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Celebrating Kupallie, a pagan midsummer holiday – Belarus photo digest
Celebrating Kupallie, a pagan midsummer holiday – Belarus photo digest
Kupallie (Midsummer) is an ancient pagan festival which marks the summer solstice – the longest day and shortest night. This holiday is one of the four most important in the pagan calendar. When the Slavs were converted to Christianity, the Church designated the day as the feast of John the Baptist in order to destroy the holiday’s pagan roots. However, nearly 1,000 years of pressure from the Church were not able to completely wipe out the celebration's pagan connotations. When Belarus switched to the Gregorian calendar, the Church began to celebrate the holiday on 6 July, which distorted the holy day’s compliance with astronomical phenomena.
29 June 2017
Ostrogorski Academy, Ostrogorski Forum 2017, brain-drain, religiosity – Ostrogorski Centre digest
Ostrogorski Academy, Ostrogorski Forum 2017, brain-drain, religiosity – Ostrogorski Centre digest

This June the Ostrogorski Centre launched the Ostrogorski Academy – a nonprofit educational project dedicated to disseminating knowledge of the humanities. The academy is the first Belarusian entirely online 'university’, based on a series of lectures, tests, podcasts on important and engaging topics. Ostrogorski Centre analysts discussed how Belarus's neighbours doubt its sovereignty, brain drain, and religiosity in the country. The Centre also held in Minsk the Ostrogorski Forum 2017, which focused on foreign policy, security, and identity.

28 June 2017
The unexpected rise of Belarusian universities in international rankings
The unexpected rise of Belarusian universities in international rankings

According to recent QS World University Rankings, two Belarusian universities appeared on the list of the best 959 universities in the world. The Belarusian State University received a higher rating than all universities in Poland and Lithuania. Nevertheless, despite the high position of two Belarusian universities, higher education in the country still faces serious issues, including restriction of academic freedom, dependence on the state, and plagiarism. According to QS, Belarusian universities score highly in student teacher ratio. However, this criteria appears unimportant when deeper flaws in Belarusian higher education are taken into account.

27 June 2017
Belarus-Russia-EU triangle, Belarusian Yearbook 2016, Population 50+, corruption survey – digest of Belarusian analytics
Belarus-Russia-EU triangle, Belarusian Yearbook 2016, Population 50+, corruption survey – digest of Belarusian analytics

Eugene Rumor, Carnegie Endowment, argues that post-2014 Belarus is a less reliable satellite for Russia and the West should calibrate its policy accordingly. Grigory Ioffe breaks down recent harsh statements by Dalia Grybauskaitė and Svetlana Aleksievich. OSW: energy dispute between Minsk and Moscow is not completely resolved. Yauheni Preiherman believes that Belarus’ foreign policy cannot be grasped by the classic bandwagoning-balancing dichotomy. IPM fresh survey: one third of Belarusian private businesses consider corruption widespread. CET presents an analytical overview that summarises data of sociological and sectoral studies of 2014-2017 related to the Belarusian CSOs.

26 June 2017
Problems and prospects for the Belarusian IT industry

On 7 June 2017, the Microsoft Corporation held a Government Industry Day at Belarus’s Hi-Tech Park with the participation of both Belarusian ministers and Microsoft experts. The seminar addressed issues surrounding the digital transformation of the economy and aimed to present technologies that could work for the finance, transport, health, education, and other economic sectors to the Belarusian authorities. IT has become the fastest-growing sector in the Belarusian economy, increasing by over 20% annually. However, the nature of the industry in Belarus, which focuses on outsourcing, primarily targets foreign customers. This is partially due to the reluctance of the Belarusian state to embrace tech achievements at home.

23 June 2017
Belarus becomes safer, but political persecution continues
Belarus becomes safer, but political persecution continues

Numbeo, the world's largest database of user-confirmed data about cities and countries worldwide, ranked Belarus the safest country in the region in 2017. Other global metrics also indicate that Belarus is a relatively safe part of the world. Domestic trends demonstrate that all kinds of crime have decreased over the past decade, with the exception of drug crime. However, political repression tarnishes the generally positive picture, as world media and local journalists report on these cases extensively. The authorities should stop targeting the regime's opponents if they want to further develop relations with the civilised world and strengthen the rule of law at home.

21 June 2017
Greenmap, Urban Picnic, UN human rights report, LGBTQ Support Centre – Belarus civil society digest

Greenmap Belarus wins a UN competition. 3rd Urban Picnic in Mahilioŭ gathers over 6,000 citizens. A new initiative makes Minsk as green as possible. EESC organises 10th annual United Students of Belarus Rally. BEROC opens enrolment to the 7th Student School in Economics. KGB drops criminal charges in the preparation for mass riots case against Young Front activists. UN Special Rapporteur presents a new report on Belarus.

20 June 2017
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Is Belarus just ‘Greater Russia’? Neighbouring states dismiss Belarusian sovereignty

Despite all of Minsk's efforts to present itself as a neutral country, some of its neighbours doubt not only its neutrality but even its sovereignty and commitment to peace. On 5 June, Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė described Belarus as a threat to the region; meanwhile, her foreign minister repeatedly alludes to the 'remnants of Belarusian sovereignty.' Speaking on 19 June at the Ostrogorski Forum, Ukrainian Ambassador to Belarus Ihor Kizima criticised Minsk for refusing to allow foreign observers to monitor a Belarus-Russian-Serbian military exercise in Belarus near the Ukrainian border earlier this month. Kyiv put its army on higher alert because of the exercise.

19 June 2017
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Live: Ostrogorski Forum 2017. Belarus in the new environment: challenges to foreign policy, security, and identity after 2014

On 19 June 2017 the Ostrogorski Centre is holding a conference on the challenges to the Belarusian political and economic model in the new international environment, possible ways to prevent further deterioration and find solutions to major problems. The issue will be considered in the three aspects: foreign policy, security and identity.

16 June 2017
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Belarus extracts its own oil – Belarus photo digest

Many in Belarus took the recent discovery of new oil fields in the country as a joke: president Alexander Lukashenka had demanded earlier that the government start searching for its own black gold. According to experts, however, these deposits were already known. It was only the complexity of extraction that had prevented the mining of these deposits before. However, officials now claim that Belarusian oil costs five times less than Russian oil, and extraction will be profitable even with world oil prices at $20 per barrel.