Social Advertising in Belarus: Healthy Life Style and Patriotism

The billboards in Belarus tell an interesting story about the country. Before 1991, these advertisements were sponsored by the communist authorities and focused on both social and political propaganda.

Even today the majority of billboards throughout Belarusian cities promote healthy and safe lifestyles, or patriotic themes rather than sell products and services. It is therefore not surprising that without advertisements selling products the Belarusian economy remains in a dire situation.

Some billboards raise awareness about the risks of smoking, drinking, and taking drugs. Despite these efforts, the country ranks 140th in the world in terms of life expectancy and 15th in mortality rates. Alcoholism is perhaps the most poignant social problem in Belarus, as Belarus was named the heaviest drinking nation in the world by the World Health Organisation this year. Belarus also has the highest levels of female obesity in Europe and the former Soviet space.

Other billboards which are often in the Belarusian language, inculcate patriotism by featuring beautiful Belarusian natural scenes. Patriotic billboards also praise young soldiers who guard the nation’s independence and they also applaud police for protecting law and order.

The market for commercial advertising which was up by 8 percent last year, is now shrinking rapidly due to the economic turmoil caused by the events in Russia and Ukraine. Many billboards stand empty or only target potential advertisers with the message “your ad could be here.” These economic troubles may further increase the share of state-sponsored social advertising in Belarus.

“Spice is a drug. Say no.” The ad above is a part of the national campaign against synthetic drugs, locally known as "spice" and amounting to 70% of the drug market in Belarus.

 

The ad above exhorts Belarusians to stop smoking in bed. Titled “Stars for Safety,” it features popular TV host Alyaksandr Averkau. Similar ads have appeared with other Belarusian "stars."

 

“A Healthy Nation Means a Happy Future.” A billboard promoting physical activity and exercise.

 

“Going Abroad? Call us,” an ad promoting safer travelling.

 

“I love Belarus” is one of the most popular poster series in Belarus.The ad above features raspberries in the shape of the heart. Other ads use heart-shaped clouds or islands.

 

The creators of the "I love Belarus" ad series sought to come up with a phrase that is written identically in Russian and Belarusian.

 

“A Taste of Belarusian.” The poster in the photograph above promotes the Belarusian language by reminding people that blackberries are different in Belarusian (“azhyny”) and in Russian (“ezhevika”).

 

“For a Happy Belarus!” A Russian-language poster.

 

“Devoted to the Motherland,” a Belarusian-language poster featuring a traditional family.

 

“Praise the hands that smell of bread,” a poster promoting agricultural workers.

 

“Simple Things,” a poster promoting agritourism in Belarus. The ad was created with the help of the USAID “Local Entrepreneurship and Economic Development" Project, in partnership with the Belarusian Ministry of Sports and Tourism.

 

“Serving the Law, the People, and the Motherland!” a Belarusian-language poster commending Belarus’s Ministry of Internal Affairs.

 

“Guarding Independence,” a Belarusian-language billboard promoting the armed forces.The poster was sponsored by the Defence Ministry.

 

“Flowers of the Great Victory,” a poster celebrating victory in the Second World War.

 

An installation in Minsk reminding Belarusians about the approaching presidential election.

About the photographer: Siarhei Leskiec is a freelance photographer whose work focuses on everyday life, folk traditions, and rituals in the Belarusian countryside. Originally from Maladzeczna region, he received a history degree from Belarusian State Pedagogical University.

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