[pic][pic] Belarus: a country suffering at the hands of its own authoritarian leadership Table of Contents Republic of Belarus’ Overview………………………………………………………………… . 3 Russia and Belarus: Friend or Foe?…………………………………………………………………………………. 4 Is Alexander Lukashenko “Europe’s Last Dictator? ” …………………………………………… 5 Lukashenko: Political Control…………………………………………………………………… 5 Lukashenko: Economic Control…………………………………………………………………6 How can Lukashenko be stopped?…………………………………………………………………………………… In Conclusion…a more peaceful Belarus……………………………………………………….. 9 Republic of Belarus’ Overview Belarus is a beautiful country nestled in the heart of Eastern Europe, surrounded by Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, and Ukraine. Belarus is “landlocked”, meaning it is completely surrounded by land and has no coastline. The CIA World Factbook states that Belarus’ size is slightly smaller than the size of Kansas (CIA World Factbook, 2010: Geography section). The climate is very cold in the winters with cool and moist summers. (CIA World Factbook, 2010: Geography section).
These climate conditions are favorable for growing grains, vegetables, fruit trees and potatoes (UN, 2002, About Belarus section). There are more than 100 nationalities represented in Belarus. However, more than 75% of the entire population is native Belarusian. Living among the natives are significant numbers of Russians, Poles, and Ukrainians (UN, 2002, About Belarus section). The two official languages of Belarus are Belarusian and Russian. The religious make-up of Belarus is 80% Eastern Orthodox, with the remaining 20% a combination of Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim (CIA World Factbook, 2010: Population section).
As of July 2010, Belarus’ population was 9,612,632, ranking 87 in the world (CIA World Factbook, 2010: Population section). The capital of Belarus is Minsk, which is the biggest political, economic, scientific, and cultural center of the country (UN, 2002, About Belarus section). The population of Minsk is 1. 729 million people (UN, 2002, About Belarus section), approximately 17. 9% of Belarus’ total population. Belarus was part of the Soviet Union for 70 years, but claimed its independence on August 25, 1991 after the Soviet Union’s collapse.
Although it’s independence from Russia was claimed on August 25, 1991, Belarus reserves its national Independence Day as July 3rd, the day Minsk was freed from the German troops. This occurred in 1944, shortly before the end of WWII (CIA World Factbook, 2010: Government section). The conventional long form of the country name is “Republic of Belarus. ” Although republic is in the name, Belarus is in fact a dictatorship (CIA World Factbook, 2010: Government section), as I will discuss in more detail throughout this paper. Russia and Belarus: Friend or Foe? According to About. om (2010), “Belarus has struggled for decades to establish an internationally recognized identity. Known as Belarussia in Soviet times, the people of Belarus find this name an unpleasant reminder of Russification” (Kubilius, 2010, National Identity section). Since independence, Belarus has chosen to remain politically and economically closer to Russia than any other former Soviet Republics. However, recent news suggests tensions between Russia and Belarus. First, there was a big debate over natural gas fees and transit fees. Russia’s energy company, Gazprom, was demanding payment for natural gas delivered to Belarus.
Belarus was refusing to pay, claiming that Russia owed Belarus transit fees. Russia transports 6. 25 percent of Europe’s natural gas via a pipeline that runs through Belarus (CNN Wire Staff, 2010, para. 6). This issue was recently resolved on June 24, 2010, with both countries finally settling the monetary difference. CNN quotes, “If unresolved, the payment dispute could have threatened Europe’s energy supplies” (CNN Wire Staff, 2010, para. 9). Russia supplies Belarus with over 50% of its foreign trade volume (UN, 2002, About Belarus section).
If tensions do not ease or even become worse, Belarus will find itself in an undesirable economic position. On July 31, 2010, The New York Times reported the latest conflict between Russia and Belarus. A documentary depicting the Belarussian President, Alexander Lukashenko in an extremely negative light was released from Russia’s government-controlled television. The film suggests similarities between Lukashenko and Hitler and Stalin. The “mudslinging” as the article stated, which has been blasted all over both countries’ government–controlled media, “reflects the deepening tensions between them” (Schwirtz, 2010: para. ). In addition, several Belarussian opposition leaders met with Russian officials in June 2010. This could be damaging to Lukashenko in next year’s presidential elections. Is Alexander Lukashenko “Europe’s Last Dictator? ” (BBC News, 2010, page 1) As I began my research on Belarus and the issues it faces, I found myself looking for the types of problems most countries face; issues such as national debt, crime, and theft. I was essentially looking for the biggest problem this country has and was going to provide suggestions on ways to fix said problem.
What I found was much more disturbing than the “typical” economic, political, or social issue. I believe the problems of this country are actually caused by the President who swore to serve and protect it. Alexander Lukashenko is a bit of a high powered bully, which may be a staggering understatement. During his reign of sixteen years, he has managed to completely isolate the country and has been very successful at one thing: looking out for his own interests. The more I read, the more I became absolutely disgusted that his behavior has not only been tolerated, but actually encouraged by some.
Lukashenko: Political Control Alexander Lukashenko was nominated in 1994 as Belarus’ first President. His presidential term should have lasted five years, but in 1996, he extended his term to 2001 with a referendum. He won an additional five years in the 2001 election, which Western observers have called “undemocratic” (BBC News, 2010, para. 15). Yet another referendum in 2004 lifted the two year rule, which allowed him to run again in 2006. There was considerable outrage when he won the 2006 election with over 80% of the votes.
Lukashenko is very controlling and went to great lengths to prevent losing the election. Lukashenko denied the opposition access to state-owned media so they could not advertise or campaign against him. In 2004, he even went so far as to send his biggest potential rival to jail (About. com, 2010: para. 2). After his 2006 landslide win, people became very angry and began protesting. “About 10,000 people braved a heavy snow storm, freezing temperatures and threat of government reprisals to show their support for the opposition” (BBC News, 2006: para. 7). They called Lukashenko’s victory “complete farce” and demanded new, honest elections. Belarussian police ended up sending more than 150 opposition protesters to jail. A runner up in the election was one of the jailed and was said to be facing six years. He complains of back and knee pain from alleged beatings by the police. One woman was filmed being beaten by officers, while another protestor was left bleeding on the ground (BBC News, 2006: para. 15). A polish diplomat was also jailed. The United States and European Union imposed sanctions on Belarus, which included a travel ban against Lukashenko.
Canada even decided to limit its official relations with Belarus and demanded the release of a Quebec journalist, who was also jailed, while in Belarus to cover the demonstrations in Minsk (BBC News, 2006: para. 13-14). Lukashenko: Economic Control According to BBC News, Lukashenko has ruled Belarus with an “increasingly iron fist” (BBC News, 2010: para. 3) over the past sixteen years. He wants to control everything, including businesses. “Belarus has seen limited structural reform since 1995, when Lukashenko launched the country on the path of market socialism” (CIA World Factbook, 2010: Economy section).
Private business does not exist in Belarus as the state has a right to intervene in their management. Ridiculous regulations were put into place making it impossible to conduct business. Rigorous inspections are conducted and “disruptive” business owners were even arrested (CIA World Factbook, 2010: Economy section). Neither domestic nor foreign companies want to open businesses in Belarus. In 2007, Lukashenko put a new tax law into place that made it even more difficult to run a business. Alexander Makaev, a small shop owner says “Belarus is closed for business.
Everything is designed according to a vertical power structure. The biggest businessman in this country is Mr. Lukashenko himself, and you need to know how to cut a deal with him” (BBC News, 2009: para. 11). Media is another arena which Lukashenko controls. If you are state owned, Belarus provides subsidies and other financial privileges. However, private media groups received increased charges, forced to change names, close down, or publish elsewhere (BBC News, 2010: para. 15). He even made it mandatory that 75% of music played on radio stations should be Belarussian. How can Lukashenko be stopped?
At her Senate confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said “To be sure, in our world there remain outposts of tyranny – and America stands with oppressed people on every continent – in Cuba, and Burma, and North Korea, and Iran, and Belarus, and Zimbabwe” (Porter, 2010: para. 4). The dictionary defines tyranny as: “arbitrary, unreasonable, or despotic behavior or use of authority. ” The key word, in my opinion, is unreasonable. Mr. Lukashenko is simply unreasonable. The million dollar question is: how can you reason with an extremely unreasonable person?
He has thus far shown no sign of loosening his grip of his oppressed peoples. In 2007, the UN rejected Belarus’ bid for a seat on the Human Rights Council. The global advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, Peggy Hicks, said, “voting ‘no’ to Belarus sends the message that abusive governments have no place on the UN Human Rights Council” (Human Rights Watch, 2007: para. 3). Belarus now has to open itself to monitoring by UN human rights experts, who he has denied in the past. This may be a good thing for the people of Belarus.
Although I have never believed violence to be the answer under any circumstance, this dictator seems to leave no choice. But since an assassination is simply out of the question, being that it is morally, ethically, and politically wrong, we must come up with alternatives. It has been proved by the Filipino people in 1986 that it is possible to overthrow a dictator in a completely non-violent fashion. Millions, yes, millions took to the streets in non-violent protest. President Marcos was overthrown in less than four days (Hogan, 2003: para. 6).
The people had had enough and they gathered and stood together. The Ukrainian people also used the non-violent strategy during the Orange Revolution in 2005 (Wikipedia, n. d. : para. 1). Thousands of protesters demonstrated daily, while others chose series of acts of civil disobedience, sit-ins, and general strikes. Similarly, the Kyrgyz people overthrew their dictator during their non-violent “Tulip Revolution”. All three of the countries mentioned above had just participated in an election where the dictator president won. The election win was simply the last straw of rage for the people of the country.
They were completely fed up with living under a dictator’s thumb. Lukashenko’s next presidential election is next year. His oppressed people need to start now if they want to be ready to fight for their freedom. The important thing, with regard to any undertaking, is to create a powerful resistance. Since most communication sources are controlled by the government, they will need to rely on word of mouth to recruit additional resources. They need to make sure everyone knows the plan and understands it, and be ready to implement.
One or two of the most influential leaders of the opposition should contact the UN and elicit their assistance. Secondly, create a strategic plan. Map out what each person will do and where they will be. Lastly, you need to strengthen the oppressed people. The violence of the 2006 protests will more than likely prevent some people from wanting to take part. Remind them of what they are fighting for…and spark the passion for a strong revolution. In Conclusion…a more peaceful Belarus The West has been pressuring Lukashenko to change, but he just turns his back to it.
He has dismissed all possibilities of revolutions, such as the ones that saved Kyrgyzstan and neighbor Ukraine. Following the protest after the 2006 election, Lukashenko “warned he will not tolerate any attempt at a “coup” and has vowed to “break the neck – like a duckling’s” of anyone who tries to seize power” (BBC News, 2006: para. 13). This statement has probably dissuaded many of the protesters from future involvement. But it should only motivate them to try again, try harder. Lukashenko needs to be stopped. The people of Belarus are essentially prisoners without bars.
They are robbed of any freedoms. These wonderful people should be able to enjoy the freedoms we possess, freedoms that we sometimes take for granted. They should be able to feel safe in their beds at night and safe to disagree with something without the government inflicting harm on them. In short, Belarus needs to be liberated! References BBC News (2006). Belarus jails Lukashenko’s foes. Retrieved July 31, 2010 from BBC News: http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/europe/4852130. stm BBC News (2006). Belarus protests spark clashes. Retrieved July 31, 2010, from BBC News: http://news. bc. co. uk/2/hi/europe/4843690. stm BBC News (2006). Landslide win for Belarus leader. Retrieved July 31, 2010 from BBC News: http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/europe/4823800. stm BBC News (2009). Belarus and Europe inch closer. Retrieved July 31, 2010 from BBC News: http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/europe/8037923. stm BBC News (2010). Belarus country profile. Retrieved July 31, 2010 from BBC News: http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/europe/country_profiles/1102180. stm Central Intelligence Agency (2010). The World Factbook: Belarus.
Retrieved July 28, 2010 from CIA – The World Factbook: https://www. cia. gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bo. html CNN Wire Staff (2010). Belarus settles bill with Russian energy giant. Retrieved July 28, 2010 from CNN. com: http://edition. cnn. com/2010/WORLD/europe/06/23/russia. belarus. gas/index. html? iref=all search#fbid=sEOFqI8sly9 CNN Wire Staff (2010). Russia pays Belarus for Europe gas transit. Retrieved July 28, 2010 from CNN. com: http://edition. cnn. com/2010/WORLD/europe/06/24/russia. belarus. gas/index. html? iref=allsearch#fbid=sEOFqI8sly9 Hogan, H. 2003). Can non-violence overthrow an oppressive dictator? Retrieved August 1, 2010 from HunterThinks. com: http://www. hunterthinks. com/politics/history/philippines. html Human Rights Watch (2007). UN: “No” to Belarus on Rights Council. Retrieved August 1, 2010 from Human Rights Watch: http://www. hrw. org/en/news/2007/05/16/un-no-belarus- rights-council Kaminsky, R. (2005). Falling dominoes: Kyrgyz people overthrow their dictator. Retrieved August 1, 2010 from Global Politician: http://www. globalpolitician. com/2490-kyrgyz Kubilius, K. (n. d. ).
Eastern Europe Travel: Belarus. Retrieved July 31, 2010 from About. com: http://goeasteurope. about. com/od/othercountries/p/belarusprofile. htm Porter, K. (n. d. ). The U. S. -Belarussian relationship. Retrieved July 28, 2010 from About. com: http://usforeignpolicy. about. com/od/countryprofil2/p/usbelarus. htm Schwirtz, M. (2010). In information war, documentary is latest salvo. Retrieved July 31, 2010 from The New York Times: http://www. nytimes. com/2010/08/01/world/europe/01russia. html United Nations (2002). About Belarus. Retrieved July 31, 2010 from United Nations: