#ZapadWatch: Viejšnoryja — Russians Leave and Elections Arrive

Taking a closer look at “Viejšnoria’s” online elections and other developments

Left: (Source: VK); Center (Source: VK); Right: (Source: VK)

Zapad 2017 is over and the last Russian troops officially left Belarus by September 28th. One item that remained after the exercise was Viejšnoryja — the fictional country described in the Zapad 2017 exercise scenario. The country may not exist, but for some young Belarusians, it represented the idea of a democratic Belarus. A month passed since Viejšnoryja was first described by Russian military officers in the scenario for Zapad and already free and fair elections to the “Viejšnorian Parliament” are taking place.

Elections in Viejšnoryja

Viejšnoryja started as a collection of clever memes, made by individual internet users, but the organizing of online elections is a new qualitative step. On September 24th, the first messages about upcoming elections appeared on Vkontakte (VK) and invited all voting-age “Viejšnorians” to become candidates for “Viejšnorian Parliament” (Sojm).

(Source: VK)

The elections were scheduled in three steps: 
1. September 26th-30th: Nomination of the candidates;
2. October 1st-10th: Campaigning of the nominated candidates;
3. October 11th-13th: Online voting.

According to election rules, 110 victorious Viejšnorian Parliamentarians will be announced on October 14th, at which time they will assume their official activities. Elections will be considered successful if the voter turnout reaches at least 51% of “Viejšnorians”. All “Viejšnorians” are eligible to vote, regardless of whether they are present in country or abroad.

(Source: VK)

Currently there are 351 registered candidates, all of whom were nominated by other Viejšnorian “citizens”. All of the candidates are listed on the “official” website. Each listing includes campaign slogans, electoral promises, and promotional videos.

A list of all of registered candidates for the Parliament. (Source: Viejšnoryja.bel)

All of the candidates were encouraged to run their campaigns on VK as well. As an example, one of the registered candidates is Darth Vader — a fictional character who also coincidently ran for office in Ukraine. Darth Nikolaiovych Vader and the Darth Vader’s Bloc appeared on the ballot for the City Council of Odessa in 2015 and gained 2.74% of the vote.

This fictional character is now trying to become a parliamentarian of Viejšnoryja.

Darth Vader’s VK election promo. (Source: Viejšnoryja.bel)
Darth Vader’s Election Profile. (Source: Viejšnoryja.bel)

https://vk.com/video-43025557_456239027?list=bd70f4db89d25f9a5b

Currently, 12,007 people (the number doubled in a month) have the right to vote in the elections, therefore at least 6,124 citizens should vote for the election to be successful by the organizer’s own standards. The question remains what “elected” officials will do in “Parliament” after October 14th, as this effort has been mostly carried out in jest so far.

‘12,007 people received Viejšnorian passport’ (Source: Viejšnoryja.bel)

Viejšnoryja During Zapad 2017

The end of Zapad 2017 was celebrated as “victory” in Viejšnoryja. Throughout the exercise, any mishap or incident was labeled as by “Viejšnorian” jokesters as the work of “Viejšnorian” troops or partisans. This included armored vehicles that were damaged during transportation, as well as other incidents.

Translated from Belarusian: “Viejšnoryja does not give up! Partisans are in action!” (Source: VK)

The active phase of Zapad 2017 was regarded as the “Six Days War” between Viejšnoryja and Russia. The summary included not only Russian equipment mishap mentioned and pictured above, but also journalists that were accidentally fired on by Russian attack helicopters.

Final “summary from the front” of the Six-Days War. (Source: VK)

Other Noteworthy Viejšnorian Developments

A few other interesting developments occured in the “Viejšnorian” world during the last month.

Viejšnoryja was the first country that recognized Catalonia as a sovereign country…

Translated from Belarusian: “Viejšnoryja became the first country to recognize Catalonia as a sovereign country”. (Source: VK)

…Viejšnoryja introduced the design of vehicle license plates…

(Source: VK)

…a new currency, called Viejšnorian Talers, was released by the “National Bank of Viejšnoryja”…

(Source: VK)

…and a new clothing brand named Viejšnoryja’s Secret was founded.

(Source: VK)

Conclusions

Zapad 2017 military exercise ended, but the idea of Viejšnoryja has clearly not ended. In fact, just the opposite occurred in that “Viejšnoryja” is growing. In less than a month, the number of Viejšnorian “citizens” doubled.

The stream of memes, jokes, comments, and posts is constant. Now real-life elections are taking place, even if the idea is still entirely symbolic or in jest. The elections are a new qualitatitive step in the story of Viejšnoryja. The election is an online event, in which 12,000 real users have the ability to choose Viejšnorian representatives. It is not yet clear what the platform or responsibilities of the 110 “Members of Viejšnorian Parliament” will be, but these developments indicate that the idea of “Viejšnoryja” is growing into something more than a joke.


Lukas Andriukaitis is a Digital Forensic Research Associate at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (@DFRLab).

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