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Western response to crackdowns, distance education, conference podcasts – Ostrogorski Centre digest

In March, analysts at the Ostrogorski Centre focused on the unfolding protests against the ‘social parasite’ tax and the Freedom Day celebration, which led to a violent response from the Belarusian security services and the arrest of more than...


Photo: sputnik.by

In March, analysts at the Ostrogorski Centre focused on the unfolding protests against the ‘social parasite’ tax and the Freedom Day celebration, which led to a violent response from the Belarusian security services and the arrest of more than two dozen suspects as a result of alleged planned armed resistance.

The Centre has released an analytical paper entitled ‘The state of distance education in Belarus: problems and perspectives’, which resulted from the Fourth Annual Dutch-Belarusian-Polish Conference.

We have also published podcasts of the Second Annual London Conference on Belarusian Studies.


Yaraslau Kryvoi discusses how the West can respond to the violent crackdowns which occurred on 25 March during protests in Belarus. Because EU presence and leverage in Belarus are very weak, the menu of responses is largely limited to the reintroduction of restrictive measures and reduction of high-level official contacts. On the other hand, visa liberalisation, as well as support for Belarusian civil society, education, media, and entrepreneurs should at least continue to receive support, since progress in these areas primarily benefits the Belarusian population.

Alesia Rudnik analyses the role of anarchists in the recent protests against the ‘social parasites’ tax. Anarchists were one of the most noticeable movements at the protests in Brest and Minsk, causing an immediate reaction from the police. Their creativity and integration distinguished them from other groups during the last two weeks of protests. The regime draws an analogy between anarchists and the football fans in Ukraine who strongly resisted the government during Maidan.

Igar Gubarevich discusses the problems of Schengen visa facilitation for Belarus. Simplification of the visa regime for Belarusians has been jeopardised by bargaining between Belarus and Europe over who should bear the risk and cost of migration. This bargaining may take years. In the meantime, EU countries are still capable of easing the visa procedure for Belarusians within the framework of existing visa rules. This could mean reducing wait time, simplifying paperwork requirements for frequent travellers, and further increasing the share of multiple-entry visas and their duration of validity.

Analytical paper: The state of distance education in Belarus: problems and perspectives

Extramural education still remains popular, although its utilisation is less wide-spread than in neighbouring countries. Promoting distance education in Belarus would make education more accessible to broader circles of society, including those who are constrained by physical or economic factors.

The established history of extramural education, good technical equipment at universities, and the wide-spread use of high-speed Internet mean that Belarus already possesses a good basis for the development of a high quality system of distance education.

In order to create a high-quality system of distance education in Belarus, it is necessary to create a corresponding legislative base, to organise additional training for specialists in the sphere of education, and to expand the cooperation between universities and the companies that work in the high tech sector

Read the full paper: The state of distance education in Belarus: problems and perspectives.

Podcasts of the second Annual London Conference on Belarusian Studies

On Saturday 25 February, Ostrogorski Centre organised the Second Annual London Conference on Belarusian Studies in cooperation with University College London and the Belarusian Francis Skaryna Library and Museum.

Speakers from Belarus, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, the United States, and other countries presented and discussed Belarus-related research. The conference panels covered Francis Skaryna’s work and legacy, problems of Belarusian national identity, foreign policy of Belarus and comparative politics, social and political movements, and language and literature.

Ostrogorski Centre has published podcasts of the conference, which are available here.

Comments in the media

On Polish radio, Alesia Rudnik discusses women’s rights in Belarus. Belarusian women are not aware of existing discrimination and this mind-set is encouraged by the state. Technically speaking, women are present in Belarusian politics, but they do little more than support the status quo when it comes to gender issues. Women’s organisations remain small and fail to cooperate with the state, society, and female politicians.

Ryhor Astapenia comments for Thinktanks.by on the causes and consequences of the brutal measures of the police during recent protests. This is unwarranted violence, since the protests do not pose a real threat to Lukashenka’s regime. Normalisation of relations with the West is likely to at least freeze, if not turn in the opposite direction. However, in the absence of a satisfactory solution to the ongoing oil and gas conflict, Minsk is unlikely to reconcile with Moscow.

Igar Gubarevich discusses the problems of visa regime facilitation between the EU and Belarus on Polish Radio. Scared by the influx of migrants, the European Union demands that Belarus sign visa facilitation and readmission agreements in one package. However, the threat of migration coming from Belarus seems exaggerated. Meanwhile, the visa issue remains crucial for the citizens of Belarus, who receive the largest number of visas per capita in the world.

Siarhei Bohdan discusses what Minsk traded for the newest Russian fighter jets on Polish radio. Minsk would like to reduce the scale of the military exercise West 2017 and the tense rhetoric of Russian officials. In return for the drills, Moscow offered something very important to Minsk. Delivery of a few aircraft in the near future seems to be the final argument which won Minsk over.

Belarus policy

The Ostrogorski Centre continues to update its database of policy papers on BelarusPolicy.com. The papers of partner institutions added this month include:

Think tanks in Belarus are encouraged to submit their research for inclusion into the database by completing this form.

The Ostrogorski Centre is a private, non-profit organisation dedicated to analysis and policy advocacy on problems which Belarus faces in its transition to market economy and the rule of law. Its projects include Belarus Digest, the Journal of Belarusian Studies, BelarusPolicy.com,BelarusProfile.com and Ostro.by.

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