Will the ghost of Putin and the USSR save Lukashenko’s Belarus? | Russia news

Some former Soviet countries have been more dependent on Russia – economically, politically, even linguistically – than Belarus.

And no one has done more to make this dependency and almost irreplaceable than five-time Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

“Russia always has been, and will be our closest ally, regardless of whoever is in power in Belarus or Russia [Moscow] Lukashenko, referring to the recent cooling of relations between Moscow and Minsk in early August, “preferred to turn the relations of brotherhood into a partnership.”

He spoke in the days before the August 9 presidential election that he claimed to win for the sixth time with 80 percent of the vote.

Despite thousands of arrests, tortures, and numerous alleged murders of protesters by Lukashenko’s security forces, with a daily protest and attacks blaming the nation of 9.5 million people, thousands disagreed.

However, the removal of Lukashenko is tantamount to free Russia and Belarus from their Soviet past.

It is an impossible task in comparison with Ukraine, Georgia and the Baltic, it has been impossible, de-Sovietising their economies through painful but inevitable reforms.

Belarus, however, still boasts communist-era collective farms, factories, and plants.

In most pre-Soviet republics, they were laid off in the 1990s by immersing millions of sacked workers into poverty and capitalist realities.

But Lukashenko, the chairman of a collective farm, which became the first and so far only elected president of Belarus in 1994, kept these remnants of the planned economy alive and their workers received modest, but steady salaries. In return, he voted Lukashenko into drums.

His adversaries disappeared without a trace or fled to Belarus, while small, urban protests against each of his re-elections were dispersed with perceived violence, which was reportedly repeated after the recent vote. Has increased.

Belarus still calls its security agency “KGB” and remains the only European nation to uphold the death penalty.

Economic, ideological relationship

Someone had to foot the bills of the Belarusian mini-USSR, and it was Russia.

For decades, Moscow supplied discounted crude oil to Belarus, which was processed in two giant refineries and resold in Ukraine and the European Union.

Similarly, Belarusian apartment buildings and power stations made of subsidized natural gas are fueled.

Even though one-fifth of the Belarusian region was contaminated by the result of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear explosion, the Russian market swallowed up most of Belarus’s dairy and meat products.

“I only buy Belarusian butter and sausages, they are cheap and made according to Soviet [industrial] Standard, “Alevatina Yelagina, a 54-year-old villager from the western Russian region of Tevar, who often shop at a wacky shop called” Belarusian Foods “, told Al Jazeera.

Affordable Belarusian shoes, underwear, gas stoves, tractors and trucks are ubiquitous throughout Russia, and hundreds of former Belarus bureaucrats work there without the bureaucratic constraints of migrants from other former Soviet countries.

Why? In 1997, Russian presidents Boris Yeltsin and Lukashenko signed for the first time in dozens of accents to merge Russia and Belarus with a common state, parliament and currency and military.

Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin talks with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko in 1999 [File: Reuters]

Many viewed it as a lesser incarnation of the Soviet Union – while Lukashenko hoped to replace the sick and heavy-drinking Yelin.

Communist era leader Stanislav Shushkevich had liberated Belarus until the first election of Lukashenko in 1994, visited Russian territories, flattering governors and portrayed himself as the real deal. He wanted to give a lot to the Kremlin. Said in television commentary in 2019.

Cheap Russian crude oil and debt were maintaining the Belarusian economy.

“The idea was that let’s [Lukashenko] Researcher Nikolay Mitrokhin of the University of Bremen, Germany, told Al Jazeera to squeeze out as much funding as possible for a socialist and unprofitable state.

However, Russia’s political oligarchs never considered Lukashenko to be a possible president, especially after a teetotal ex-KGB official named Vladimir Putin came to power.

“The Union State was seen as a soft way to absorb Belarus,” Mitrokhin said.

A rocky wedding

On dozens of occasions, Lukashenko emphasized the “brotherhood” of Belarus and Russia, which he called “general history and culture”.

Belarus means “white juice”, but the latter term does not refer to modern Russia. It returns as Kiev, an emerging medieval superpower in a medieval superpower now neighboring Ukraine and uniting eastern Slavic tribes. It went through disintegration, foreign invasion and new nation-building to give birth to Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.

“Brotherhood” unity is not just a matter of textbooks or boring history paths.

Putin’s Kremlin came up with the idea of ​​”Russian world” or cultural unity of all ethnic Russians and Russian speakers in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere.

Ukraine and Belarus are central to this conception, and Moscow supported the 2014 proclamation of Crimea and separatists in southeastern Ukraine as a step to “protect the rights of Russian-speakers”.

Lukashenko seemed perfect for the Russian world. Most Belarusians discontinued Russian in Soviet times, and they rejected attempts to redefine the Belarusian language, calling it parochial and obsolete.

Merger opposition

But as Putin built a nest in the Kremlin, eliminating opponents, breaking down and reuniting on the unregistered oligarchs, Lukashenko supported the idea of ​​the State of the Union. Instead, they demanded more loans, preferences and trade deals, threatening to halt the merger.

But in 2019, the Kremlin renewed its push to finalize the merger as Putin faced approval ratings and another political to distract the Russians from deteriorating economies, perceived corruption and Western sanctions. Victory was required.

Lukashenko vehemently opposed the “Russian Proclamation” and began flirting with the West, including hosting a visit to Minsk by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in February.

In retaliation, Putin stopped providing discounted crude and loans – and was fond of the single-handed Belarusian economy.

The audacity of Lukashenko of Coronavirus – he never declared quarantine and largely ignored the outbreak – contributed to the unrest and, for the first time in Belarusian history, workers from state-run plants and factories joined protests and dozens of strikes Started.

MINSK, BELARUS - SEPTEMBER 13, 2020: Law enforcement officers confronted participants in the March Heroes Opposition event.  There have been large-scale protests against the presidential election results

Law enforcement officials confronted participants in the Heroes Opposition incident in March. Mass protests against presidential election results have been taking place in Minsk and other Belarusian cities since 9 August [Valery Sharifulin/TASS/Getty Images]

Within weeks, Lukashenko crawled back to Putin – and now would have to agree to a merger.

Analysts claim, meanwhile, that the Kremlin, like Crimea, is likely to plan an announcement, as protests overthrow Lukashenko.

“We’re talking about only two options – a constitutional absorption within the Union State if Lukashenko’s rule is strengthened or a pro-Russian candidate wins the presidential vote, or in the case the anti-Western forces win. Alexi Bush, a political neighbor in Ukraine, told analyst Al Jazeera.


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