Teddy Bears for Freedom in Belarus

by Nathaniel Botwinick

The first teddy bear was made in 1902 in Brooklyn, New York, by Morris Michtom. Since then, they have served nobly as the best friends and confidants to children across the world. On July 4th, teddy bears became freedom fighters:

Three members of a Swedish advertising firm planned and carried out the operation last month, adorning more than 800 plush bears with signs promoting democracy and denigrating Belarus’s authoritarian government. 

Though the government at first tried to cover up the incident, which occurred on July 4, the many photographs and videos of the bear drop uploaded to the Internet made it impossible to ignore. On Tuesday, Mr. Lukashenko fired two generals: the head of the border service and the head of the air force.

Two people have [since] been arrested. One, Sergei Basharimov, a real estate agent, rented an apartment to Mr. Cromwell for his brief stay in Minsk. The other was Anton Suryapin, a young blogger and journalism student, who seems only to have posted witnesses’ photographs of the incident on his blog.

Today, Belarus expelled Sweden’s ambassador in response to the bear drop. Lukashenko’s regime is one of the most repressive in the world and the two arrests in this incident are only par for the course in Belarus. This is not even the first teddy-bear-related arrest in Belarus — in February, two activists were jailed for arranging stuffed animals in a “toy protest“ in Minsk. Here is video of the bear drop, and a picture of the bears (don’t worry, they had parachutes).


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