Why the Flag of Belarusian protests is White-Red-White?
We're looking back in time to understand the modern meaning of the symbol of the Belarusian protest.
Some people believe, that the color scheme of the flag traces back to an ancient legend about a Duke, who in the fire of a battle took a white bondage band, soaked with blood, off and led his army under that improvised flag straight to victory. We can't say now whether it's true or not. But what's true for sure is that white and red colors have always accompanied Belarusian people. Those colors were major in household and clothing: for example, red threads interlaced with white in rushniki (traditional towels) patterns, and red sashes were belted around white shirts in garments. Those pieces of national white-red patter can also be found at the modern official flag of Belarus.
Actually, the white-red-white flag has a distinct creator – Klavdii Duž-Duševski, an architect. During the revolution in February 1917, he was asked to create a flag for the Belarusian national movement. He presented several variations, but the movement approved the white-red-white one – probably, due to the historical significance of that color combination.
In March 1917 the people started to use white-red-white flags in public. Military men wore them at fronts of the First World War to tell fellow-Belarusians from others. Also, a white-red-white flag with a motto "For Motherland, for free Belarus" was used during the First All-Belarusian Congress, held at the end of 1917.
But the flag became official for the first time only in March 1918, when the Belarusian National Republic has been proclaimed. It made the white-red-white flag a state one. The Republic had existed only for several months, but the flag became a national symbol once for all.
Then there was the Soviet Union epoch. Soviet Belorussia used two official flags back then: first, it was a red one with a sickle, a hammer, one star, and an inscription BSSR, then – a red and green with an ornament on the left, also coupled with the sickle and the hammer.
1937 — 1951
1951 — 1991
After the USSR collapsed in 1991, the white-red-white flag again became official in independent Belarus. But 4 years later, the first President, Alexander Lukašenka, held a referendum, that resulted in Soviet symbols becoming state ones again (well, they were a bit altered in the ornament and the sickle and hammer were removed). Some lawyers claim that the referendum was held with a number of violations.
1991 — 1995
1995 — ...
The dominant opposition force back then was the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF). They were broadly supported by like-minded people for recognition of the Belarusian language as state one and adopting Belarusian historical symbols - the white-red-white flag and the coat of arms "Pahonia". As a result, after the referendum, pro-government media started to associate the flag exclusively with the opposition and the BPF. This perception was popular over a long period and even adversely influenced the attitude of a part of society towards those national symbols.
Moreover, the official propaganda forces the fact that the white-red-white flag was used by the collaborators during WWII. It's interesting that most of the modern official flags of former Soviet states (for example, the flag of Russia, Ukraine, Latvia or Lithuania) were also used during the occupation. Despite that, all these countries feel absolutely fine about using their national symbols now.
From then on the white-red-white flag has been actively used by the opposition of the national-patriotic vector, and, as time went on, by any person, who actively counters Lukašenka's regime. After the Presidential Elections of 2020, which were held with an enormous number of violations and frauds, the Belarusian opposition became the moving force and united all strata of society. The flag, as is has always been through history, became the symbol of the protest. Now it is not associated with the national-patriotic opposition but is used to show solidarity, honor, and desire to fight against the regime. Officially the white-red-white flag is not banned, but in fact, it is prosecuted, and people, using it during protests, can still be detained or fined.
Photo by palasatka