The documentary was outstanding in failing to question why these activists were actually opposed to Lukashenko.
Polina seems to spend most of her time getting into trouble with nasty and surly Belarusian cops who use all kinds of legislation to stick the students in court for breaches of public order. Along with her brother Pavel, Polina seems to think putting EU flags around Minsk is some kind of heroic gesture that will bring the regime down..
Nor did Ash think it strange that Polina's father shown above with his daughter sees it as perfectly normal to walk about his home with combat fatigues on.
"It's not against the law to carry a flag. What is wrong with wanting to be part of Europe?" he says
"My daughter is very well brought-up and those cops lied about her swearing to get her into trouble - what a disgrace for our police
He tells me that he used to be a policeman himself but resigned because he felt there was too much corruption in the ranks."Most of our police don't want to fight crime or take on the bandits. They prefer to spend their time repressing young people and stopping them from going on demonstrations."
Whilst the police do pointlessly harass demonstrations, it's nonsense to pretend that the supposed corruption of the police in Belarus somehow necessarily means the regime of Lukashenko is completely based of bayonets alone because of that.
Corruption is rife in the police across Eastern Europe and in former parts of the Soviet Union, not least because the police get paid so little. Which is probably why the Belarus police get riled by privileged students histrionically parading themselves in Minsk in fashionable clothes.
Ash never challenged Kurianovich's assertion that the police prefer to spend their time on demonstrators instead of dealing with 'real criminals' nor pointed to Lukashenko's governments crack down on human trafficking and the sex trade. After all, the level of crime in Belarus is very low.
Mr Kurianovich shows me a yellowing ID card which shows he took part in the massive clean up operation after the Chernobyl disaster. He tells me his father was a partisan in World War II.Well, there were many partisans and not all of them were fighting for the Soviet Union and some were prepared to come to terms with Hitler if it meant they could avoid being recolonised by Stalin's Red Empire.
The film was also odd as it seemed to portray Belarus at times as some near approximation to a nightmare totalitarian state.
The film begins with bleak pictures of the empty and impeccably clean streets of Minsk, views of monumentalist Soviet architecture, snapshots of Lenin's statue and extended footage of Lukashenko appearing on huge video screens overlooking the celebrations and mass parades commemorating the end of World War Two.
The viewer is not really given that much inside knowledge as to how or why the system is operating as it does other than to imply most Belarussians are too cowed and frightened of the post-Communist world to be able to think beyond it.
Yet other later shots of Minsk in the film then show lots of fairly well dressed citizens going about their business, shopping and enjoying the economic boom with growth of 8% per year and construction sites springing up all around.
The message being that political freedom and free speech is deemed not so important if the majority feel economically comfortable enough and those who keep the flame of liberty alive are prisoners of conscience. As the BBC website article accompanying the video suggests.
Being a young opposition activist in today's Belarus is a dangerous and sometimes lonely job......Most people in the Belarusian capital have been drinking beer at pavement cafes or strolling through parks, enjoying the Independence Day holiday. Polina has spent the weekend behind bars. She was arrested after plain clothes officers found some European Union flags in her rucksack when she was on her way to a concert and firework display.
Clearly, Belarus is a somewhat dreary and repressive place. But Polina and Pavel do not seem particularly poor. Nor do they seem to be in danger nor have they been fired on with rubber bullets as protesters in Georgia have been under Saakashvili whose Rose Revolution of 2003 was backed by the West and George Soros.
Yet it would be interesting to know whether such opposition is really about the money those like Kurianovich are though to receive from from abroad or if in her case she is just opposing the system out of conscientious objection to human rights abuses which do go on in Belarus.
In the BBC film I did not get any sense of real anger nor even any analysis from this girl about the nature of the system.
Only that as 'Pro-European activists' they should stand up against increasing authoritarianism, the domination of their big Russian brother, and be more 'pro-European'. Why no explicit mention of the political prisoners or missing journalists ?
So not only have Young Belarus have not only decided Lukashenko must go, even if most Belarussians support him despite electoral irregularities but have already decided Belarus will join the EU. Before Belarussians even give their consent to that.
"The state is becoming more authoritarian," says Pavel Kurianovich. "But someone has to do something - if not us, then who? The absolute majority is unhappy but most people just complain in their kitchens. They are afraid to act."
If that prosperity came to an end they might become 'Pro-European' but in the meantime they are on their own because, as the film itself hints, enough Belarussians are satisfied and it is not worth getting into trouble. But the BBC report then claims,
The climate of fear in Belarus intensified after the presidential elections two years ago. In March 2006 huge crowds gathered on October Square, demanding a fresh vote after President Alexander Lukashenko was declared winner by a landslide in a poll condemned as unfair by many local and international observers. Many hoped that Belarus might emulate the non-violent regime changes in other former Soviet republics. As people huddled in blankets and chanted to rap music, it seemed a carbon copy of the Orange Revolution in neighbouring Ukraine.
There is no climate of totalitarian fear in Belarus. Simply indifference if not hostility to the way Young Belarus is regarded as representing the interests of outside economic interests.
Principled dissidents living under the Cuban dictatorship like Oswaldo Paya have pointedly refused to accept foreign money because it only helps the Castro's discredit the opposition. Paya also stresses the need to preserve some of the benefits Castro brought in health and education.
Mark Almond, an Oxford Don and no trite hard left hack propagandist, wrote for the Guardian in relation to Lukashenko's election victory ( Less Bizarre Than It Seems March 26 2006 ), that Lukashenko's Belarus was not some nightmare Stalinist theme park and that,
.....human-rights charges lack traction because the western-backed opposition has offered no economic platform, just echoes of these western allegations against Lukashenko.It's about time the BBC stopped being led along only by clients of these think tanks and NGO groups and tried to maintain objectivity on the situation in places such as Belarus and reporting the reality, both the brutality of the state and the fact it is not Stalin's USSR.
Although the west has never batted an eyelid about accepting a 97% vote obtained by a favourite such as Georgia's rose-revolutionary President Saakashvili, at first sight four-fifths voting for one candidate seems hard to credit. But if you look at the socioeconomic reality of Belarus and compare it with its ex-communist neighbours, as Belarussians do, then the result is not so bizarre.
No communist-era throwback, Belarus has an evolving market economy. But the market is orientated towards serving the needs of the bulk of the population, not a tiny class of nouveaux riches and their western advisers and money launderers. Unlike in Georgia or Ukraine, officials are not getting richer as ordinary folk get poorer. The absence of endemic corruption among civil servants and police is one reason why the wave of so-called "coloured revolutions" stopped before Minsk.
But even if the government in Minsk is not corroded by corruption, its opposition depends upon support from abroad. If people resent anyone for getting rich quick undeservedly they resent the opposition types who receive lavish subsidies from the west to promote civil society and flaunt the latest iPod.
The irony of the west preaching civil society and shock therapy at the same time is that you cannot have both. Western advisers made economic transformation a priority, but wherever their advice was followed it was poverty, not pluralism, that resulted. Across the old communist bloc "shock therapy" enriched a few dozen oligarchs and their foreign economic advisers, but the mass unemployment it caused and the collapse of public spending it demanded smashed the foundations of the civil society emerging under Gorbachev.
By protecting Belarus from the ravages of free-market fundamentalists and delivering economic growth and prosperity for the mass of Belarussians, Lukashenko has sown the seeds of a pluralistic society far better than by handing the state's assets over to half a dozen cronies of western advisers.
Belarus is far from perfect, but it is a country where masses of ordinary people are getting on with life and getting a bit better off. That is why Lukashenko inspires fear and loathing in the thinktanks and foreign ministries of the west. By saving Belarus from mass unemployment he set a terrible example. What if the neighbours tried to copy it?