Belarusian ideological workers are preparing for presidential campaign

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April 22, 2016 19:16

Ahead of the elections, the Belarusian authorities have stepped-up ideological activity, which gains importance amid the lack of funds to buy the loyalty of the electorate with income growth. However, the lack of a clear national idea is likely to have a disintegrating effect on the ideological apparatus. Ideology is unlikely to play an important role in boosting the president’s ratings if people’s living standards deteriorate or the Kremlin rumps up pressure in the information field. 

Last week, Minsk hosted a republican forum-seminar ‘The Ideological Work in the Context of the Key Messages of the President’s Address to the Belarusian People and the National Assembly of Belarus”. Almost 300 ideology workers participated in the seminar, including from the Presidential Administration, Minsk City Executive Committee, Deputy Chairmen of Regional Executive Committees, Rayon Executive Committees, and District Administrations. 

In Belarus, all public enterprises and organizations have ideology workers, whose number across the country totals circa 10,000 people. The ideologues ensure that people are aware about the actions of authorities and state policies; workers receive thematic publications and subscribe to state-run media outlets. 

In addition, the ideological apparatus functions as an additional bureaucratic superstructure, which coordinates and monitors cultural, sportive and entertainment activities, oversees relations with the state trade unions, the Belarusian Republican Youth Union and major pro-government NGOs. 

Following the president’s initiative, ideological structures became a part of the Belarusian state apparatus in 2003. Despite multiple attempts, the Belarusian authorities, so far, have been unable to formulate a national idea, which was noted by the president in 2014: "Some ten years ago I have set a task: we are a nation, but what is out national idea? It was clear what ideas we had when we were ‘soviet’. And what’s now? We have brainstormed this issue with the whole of society, including me, and to what was suggested, I said ‘no’.” 

The lack of the national idea formulated at the highest level disintegrates ideological apparatus. Most ideologues are unable to formulate the basic theses of the Belarusian state ideology, which rests upon loyalty to the president. In addition, salaries of ideologues correspond to salaries of low and mid-level public officials and range between BYR 2.5 mln and 7 mln (USD 165 – USD 450). Such modest salaries could also explain the lack of professionalism and enthusiasm of ideologues in promoting national ideology among the population. 

The Belarusian ideological apparatus has been unable to resist the Russian propaganda and shape public opinion in Belarus in relation to the events in Ukraine, which would correspond to President Lukashenka’s theses. According to independent pollsters, most population in Belarus has supported the annexation of Crimea by Russia and accepted Russian media interpretations of the conflict in Ukraine. In addition, state ideologues loose the Internet battle to the independent media, despite the disparate available funding and the newly imposed restrictions on the Internet Media in Belarus (introduced in late 2014). 

In the fight for the president’s popularity ratings ahead of the presidential elections, the authorities are prepared to mobilise all available means, however, if all their efforts fail, they might block sources of alternative information during the presidential campaign.

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Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries entangle in confrontation spiral
October 02, 2017 11:57
Фото: RFRM

Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.

The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.

Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.

For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.

Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.

The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.

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