In summer and autumn 2020, Belarus witnessed unprecedented pre-electoral mobilization during the presidential campaign followed by equally unprecedented mass protests against electoral fraud and subsequent disproportionate state violence across the country. This opinion piece studies the activities and narratives promoted by Belarus’ omnipresent pro-presidential mass youth organization, the Belarusian Republican Youth Union (BRYU) from the beginning of the electoral campaign in May 2020 until the end of the year, yielding valuable insights into the protest movement’s dynamics, especially as young people, first and foremost students, were particularly active both in campaigning for alternative electoral candidates and in engaging in protests after the election. This opinion piece finds that the BRYU became a site for protests and negotiations during the unprecedented political crisis. Although the organization has since gone back to ‘business as usual’, it continues to face pressure from both the Lukashenka government and its rank-and-file.
Image credit: Screenshot of the social media page of Molodezh’ Belarusi by Kristiina Silvan