Belarus: things getting _really_ ugly

The BBC reports:

Alexander Kozulin, one of two opposition candidates to run against Mr Lukashenko, was jailed for five and a half years at a court in Minsk.

He was convicted of hooliganism [Kozulin is a former university rector] and incitement to mass disorder.

Oddly, Belarus seems the best fit for a European-style democracy in the CIS: it is a 10-million country with a reasonably educated, law-abiding, hard-working and ethnically homogenous population and an urbanized society based on the European nuclear family. It is an improved and downsized version of Russia, as it were: a mini-Russia without the oil but also without poisonous vodka and human degradation.

What is the worst about Lukashenko’s regime? What’s worst about it lies in what’s best about it: Lukashenko’s social policy has allowed most Belarusians to maintain a decent, though quite modest, standard of living; or, at least, to stay away from utter, hopeless poverty. In contrast, post-Communist Russia is a country of heart surgeons making a living as cab drivers, and of engineers selling fruit. A country where — let’s say — a music teacher at a high school doesn’t have to work two more jobs, is appealing to the numerous Russians to whom “culture” and “education” take precedence over “freedom.”

Once a new regime takes over Belarus, it should do its best to preserve these social achievements. In addition, it should resist attempts by Belarusian nationalists to aggressively “Belarussify” their Russophone country. Belarus should not become a third-rate Poland while it has a chance to become a much-improved version of Russia and show the way to its eastern neighbor.

Provided there is a regime change, that is. Belarus does not need a total destruction and reweaving of the social fabric like Iraq; a regime change would do. It could be a limited democracy under EU supervision — limited to prevent Lukashenko from coming back. In keeping with the Belarusian mindset, the new regime would start a slow, step-by-step reform process — not a Russian-style pro-market revolution.

A regime change does not require a war; just a bunch of NATO paratroopers descending on Minsk perhaps.


  1. ALEXEI: Actually, I’d say that the worst thing about Belarus is quite obvious, it’s Russia.

    Russian repeatedly express the same kind of strong support for Lukashenko that they express for Putin.

    This is perhaps not suprising given the fact that Russians have alienated every normal country in the world and are desperate to create the illusion that they have allies, but Russia’s view of Belarus is so out of touch with the rest of the world that it can ony be called Neo-Soviet.

    By adopting this attitude, Russians themselves are complicit in the outrages perpetrated by Lukashkenko, and they hasten the day when such outrages will return to Russia as well (indeed, there is plenty of evidence that this has already started happening).

  2. It shows that you’re a Russophobe. When it comes to politics, most Russians are little kids. They have not had the kind of schooling and experience that Americans and most Europeans have. The Russians’ political idiocy can be infuriating but it is not their fault. Most Russians are too busy earning their living to find out the truth about Lukashenko. They hear that education and health care are good and free in Belarus (while Putin is working to make both inaccessible to millions) and that alone is enough for them to give Lukashenko their support. The West has so far failed to produce a counterexample: Ukraine, for instance, is still a mess.

    Most of the responsibility rests with those Russians who understand or ought to understand. That’s not a huge number, 5% or 10% of the voters.

  3. What you don’t mention is that the reason that Lukashenko has been able to maintain this neo-Communist utopia is because he has been leeching on Russia, manipulating the Russian fears and traumas of encirclement, loss of power and empire. Russia has been paying through the nose for its ‘ally’, in the amount of billions a year. Putin has now shown that all Lukashenko’s words about Russia being an eternal ally and brother nation are just empty chatter. When Putin suggested that Belarus and Russia unite, Lukashenko almost went apoplectic. While receiving billions in energy subsidies, he has been keeping Russian capital from the Belarussian economy. So much for economic integration. Finally, Putin has had enough and is cutting off this leech. Let’s see how long the parasite can live on its own

  4. some very good points about the future of belarus, however i feel there is a patronising undertone towards the Belarusians. You note the lack of extreme poverty in BLR in comparision to Russia (and Ukraine for that fact) and also the risk of becoming second rate Poland (polands rush to a free market economy means it is vulnerable to foriegn events, and ultimately the poles have limited control over their future). The Belarusian are not idiots (contra to what some opposition will have you believe). they see what is going in and make a choice about what they want. If they were disatified and “asipired” to a free-market economy and better democracy then a hell of lot more people would have come out on the streets to protest post march 19! Simpley the Belarusian do not want to change as they fear they’ll end up like russia and/or ukraine! And until the opposition assure the social achievements of post soviet belarusian are maintain then they have little chance of getting mass support. As for BLR and Russian….things are going to change very soon with a change in energy prices! and with the EU isolating the regime it is no wonder the gvt of BLR is looking further afield for their allies! watch this space!

  5. ALEXEI: “The Russians’ political idiocy can be infuriating but it is not their fault.” Russians have been saying this for centuries, justifying their failure and avoiding reform. This attitude is what has brought Russia to such a low place in it’s history. What’s really infuriating is cowardly people like you who go on year after year enabling Russians to remain as they are, failures. Martin Luther King said the people like you are more dangerous to freedom than extremists like skinheads and the KKK. That’s what’s really infuriating. Until ALL Russians take responsibility and act on it, Russia will continue to become extinct.

    ANONYMOUS: You’re right! That’s why I mentioned it for him!

  6. LR — Russians are not failures: one should distinguish between a tragedy and a failure. The sense of tragedy is like the sense of humor: if one doesn’t have it, it’s not one’s fault that one’s understanding of the world is limited.

    I would not argue with you about the Russians’ responsibility for their political problems: it would be pointless, as arguing with you tends to be. The question is not who is to blame, but, rather, what can be done. If you have a solution to Russia’s problems, share it with us. Better yet, tell me what I, not somebody else, should do now.

    I believe that the Russian public needs to be educated on the basics of how the Western world works and why. With the local media mostly in Putin’s hands, I would suggest, at least, building up a massive educational web site or portal tailored to the Russian audience.

    Unfortunately, those educated Westerners who seem to care about Russia’s future are often either Russophobes like you, or captives to a leftist or neocon (that is, inverse leftist) mindset (or both, like David McDuff). For instance, you seem to embrace the cult of MLK as a champion of freedom. Yet the movement he founded, ironically called the civil rights movement, encouraged and helped the federal government to consolidate its power, and eventually restricted the freedom of most Americans through political correctness and affirmative action. The black minority was empowered and enfranchized — but at a huge cost to the majority. So much for the cause of liberty.

  7. Anonymous 2: “And until the opposition assure the social achievements of post soviet belarusian are maintain then they have little chance of getting mass support.” That’s what I was saying. How can the opposition do that? Is it time for the EU to step in with a plan for Belarusan integration perhaps?

  8. ALEXEI: By any objective standard you can name, most especially biology (failure to reproduce, declining population) Russians are total failures.

    Failure alone is not a sin, it’s just proof of trying. But Russian failure is particularly barbaric, because Russians repeat the same mistakes over and over. HOW COULD Russians POSSIBLY choose a proud KGB spy ten years after the USSR collapsed and after the endorsement of Boris Yeltsin, whom they claimed to hate? HOW COULD they possibly allow the Soviet anthem to be revived?

    What will it take to convince you that Russians are failing? When there is not a single one of them left?

    Saying that Russians need to be educated is the same as saying that they can’t educate themselves, which is the same as saying that they are biologically inferior. Sounds like you’re the Russophobe, not me.

    Russians like you ALWAYS label as “russophobe” anyone who tells you the truth you don’t want to hear. That’s what the Tsars did to Pushkin and Dostoevsky, that’s what Brezhnev did to Solzhenitisn and Sakarov. Russians have butchered far more Russians than all the russophobes who have ever lived.

    You just simply can’t accept criticism, and therefore can’t reform. You MUST see criticism as an “attack” rather than an opportunity, you MUST sacrifice your lives to your pride.

    It’s a tragedy all right, but tragedies have responsible parties. It was a tragedy when Germans put Jews into concentration camps. Germans KNOW this and ACCEPT responsiblity. Russians just ignore the truth and fade into oblivion.

  9. Nice post, are belarussian? (off-topic)

    Well, about reforms and regime changes, I’d say, that if the regime will be changed naturally, without other external
    influence, it will be a great achievement for Belarus.
    Belarus recovered after 90s faster then other ex-USSR republics, so when people start blamin Lukashenko in all the problems, the economy of the country goes different with their opinion – that just kills me..
    But I’m not a native livener of Belarus, so I can be wrong! 🙂

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  11. La Russophobe — I don’t quite understand who you mean by the “you” of your posts. Is it just me? Well, I thought I could accept criticism quite well, for which my blog — I hope — provides ample evidence. Unfortunately, some of your diatribes don’t qualify as criticism. Trolling would be a better name.

    I do not have an answer to questions such as why Russians elected Putin. I think part of the problem is that Russians are politically uneducated. Contrary to what you assume, one cannot educate oneself without access to textbooks or teachers. Gone are the times when community elders were the authority that shaped commoners’ thinking. We are living in the age of TV propaganda. Millions of Americans, whose political education — centuries of liberty — is immensely superior to the Russians’, bought Bush’s lies about Iraq and supported an obviously unwinnable and irrelevant war. What could be expected from the Russians?

    Regarding failure and success, remember that what we see today is only a snapshot; a nation is its past, present, and future. In the past, our ancestors settled an unfriendly woodland in the North-East of Europe, established a Christian state, outstayed various steppe invaders and colonized enormous areas of Eurasia, bringing peace and a measure of European civilization to places where slave raiders had reigned supreme. But there is a time for every thing. It is possible that the Russian nation has run its course, and is nearing natural death — along with other great nations of Europe, perhaps.

  12. jujav4ik — (I am Russian. A native-born Muscovite.) There is a Russian joke about a man falling down a chasm, his pal standing by the edge. “Hey, how are you down there?” — Fine! “Did it hurt much?” — I don’t know, I’m not there yet!

    The economy of Belarus might just not be there yet.

  13. Do any of you wretches live in Russia or have a clue about it?

    Putin is popular because salaries have risen 75% and the economy is booming. The “Soviet” anthem has markedly different lyrics. NATO paratroops over Minsk would give you world war three.

    Stick to fucking up Iraq, lowlifes

  14. alex,

    the reason why belorussia has not become a democratic alter-ego of russia is because it has an identity problem. most belorussians would, if pressed, declare themselves russians. they don’t have any sense of nationhood, and their sense of patriotism is tied to parochial sentiments, pretty much like the natives of saint pete are proud of their jewel of a city while remaining faithfully russian. take a look at russia’s immediate neighborhood, the only examples of a succesfful transition from the soviet captivity are the baltic states, who had, alone, experienced independence or home rule prior to the break up of the ussr in ’91. they had a crystal clear national identiy that was never subsumed in the larger soviet hyper-identity. being a nation, having an unambiguous national identity, they quickly established consensus on what to do next, and procceded to implement it. all the while, belorussia dawdled, wallowing in its identity crisis quagmire. ukraine has not performed to expectations for the same reason. it’s national psyche is schizophrenic, being split evenly between a ukrainophone europe-leaning west, and a russophone russia-leaning east. until this identtiy dichotomy is resolved, ukraine will not become more than a state teetering on the brink of failure.

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