Teddy bears cause a conflict

On August 3, the government of Belarus asked Swedish diplomats to leave Belarus, and the Swedish government asked the Belarusian diplomats to leave Sweden. The two countries are upset at each other, and it all started with some teddy bears! On July 4, it rained teddy bears just outside of Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Some people who work for the Swedish advertising company Studio Total flew a plane into Belarus from the neighboring country Lithuania. They dropped hundreds of teddy bears attached to little parachutes. The teddy bears had signs supporting freedom of speech and democracy. The international community criticizes the government of Belarus for not giving freedom of speech to the country’s people and press. Aleksandr Lukashenko has been the president of Belarus for 18 years. He won the most recent elections two years ago, but many thought the elections were not fair.

This teddy bear incident was an embarrassment for the government of Belarus. A country’s airspace is defended by its military, and unauthorized planes are not allowed to fly into a country and drop things around. Usually, such planes will be detected and stopped by the military. However, this plane got by. It was able to fly around Belarus for over an hour and drop teddy bears. Lukashenko was very upset with the country’s military leaders and some of them lost their jobs over this incident. Initially, the government of Belarus said this incident did not take place. However, many photos and videos were posted on the Internet showing the falling teddy bears on parachutes. The government of Belarus recently acknowledged that the incident did take place. You can watch a video here.

Folks who work at Studio Total have done other unusual things. Last year, they organized the Pillow Fight World Cup in New York, USA.

Belarus used to be part of a country called the Soviet Union (USSR) until 1991. The Soviet Union split into fifteen separate countries. The official languages of Belarus are Belarusian and Russian. The country has a very high literacy rate – out of every 1000 people over the age of 15, only 4 cannot read or write. Belarus is home to a very old forest called Belavezhskaya Pushcha, which is a World Heritage site.  A famous landmark of Belarus is the almost thousand years old Cathedral of Holy Wisdom in the city of Polotsk.

Did you know?

In 1902, Teddy Roosevelt, the president of the United States at the time, refused to kill a bear during a hunt he had gone on. A newspaper posted a cartoon that illustrated Roosevelt refusing to kill the bear. The cartoon became famous and was redrawn to show a cuddly bear. This led to the creation of the “Teddy” bear.

Did you know?

The International Pillow Fight Day is held in April, and thousands of people gather in cities around the globe with their pillows to have a fight.
Image Credits: Studio Total for the teddy bear image, Alex Zelenko for the Cathedral of Holy Wisdom image