The Impact of Pop-Culture and Internet Memes on Belarusian Identity

Popular National Sentiment Driven by the Digital World

9 February 2021

Maria Dawidowicz & Serge Kharytonau

A decade ago, state-monopolised traditional media (foremost, television) owned an almost unchallenged position in defining the political agenda and the state-imposed ‘correct’ identity nationwide. Today, the alternative Belarusian identity has become mainstream with the help of high-speed internet.

In addition to the extensive use of Telegram, the ongoing civil unrest and social movement in Belarus sparked a digital phenomenon that was not very widely spread until late 2019: a Belarusian war of internet memes.

The results of this war, which is a war of symbols, after all, will quite possibly mark the end of a decades-long conflict of dual identity in Belarus.

Alternative became mainstream

Since the early 1990s, the population of Belarus was informally divided between two identities. The most comprehensive explanation of these two competing concepts of Belarusian self-description models was provided in 2010 book Struggle over Identity by Nelly Bekus, back then an Assistant Professor at the University of Warsaw.

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