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State

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Belarus

Minsk

Byelorusskaya Respublik

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Byelorussia (White Russia - from the color of the soil, and possibly the people, said to have been unaffected by the Mongol conquest of Russia) is one of the three Slav republics of the former USSR which became independent.

The language has some Polish loan words in it reflecting the time when the territory was part of Lithuania-Poland. In religion some are Uniate Catholics; the others are mostly Russian Orthodox. However, even within the territory there are disputes about whether the language and nationality really exist, other than as a residual rural dialect. Most people actually speak Russian, and Russian has been restored as the language of government.

The state has oil and coal. Like Ukraine it was nominally a member of the UN even while in the USSR because in 1946 Stalin insisted that it should have a seat at the UN so that he would have three votes. He generously suggested that the United States should have membership for California and Texas. However, until 1990 it was entirely under the control of Moskva and had no separate sovereignty.

Following independence there were signs that it might coordinate with Ukraine and Russia perhaps to form a Slavic Union as advocated by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. This would be an association of Slav states as a substitute for a renewed Soviet Union or possibly no more than the customs union at one time proposed by Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia - much weaker than the European Union. Its economic dependence on Russia would make it difficult to achieve economic independence.

In December 1991 the three Slavic states formed a Commonwealth of Independent States, which other former Soviet states joined.

By January 1994 it was announced that the economy and especially the currency would be run with Russia's. Thus independence may be only nominal. In March 1995 military coordination was announced. That's it.

However, will Moskva intervene in the growing dictatorship? Unlikely as Putin is a dictator almost as bad.

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In multi-party elections former Communists won over weak nationalists.

Although Minsk was chosen as the seat of the Commonwealth of Independent States this was hardly significant, as it was chosen mainly to avoid the capital being Moskva or Kiev, and it has now turned out that the CIS has no real existence.

A non-Communist President was ousted by the still communist parliament in January 1994. Presidential elections in July 1994 ousted the incumbent and put in a pro-Russian, Alexandr Lukashenko, who wanted to dissolve parliament and rule as a dictator. He has expressed admiration for Hitler's "strong rule" .

In a referendum, in which he appointed the head of the electoral commission, Lukashenko gained the power to rule by decree. Meanwhile Parliament discussed impeachment.

The country has been described as a "Soviet Theme Park" - go there to experience the old-style KGB and Stalinist dictatorship. In 1996 one thought that it wouldn't last but it is still (2012) going strong and after the "Orange Revolution" in Ukraine Belarus is now the last unreformed Communist state in Europe. As Lukashenko has the support of Putin, he is likely to stay as long as he wishes (he has declared himself President for Life).

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Economics

Its economy was integrated with the USSR. Can it become independent? Proposals for integration with Russia seem likely to prevail.

Lukashenko claims that unlike Russia, where privatisation occurred, his economy has not impoverished the masses to make a small elite extremely rich. There may be some truth in this.

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Green/Ecology

Much of the territory was affected by the fall out from the explosion of the nuclear power station at Chernobyl in neighboring Ukraine. There is a rising rate of radiation related illness including damage to the immune system, and cancers. 800,000 children are estimated to have been affected by radiation. Thyroid cancer is increasing.

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Human Rights

Stalinist type: disappearances of opposition advocates, political prisoners, show trials, judiciary entirely under control of the government (KGB).

Climate effects

Last revised 15/07/09


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