|Born||Siarhiej Leanidavič Cichanoŭski|
18 August 1978
|Total views||68 million|
Updated: 29 April 2021
Sergei Leonidovich Tikhanovsky (Russian: Серге́й Леони́дович Тихано́вский) or Siarhiej Leanidavič Cichanoŭski (Belarusian: Сярге́й Леані́давіч Ціхано́ўскі; born 18 August 1978) is a Belarusian YouTuber, video blogger, dissident and pro-democracy activist. He is considered by Amnesty International to be a prisoner of conscience. He is known primarily for his activism against the government of Belarus's long-serving president, Alexander Lukashenko. In May 2020, he announced his intention of running for the 2020 presidential election, but he was arrested two days afterwards, and his wife Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya then ran in his stead as the main rival to Lukashenko in the contested election.
Tikhanovsky studied at the physical and mathematical gymnasium, then graduated from the Faculty of Philology of the Francysk Skaryna Homyel State University. Later, he opened nightclubs in Homyel and Mazyr and organized concerts. He was engaged in video production, advertising and music videos.
Tikhanovsky says he became a blogger almost by accident. He organized a farmstead near Homyel and faced bureaucratic hurdles from local, regional, and national officials, then spoke of his difficulties with journalists.
The YouTube channel "Country for Life" (Страна Для Жизни) was launched in 2019 and managed to attract 140,000 subscribers during the year. The channel is dedicated to stories of ordinary Belarusians and real cases of entrepreneurs "which will help to build a country for life". Tikhanovsky shoots a video on social and political topics and talks about the problems of people – mainly in the Belarusian regions.
Together with his team in a car with the logo "Real News", Tikhanovsky spent more than a month driving around Belarus and interviewing subscribers, who told him about the problems in the city and the country on camera. The most popular video on the channel (almost one million views as of 30 May 2020) is the story of a woman from the town of Hlybokaye about her life and her attitude toward Lukashenko. Tikhanovsky's YouTube channel also features video interviews with opposition politicians and businessmen. On trips around Belarus, Sergei Tikhanovsky was constantly followed by cars with people monitoring him, presumably employees of the Belarusian special services.
By May 2020, Tikhanovsky's YouTube channel had garnered 140,000 subscribers; by mid-July 2020, it had reached 243,000 subscribers, more than 12 times the number of subscribers to the state-run Belarus 24 satellite channel. Independent anti-Lukashenko bloggers (including Tikhanovsky) were seen by the government as a major threat to its rule, as a media alternative to television, newspapers, and radio, which are principally controlled by the Government, and many were targeted by the authorities.
On 9 May 2020, dozens of supporters of Sergei Tikhanovsky held an "Anti-parade" in Babruisk to express their disagreement with the Victory Day Parade in Minsk during the COVID-19 pandemic. The protest parade took the form of a protest motor rally. Police detained about 15 people after the motor rally. Sergei Tikhanovsky was detained at that moment.
On 7 May, Sergei Tikhanovsky announced on his YouTube channel that he intended to become a candidate for President of Belarus, challenging Alexander Lukashenko and his decades long rule. Prior to this event, on 6 May, he was detained by the Belarusian militsyya (police) in the vicinity of Mahilyow; the police threatened to break the glass of Tikhanovsky's car, and failed to present a certificate to confirm that they were police officers. Prior to that, a crowd of Tikhanovsky's supporters in Mahilyow released a member of Tikhanovsky's team from the police. A day later, allies of Tikhanovsky were arrested, including a blogger from Slutsk, Uladzimier Niaronski. The vans of Tikhanovsky's team including Niaronski were chased by road police and two vans with members of the AMAP special police forces.
After the arrests, Sergei Tikhanovsky's supporters held a series of protests throughout Belarus. According to the Radio Liberty, 20 to 30 people were detained in Homyel, the home town of Tikhanovsky. Viasna Human Rights Centre reports that at least 19 people who supported Tikhanovsky were brutally detained in Minsk.
After his arrest, Sergei Tikhanovsky was held at a temporary detention center in Homyel, nominally due to participation in the rally in Minsk on 19 December 2019 against the integration of Belarus with Russia. He was ultimately sentenced to 15 days' imprisonment: 15 days of arrest for "participating in an unauthorized protest action" in December 2019, and 30 days for meeting subscribers to his YouTube channel in Orsha and Brest. After his detention, Tikhanovsky announced on his YouTube channel that he intended to run for president of Belarus. However, the Central Election Commission of Belarus refused to register the initiative group to nominate him.
After the election commission refused to register Tikhanovsky's candidacy, his wife Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, decided to run herself. The initiative group of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was successfully registered by the Central Election Commission of Belarus. Sergei Tikhanovsky became the head of the initiative group to collect signatures for Svetlana Tikhanovskaya's participation in the presidential election.
On 20 May, Sergei Tikhanovsky was released from detention. Tikhanovsky explained that pressure from activist supporters helped to achieve his release. In an interview with him after the release, Deutsche Welle drew parallels between Tikhanovsky and both the Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny and the Ukrainian actor Volodymyr Zelensky, who became the president of Ukraine. RTVI also drew a parallel between Tikhanovsky and Navalny.
Sergei Tikhanovsky began his trips around the country with pickets[clarification needed] to collect signatures for Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Tikhanovsky's pickets were very popular and gathered thousands of people. The queue to the picket in Minsk near Kamarouski market was half a mile. Several thousand people also attended the picket of Tikhanovsky in Homyel. Sergei Tikhanovsky announced that he was collecting signatures for fair elections in Belarus, without falsifications.
Sergei Tikhanovsky actively uses the slogan "Stop, cockroach!" in his campaign, which is chanted by his supporters. The symbol of the Tikhanovsky's campaign is the slipper. The slogan "Stop, cockroach!" refers to the fairy tale "Cockroach" by Soviet poet Kornei Chukovsky about how the "mustached cockroach" intimidated all animals and became their ruler. Apparently, this slogan is a reference to the current leadership of Belarus. Slippers are supposedly a traditional means of pest control. Euronews journalists called the events in Belarus as "Slippers Revolution" demonstrating the quote of the Belarusian activist Franak Viachorka with this phrase.
On 29 May 2020, Sergei Tikhanovsky and at least eight other men were arrested in the city of Hrodna, in northwestern Belarus, while collecting signatures for Svetlana Tikhanovskaya's presidential candidacy, and charged with "organization or preparation for a grave breach of public order." Footage and witness accounts show that Tikhanovsky was detained following an incident after a woman aggressively followed and touched Tikhanovsky in an apparently deliberate attempted provocation; two police officers then "joined the woman in her pursuit of Sergei Tikhanovsky" and a scuffle with police ensued. According to the Viasna Human Rights Centre, at least 13 people were detained, including two members of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya's initiative group and three aides to Sergei Tikhanovsky. The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus said that they had opened a criminal case for supposed "violence against police officers." Although Belarusian officials claimed that police were injured, there is no evidence in video footage of any such injury.
In response to Sergei Tikhanovsky's detention on 29 May 2020, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya demanded the immediate release of her husband, condemning "the 'dirty' provocation" against him; declaring that "the picket was legal and peaceful in nature; and calling the arrest a politically motivated violation of her constitutional rights." Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned the Belarusian authorities' arrests of Tikhanovsky and the broader crackdown by Belarusian authorities on opposition figures, journalists, and bloggers ahead of the 2020 presidential election, including arbitrary arrest and detention and pretextual criminal charges. Amnesty stated that "The arrest and prosecution of Sergei Tikhanovsky and others detained alongside him are arbitrary, unwarranted and politically motivated" and considers the group to be "prisoners of conscience, as they are detained solely for peacefully exercising their human rights."
On 10 October 2020, Lukashenko spoke with the imprisoned Tikhanovsky and fellow candidate Viktar Babaryka in a four-hour meeting concerning changes to the Constitution. At this time, Tikhanovsky and Babaryka remain in custody.
On 30 November, it became known that Tikhanovsky's detention was extended for another 3 months. He is accused of a serious crime that carries a sentence of up to 12 years. Pending his conviction, he can be held in custody for up to 18 months.
On 11 March 2021, the Investigative Committee completed its criminal case investigation against Tikhanovsky, accusing him of using his blog to advocate for the violent overthrow of the Belarusian government. He faced four criminal charges with a sentence of up to 15 years. His trial began in Minsk on 24th June and he was found guilty. In December 2021, Tikhanovsky was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Five supporters (including Ihar Losik and Mikola Statkevich) were jailed for 14 to 16 years. If he serves the full term, Tikhanovsky will be more than 60 years old at the time of his release.