Of all the countries in the world that one would expect to be a target of terrorist attacks, Belarus surely ranks near the bottom of the list. Unlike its neighbor, Russia, where a January bomb that killed 35 people at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport was just the latest in a string of attacks related to the ongoing conflict in Chechnya, Belarus is not fighting an Islamic insurgency -- or, in fact, any type of insurgency. It’s an ethnically and religiously homogenous nation mostly composed of Orthodox Christian Slavs, kept in the tight grip of its authoritarian leader, Alyaksandr Lukashenka. There aren't violent sectarian rifts of the sort that brought decades of terrorism to Northern Ireland or ethnic cleansing to the Balkans. And Belarus is not participating in any foreign military operations of the kind that might inspire overseas terrorist organizations to strike.
So, when an explosion hit Kastrychnitskaya (October Square) subway station in Minsk last Monday, killing 13 and injuring over 200, many Belarusians were shocked. “Who would do that and why?” Iryna Vidanava, editor of the independent multimedia youth magazine "34," asked me. "It's obvious [Belarus] is not a country where we would have any problems with terrorism or explosions or terrorist groups." Granted, this isn’t the first time there has been a bombing in Belarus: There was one in 2005, in the eastern city of Vitebsk, and another in 2008 in Minsk, both of which injured dozens and which the authorities blamed on "hooligans." Yet the sheer randomness of these crimes and their inexplicable place in Belarus's political culture has created more questions than answers -- the most uncomfortable being, who benefits?
Read the rest at "The New Republic."