Information security, oiling Belarus-Russia relationship, Lukashenka’s sixth term – Digest of Belarusian analytics
While Belarus hedges carefully between East and West, Minsk and Brussels both claim they are eager to deepen ties. Lukashenka and Putin meet for the fourth time over the course of two months. Arguments about oil and gas prices have become a recurring feature of the Belarus-Russia relationship.
Experts see the major threats in 2019 in Russo-Belarusian security relations that are likely to remain the least prone to conflicts. EAST Research Center proposes implementing security measures to strengthen the information security of Belarus. Minsk’s muddled media clampdown could jeopardize the warming of relations with the West.
Lukashenka plans to run for the sixth term in 2020 and might change the constitution. Belarus’ bold attempt to attract foreign investors in IT sector gets restricted by the country’s autocratic regime. Since 1994, the proportion of Belarusian-language education has been shrinking at all levels.
How Close Can Belarus And EU Really Get? – This week senior EU official, the Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources Gunther Oettinger visited Minsk and met Alexander Lukashenka (as well as civic activists). Minsk and Brussels both claim they are eager to deepen ties, but the pace of rapprochement is slow. TUT.by political editor Artyom Shraibman analyzes what realistically can be achieved in Belarus-EU relations.
Belarus Finds its Foreign Policy Stride – Yauheni Preiherman, Minsk Dialogue, emphasizes that Belarus hedges carefully between East and West, like a hedgehog and a fox all at once. Over the next five years, the country must ensure that it becomes part and parcel of the mental (strategic) maps of both the West and Russia and specifically as a principal stakeholder in Eastern European stability.
Cautious Optimism in Belarus’s Growing Geopolitical Leverage – Grigory Ioffe continues to overview alarmist pronouncements regarding Belarus. In particular, he refers to an interview of NATO former secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen who predicted that unless Belarus launches “reforms leading to democracy and freedom” it would fall victim to war and annexation by Russia.
A Brotherly Takeover: Could Russia Annex Belarus? – Artyom Shraibman, writing for Carnegie Moscow Center, comments an opinion that the Kremlin’s recent demand to integrate with Belarus further would be an opportunity for Putin to remain in office after 2024. But the journalist believes that if Putin wishes to remain president after 2024, annexing Belarus is rife with unpredictable risks. A better option would simply be to amend the Russian Constitution.
Belarus’ Balancing Act – David A. Wemer, Atlantic Council, comments a speech of deputy minister of foreign affairs for Belarus, Oleg Kravchenko at the Atlantic Council on January 30. In brief, Belarus is attempting a delicate diplomatic dance as it attempts to thaw its relationship with the West while preserving its longstanding relationship with Russia.
Oiling the Wheels of Belarus-Russia Relations – Arguments about oil and gas prices have become a recurring feature of the Belarusian and Russian relationship. Paul Hansbury, at New Eastern Europe, explains whether this year’s discord is different from earlier bouts, and there is any merit to the speculation of potential changes to the Union State agreement between the two countries.
Alleviating Tensions Between Russia and Belarus: Two Paradigms – Grigory Ioffe analyzes debates on Russian-Belarusian tensions around the so-called oil tax manoeuvre and notes that they fall into two main categories: 1) ones carefully trying to examine the core of the issue and 2) politicized speculators. And in the new year, this latter group has remained vocal.
Review 2018: Security Situation In Belarus Remained Stable – Belarus Security Blog sums up the national security “results” of 2018. In particular, there was no qualitative change in the security situation in Belarus; it should be regarded as stable. The experts see the major threats in 2019 in Russo-Belarusian security relations that are likely to remain the least prone to conflicts.
Seven Specific Measures to Strengthen the Information Security of Belarus – EAST Research Center offers the following measures: increasing the diversity of media sources considering the predominance of Russian content; promoting the Belarusian national identity and culture; the creation of attractive conditions for private investors in the media market; the development of media literacy, etc.
Beyond Lies: A New Stage in the Belarus-Russia Information War – In February, Alexander Lukashenka and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, met for the fourth time over the course of two months. Grigory Ioffe believes that at least in one respect, the new stage of Russian-Belarusian tensions is qualitatively different from previous stages: Lukashenka markedly preoccupied with information security.
Is Lukashenka Preparing to Hand Over Power? – The political editor of TUT.BY Artyom Shraibman breaks down key political developments in and around Belarus to help make sense of them. During his recent Big Talk on March 1, Alexander Lukashenka said that he plans to run for the sixth term in 2020. What does it mean in terms of his political future? To change the constitution.
Shhh! Belarus Wants You to Think It’s Turning Over a New Leaf – Amy Mackinnon, Foreign Policy, believes that Minsk’s muddled media clampdown could jeopardize warming of relations with the West. Thus, an ongoing criminal case against the editor in chief of the country’s most widely read news site [Maryna Zolotova, TUT.by] has called into question whether Minsk is committed to reforms that are more than just cosmetic.
Belarusian Language In 1918-2018. Education and the Press – Andrei Rasinski, BISS, releases a comprehensive study on the Belarusian language situation over a hundred years. Since 1994, the proportion of Belarusian-language education has been shrinking at all levels. From 1995 to 2018, the number of Belarusian urban preschoolers decreased from 68.9% to 2.3%, while the number of students studying in Belarusian in universities decreased by 103 times, and now this is 291 students.
Economic Values of Belarusians In 2018 – Daria Urban, IPM Research Center, releases a full report on the analysis of the economic values of the Belarusians, based on a national survey’s data. The report covers such issues as the attitude of the population to wealth, the level of state paternalism, the level of public expectations from the state, and others. The work was prepared in the framework of the Kastryčnicki Economic Forum (KEF).
Sixteen results of 2018 – Strategy analytical centre and Mises Center sum up the last year’s socio-economic development of Belarus in 16 nominations. In particular, 2018 was a year of intensifying talk about the problems in the economy, rather than taking adequate and professional measures to solve them. The country continued to work in the mode of Marxist-Leninist patterns and nomenclature Robin Hoods – at the expense of taxpayers.
Will Belarus’ IT Strategy Loosen Russia’s Tightening Grip? – Tatsiana Kulakevich, writing for The Globe Post, believes that Belarus’ bold attempt to attract foreign investors and loosening its dependence from Russia by experimenting with its IT sector is restricted by the country’s personalistic autocratic regime, where the state controls most of the economy, the courts, and the media.
Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.
Belarusian Studies in the 21st Century: 4th Conference and Annual Lecture in London
The 4th Annual Belarusian Studies in the 21st Century will take place on 29 March 2019 at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) in London, UK. The Ostrogorski Centre co-organizes the conference in cooperation with University College London and the Belarusian Francis Skaryna Library and Museum. To view a provisional programme for this year’s conference, please click here.
This year, the Annual London Lecture on Belarusian Studies will be delivered by Dr Anaïs Marin (France), Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Belarus. Dr Marin will speak about the Belarusian nationalism in the 2010s and the outcomes of the so-called ‘Soft Belarusianisation’. Other speakers will include academics from distinguished European universities and practitioners from state and civil society organisations. The topics will include both historical and contemporary Belarus-related issues.
Topics and speakers
The conference will feature a number of distinguished speakers from Belarus, Czech Republic, Hungary, France, Poland, and the United Kingdom. This year’s speakers represent a range of well-reputed education institutions, including Charles University, Central European University, University of Glasgow, and University College London. Moreover, the conference will feature several speakers representing state organisations and civil society initiatives, in particular, Kacper Wanczyk from Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Paul Hansbury from the Minsk dialogue initiative.
The conference will cover both history and contemporary Belarus-related issues. James Robertson-Major from the University of Glasgow will speak about the memory of Chernobyl in post-Soviet Belarus. Alena Marková from Charles University will present her research about the national emancipation and post-soviet Belarusization of the 1990s. Paula Borowska from the University College London will discuss traditional forms of social capital in Belarus.
As for contemporary Belarus-related issues, the conference will focus on foreign policy and social-economic problems. Paul Hansbury from the Minsk Dialogue initiative will speak about the current events in the Belarusian foreign-policy. Hanna Danilovich from Middlesex University will cover multi-age discrimination in personnel management practices in Belarusian manufacturing companies. Kacper Wanczyk from Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs will discuss the situation of the Belarusian “patrimonial” economy at the edge of chaos.
2019 Annual London Lecture
The Annual London Lecture on Belarusian Studies will be delivered at 6 pm on 29 March 2019 by Anaïs Marin (France), Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Belarus. The topic of this year’s lecture is Belarusian nationalism in the 2010s, a case of anti-colonialism? Origins, features and outcomes of ongoing ‘Soft Belarusianisation.’ Dr Marin will speak about the phenomenon of ‘Soft Belarusianisation’ and its potential outcomes. The abstract of Dr Marin’s lecture is available below.
The past decade has seen the emergence of a new type of nationalism in Belarus, aka ‘soft Belarusianisation’. This trend differs from earlier, mostly top-down (elite-led) episodes of nation-building – the Belarusisation of the 1920s, the nationalists’ movement that followed perestroika, and the “Creole nationalism” incarnated by A. Lukashenka since the mid-1990s. Instead, Soft Belarusianisation appears as a bottom-up process stemming mostly from civil society. It would be wrong to consider it as a traditional revivalist or genuinely grassroots phenomenon, however.
Whereas signs of a timid national awakening appeared back in the early 2010s, two sets of factors contributed to shaping and accelerating soft Belarusianisation: exogenous factors, notably Russia’s efforts at re-establishing its domination over the so-called “Russian World”; and domestic ones, mainly the Belarusian regime’s benevolence towards soft Belarusianisation, the rally-around-the-flag potential of which Minsk is obviously seeking to instrumentalise.
Would Soft Belarusianisation, therefore, amount to an anti-colonialist process? Russian opinion-makers, who label it as “anti-Russian”, certainly perceive it as such. Against this backdrop, the Annual Lecture will explore the possible outcomes of the current soft Belarusianisation: can it help to consolidate Belarus’s sovereignty against Russian appetites, or, conversely, does it carry with it the threat of increased Russian aggressiveness?
Dr Anaïs Marin is a political scientist specialized in international relations, Russian-Eurasian, and border studies. She holds her PhD from Sciences Po Paris, where she studied international public law and comparative politics with a focus on post-communist transformations in Central and Eastern Europe. As a Belarus expert, she has worked with several European think tanks, notably the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA, Helsinki, 2011-2014), the Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW, Warsaw) and the EU Institute for Security Studies (EUISS, Paris) as a non-resident associate fellow (2017). Since November 2018 she also holds the pro bono mandate of UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, established by the UN Human Rights Council in 2012.
Friday, 29 March 2019
- 10.00- 11. 30 Social Movements
- 11.45 – 13.15 National Identity
- 14.45 – 16.00 Foreign Policy
- 16.00 – 17.15 Economy and Society
- 17:15 – 18:00 Presentation of the new Issue of the Journal of Belarusian Studies
- 18:00 – 19:15 Annual Lecture on Belarusian Studies by Dr Marin followed by Q&A
Saturday, 30 March 2019
- 11.00 – 13.00 Belarusian Literature Section and tour of the Skaryna Library and the Belarusian Church
All ticket proceeds will support the funding of the conference and lecture. This event is a non-profit. If you are unable to afford the price of the ticket or more information on the Annual London Lecture or the conference, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.