When anti-government protests erupted in Belarus in 2020, journalists and commentators were quick to dub them a ‘Telegram revolution’, by referencing the messenger app that was instrumental in coordinating the protests. The label seemed to be a natural choice, following the logic of phrases that were used to refer to anti-government protests in the late 2000s–2010s, from ‘Twitter revolution’ to ‘YouTube uprising’. Despite its appeal as a rhetorical device, this framing is problematic because it runs the risk of overlooking the political and social context that brought about the grievances behind the movement. The present essay offers a look that goes beyond this technologically deterministic approach to show the role of Telegram and other digital spaces in reshaping the social contract in Belarus and reinforcing emerging changes in the nation’s socio-political fabric that have been found by previous scholarship to be of central importance to democratising change.
Image credit: Photo by Alice Donovan Rouse on Unsplash