Zaitsev in Cosmos: Ex-Head of the KGB Got a New Appointment
Now that Vadim Zaitsev has been appointed head of Cosmos TV, peaceful Belarusians can fall asleep serenely in front of their TV – no ideological saboteur will now get to their TV screens.
Vadim Zaitsev, the person who happened to head the Belarusian KGB in the country's most critical time, as well as the Committee for State Security – during the December 2010 presidential election as well as two years before and two years after – got a new appointment. Since 2012, when Zaitsev was dismissed, everybody wondered where his managerial genius would manifest itself.
Was he assigned to the president's personnel pool? Will he suddenly emerge as an ambassador, and if yes, how remote from Minsk will be the country of his assignment? And finally, a piece of news: chekist Zaitsev has been appointed managing director of Cosmos TV, the company which has equipment in houses of many of us.
News agencies are terse about it. It is reported that Vadim Zaitsev has been appointed to head the company "at the suggestion of the Belarusian partner", and that a participatory share of Belarus in the charter of Cosmos TV Limited stands at 50%, with the share of the Russian company Akado standing, respectively, at 50%.
The online community reacted promptly to the new milestone in the biography of the former chekist: a guide "How to cancel your Cosmos TV subscription" is circulating online where users are invited to fill in an application form and to state "appointment of Vadzim Zaitsev as the head of the company" in the field "reason for cancellation".
However, the appointment of the hero of Independence Square 2010 to head a semi-private company prompts quite a different reaction from those people who are prone to thoughtfulness and analysis. In the first place, this is a desire to pinpoint those "escape lines" from the civil service which every Belarusian top official has. Lately, a certain style has started to take shape in these situations. Shame on those who say that we have no tradition whatsoever of employment assistance to civil servants after the state stops needing them at their posts for some reason. The tradition is emerging.
The trend of departure from the big nomenklatura to big business was set already by former Prime Minister Uladzimir Jarmoshyn Read more
The trend of departure from the big nomenklatura to big business was set already by former Prime Minister Uladzimir Jarmoshyn (dismissed in 2001). In 2002, he became head of the representative office of MTS in Belarus (now, according to Wikipedia, he is employed by Vneshekonomstroy).
In 2004, after the dismissal of Lieanid Jeryn, the head of the KGB, a second career canvas was laid out – to leave for Moscow after the dismissal. According to UDF.by, chekist Jeryn "advises" at the Russian Railways corporation. Accordingly, Ural Latypau (dismissed from the post of the head of the presidential administration in 2004) initially chose the path of Jarmoshyn, becoming the head of Lukoil-Belarus in 2006.
Again, according to Wikipedia, he heads Direct Management Ltd since 2009 (development, Moscow). Former head of the Belarusian Railways Viktar Rakhmanko (dismissed in 2001 after having been accused of embezzlement) chose the path of Jeryn and was employed by Gazprom.
Former assistant to the president Siarhiej Posakhau, according to UDF, got employment and worked until recently at LenSpetsSMU in Saint Petersburg. Russia was also chosen by former head of the presidential Property Management Department Ivan Tsitsiankou (dismissed in 1999) immediately after his dismissal (first, he worked in logistics at Itera and then opened his own business).
Head of the Interior Ministry Uladzimir Navumau also emerged in Russia (his last known position was advisor to Sergey Chemezov, managing director of the state corporation Rostechnologii).
Even a sketchy analysis allows us to see that Russia is a higher demand destination point than Belarus for former Belarusian "chiefs". Read more
Aliaksandr Zimouski, former head of the Belarusian Television and Radio Company, who is banned from entering Europe, turned out in Russia. He says that he works as a "media consultant".
Even a sketchy analysis allows seeing that Russia is a higher demand destination point than Belarus for former Belarusian "chiefs". Possibly, because in Russia (unlike in Belarus) there is plenty of capital which, by their sheer volume, honoraria and bonuses, meets the career ambitions of people who were at the very top of the Belarusian power pyramid. At the same time, there is a feeling that Belarus is now afraid to let go officials of the rank of the KGB boss.
In this regard, a lot has changed here since 2004 (Jeryn's dismissal and his subsequent departure).
After several bitter scuffles in the Union State, Russia is no longer perceived as an unequivocally friendly country which shares its state secrets with Belarus and thus is quite a secure one for the trouble-free retirement for former powerful strongmen. The nervousness provoked in Moscow by news of Uladzimir Navumau's emergence in Moscow (and this is a person who knows quite a lot) is the best proof to this.
However, Vadim Zaitsev's appointment to Cosmos TV can be regarded as a continuation of his service to the Motherland – this time, in another segment and in another capacity. As it is known, only now a large-scale wave of fight against satellite dishes has been launched in Belarus.
Residents of tower-blocks say that their housing maintenance services gave them time till the end of July and then they threaten to sue them. The court's decision to dismantle the "illegally installed equipment" will be binding.
Appointment of Vadim Zaitsev, a person clearly loyal to the state, to the management of one of the major providers of cable and over-the-air television can be seen as a continuation of the tactics of instilling order with satellite TV. Ultimately, the guide "How to Cancel your Cosmos TV subscription" will be absolutely useless if, after getting rid of Cosmos TV, the audience will have to spend time with the "alternative" in the form of three channels of the state-run Belarusian television.
This article originally appeared on 17 June 2013 in Belgazeta in Russian.
Belarus Authorities Look For Young Analysts for its “Smart Network”
Until 30 June all young Belarusians who want to become political analysts at government institutions can apply for a special competitive program. The organisers of the program say that they are looking for fresh ideas and competent professionals.
The program started last year when the Information and Analytical Centre of the Presidential Administration in cooperation with other state institutions launched an unusual project called “Smart Network”. It aims to find young analysts for the government. First the project’s participants were asked to contribute to drafting Alexander Lukashenka’s annual address to the nation. Now they will make recommendations for the 2016-2020 Program of Socioeconomic Development of Belarus.
The project looks more like a PR campaign or competition between different groups inside the government than a real attempt to recruit young minds. The Belarusian authorities have never expressed much interest in fresh ideas. Moreover, the existing bureaucratic machine discourages young officials from independent thinking and taking initiative.
“Looking for Competent Young Professionals”
According to the deputy director of the Information and Analytical Centre (IAC) Alyaksey Matsevila, the “Smart Network” is a platform for “competent young professionals who want to engage in serious analysis and not emotional discussions”. To find such professionals the IAC together with the Ministry of Education, Republican Institute of the Higher School, Belarusian State University and Minsk State Linguistic University announced an open call in October 2012.
The program targets Belarusians under the age of 35 who either already have graduate degrees or are currently in their last university years. The educational background does not matter as long as applicants meet three core criteria: good analytical skills, wide political science horizons and willingness to create analytical product for practical use by government bodies. Knowledge of foreign languages is not obligatory but an advantage (particularly English and Chinese).
At the first stage of the project all applicants had to submit short essays on one of the following topics:
- Does Belarus need political reforms?
- What model of privatisation can be suitable for Belarus?
- Socially oriented state: patronage or responsibility?
- Can Belarus combine the European and Eurasian vectors of integration?
- Social networks: the basis of the future, cyber weaponry or a journalistic myth?
After a closed revision process, the 25 best essay authors participated in a week-long training seminar. And then they presented their individual projects with suggestions for President Lukashenka’s annual address to the nation and parliament.
The major promise of the project was that the finalists would get positions at the IAC and other government institutions. However, according to Alyaksey Matsevila, because of the 25% cut in the ranks of the bureaucracy only 1 out of the 25 finalists became a government employee at the Ministry of Education.
Now the organisers of the “Smart Network” have announced a new call. The procedure and requirements mostly remain the same. But this time the participants will discuss the post-2015 agenda for Belarus. They will work on ideas for the 2016-2020 Program of Socioeconomic Development, which is the main document in the Belarusian system of state planning.
The scale of the project also seems to be growing. The organisers intend to invite 90 participants to a special conference in autumn. According to the call for applications, the conference will take a more practical than scholarly focus and in a way will remind an ideas fair. The participants will present their recommendations for the program and then choose the best ones.
The IAC’s representatives claim that about 75% of Lukashenka’s annual address contained points suggested by the participants of the “Smart Network”. They expect that their work on the Program of Socioeconomic Development will be as effective.
Wishful Plans and Sad Reality
The words of the organisers do not look trustworthy. In the Belarusian political reality it is difficult to imagine that out of a sudden the government starts listening to some young experts and incorporating their recommendations in the president’s address to the nation.
According to sources in various state bodies, even the suggestions of different ministries often get ignored or distorted by speechwriters in the Presidential Administration or Lukashenka himself. When choosing priorities, they stick to some very specific logic that sometimes has little to do with the realities on the ground. Certainly, there is little place for usually idealistic views of young intellectuals in the reasoning inside the Presidential Administration.
Moreover, the IAC itself does not seem to value much opinions of young analysts. Two months ago another deputy director of the Centre Vitaly Dashkevich publicly criticised young experts and commentators. He said that to give expert comments a person at least needs to hold PhD in a corresponding field of studies. Even though Dashkevich himself holds no academic degree and is chemist by training, this statement seems to reflect the attitudes towards young analysts among the IAC staff.
Move Against Independent Think Tanks?
Thus, the motives of the IAC and the government in general remain unclear. Why do they need the “Smart Network” if they have no particular interest in young analysts?
One of the obvious hypothesis goes that the “Smart Network” should serve the purpose of preventing young Belarusians from joining independent think tanks. The latter are becoming increasingly visible in policy discussions and popular among young intellectuals.
This hypothesis can explain a number of things.
Firstly, why the organisers launched such an impressive PR campaign around the project. Normally, if the IAC or other state institutions really needed talented young employees they would simply contact the management of universities and ask for their best students and graduates.
Secondly, why the representatives of the IAC all the time refer to some other organisations and analysts. The coordinator of the project Alyaksey Metsevila stresses it in the press that, in contrast to NGOs, participants of the “Smart Network” are competent to do real political analysis rather than express emotional opinions to the media.
Or Competition within the Regime?
Another hypothesis that circulates in the Presidential Administration points to a possibility of some form of competition among different groups in the governing circles. Usevalad Yancheuski, Lukashenka’s aide and head of the Ideology Department in the Presidential Administration, is said to be behind the idea of the “Smart Network”. Given the rumours about his ambitions for the future, he might indeed be forming a base of support in the government institutions.
Anyway, it would be interesting if the “Smart Network” were more transparent and allowed open discussions. Then everyone could see the level of the project and even learn from the participants (if they are really super competent). Unfortunately, the IAC refuses to make the contents of the project open for the general public. And this only causes additional suspicions.