For more than two decades, Belarus existed in an equilibrium of quiet authoritarianism. If the government’s repressions didn’t directly touch them, most Belarusians tolerated them. But over the course of 2020, the country’s history and identity, which never much interested a majority of people who lived there, became something they would sacrifice their lives for.
Sarah A. Topol explores the battle over a political mural in a public park in Minsk and considers the future of Belarus. As a remarkable campaign of defiance against an increasingly totalitarian regime, the mural is an emblem of strength and a call for change — but to what end?
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Additional production for The Sunday Read was contributed by Emma Kehlbeck, Parin Behrooz, Anna Diamond, Sarah Diamond, Jack D’Isidoro, Elena Hecht, Desiree Ibekwe, Tanya Pérez, Marion Lozano, Naomi Noury, Krish Seenivasan, Corey Schreppel, Margaret Willison, Kate Winslett and Tiana Young. Special thanks to Mike Benoist, Sam Dolnick, Laura Kim, Julia Simon, Lisa Tobin, Blake Wilson and Ryan Wegner.