In the photo, several young women pose in a red and white setting. The one in the middle is called Daria Goncharevitch and was crowned Miss Belarus 2021, in the final which was played at the Minsk Sports Palace on Friday, September 10. In recent days, the cliché has taken over the Telegram messaging app and raised an uproar. In question, the red and white colors of the outfits, symbols of the opposition to President Alexander Lukashenko, whose fraudulent re-election, in August 2020, triggered an unprecedented protest movement.
Faced with the scale of the controversy, the 18-year-old young woman had no choice but to repeat her “Gratitude to the president” in an interview with the news agency Minskaya Pravda. The model explains that she was in these shots “Completely by accident” when she was barely 17 years old. Nothing to do, she assures, with her opinion on the political situation: “They just used me to pursue their radical goals. “
The biennial Miss Belarus contest, “Pride and property of the nation”, according to the agency’s website, has a very political dimension. The competition is organized by the National School of Beauty, a public modeling agency, created by the president himself in 1996. Since the first edition, in 1998, Alexander Lukashenko, who considers that beauty is a “Weapon”, has only very rarely missed the appointment of the final evening, which also serves as a recruiting ground for one of its protocol services, made up of young women.
To be a “real Belarusian”
According to an investigation by the Russian investigative media Proekt, many candidates of the competition were seen on the arm of the president during balls, or on the occasion of his international trips, as on the occasion of summits between the members of the Organization of the collective security treaty, which binds several ex-soviet countries. Some of these young women also get jobs in television or state organs. The most emblematic case is that of Miss Belarus 2018, Maria Vasilevich. A year after being seen with Alexander Lukashenko at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, she became the country’s youngest MP at the age of 22.
This year, the regime, contested for more than a year, has further strengthened the patriotic dimension of the competition by imposing a new selection criterion: to be a “True Belarusian”. In June, Elena Lobach, responsible for organizing the competition, warned that “Those who live off their fleeting emotions and form rows of protest with placards full of platitudes in their hands” would not be accepted, and that social networks would be subject to lengthy checks.
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