuna (187401) | more than 3 years ago | (#36999300)

I agree with you up to the point where you compare it with North Korea. It is not and you should know it. It is even better than China. Emotional feelings are not helping. It can only lead to another Bay of Pigs.

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995692)

"the positives of actual Marxist ideals"? What, like jailing anyone who doesn't agree with Marxist thought?

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995894)

"the positives of actual Marxist ideals"? What, like jailing anyone who doesn't agree with Marxist thought?

If you view that as a Marxist ideal then you don't understand Marxism. Unfortunately most movements that were associated - generally by name only - with Marxism didn't understand actual Marxist ideals, either; which left many others with a total lack of understanding of the concept as well.

In reality most "Marxist" movements were even further from actual Marxist ideals than the bloodiest parts of the crusades were from Christian ideals.

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36997410)

[quote] "the positives of actual Marxist ideals"? What, like jailing anyone who doesn't agree with Marxist thought? [/quote]

No, no that. Believe it or not, there were positives in USSR's way of live, too. These were:
- universal and free healthcare
- free education, starting from kindergarten and all the way to Ph.D degrees. This and the previous item allowed many who were born poor (and in a relatively poor country) to still live decent lives.
- smaller difference between the poor and the rich, so the society was not torn into haves and have-nots.
- because of the above, there was much less street crime. It was absolutely normal to let 5-6 year olds to roam the city alone, and there weren't any no-go areas. In today's Moscow it's unthinkable; I don't think it's a good idea to let your kids loose in New York either?

Sure, there was lack of freedoms, one couldn't start a new business or challenge the figures in power or go abroad. Given choice, I would actually prefer modern Russia to USSR, but it would be wrong to deny certain positives of the soviet way.

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36998340)

In fact, Marx had pretty strong feelings in favor of freedom of
press and speech. See this, for instance:

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1842/free-press/ch05.htm

Re:Not that surprising from Belarus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999120)

"the positives of actual Marxist ideals"? What, like jailing anyone who doesn't agree with Marxist thought?

In fact, Marx had pretty strong feelings in favor of freedom of press and speech. See
this [marxists.org] , for instance.

Silent protests (1)

Taibhsear (1286214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36995886)

'Silent Protests,' in which citizens gather in city squares, and clap in protest

I do not think that word means what you think it means...

That's why - Khrushchev (1)

serbianheretic (1108833) | more than 3 years ago | (#36996068)

And this my friends, is precisely what the anonymity on the internet is good. To protect us from the "big brother". During some speech in mid-50's (after Stalin's death), Nikita Khrushchev was criticizing stalinism. Someone from the audience said: "so why haven't you people in the Central Comitee said nothing against the abuses?". "Who said that?!" - yelled Khrushchev. Silence... "Who said that?!" - yelled Khrushchev again. Silence again... "That's why." - concluded Khrushchev.

They should take a hint from the USA... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36997124)

and define free-speech zones to gather and clap hands... ;)

Totalitarian (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36997214)

This is how Belarus handles protests in real life:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQWU3aWkPWQ

And of course, look at the comments -- the "Heil Hitler" types who normally whine about "big government" and always whine about "the Jews stepping on our rights and freedoms" have no problem at all when it's their own ideology running "big government" and stepping on peoples' rights and freedoms.

Belarus = Nazi State. This isn't Godwin's Law, this is fact.

History of protest in Belarus (1)

juicegg (1683626) | more than 3 years ago | (#36998324)

There is a lot more to these protests than just the silent demonstrations. The economy collapsed after the crooked 2010 elections. Prices of basic goods saw huge increases. For example, just few weeks ago drivers were blocking busy streets with their cars in protest against 100% increase in fuel prices. More info here [libcom.org]

Sustainable Land Use Policies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36999430)

Belarus has built a far more ecologically sustainable society than the USA.
Belarus – A Paradigm for Sustainable Development [onearth.org]

Political systems can be transformed relatively quickly, but suburban sprawl and automobile dependence, once established, are largely irreversible.

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