Is Belarus not a Soviet country?

When Belarus became independent

Never, not even in the late 1980s, when the Soviet party leader Mikhail Gorbachev pursued his policy of perestroika and glasnost, was the party elite of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic a friend of liberalization tendencies. Rather, the Belarusian communists were seen as "concrete heads" until the end of the USSR. In Belarus, as Belarus is officially called, there was also no ethnic independence movement that was interested in a transformation and brought with it the necessary skills.

In this respect, the country's national independence, which came into force in December 1991, was essentially only a result of the coup against Gorbachev in August of that year. The establishment of the Republic of Belarus did not result in any change in the elite and institutional reforms were approached only very hesitantly.

Hopes for an economic upswing

Compared to the other successor states of the collapsing USSR, Belarus and Ukraine probably had the best starting conditions. Belarus was a country with a very powerful economy. Key companies such as the "Minsk Autowerke" (MAS), the "Belarussian Autowerke Belas", the "MTS Tractor Works" or numerous armaments production companies shaped the appearance of the Belarusian industry at the end of the 1990s and were in a relatively solid condition .

Agriculture, on the other hand, had to struggle with the enormous consequences of the Chernobyl reactor disaster - almost 70 percent of the atomic precipitation fell in Belarus and thus large areas were lost for agriculture.

Collapse of the economy

After independence, Belarus' industry collapsed like a house of cards and the country was to a certain extent "de-industrialized". In the following five years, the gross domestic product fell by 9% annually, and wages fell by as much as 11% every year over the same period.

1996 seemed to have turned for the better - but the small economic boom, with which the people of the country had high hopes, was over after only two years. As a result, more than a third of the population sank into poverty.

The main reasons for the misery were: From the beginning there had been only tentative market-economy reforms, while the state tried to accelerate the economy with restrictive methods. Since 1996 the few private companies have been nationalized again on the instructions of the almighty President Alexander Lukashenko. The companies produced - but at what price. The director of the Minsk car factory complained that a quarter of the 20,000-strong workforce was actually unemployed, but that he was not allowed to fire anyone. "Social market economy" in Belarus ...

In addition, the Russian sales market collapsed with independence and important supplies for the company's own industry were not made.

Russian minority in Belarus

In Belarus the minority share is around 20 percent. The largest minority are the 1.1 million Russians. Their share in the total population is 11.3 percent. Many of them live in the large cities of the country and in the capital Minsk. The coexistence of the Russians and Belarusians belonging to the Slavic family is largely conflict-free. In general, there are no minority conflicts worth mentioning in Belarus - which is also home to Poles, Hungarians and Jews. OSCE recommendations on minority issues have been largely transformed into the Belarusian legal system. State languages ​​are both Russian and Belarusian. Since 1996 Belarus has followed a policy closely related to Russia. This course suits the Russian minority.

The CP must suspend its activity

The failure of the coup against Gorbachev resulted in almost all leaders in Belarus declaring their withdrawal from the Communist Party in unison. Thousands of ordinary party members returned their party books or burned them in public. In August 1991 the Supreme Soviet of Belarus passed a resolution to "suspend the activities of the Communist Party of Belarus" and to nationalize its property. The opponents of the communists were already celebrating the end of the communist party. Too early, as it turned out. In December 1991 the "Belarusian Communist Party" was founded and in February 1993 the Supreme Soviet of the country revoked the "suspension of the activities of the Communist Party" of August 1991. The two communist parties merged before they separated again four years later. In the parliamentary elections of 1995, the united Belarusian communists won the most seats. Of course, they did not come to power.

The "last dictator in Europe"

In 1994, Alexander Lukashenko was elected the first President of the Republic of Belarus with 80 percent of the vote in a free and fairly fair election. Lukashenko, a former political commissar of the Red Army and chairman of a sovkhoz, who boasted that as a member of parliament in the Supreme Soviet of Belarus in 1990 he voted against the dissolution of the USSR, did indeed seem a man of the people. He channeled the longing for "law and order" of the Belarusians, tired of the turmoil of the transformation, by promising tough crackdown on corrupt state officials and reform profiteers. "Batko", the commander, as Lukashenko calls himself, did not belong to the nomenclature and seemed to be entirely believable.

But Lukashenko immediately began to concentrate all power in his hands. He had the right to dissolve parliament at any time, to appoint the attorney general, the presidents of the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court and half of the constitutional judges, and later also abolished the constitutional prohibition on a third candidacy for the office of president .

In his speeches that lasted for hours on state television, "Batko" also warned of the "monstrous monster NATO that is creeping up to the borders of our Belarus". "Apart from the opposition, hardly anyone is upset when the president blows for unification with neighboring Russia," wrote the "Spiegel" in a 1998 report. "Belarus, which, unlike other former Soviet republics, was not forcibly Russified by Moscow, has seldom felt the desire to go it alone nationally in its history anyway. The Soviet Union has never disappeared in the streets of Minsk. On the metro it says" USSR ", the most important The state paper is called "Sovetskaya Belorussija", a massive granite Lenin guards the seat of government. "

(first published on 3/14/2014)