Speed-Dating In Belarusian, Borsch Or Career – Belarus Civil Society Digest
Belarusian women discussed gender-related issues during the talk show "Borsch or career". A new interesting way to promote Belarusian language – Art Siadziba organises speed-dating when people can communicate in the language.
A new portal ngo.by is launched. Anyone who searches partners for joint projects in Belarus and abroad, wishes to be a volunteer or seeks volunteers services volunteers, as well as interested in scholarships, training, educational events can register on the web site.
Civil society campaigns
Civic cultural campaign Budzma runs a gender talk-show under the provocative brand “Borshch or career?”. Topic of female activity remains a traditionally polemic one in Belarusian society and Budzma campaign known mostly for promotion of national language looks to change the accents of its activity. Series of journalistic materials “Let’s be Belarusian women!” (Budzma belarusKami!) is now followed by an offline talk-show and promotional video at Youtube which has less then one hundred views in contradiction to “traditional” cultural mediaproducts of Budzma.
Speed-dating in Belarusian language starts in Minsk. Art Siadziba, known for it’s creative promotional steps to national clothes and symbols starts a new language-oriented initiative. First meeting of Speed-dating in Belarusian took place on 30 October. 10 ladies and 10 gents have 2 minutes to know each other better and to communicate in Belarusian language. As a result of speed dating they fill a form giving marks to their partners. If the marks feat each other successfully the participants are informed by the organisers.
Representatives of Local Leader courses run by Oeec.by win at Social Weekend. Marina Alexeenko, Bashni agrotown, got a prize from the construction company realt.by. Also, the Union of Entrepreneurs will assist to engage local business to the project. Project aims to equip a school with sports equipment and conduct sports events for children and their families.
Elena Budnik, Brest Regional Development Fund, got prizes from mamochki.by and a people's judge. Project aims to create a positive atmosphere in Brest children hospital through visits of clowns-doctors and equipment of a game room with cheerful drawings and toys. One can watch a video on results and see the full list of winners.
Belarus in Focus Information Office launches 'Belarus in Focus 2014' – the fourth edition of an annual competition for journalists who write about Belarus for international media. Winners will receive up to 500 euros, and have the chance to network with jury members, fellow journalists and experts at a two-day workshop in Warsaw in spring 2015. Articles can be submitted in English, Danish, French, German, Russian, Polish, Spanish, and Swedish.
United Way Belarus NGO launches a new service for ngo.by portal users. Anyone who searches partners for joint projects in Belarus and abroad, wishes to be a volunteer or seeks volunteers services volunteers, as well as interested in scholarships, training, educational events – is welcome to register at the Universal Platform.
Commemoration of Victims of Stalinism took place on 29th of October. Activists hold memory actions at Kurapaty and other places of repressions. 29 October is known as Black Day for Belarusian literature. In 1937 the night from 29 October took lives of more than hundred representatives of Belarusian intelligence.
The results of sociologic research on Belarusian literature show that the situation with reading in Belarusian has become a catastrophe. Only 5 per cent of readers prefer literature in Belarusian and 40 per cent of the respondents say that they don’t know Belarusian well enough to read. The survey was conveyed by the “Novak” laboratory for the Belarusian Writers’ Union and campaign “Budzma!”. The state representatives in the person of the National Institute of Education, “Belkniga” JSC, Institute for Journalism (BSU) joined the event, which was followed by BWU open letter to several ministries.
Presentation of monitoring network on academic freedoms violations is to take place on 18 October in Minsk. Organised by the Public Bologna Committee, the event will present the project on network, the results for the 1st half of 2014 and conduct a short training for observers. The monitoring of academic freedoms violations is aimed at retrieving the actual information about the situation on academic freedoms in Belarusian Higher Education Institutions and implemented by the students and teachers all over Belarus.
Monitoring Freedom of Association and the Status of Non-Profit Organizations in Belarus for the second quarter 2014 – The survey was prepared by the Assembly of NGOs and Legal Transformation Centre and covers the period of July 1 — September 30, 2014. Its aim is to reveal short-term tendencies in the sphere of human rights, social, political and economic situation in Belarus. The survey authors note that no important legal changes concerning NGO status were introduced during the monitoring period.
New Practices in Raising Domestic Funds by CSOs in Europe – This paper was prepared by European Centre for Not-for-Profit Law (ECNL) on demand of the Legal Transformation Centre and Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs of Belarus. The paper focuses on opportunities to enhance CSOs’ financial sustainability by raising funds from private domestic sources and through indirect state support mechanisms. The paper pays particular focus on new fundraising methods and shares specific case examples, such as crowd-funding, sms and donor message service.
Interaction between state and civil society
Platform CSO has gained access to Belarusian prisons. This is the only human rights organisation that now has the opportunity to visit the prisons of Belarus. The corresponding permission was obtained from Department of Execution of Penalties of the Ministry of the Interior. The Platform Innovation CSO for three years works in the field of protecting the rights of inmates in the penitentiary system of Belarus.
The Human Rights Centre 'Viasna' calls to join the campaign for the liberation of Pavel Vinahradau. The activist of the youth organisation 'Zmena' is now serving a 15-day-arrest at the detention centre in Aksrestsina Minsk Centre. 'Viasna' recorded 16 cases of detention of Pavel Vinahradau, which make a total of 165 days of arrest. Human rights defenders believe the example of Pavel Vinahradau as evidence of harassment of opposition-minded citizens and injustice in the Belarusian state.
Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.
Belarus Moves Towards Full-Scale Border Control With Russia – Belarus Security Digest
In a somewhat uncharacteristic move, Belarus started working on a full-scale border guard on the Belarusian-Russian border.
Western sanctions are impeding the development of industrial cooperation between Belarus and Russia, which still hopes to draw CIS countries into its confrontation with the West.
The Belarusian authorities do not trust America, but they still want to befriend it, as the series of recent meetings with the US officials show.
This and more in this months's Belarus Security Digest.
Belarus to Guard its Boarder with Russia
Belarus recently made a highly politicised decision to guard its border with Russia. On 4 September 2014, Alexander Lukashenka signed Decree No.433, which establishes a border zone within the administrative-territorial units adjacent to the state border between Belarus and the Russian Federation.
Although the State Border Committee still denies it, the analysis of the legislation explicitly allows one to interpret the decree as the beginning of the creation of (or a demonstration of the willingness to create) a full-scale border guard on the Belarusian-Russian border.
Taking into account the costs of installation of the state border of Belarus with other post-Soviet countries, the minimum amount of financial resources needed for the demarcation of the border and creating the infrastructure on the border with Russia will be at least $260m.
Besides this, at least two border units should be created, and more staff added to the existing Polatsk and Homiel border units. This would lead to a 150% increase in the number of border guards. The formal installation all the necessary components on the Belarusian-Russian border could take 7 to 10 years.
Russia Wants to Create an Anti-NATO alliance
In September, Russian officials once again stressed the need to create a military alliance in order to counterbalance NATO as well as repeated to its partners that the Russian missile defence system would be able to effectively protect the western borders of Russia and CSTO states. This anti-missile system would include the Gabala radar station in Azerbaijan and two new airfields, the creation of which Russia has allegedly already agreed upon with Belarus.
These plans, however, appear a little out of sorts. First of all, Russia halted the Gabala radar station's operations, dismantled all of the equipment and withdrew all of its staff back in 2013. Furthermore, this was the first time these two Russian airfields in Belarus were ever publicly mentioned.
The latest incarnation of Russia's military doctrine also includes language about identifying its main adversary and setting up the necessary conditions to engage in a preemptive nuclear strike. It should be noted that the role of adversary has traditionally reserved for NATO in general and the United States in particular.
Recently statements appeared in Russian mass media that Russian bombers should be deployed in Belarus along with fighter jets. The likelihood of successfully creating an anti-NATO alliance is rather slim for one simple reason – no other CIS government sees the West as its adversary.
Belarus Fears Western sanctions against Russia
On 12 September 2014, the European Union imposed sanctions against the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). These sanctions will directly influence the prospects of the UAC acquiring a share in the capital of the 558th Aircraft Repair Plant in Baranavichy. The Belarusian authorities may take a time-out fearing the negative consequences, especially considering a possible toughening of sanctions in the future.
A similar situation is shaping up around the sale of state-owned shares in the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant (MWTP) to a Russian investor. The intergovernmental agreement is all ready to sign, but the Belarusian side is in no rush to finalise the deal. MWTP came under European and American sanctions in due to the war in Ukraine. Thus, one should not expect the selling off of MWTP to happen in the near future. However, Alexander Lukashenka will have to make the final decision.
CIS Countries Concerned about Nuclear Terrorism
The situation in Afghanistan continues to be at the center of members of the CIS attention. On 9 September 2014, Colonel-General Andrei Novikov, Head of the CIS Anti-terrorism Centre noted persistent attempts by Islamic terrorists to extend their activities into CIS countries.
The CIS Anti-terrorism Centre sees a real terrorist threat that could involve the use of nuclear or radioactive material in an attack on its soil. They are also taking seriously reports of radioactive material being stolen around the world. Particularly alarming are militants' reports of the theft of "dozens of kilogrammes of nuclear material" by the terrorist organisation "Islamic State" from the University of Mosul in Iraq.
In addition to this they took considerable sums of money, which would be sufficient to employ experts and buy the equipment needed to manufacture ammunition that contains radioactive material.
The suppression of the illicit trafficking of nuclear and radioactive materials across the borders of CIS member states has recently become as important to the CIS security services as the fight against drug trafficking.
A Drill to Evacuate 200 Thousand People
On 2 September 2014, an annual practise emergency evacuation drill of 200 thousand people from schools, hospitals and social buildings was held in the Hrodna region. Warning systems and the preparedness of personnel to act in a crisis situation were audited. The drill took place in about 850 institutions.
Hopes to normalise Belarus-US relations
The Belarusian authorities are hoping to normalise their political and regional security relations with the United States. An interagency delegation of the US government visited Belarus on 9 – 11 September 2014. The delegation included representatives of the State Department, the Department of Defence and the US Agency for International Development.
On 10 September 2014, Colonel Alieh Voinau, State Secretary – Assistant to the Minister of Defence of Belarus on military policy issues, met with Evelyn Farkas, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. The delegation also had a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus.
The US representatives reiterated their previously stated positions on respect for democratic rights and freedoms, including the practise of holding election campaigns and the continued existence of political prisoners in the country. The parties agreed to continue the dialogue and declared their interest to normalise relations.
For Belarus, a normalisation of relations with Washington is the cornerstone of the entire architecture of the Euro-Atlantic policy. No full-fledged relations with the European Union are possible without normalisation of relations with the US, with all ensuing consequences: restrictions on investment activities, transfer of technologies and capitals, trade in dual-use products etc.
The limiting factor in the Belarusian-American relations is not only the low level of interest of the United States towards Belarus but also Minsk's distrust of Washington's policies. The Belarusian authorities do not understand and do not accept the modern Western world order. Therefore, they treat it with a considerable degree of hostility. In fact, the ruling regime is ready to receive Western money and technologies but is not prepared to adopt its state and societal structures.
Andrei is the head of “Belarus Security Blog” analytical project.