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.
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.