The Last Dictator in Europe H/T Mebane Faber
Our Belarusian guide kept trying to tell us… “Many things in Belarus cannot be explained by sane logic.”
I (E.B. Tucker) kept asking Boris (not his real name) questions that he couldn’t – or wouldn’t – answer. The look on his face told me he was getting frustrated. He had been trying to honestly answer my questions… He tried to subtly let on that he understood the system was broken. But he wasn’t allowed to state the obvious. And he talked as if someone could be listening in on us at any time.
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It’s possible that someone was.
The “Republic” of Belarus doesn’t look much like a real republic. Its justice system is a tyranny. And the country’s so-called “Father” could better be described as Big Brother.
So we’ve respected Boris’ wishes… We won’t use his real name. We won’t detail exactly the places we went. Given the intensity of the police state in Belarus, it’s possible that Boris could face harassment or significant penalties for the words we write. Some people have even gone to jail for cooperating with foreign writers.
Boris is well acquainted with the Belarusian “justice” system. His grandfather told him all about his five years in prison after World War II. His crime… treason for wearing U.S.-made pants.
In 1945, U.S. and Russian troops met in central Germany. Fighting had ceased and Boris’ grandfather was ordered to return to Belorussia, an Eastern European region in present-day Belarus and Poland that was a part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). A U.S. Army soldier noticed his badly torn pants and offered him a replacement pair for the journey back. When he arrived home and reported to his commanding officer wearing U.S. clothing, he was promptly sent to a Siberian prison camp.
Boris’ grandfather was far from an enemy of the state. He nearly died carrying out orders from his superiors during the war. After the war, he voluntarily returned home. Of course… his time in the presence of more free Western European nations could have left him with dangerous ideas. The Soviet leadership sent him to be “reconditioned” in a prison camp.
Prison is a key tool in maintaining power through tyranny. To control and suppress free people, it’s essential to create enough laws that everyone is a criminal… if you need them to be. It is critical to suppress resistance and, if possible, even the thought of resistance.
To fill its prisons, the Belarus KGB remains a powerful and active intelligence apparatus. It is one of the few intelligence agencies that kept the KGB name (a name that was made infamous during Soviet rule). The inaugural director of the Soviet secret police forces, Felix Dzerzhinsky, was born in Belarus. Boris told me that “Iron Felix,” as he was nicknamed, was famous for saying, “If a man does not have a criminal record, it does not mean he is innocent… it means we are inefficient.” Then he showed me a bronze plaque
memorializing Iron Felix. It’s on Karl Marx Street, not far from the ominous KGB headquarters.
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