The major holiday of the Belarusian statehood – Independence Day – is celebrated on July 3. The decision to celebrate Independence Day on this particular day when the capital of Belarus was freed from the German occupation in 1944, was made at the state referendum in 1996, when President Alexander Lukashenko had been in power for two years. The same year, the holiday was proclaimed by a presidential decree. This makes Belarus the only post-Soviet country that celebrates its independence on a date that has nothing to do with the fall of the Soviet Union.
Independence Day of the Republic of Belarus is a bank holiday. The key celebration is a formal military parade taking place in Minsk. In 2018, the parade gathered over 4,000 military servants, 250 machinery units, 19 foot-borne and 23 mechanized marching units. The official part of the parade is followed by concerts, fairs and other social events. In the evening, there are festive fireworks. Other cities and towns join in celebrations.
"We know the price of a true freedom. We recognize the power of a united nation, its patriotism and faith in the future. We understand that independence is our main asset. By freeing the country from the German Nazis, reconstructing the country during the post-war times, building a young state on the cusp of epochs and millennia, we're writing the history of the independent Belarus," – said Alexander Lukashenko in his address during the military parade on Independence Day in 2018.
The approximate size of the Belarusian army is 65,000 people. The official sources say that Belarusian troops don't take part in any military actions anywhere in the world. All while Alexander Lukashenko's key argument of his electoral campaign, especially after the Ukrainian conflict, was "peaceful skies over Belarusians' heads."
At the same time, Belarusians who still keep the genetic memory of participating in all the wars that took place in Europe since the early Medieval times, can't stop admiring militarisms and people in military uniforms, being proud of the sights of roaring tanks and marching troops on a parade. People at the parade say:
- We are proud of our motherland!
- We're patriots, that's why we're here!
The camera is always in the thick of the action, both inspired and propelled by an atmosphere that is a mixture of pride and reflection, patriotism, new nationalism and state ideology. What really motivates people to come and celebrate the freeing of Belarus from the Nazi occupation on Independence Day? Do they consider the history of Belarus before World War II at all? Through unbiased and distanced observation, the film depicts common visitors and supporters of the official state ideology, who believe in the values promoted on TV.
The spectator becomes aware of just how choreographed all the actions and gestures are. The parade resembles a masterpiece of a perfectly directed performance, while further celebrations look disconnected with the whole idea of militarism, are genuine and harmless. And only turngates and metal fences are limiting the free movement of those celebrating independence, while the military forces and the police are guarding the law and the freedom of citizens. We are distancing ourselves from this. We are Belarusians, peaceful people [a line from the national anthem].