This Web site is not only a traditional description of the author's academic activities (research publications, conference presentations, University courses, etc.) but also a resource that provides essential information on social-political development in the post-communist state – the Republic of Belarus.
Belarus, a small country of slightly fewer than 10 million citizens, lies in the very heart of Europe. In the medieval time, it was a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Then during two centuries, it was part of Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania. Then it was part of the Russian Empire. And in the 20th century became part of the Soviet Union.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, The Republic of Belarus found itself as its own sovereign state – with all the privileges and challenges that brings. Despite its independence, the very cultural and historical heritage, as well as geographic placement meant the Russian Federation remained wedded to Belarus economically, socially and geopolitically. The early independence of Belarus saw attempts at westerns style democratization and civil society, but for reasons this website explores, the nation soon took instead the path of authoritarian dictates with President Alexander Lukashenko who has solidified his control of both the state and society first elected in 1994.
Why it matters?
Herein lays the peril and the possibilities, and certainly the challenges facing this historic land – and the questions each presents for today’s and tomorrow’s Belarus. Why did early attempts at solidifying democratic guarantees and establishing vanguards protecting civil society not take root? How have the functions and reach of government power evolved? What has been the mindset of the citizens during the authoritarian evolution? What is the appetite among the general public for reform? Is a meaningful campaign toward sustainable change possible? Why? Why not? What does the future of the Belarusian state hold for its people?
This website has been created to offer readers the opportunity to examine these questions and to explore possible answers. In addition, it serves uniquely as a place to consider, not only the answers to these questions but to examine their implications for the future not only of Belarus but also their application to other emerging or regressing democracies.
About the Site and its Author
The creator and author of this site spent last 25 years of his professional career inside Belarus seeking answers to the above questions. In 1992, together with his colleagues, he founded IISEPS, which became an important mechanism for not only academically rigor study of Belarusian society (primarily through sociological surveys of public opinion), but also wide dissemination of its results in Belarus and abroad. Thus, both the Belarusians themselves and the interested international community were also given the opportunity to seek answers to these questions, an opportunity that the Belarusian authorities are limiting in every possible way.
The books, academic and media publications presented here are based on the extensive empirical base of IISEPS research under the author's guidance (analytics, long-term trends and regular polling data see here). These resources demonstrate that the foundation of Belarusian authoritarianism is not only personalistic power, but also a patriarchal-paternalistic cultural mindset solidified in the minds of a significant portion of society.
The site pays particular attention to the status of social research itself – an endless and exhausting struggle for independence from the state authorities not only of researchers, but also of the media, and, ultimately, of the entire civil society.
Herein is access to the unique documents (from government resolutions and court decisions to publications of the state-run media and the KGB search protocol) revealing political, legal, administrative and other mechanisms for establishing state control over public opinion; as well as the resistance of independent researchers with the active support of the international community.
Unlike the USSR, where the authorities openly used such mechanisms, justifying it with Communist ideology, Belarusian authorities prefer not to advertise them for getting various dividends from "Dialogue" and "Cooperation" with the West.
It is also important to stress that the experience of Belarusian authoritarianism in various forms is very effectively used not only in the countries of the former USSR (the most well-known examples are the declaration of the Russian Levada Center as a "foreign agent", repressions against the European University in St. Petersburg and the Higher School of Economics in Moscow), but also on a global scale – from Venezuela to Turkey.
It is the hope of this site’s author with its information and analytical resources it will be useful for those who study post-Soviet countries and those who strive for the independence of social research and public opinion in Belarus and other authoritarian states and also as a portal into what challenges must be met by all evolving or regressing democratic states.
Prof. Oleg Manaev