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Poland and Belarus August 5, 2005

Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
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I know The Economist is sneered at in some quarters, but I’m happy to see Belarus mentioned in any quarter, lest we forget the utter stinker, Lukashenka. Here’s an article making two points. The first bemoans Poles’ new-found political apathy since the heady days of Solidarnosc’s – can’t find the diacritics, sorry! – foundation a quarter of a century ago. But the second reminds us that this is the sign of a mature(r) democracy; the people know they have the luxury of a certain degree of apathy without running any major risks, and if we compare Poland with the hellhole next door, then I think we need not overly scold the Poles considering how far they’ve come in 25 years.

Poor, poor Belarus. In my harder moments, I have little sympathy, thinking it’s up to a nation to set its own fate, and the Belarusians have made their own mistakes, even if getting rid of the dictator is now no easy task (and many don’t appear to want to, anyway). But a double tragedy for Belarus, as opposed to Russia, say, is that it didn’t HAVE to be this way. Russia raises different questions because of its huge size, and governing it well is always going to be difficult. But Belarus is a nice little chunk of a country. Manageable. Only 10 million or so souls. They could so easily have gone the way of their Baltic/Polish (and belatedly, Ukrainian) neighbours (and initially appeared to be doing so), but instead they’ve blazed a trail for what the Economist calls, rightly, neo-Sovietism. Too grim.

I once travelled through the country and was grilled on the Polish/Belarusian border, both there and back, by young hooligan, thuggish soldiers with some aggression and clear animosity before they gave up trying to convince themselves that I was a spy. The mention, by me, of Lukashenka to two Belarusian women in the train carriage was an instant conversation-stopper. And the difference between Hrodna (Belarus) and Bialystok (Poland) was almost as stark as crossing the Finnish-Russian border. So, yes, poor, poor Belarus. And remember to hate Lukashenka, lest we forget!

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