State policy keeps young people away from politics, and out of trouble

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April 22, 2016 18:40

Even though the state finances state youth organizations, it does not anticipate their support in turn. It seems that the main goal of state youth organizations is to keep young people from being politically active and involved in public affairs. Non-governmental youth organizations are almost extinct.

Youth organizations in Belarus may be divided in three types:

1. Registered and entitled to public support (Youth Union, BPO, etc);

2. Registered but not entitled to public support (scouts, sports organizations, martial arts clubs, etc);

3. Non-registered youth initiatives and youth party structures (Young Front, etc).

State youth policy is based on this hierarchy. The authorities provide assistance and use the organizations from the first group in various campaigns and events organized by the government. The authorities do not interfere with the organizations from the second group, only control them. The third group suffers from harsh pressure by the government: their members are often detained and persecuted.

In Belarus, young people from 14 to 31 years old make up nearly 2.4 million or more than one-fourth of the population. There are 248 registered youth organizations, including 29 children and three unions (associations) of youth organizations. The Belarusian Republican Pioneer Organization and the Belarusian Republican Youth Union have the most members. Youth Union is the flagman of the state youth policy. In most cases its membership is mandatory and some young people regard it as a means to build their future career in power or state bodies. However, very few succeed.

In 2011, the Belarusian Republican Youth Union received BYR 20.5 billion of state aid, which is 98 % of the funds allocated by the state for youth policy. The Union owns a radio station Pilot FM, a travel agency ‘Belarusian satellite’ and issues ‘Youth’ lottery tickets. Belarusian Republican Youth Union has its own branches in all Belarusian regions and lists about half a million members. In addition to administrative pressure, the organization engages youth by providing small financial benefits.

The Belarusian Republican Youth Union (Youth Union) is a successor of the Soviet Komsomol. However it is not involved in politics and has no effect on the government. The organization organizes themed flash mobs, discos, dance ‘battles’ and street ball tournaments, intellectual marathons and so on. The Youth Union also cooperates with other non-political youth organizations.

In almost all regions, non-registered organizations which were previously active in politics, such as the ‘Young Front’, ‘Young Social Democrats’ – ‘Young Gromada’, ‘Youth of BPF’ have virtually ceased to exist. Their members have either stopped their political activity or joined the ‘parent’ organizations - political parties and movements.

Thus, the niche of pro-democratic youth organizations in the regions is vacant.