Belarusian NGOs unite to strengthen ties with Estonian society

Belarusians in Estonia gathered in Tallinn on March 25, 2023 to mark Freedom Day.
Belarusians in Estonia gathered in Tallinn on March 25, 2023 to mark Freedom Day. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Belarusian civil society NGOs in Estonia have created an informal coalition named "Zhurtavanne Belaruskikh Supolak Estonii" (Association of Belarusian Organizations in Estonia) to strengthen ties between the two countries.

Nine organizations have come together under the "Zhurtavanne" umbrella: Valgevene Uus Tee, Valgevene Maja, Belarusian Independent Film Academy, Wind Rose Center, Friida Bell, Digital Media Hub, Kodanikualgatuse Toetuskeskus, Valgevene Kultuuri Assotsiatsioon, and Valgevene Spordi Solidaarsusfond.

The organizations are recognized by and receive support from the Estonian government, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"Existential challenges facing the Belarusian society and Belarusians abroad require the consolidation of efforts across multiple areas," said Irina Suursild, the leader of Valgevene Maja, a public organization of Belarusians who left the country after the 2020 presidential elections. She said it is difficult for organisations to achieve their goals when working alone.

An audience member taking a photograph of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya at the Conference on Belarus on November 10, 2023. Source: Egert Kamenik

The coalition will advocate for Belarusians' interests with government bodies, such as replacing expiring Belarusian passports with Estonian travel documents.

It also aims to preserve and popularize Belarusian national culture and language, support Belarusian activists, political prisoners and their families, and support the Belarusian intellectual and cultural elite in exile.

In the near future, there are plans to open a "Belarusian House in Tallinn" with the support of the Tallinn city government. The venue will be a permanent meeting place to host events in the capital.

Additionally, in the near future, "Zhurtavanne" will conduct a study to assess the diaspora's democratic potential.

The march to support Belarusian women which took place in Tallinn on October 11. Source: Diana Olesyuk

"The Belarusian diaspora in Estonia is undergoing a new phase of development, especially following the August 2020 democratic elections," said Pavel Morozov, one of the coalition activists and the head of Valgevene Uus Tee, an organization operating in Estonia since 2006.

"Since then, there has been a new wave of unification among Belarusians in Estonia, particularly in Tallinn, on a democratic, pro-European platform."

Morozov said the coalition wants to establish contacts with Belarusian diasporas in other countries, primarily in Scandinavia and the Baltics, for joint work at regional and European levels.

The are approximately 12,000 Belarusians in Estonia and it is the third biggest minority group after Russians and Ukrainians.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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