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Tag: belarus

Belarus in a post-Crimean deadlock

The annexation of Crimea was planned as a response to the decrease in Vladimir Putin’s approval rating in Russia. Now, after the pension reform has been introduced, the president’s rating is lower than that of the military – for the first time ever. It may happen that Belarus becomes the next goal for the Kremlin’s revanchist policies.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s foreign policy towards the countries of the socialist camp extensively followed a simple formula: loyalty of its satellites was bought with cheap natural gas and oil supplies. Today, it is widely implemented by Russia in relation to its post-Soviet neighbours, and its main client is Belarus.

November 5, 2018 - Igor Gretskiy

Pragmatic co-operation amid eroding security

Belarus and Ukraine need each other now perhaps more than ever before, both in terms of security and economics. Despite Belarus’s allied relations with Russia and their synchronised voting in the United Nations, Minsk has become an important platform for peace talks over the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Being anxious about a possible Crimean or Donbas scenario in Belarus, Minsk contributed to Ukraine’s overcoming of difficulties caused by Russian trade restrictions, including dual-use goods.

The Ukrainian Revolution of 2013-2014 and the subsequent Russian military and neo-imperialist activities on Ukrainian territory put Belarus in a challenging and awkward geopolitical situation.

November 5, 2018 - Maksym Khylko

Past as weakness or strength? The shared history, strained present and uncertain future of Belarus and Lithuania

How can barriers between two historically close countries like Belarus and Lithuania be lowered or eliminated? What are the prospects of improved relations between the two states? Ultimately, closer ties between ordinary Belarusians and Lithuanians could serve as the best guarantor of closer political relations.

During his September 2018 visit to Vilnius, Pope Francis quoted Lithuania’s national anthem and encouraged people to “draw strength from the past”. He reiterated what is often common knowledge: for one to look to the future, one must first know and make peace with the past. In theory the same logic could apply to Lithuania and Belarus, two neighbours that, over the centuries, have spent more time together – that is, belonging to (or being ruled by) the same state – than apart.

November 5, 2018 - Dovilė Šukytė

Behind the thaw

For over two decades Polish-Belarusian relations have been connected to Belarus’s relations with the West. There have been oscillations between years of warming relations and colder periods. Since Russia annexed Crimea and the Russian threat in Eastern Europe has become widely recognised, many European countries have re-evaluated their policies towards Belarus, which although authoritarian is not aggressive. Poland is one such country.

The foundations for a new opening towards Belarus were laid before Poland’s 2015 presidential and parliamentary elections. It was in April 2014, during the first weeks of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, when President Alyaksandr Lukashenka asked the Polish government to join in a mediation of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Poland’s prime minister at the time, Donald Tusk, turned down the offer for fear that the Kremlin was behind the initiative. Based on information that I have gathered from sources, this proposal called for placing Belarusian peacekeeping forces in Donbas, thereby disregarding the Crimea issue as well as the guarantee of Ukraine’s neutrality.

November 5, 2018 - Michał Potocki

Issue 5 2018: What’s new with Belarus?

It often seems, at least from the outside, that Belarus remains isolated from the West and very static in its transformation. Yet, despite its relative isolation, Belarus is indeed changing.

September 2, 2018 - New Eastern Europe

Softly, softly Belarus

One might not notice it, but certain changes are taking place in Belarus. This may be good news for European policymakers and diplomats who seek to engage Belarus and keep it balanced in its relations with Russia, as long as expectations are not kept too high.

Belarus is changing. It is changing in ways that help European engagement. But, to be clear, the area where change is minimal is probably the one where Europeans want to see the most improvement. This is the political sphere. The label “Last Dictatorship in Europe” may be out of date, but Belarus is not about to become a democracy any time soon. What is driving change is the concept of sovereignty. First is the logic of sovereignty, which has been operative for some time; but often belated or delayed by political factors, namely Belarus’s formerly close relationship with Russia. Second is the threat to sovereignty since the situation in Ukraine from 2014; though partly this threat can be traced back to the war in Georgia in 2008.

September 2, 2018 - Andrew Wilson

The EU should take Belarus more seriously

An interview with Balázs Jarábik, a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Interviewers: Iwona Reichardt and Daniel Gleichgewicht of New Eastern Europe

NEW EASTERN EUROPE: You recently attended the high-level Minsk Dialogue Forum. Among the speakers was Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. How do you interpret his participation in this event that gathers international experts and representatives of the third sector? What kind of message did he intend to send to the wider world?

BALÁZS JARÁBIK: The most important thing was the fact that he attended a civil society conference. As far as I am aware, this was his first such occurrence. It certainly illustrated how the attitude of the regime is slowly changing vis-à-vis civil society in Belarus. Currently there are several interesting areas internally where co-operation is moving and where the government is beginning to understand the value of civil society.

September 2, 2018 - Balazs Jarabik Daniel Gleichgewicht Iwona Reichardt

A Belarusian house of cards

In the early stages of the system transformation, the division of the Belarusian political elite into the ruling-elite and counter-elite was more symbolic than a reflection of reality. Today, both demonstrate the features of the Homo post-Sovieticus, fitting into the post-Soviet model of political culture. However, while Lukashenka’s transformation and authoritarian modernisation have gained public support, the model promoted by the counter-elite has proved ineffective.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 the political elite played a key role in the process of systematic transformation within post-Soviet territories, including Belarus. The first years of the country’s independence marked a very important stage when the nature of establishing the political elite determined the further course of political, economic and social developments. It was the activities of the elite and counter-elite (i.e. the opposition) that influenced the dynamic of socio-political changes in Belarus.

September 2, 2018 - Maxim Rust

Belarusian culture: national, European, post-Soviet

I dare say the Soviet cultural project is unlikely to survive in Belarus for another 20 years. The fact that there are artists working in Belarus today who represent the European or national layer of Belarusian culture is a result of the disintegration of the earlier mechanisms.

In June 1987 a group of enthusiasts wanted to prepare an exhibition at the Vitebsk regional library in Belarus. It was dedicated to Marc Chagall – a native of Vitebsk who was widely recognised in the West. However, in that summer attitudes towards Chagall in his hometown was somewhat ambiguous. First of all, a large exhibition of his art had been earlier held in Moscow. Secondly, a well-known magazine Ogoniok (Огонёк) had already published his work which aimed at rehabilitating the artist.

September 1, 2018 - Victor Martinovich

A change from within

Belarus is said to be Europe’s last dictatorship. Yet, even in this post-Soviet state there are people who are changing the country from the inside: bringing authorities to account, fighting to reduce the consumption of plastic and re-designing the public spaces together with local residents.

Walking along Praspiekt Niezaliežnasci, the main avenue in Minsk, it is easy to imagine yourself back in the Soviet Union. The avenue, built in the 1950s, spans 15 kilometres with vast spaces and Stalinist architecture. But do not be fooled by the first impression. A 15-minute walk from the city centre to Kastryčnickaja Street will bring you to quite a different Mink: one with building walls full of colourful graffiti, hipster fast-food restaurants and Berlin-like bars. Even though it might not be obvious at first sight, Minsk has changed a lot in recent years and many of those changes are thanks to its active citizens.

September 1, 2018 - Natalia Smolentceva and Varvara Morozova

Oppositionists or dissidents?

An interview with Alyaksandr Klaskouski, a Belarusian journalist and political analyst. Interviewer: Zbigniew Rokita

ZBIGNIEW ROKITA: I have a feeling that the Belarusian opposition has never been as weak as it is right now…

ALYAKSANDR KLASKOUSKI: I agree. In the 1990s the opposition was capable of bringing 30,000-40,000 people to the streets. At that time they could also influence the masses and cause some fear among the authorities. Today things are different. There are maybe a few dozens of people that come to protests; this is thousands times less than two decades ago. The opposition has almost no influence on Belarusian politics, let alone economics.

September 1, 2018 - Alyaksandr Klaskouski Zbigniew Rokita

Hello, generation Lukashenka

Thousands of Belarusians are now coming of age but have only known one leader of their country. Little is known about the Lukashenka generation. But these are young people who soon will determine its country’s future. A recent online video depicts a young man playing the piano accompanied by a singer who performs in Chinese. The interior of the room has a rather solemn appearance: the camera pans to a framed photo featuring the Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife in the company of Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his youngest son Kolya – the same person playing the piano. After the song, the teen stands up and reads out a prepared text in Chinese. In February this year, the Belarusian ambassador to China posted the video on Twitter calling Kolya “the most famous Belarusian teenager in China”.

September 1, 2018 - Hanna Liubakova

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