Belarus has a new enemy: a fictional nation known as Veyshnoria.
Minsk is gearing up to hold military drills with Russia in mid-September. As part of the joint exercises, expected to be the largest since the Cold War, the Belarusian military invented three imaginary countries trying to invade and weaken the relationship between the two allies: Veyshnoria, in the northwest region of modern-day Belarus; Vesbaria, set in Lithuania; and Lubenia in Poland.
Veyshnoria quickly took on a geopolitical life of its own on the internet. Facebook users created a flag, map, and coat of arms for the country. Hundreds signed up to a website launched for Belarusians wishing to apply for Veyshnorian citizenship. A Wikipedia page now details Veyshnoria’s origins.
Much of the activity is driven by a satirical Twitter account purporting to be the country’s foreign ministry. It sends out a stream of joke policy statements — like declaring a partial mobilization in reaction to concerns of a Belarusian arms buildup on Veyshnoria’s borders — and interacts with a parody Twitter account of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The account also promised that Belarusian troops who surrender will be treated well, offering them “stew, honey, bread, and lard.”
The flurry of jokes comes as Russia, Belarus’s overbearing sibling, continues to escalate tension with its NATO neighbors, using Belarus as its backyard. In a show of military prowess and intimidation, Moscow may send up to 100,000 troops to the upcoming Zapad military exercises and has requisitioned enough rail cars to transport 4,000 loads of tanks and other heavy equipment to Belarus. The drills will also include the 1st Guards Tank Army, a reconstituted armored force named for a storied Soviet military unit.
Analysts suspect that, besides sending a message to NATO, the beefed-up exercises may also be Russia’s bid to keep Belarus, a key buffer zone to the West, in line. Recent reports hint at tensions between the two countries and indicate the country’s leader, Alexander Lukashenko, is reluctant to host more Russian troops permanently.
The recent tensions bled into comments about Veyshnoria on social media as some tried to imagine the fake country’s backstory. “It is likely that Moscow provoked a conflict between Minsk and Giradis (the capital of Veyshnoria) in order to fully establish control over Belarus and not allow Veyshnoria to join NATO and the EU,” Pavel Usov, a political historian, wrote on Facebook.