Belarus Incognita

I  Long before the protests that shook Belarus in the summer and fall of 2020, I was sitting in a restaurant of a Minsk hotel. It was a late afternoon after a day of intense meetings, and I had nothing more planned for the evening. Suddenly a singer came on stage and started a rather touching rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” I noticed that I was the only person in the room. She was singing just for me! (The poor thing probably had it in her contract that if only a single customer appears, she must begin her act.) I was suddenly overcome by a strange emotion that almost made me tear up. I felt momentarily dislocated both in space and time. Where was I and, more impor tantly, when was I? Vertiginously I felt that I had been here before. Was this Belarus in the second decade of the

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