On 7 June Minsk drivers staged a three-hour protest action right in front of the Presidential Administration, demanding to lower petrol prices which were increased on 6 June by 30%. The next day, Lukashenko ordered petrol prices to be reduced by 15-20%.
The driver’s rally was well-organized, massive in scale, fun, and enjoyed the support of the passers-by. Moreover, it was supported by President Alexander Lukashenko, who recognized the validity of the claims of civic activists and told the government to reduce petrol prices.
It was the first large-scale and effective event since the beginning of the active phase of socio-economic instability in the country. It is important that the “old” opposition was not responsible for the event, which was organized by the “new generation” of public figures. The organizers of the fourth action “Stop: petrol” since the beginning of the year was a public organization “For Auto”.
Actions of the participants were coordinated via forums and social networks. Drivers were asked to tie white ribbons to the antennas of cars, put stickers on windows and gradually form a column that would block the main avenue of Minsk.
During the rally drivers were moving at the slowest possible speed or stopped, simulating car break-down: opened bonnets, put up warning signs, some were pushing their cars manually. Traffic police behaved carefully and tried to convince drivers to keep moving. Pedestrian observers were active: loudly applauded and strongly supported the drivers. When the rally was over one could find many small (10-20) ruble notes: the passers-by were throwing them under the cars’ wheels protesting against the depreciation of the Belarusian ruble.
The Belarusian authorities are attempting to strengthen some elements of the ‘Soviet’ education to ensure the ideological loyalty of new generations to the state. Most likely, one of the major tasks of the educational reform is to prevent growing discontent with the existing education system among the population. The educational reform aims to strengthen centralisation and adjust the system to the needs of the public sector.
In Belarus, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Ministry of Economy would determine the university enrolment figures.
The Belarusian authorities do not seem to have a long-term vision of the educational reform. The education system changes depending on who leads the Education Ministry and has access to President Lukashenka. For instance, former head of pro-government communist party and Education Minister Igor Karpenko reintroduced some "Soviet" elements to the school and strengthened ideological components along with the de-politicisation of the curricula. Current generation of students and youth have not spoken against the authorities, unlike previous generations raised during the Gorbachev thaw and socio-political transformations of the 1990s.
In addition, the Belarusian authorities are attempting to adopt measures aiming to prevent discontent among the population with the Belarusian education system. The authorities are mobilizing those nostalgic for the USSR and propose to return to 5-marks grading system, school uniforms and reduced curriculum. The Belarusian leadership also aims to blur the growing social stratification in society and to relax social tension due to the growing income gap between the richest and poorest.
Should the authorities adopt plans to reduce university enrolment, they would re-certify universities in order to close some of them and would reduce competition from private educational institutions. The Belarusian leadership is attempting to adjust the education system to the needs of the real economy, to reduce pressure on the labour market and to cut government spending on higher education for specialists low in demand by replacing them with graduates of secondary vocational schools requiring less time to train.