Living in the Matrix

In Belarus, the digital dissident generation born in 2006 came of age during the political and economic crisis of 2011. However, bridging the gap between virtual and real-life activism remains one of the most serious challenges facing Belarus' democratic movement.

When I am travelling abroad, Belarus often seems to be a backward place. With its command economy, collective farms and communist monuments, my country feels stuck in another era. Twenty years of dictatorship sometimes leave me thinking that nothing changes. But in Minsk, it is clear that Belarus has entered the twenty-first century. While there has been no democratic transition, the country is in the midst of a digital revolution. Downtown, students walk past Lenin's statue with headphones in their ears and eyes glued to smartphone screens. In my neighbourhood, hi-tech office buildings share space with socialist realist relics. Young professionals type on tablets and read e-books on Kindles while riding the Soviet-built subway.

January 22, 2014 - Iryna Vidanava