Top Officials Dismissed, The October Revolution, Belarusians in Antarctica - Belarus State TV Digest

Last week the state TV channel 1 devoted much attention to high-level dismissals in the Belarusian government and the celebration of the 1917 October Bolshevik Revolution. On this occasion the state opened over 50 nurseries, houses, sport and health centres and gifted them to residents.

Belarusians, alongside Russians, entered the international arena where they will participate in talks on Antarctica. The 6th Belarusian expedition will soon begin and, it is just a matter of time, according to State TV, before various countries will start exploiting the riches of Antarctic lands.

Lukashenka dismisses top officials for failure to implement his orders. State television covered the dismissals of several high level officials for their failure to modernise Borisovdrev - a major woodworking factory not far from Minsk. Lukashenka angrily scolded officials for their failure to manage massive investments directed by the state at modernising the enterprise. The Minsk regional governor, head of state concern in charge of woodworking and a deputy head of presidential administration all lost their jobs. State TV showed in detail how neglected the enterprise was and how much money was directed at its modernisation. 

The October Revolution celebrated in Belarus. According to one reporter, Belarus has taken the best traditions and experience from its Soviet past, and cultivated them as a sovereign country. Each year, around the anniversary of the October Revolution, the authorities launch important social projects, such as nurseries, schools, sport and medical centres. This year, in total, the state opened over 50 new socially-oriented facilities.

State TV showed a happy family that on this particular occasion was getting keys for their own brand new flat. The report pointed out that also over 300 families, who in most of  cases had many children, got flats as well. This helped them to solve one of the main problem in their life – housing. The coverage also showed also an older Belarusian lady who finally would not have to live alone any longer. Thanks to the opening of temporary shared accommodation, she and other elderly people can stay together over the winter, but perhaps even longer.  

New schools, nurseries, sport centres, train – all for ordinary Belarusians. TV devoted more attention to the new facilities opening as "labour gifts" to Belarusians which are to be seen as proof of Belarus' successful development. A new Swiss-made electric train that started operating between Minsk and a town near the city was portrayed as an example. “Ordinary passengers have already appreciated Swiss punctuality, reliability and speed”, a reporter commented. The train is not only for that particular region, but rather another investment in the country, worth a few million dollars. This and others gifts that the authorities gave to Belarusians on this occasion became the object of real festivities for several Belarusian regions whose residents will be using them on a daily basis.

International investors to modernise Belarusian companies. Another journalist reported on the session of the National Council on Labour and Social Matters. The first vice prime-minister, Uladzimir Siemashko, stated that long-term the modernisation of Belarusian enterprises should take place with the participation of international investors. The politician specified that Belarus is already open for international loans. The country has taken a loan from the Chinese investors to modernise and upgrade its cement production, but also a 28-year loan for the construction of the first nuclear power plant in Belarus.

Brotherly relations between Minsk and Kiev. A Belarusian state TV journalist showed celebrations surrounding the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Kiev from Nazi Germany. TV reminded that on 6 November the Soviet army entered the city and aftermath the heavy fighting and a battle for Dnieper, it forced its enemies to abandon the city. On this occasion, Ukrainian diplomats organised celebrations in Minsk. Mikhail Jezhel, the head of the official Ukrainian delegation to Belarus, talked to journalists about very good relations between both countries. In his words, “from relations as partners we have now come to have brotherly relations”.

Belarus is interested in developing relations with Turkmenistan. Lukashenka visited Ashkhabad earlier this month. State TV underscored how positive relations between both countries are at present. It mentioned that trade turnover between them has increased five times over. They are also co-operating in the areas of education with more Turkmen students coming to Belarus. State TV also emphasised that the Turkmeni head of state, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, was meeting Lukashenka as a friend. Minsk, it was reported, also supports the transition of Turkmenistan from a raw materials-based economy to one of innovation and diversity.

The 6th Belarusian expedition goes to Antarctica. Three people from Belarus will take part in the expedition. Belarus plans to establish the first Belarusian polar Antarctic base. A state TV reporter spoke of the importance of signing an inter-governmental agreement between Belarus and Russia in March 2013. In his words, it has significantly strengthened the position of both countries as actors on the international arena. Exploitation of natural resources is currently forbidden there. “But it is a matter of time, you do not have to be a prophet to know that mining, sooner or later, will begin”, the journalist concluded.

How to deal with the increasing costs of energy? According to state television not only Belarus is having problems with energy and heating. State TV researched the situation in Estonia. According to experts, the prices for these utilities have risen by 25-40% over the last five years there. In particular, when the authorities privatised the state company, the prices faced considerably higher increases.  This all occurred despite the fact that that the real income of Estonians has practically remained the same. It is rather difficult to deal with the increasing prices, but increases in energy efficiency are feasible. Most of Estonia's energy infrastructure emerged from the Soviet Union. State TV went on to compare prices for the energy in France and Estonia, making prices in Belarus looked quite favourable.

Moscow is celebrating a parade of the Soviet army. Belarusian state television reported on the reconstruction of the parade of the Soviet army that took place on 7 November 1941 in the Red Square prior to the fights near Moscow with fascist forces. In the words of the reporter covering the story, the whole event commemorated one of the most memorable parades in Soviet history. Journalist explained that back in those days, one of the main goals of the parade was to increase the morale of the army and of everyone throughout the whole country. 

Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials available on the web site of Belarusian State Television 1 (BT1). Freedom of the press in Belarus remains restricted and state media convey primarily the point of view of the Belarusian authorities. This review attempts to give the English-speaking audience a better understanding of how Belarusian state media shape public opinion in the country.

Paula Borowska is an analyst of the Ostrogorski Centre. Originally from Bialystok, she studied at the University of Gdansk and the University of Bologna.

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