The first signs of private enterprise – kiosks at street corners- sprung up in Belarus in 1991 as soon as the country declared independence from the Soviet Union. These kiosks initially sold imported cigarettes, chocolate, coffee, tea, and cheap cosmetics. Later the assortment of goods began to include local produce and clothing.

The authorities have tried limiting these kinds of private initiatives on multiple occasions, considering them to be unsightly and unsanitary. Due to state interference, small business accounts for only about 15% of Belarus’s GDP according to Belstat, the official government statistics agency. For the sake of comparison, in developed Western economies small business makes up to 60-70 % of the GDP and have become the main driver of employment and economic activity.

Today, about 90,000 small business entities are registered in Belarus, over a third of them in the retail sector. Photographer Siarhiej Leskiec visited micro-entrepreneurs selling foodstuffs at a market in the centre of Maladzechna, a city of 95,000.















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.