Belarus Profile Maps Influential People of Belarus
The Centre for Transition Studies kicks off Belarus Profile – a searchable online database that contains the biographic information of over 200 people influential in Belarus.
Belarus Profile differs from other who is who projects not only in its scope but also because it is available in three languages: English, Russian and Belarusian. The project has an advanced search option on personal information, details on individuals' education and career that help to detect patterns in the Belarusian political system.
The results of a search of over 200 influential Belarusians reveals that Belarusian officials usually were born in villages and small towns. Civil society activists come primarily from major cities.
A search can also yield other interesting results such as many retirees remain active in Belarusian politics and hold senior state positions or point out that the Belarusian Agricultural Academy is a popular university among Belarusian officials.
Analysing Belarusian Establishment
The Centre for Transition Studies plans to expand the biographies and the whole directory of influential people in Belarus, though will keep its focus only on leaders. The Centre already has expertise in Belarusian elite and plans to continue its research along these lines.
Earlier this year Siarhei Bohdan, analyst of the Centre, published an analytical paper on the Belarusian political and economic establishment. Belarus Digest also frequently features articles on changes within the Belarusian government and civil society.
Belarus Profile will help people outside the system to better understand how Belarusian state and society functions. Belarus Profile aims to de-mystify and deepen the public's knowledge about key decision makers in the country. It is also designed to help determine who the most influential people in Belarus are, where they come from, what their age is, as background on their education and careers.
Belarus Profile strives to cover all Belarusian leaders: politicians, opposition activists, civil servants, and notable figures from academia, business, civil society, and other areas. Sections with biographies of state officials and civil society activists are the largest sections to be found in the directory.
Belarusian officials usually come from villages and small towns, while civil society leaders and business people typically come from major cities. In Belarus, influential people present all six regions more or less evenly. Although most influential people originally come from Belarus, a significant minority of them have their roots in other countries.
Many influential Belarusians were born in Russia and play important roles in state institutions such as Andrei Kabiakou, the current Head of the Presidential Administration. Other notable figures include Kiryl Vakhrameeu, Filaret and Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus, Aliaksandr Bialiatski, human rights defender and political prisoner, Anatol Mikhailau, who runs the European Humanities University.
Some prominent Belarusians have roots in Ukraine. Individuals like famous writer Sviatlana Aleksievich, Iuryi Zhadobin who is in charge of the Ministry of Defence and Uladzimir Peftsieu, the richest businessman in Belarus, were all born there.
It is very popular myth in Belarus that people who were born in Mahiliou region are elevated to high positions in governmental institutions, but as the database shows, this is not entirely true. Many people influential people were not born in that region, but rather worked there for a long time, a fact that holds true for individuals like Aliaksandr Radzkou, Chairman of the Public Association Belaja Rus or even Aliaksandr Lukashenka himself.
A Country of Experienced Officials
The Belarusian political elite lacks middle aged people. Most of them are part of an older generation, some even retirees. Mikhail Miasnikovich, Prime Minister of Belarus, was born in 1950. Anatol Rubinau, Chairman of the Council of the Republic, remains Belarus' oldest top official having been born in 1939. As Zmicier Pankaviec of the Nasha Niva newspaper noted two years ago, of the 60 main leadership persons 11 were retirees. Today retirees hold 21 high level positions.
Viktar Lukashenka, Assistant to the President on National Security Matters, was born in 1975 and can be considered the most influential young civil servant, though in his particular case age does not really matter. Andrei Shorats, Minister of Housing and Communal Services, who was born in 1973, and Aleh Slizheuski, who born in 1972, remain the youngest ministers in Belarus.
The Business elite is younger than governmental elite. Many entrepreneurs were born in the 60s. Most of them, such as perhaps the most well-known Belarusian business man Iuryi Chyzh, made their fortunes after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The opposition elite's average age falls somewhere between the authorities and business. People who were born in the 40s like Uladzimir Niakliaeu, Aliaksandr Milinkevich, Zianon Pazniak still play a significant role in opposition politics.
However, a new generation of politicians has emerged. Pavel Seviarynets of the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party, Aliaksandr Lahvinets and Iury Hubarevich of the Movement for Freedom, Volha Karach of the association Nash Dom and Aliaksei Ianukevich of the Belarusian Popular Front Party all appear ready to step up and play a significant role in Belarusian politics in the future.
Alma Maters of Belarus' Leaders
Belarusian State University remains the main incubator for influential people in Belarus. This follows from the fact that BSU is the most authoritative university in the country and holds highest position in international rankings. Many representatives from the economic, social and political elite have studied there, including the ruler`s children – Viktar and Dzmitry Lukashenka.
Belarusian State Economic University and Belarusian National Technical University are second and the third Belarusian universities with regards to their respective influence. Also, a significant segment of officials graduated from the Academy of Public Administration under the aegis of the President of the Republic of Belarus. Usually, officials receive a second postgraduate higher education here in order to advance their careers.
The Belarusian Agricultural Academy remains very popular among the government's elite. Aliaksandr Lukashenka and other government employees, like deputies of the Prime Minister Anatol Kalinin and Mikhail Rusy, have all studied there.
Few women in Belarus can be considered very influential. Among them Mariana Shchotkina, Minister of Labour and Social Protection, Nadzeia Ermakova, who is in charge of the National Bank and Lidziia Iarmoshyna, Chairperson of the Central Election Commission. Alena Kudravec of the Belarusian Potash Company appears to be the only woman who has climbed to the top of the Belarusian business world.
Volha Karach of the association Nash Dom, journalist Iryna Khalip, Ivonka Survilla of the Council of the Belarusian Democratic Republic and Agnieszka Romaszewska, who runs Belsat TV, all remain active in the public life of Belarus. However, Survilla and Romaszewska respectively hold citizenship from Canada and Poland. It is easy to deduce, then, that Belarusian political life remains dominated by men.
The Centre for Transition Studies, will continue its research on the Belarusian establishment. According to its director, Yarik Kryvoi, Belarus Profile will also regularly prepare infographics on how politics in Belarus works and will publish a guide which will help Western readers to better understand Belarus' political system.
- Visit BelarusProfile.com
Lukashenka Struggles to Prevent Civil Servants From Leaving Their Jobs
On 10 December Alexander Lukashenka held an unusual event – the first-ever nationwide executive conference that gathered more than 250 top officials from across the whole country.
He called it the “most important event of the year” and compared it to the Soviet-era plenary sessions of the Communist Party. A major issue for the conference participants was how to improve the management of state executive personnel and make sure that qualified civil servants stay in government jobs.
In broader terms, the conference looked like a deliberate attempt by President Lukashenka to prevent a governance crisis, which is looming large in the light of recent studies and scandals.
However, Lukashenka is not yet ready to move forward with real structural reforms. His current attempts are little more than cosmetic measures, such as his firing of high-ranking bureaucrats or appointing special investigative commissions, and will most likely fail.
“The Most Important Event of the Year”
The nationwide executive conference came as a surprise to Belarusian society. Normally, preparations for important state events take a great deal of time and bureaucratic effort and attract wide publicity in the media. This time, however, the public learnt about it only a day before, when Lukashenka briefly mentioned it during a meeting with the prime minister and the head of the Presidential Administration.
At the same time the President called the conference the most important event of the whole year and even said that it would become an analogue to the plenary sessions of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, a platform for working out the strategic direction for the country’s future development.
The spontaneity of the event and its high-level comparison with the Soviet past suggest that the conference was meant to address urgent and particularly worrisome issues.
What Worries the Authorities?
In his opening remarks, Lukashenka said, “Unfortunately, we have not developed a system at the highest state level to manage executive personnel, and we do everything in a highly inconsistent manner”.
the government sees it as an increasingly difficult task to find qualified candidates Read more
Later, the head of the Presidential Administration Andrei Kabyakou provided more details. In his words, the government sees it as an increasingly difficult task to find qualified candidates to fill existing vacancies in ministries and other state institutions. He gave a couple of examples. The position of Deputy Minister of Economy has been vacant for almost two years. Important management jobs have remained open for a long time at the ministries of agriculture, architecture and construction, sports and tourism and others.
In the regions, the situation looks even worse. According to Kabyakou, few qualified executives agree to head local administrations these days. For example, the Administration of Krupski District (in central Belarus) remains without a deputy chairman as already nine potential candidates have declined the job offer – something unimaginable before.
The delegates of the nationwide executive conference correctly defined the main factor behind the problem – low salaries and a huge workload with the overblown responsibilities that state executives have. It is enough to briefly compare the levels of pay in the public sector and in the commercial sector (in Belarus and in Russia) to see the difference.
The problem of uncompetitive salaries in the government sector was already addressed by the so-called public administration reform that resulted in State officials continue to leave their posts and talented youth also prefer more rewarding jobs in the commercial sector. In Lukashenka’s opinion, this is a threat to the stability and wellbeing of the nation. Moreover, recent studies and scandals have given some ground to talk of a nascent governance crisis in Belarus, which Alexander Lukashenka relates to the problem with qualified civil servants.
The first portent came during the preparations for the public administration reform earlier this year. President Lukashenka once stated that he had commissioned an analysis of how many of his decrees and orders were actually executed by the central and local governments. He did not provide the details but said that the analysis revealed quite poor statistics.
But the real storm began when Lukashenka visited the wood-processing factory “Borisovdrev” at the beginning of November 2013. Exactly a year before he came to the same factory and found egregious problems with its modernization.
He then issued detailed orders to the management of the factory and government functionaries on how to improve the situation and set a one-year deadline. He even introduced a new form of serfdom – a presidential decree that prevented the workers of the wood-processing factories from leaving for other jobs – to make it easier for bureaucrats to comply with his orders.
On 8 November 2013, when the deadline expired, Lukashenka came to the factory again. And to his surprise he found out that few of his orders had been implemented. He immediately fired a number of high-ranking officials and appointed a special investigation commission headed by the Chairman of the Committee of State Control (a financial security agency) Alexander Yakabson.
Is It Possible To Invigorate the System With Cosmetic Measures?
Thus, the nationwide executive conference looks like another attempt, apart from firing executives and setting investigation commissions, by Lukashenka to sort out the emerging mess in the public administration sector.
However, all these measures appear cosmetic, as they do not touch upon the very foundations of the Belarusian governance system: command and administrative methods in the economy combined with authoritarian rule in politics.
Judging by the incumbent’s statements and the outcome of the public administration reform that resulted only in the sacking of officials without any structural adjustments, President Lukashenka firmly believes that he can avoid serious reforms and still make the public administration effective again by means of the measures he has always employed. But even the latest events show that this calculation will most probably be wrong.