In an economic bind, authorities search for new ideology
Belarus needs to create a new motto. This opinion was expressed at a Belaya Rus seminar by Alexander Radkov, First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration and Chairman of quango Belaya Rus.
Ahead of the 2015 presidential election, the authorities need to review the state ideology to ensure the electorate’s loyalty. Due to the socio-economic crisis and shrinking ‘welfare state’, the previous ideology has stopped working. Alexander Lukashenko attempts to exploit his ‘father of the nation’ image with an emphasis on traditional conservative values.
The motto ‘For Belarus!’ first appeared in 2004. In full, this motto was ‘For a strong and prosperous Belarus’ and was widely used during the last two presidential campaigns. It reflected Lukashenko’s vision of Belarus’ development and clearly laid out domestic policy priorities: a strong social policy and significant wage growth.
However, since 2011, Belarus’ socio-economic model has been in crisis. The strong ‘welfare state’ has shrunk and lacks resources to continue previous populist policies in the short and medium term. Simultaneously, Lukashenko’s electoral rating has stopped depending on wage growth. Moreover, a significant wage growth in 2013 has unbalanced Belarus’ economy, and in 2014-2015 the authorities will have no resources to provide for wage growth. While the authorities do not yet quite understand how state ideology should change, they have started to shape up some of its components.
Since the Belarusian authorities have been unable to provide ‘living standards like in Europe’ as they promised, they have decided to use other stimuli. For instance, Alexander Radkov at a seminar for ‘Belaya Rus’ members said that ‘Belarus, situated in the heart of Europe, should preserve traditional civilizational values, including Christian’. At a press conference, Lukashenko said that ‘we are observing a gradual destruction of centuries-old moral values, moral anomalies are transforming to a ‘normality’, national, cultural differences between nations are vanishing, and a global English-language neo-culture, based on American standards and values is emerging’.
Alexander Lukashenko has been increasingly exploiting his ‘Father of the nation’ image through various projects. For example, in July 2013 the State Flag Square was finished, and by mid-October 2013 a huge construction project should be completed - a new presidential residence, called the ‘Independence Palace’.
At a meeting with students in Mogilev, Lukashenko talked about a national idea and said that ‘our national idea is peace, harmony, and mutual assistance in our large family, which is called the Belarusian people’. In early October, the president also talked about ‘The Large Family’ social project, one of his possible pre-election initiatives.
To sum up, the authorities are considering changing the current state ideology to one less costly for the state. The new ideology might be used by Lukashenko during the next presidential campaign. The scarcity of resources pre-determines the shift from a ‘consumerist’ society to one with traditional conservative values, ensuring national independence and a better life for future generations.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.