Disciplinary measures in the regions
During a press conference on 13 May the Chairman of the Minsk Regional Executive Committee Boris Batura vowed to tighten the control for mismanagement by the local representatives of the "vertical". According to him, the Regional Executive Committee and the State Control Committee of the Minsk Region will monitor the cases of mismanagement in the region on a weekly basis. The worst performing regions will then become a subject of local "debriefings" with the public and media involvement.
Last week, officials of the region circled around the area in a Ministry of Emergencies helicopter. As a result the controlling bodies noted the poor state of roadsides, many deserted houses in the countryside, disorder in some production facilities, farms, in particular, barren spots in agricultural fields due to technology misapplication.
Disciplinary measures by the local governments are meant to restore the control over the state apparatus however they might become an additional factor in population’s loss of confidence to the state.
The demand of Alexander Lukashenko to restore the disciplinary practices of the Soviet Union (introduced by Andropov, the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU) is explained by the fact that the authorities lost the ability to ensure social protection of the population, to ensure conditions for the functioning of businesses and trade organizations, and that repressive practices is the only tool available for them at the moment.
One of the purposes of the disciplinary measures is to intimidate the population and prevent all forms of their self-organization. The control over the labour discipline has significantly increased at enterprises and organizations. Intelligence agencies and local governments raid businesses to fix delays for work. For instance, last week in Gomel all exits from the city shopping centre were closed, documents of all buyers were checked and then reported to their work places. In Miadel Executive Committee (Minsk region) officials were checked against late arrivals to work. 15 cases of tardiness were revealed. In order to exclude loyalty towards those being late (the population of the district is around 10,000 people and many relate to one another) a two-step control was implemented: the quality of the checks was controlled too.
Ideology workers have become more active. Meetings with groups of workers were held to explain the temporary nature of the "troubles" with the currency crisis. Cleanness of the streets and work discipline were proposed as replacements of declining well-being of the population, as well as assurances of its recovery in the future.
All these measures were an added value to the growth of social discontent. The obsessive control is regarded by the population as an attempt to shift responsibility from the real culprits of the crisis - Lukashenko and his team onto the population.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.