Belarus, Elections? 2015. Minsk, the city of Lukashenko or Stalin? Photo Reportage

It’s election time in Belarus, in Europe there is maybe not much discussion on the media.

The Belorussian folk I met was not really keen to say much about this topic, they didn’t trust much the voting system and their point was: “we already know the winner, there should be not even need of making elections”. I even heard someone saying: “Lukasheko is good for stability”.

EPIDEMIC OF VOTING ADS

Minsk is full of posters, and any kind of advertising, to remind everyone about voting on 11 of October 2015, but nowhere to see the candidates, except for him…

Judging from the amounts of sings and election ads, it looks like the only problem of Belarus is that people may forget to go to vote. You should be blind not to notice any of those signs/ads/videos/posters/decorations/flags etc… Even sms’s on your phone. Actually a blind can notice it because there are non stop audio propaganda too, also in the metro.

During some walks in the city I see stands with ‘activists-like’ individuals giving information’s, I go to talk with them, one of them speaks English, I ask about who are the candidates – after receiving some suggestions from the others – he tells me he does not speak English(anymore) and therefore he can’t tell me about the other candidates.
In a short while I see another stand,  they are young boys and girls speaking English, they look like alternative, genuine persons. I get to know it’s the stand of Lukashenko and they can’t give me any information’s about the other candidates. I ask how to know who else is candidate and why there is nowhere any information about them, the answer is: I have to go on in the internet and find it out by myself.

COMMUNISM OR CAPITALISM

It’s a monumental city, where they keep Christmas decorations all year round, both in the streets and in cafes, almost to keep the place from changing, quite soviet style.
Shopping malls become more and more popular in Minsk, but here you have to pay even for the WC, and not just in the shopping malls, public toilets are all for paying.

Many private places, such as casinos, luxury hotels, restaurants, discotheques, have an extremely posh style, in high contrast with the communistic ideology. This maybe shows a reaction of the rich people trying to show – as much as they can – that they don’t belong to the average-low class.

It’s quite paradoxical for me to see that here in Minsk, being communist means to be from the side of the government. I remember when I was a teenager, I was often in environments where the Italian communist party people was involved, because it represented the alternative and the freedom of expression – in Minsk is not the case.

In the Baltic states (ex USSR) I had chance to hear quite many locals talking extremely negatively about the Soviet time. I though they where just complaining because of the appealing modern  consume-capitalist society. Now that I am in Belarus I understand what they were talking about. I understand how frustrating it feels to not have freedom of speech.

Often the most important thing people want to have is not money or power, but an identity.

OVER-SUPER-EXTRA BUREAU-CRAZY SYSTEM AND PEOPLE CONTROL

To just get inside a library they needed all your data, passport, telephone number, exact address and you have to pay.
I asked to just have a look to the library, after almost half hour of BUREAUCRAZY, they asked me to pay fix membership. Okay, I can’t complain, I was born in Italy, there were BureauCrazy was born too, and now is still strongly alive!

Belorussian Police officers don’t look like to be annoying or arrogant.
They are quite professional and even pay the ticket to enter the metro. Many other police agents in other countries, Italy especially (which are the specialists of taking advance of being in a uniform),  could learn a lot from them.
Maybe they are a bit too strict, but I didn’t have much interaction with them, except for the registration at the migration office, which was quite annoying (because of the wild queue).

 

BELORUSSIAN WOMEN AND THE BELORUSSIAN ARMY

Women spend a lot of time and energy in dressing up like models, the same does the Government, in dressing up the city and the army. Waste of time, resources and energy.

Friendship and marriage are used in  conservative societies, to support each other in any field, even for legal matters, political or economical. Having often people selecting partners and friends based on non-affective interests.
Northern, and progressing society, have strong, accessible, public services that supports people, that’s why friendship and love are more selective and genuine in those cultures. More rare as consequence.

Even if people seems at first a bit cold and distant, they are approachable, just remember to say the following first : “Disvinize Pajalusta” – which I wrote completely wrongly!

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION vs PROPAGANDA

One easy sign regarding the limitation of expression is the internet upload speed, it’s almost impossible to find anywhere a connection with an higher speed than 0.5mbs, which means that it’s really hard for anyone to broadcast or upload videos or audio…

While everybody looks the TV, state owned, the ‘distraction’ mass tool.


SQUARES AND PUBLIC PLACES IN MINSK, NOT EVEN ARTISTS IN THE STREET

In Belarus you feel to be in an unreal place, out of the time. Back to the history.
Many public places look majestic, imposing and clean but, at the same time, they are mostly empty and sterile.
It looks like that the public authorities don’t really like the gathering of a persons in squares, they see it as an “unauthorized manifestation”. This gives as result people gathering in really ugly and hidden spaces, just to have a chat, drink or picnic.

Even street artists are not really welcome, because it seems that the governments sees them as ‘non tax payers”
This is such a big contrast, I even find it back inside myself, where is in me a fight between two characters of me, one side, as my big brother, always shy and submissive. The other part of me, like my other brother, really proud and ambitions…

UNIVERSITIES, WORK and UNEMPLOYMENT

University buildings are simple, they look like hospitals.
The most students seem to come from upper classes.
After asking around I find out that if you get good points, studies maybe for free, otherwise you have to pay for it.

If you don’t find a job you can join the army (which always welcome people) or clean the streets (almost for free). If you decide to not do any of those, being unemployed, you will have to pay a tax (240$/Year).

You can evaluate the welfare of a government from how much weak individuals and animals are treated. Here homeless people is not well seen. Meat is eaten in every meal.

ALTERNATIVE PEOPLE & MONO-LIFE

Some of non aligned, artistic and anti-conformist persons may be found in McDonald or “west-style” bars. Maybe as form of ‘rebellion’ to the system.

I noticed that the still-soviet-style cafes and restaurants where I go to eat, play always the same music (soviet pop mostly). I don’t know if people likes it or realize this situation, but I am almost able to sing like the Ramazzotti-of-Minsk.

CYCLING & ARCHITECTONIC BARRIERS IN MINSK

The urbanistic structure of the city is definitely capitalistic.
I have to admit that I loved the “countdown timer” on the traffic lights, it’s so practical, you always know what time to cross! (except once that the countdown didn’t show green after the red and I was almost killed by the speeding cars).
Although Public transportation is cheap and efficient, the cars are king here. Or maybe more thank king.
Often as pedestrian you have to take tunnels or longer ways in order to cross the huge car road.
As cyclist you don’t even have possibility to cross big roads, because pedestrian tunnels are totally bike-(or wheels)-unfriendly, you have to carry your bike by hand.
Also at home I have to carry the bike up to my place, for three floors, cause nobody leaves bicycles outside and they may get stolen.

I didn’t even see one person on wheelchair or with handicap, this means one of the two:

  • Everybody is perfectly healthy in Belarus;
  • They are ashamed and not supported by the local welfare, to move or be independent, because there is not even one proper wheelchair-friendly ramp in the whole country.

THE TITLE MAY BE NOT APPROPRIATE

I apologize if anyone find that the title is not appropriate, actually I should have written it in a different way, not -Minsk, the city of Lukashenko- but -Belarus, the country of Lukashenko-.
The thing is that, expect Minsk, the rest of the country looks pretty much forgotten by the administration, that’s why I didn’t bother to write “the country”.

Do you think I wrote any bull***t?
Comment please!

(due limited connectivity in Belarus I was not able to edit and upload the videos I wanted to…)

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12 thoughts on “Belarus, Elections? 2015. Minsk, the city of Lukashenko or Stalin? Photo Reportage

  1. Sorry, I wasn’t patient enough to read every word.
    I am originally from Belarus. I live in the USA now (Cause of many reasons; none of which is negative. People move around all the time! I have friends here from all over the World: Singapore, Italy, Denmark etc.)
    The only thing I can agree with you on is that “in Belarus you feel to be in an unreal place”. It is true.
    People are genuine, they are the reason the Country is so clean (don’t believe me? try to drop some trash on the street or in public transportation!); people are very educated (everyone has an equal opportunity to study, create art, go in for sports); youth read (it’s cool to discuss literature, philosophy, mathematics, geography etc..); cultural life is necessary for your soul (if you want to hear/see a performance make sure you buy your tickets a month in advance!); medicine is free and clinics are clean (don’t be afraid to get hurt if you are a foreigner also (you will get a BETTER service than if you were in the States! First hand experience!)).
    People in Belarus are not career oriented. They are family oriented. If you are very ambitious professionally, you will do well in Belarus! It is easier to find someone speaking english in Belarus than in Italy for example.
    Fashion: Aesthetics is important to Belarusians. You are is what you wear. You want to look good and be surrounded with beauty.
    Belarusians love their nature and know how to enjoy it! The place is great in Ecotourism!

    Farmers markets are some of my favorite places to go to when I come back to visit. All food is organic.

    Speaking of street musicians (I am one of them!) I was playing my guitar and singing on the squares… I’d create crowds and, you know, some times, I would receive flowers from policemen also! I never collected money, just sang. It was amazing. I miss it. I had never had any problem with police. There could be an occasion where they’d ask to move: when near the metro for example (…a crowd in a wrong area can be dangerous. Remember the Nemiga Tragedy!)

    During the recent elections my mom (a teacher of English) was a supervisor on one of the appointed sectors for voting. In fact, she was there with the first Secretary of the US embassy in Belarus. Ask him about the transparency and who did people vote for!

    One last thing… I don’t want to get into politics, history, anthropology and explain things, you, obviously, unable to see/understand (based on your background, education and overall experiences, lack of knowledge about the subject you are writing about..not sure), so I want to give you an advise: open your mind, forget all you are told by the media like BBC or Fox, read in the Guardian etc… live and learn the best about the people, the culture, only then you will be informed enough to understand these people problems. Perhaps, you will understand why Belarus chooses Lukashenko. Otherwise, go on, ride your bicycle…you will aways find just what YOU are looking for 😉

    Ciao,
    Enjoy your time in Belarus,

    L.B. (resident of Belarus, Italy, United States.)

    p.s. 1.Belarus is the Country of Belarusian People. Lukashenko is a President of Belarusian People. These are just facts. I am not doing any propaganda here. I am sure one day the right person will be better than A.G.L.

    2. You’d take some time to look this up if you had any respect (my thought). : “Eezveeneete pazhaloosta” = “Excuse me/I beg your pardon”.

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  2. 3. “The thing is that, expect Minsk, the rest of the country looks pretty much forgotten by the administration, that’s why I didn’t bother to write “the country”.” – It’s a lie! 🙂 I have a question for you: Why are you doing thins? What do you get from this? You realize that because of stuff like this it became pointless to read and trust people and their opinion! …some places in Italy, in Russia, In USA and many other countries – look forgotten. I must say that in Belarus it’s a surprise how well taken cared of suburban places are (By people, people who do not wait for any administration to come and clean after or for them!) – it’s the reason I must share the truth here! Where did you go?
    Stop inventing “facts” to suit your delusion!
    Buona fortuna a te. Mi hai fatto perdere il tempo.

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    1. Thanks L.B. for your detailed comment (sorry but I didn’t see your name),

      I appreciate your opinion, even if different than mine. I do agree that italians don’t speak english at all, they are the worst country for this, but they use hands in a happily communicative way! 😉

      I can assure you that I don’t follow the media, I stopped watching TV since 15 years and all the information I want I go to search for it, that’s why I spent one month in Belarus (mostly in Minsk), to discover how life is there. This post was my impression from the people.

      Still I find it quite worrying that people in Belarus is afraid to speak about politics, none of the persons I was talking with was speaking comfortably if we were speaking about this theme.

      would be really interesting to meet you because you are a street artist, what a pity we are far from each other.

      my best regards and hugs

      Like

    2. Cycling in the countryside I noticed that even though maybe villages and houses are really charming and sweet, as the people also is, the most of the houses had roofs that are made just of a really thin wavy profile which does not provide insulation for the winter.
      I even slept inside of those houses and as soon as you stop the fire the house gets cold.

      A good part of the houses was also not stable from an architectural point of view. That’s why I was wondering why the administration does not provide support for the people in this places while spending a lot of money in monumental construction in the city of Minsk.

      I also noticed people working really long hours in the countryside, even on sundays, with potatos, building their own houses and other things.
      It looked to me that they were really exhausted after a day of work (which ended often around 21.00, even on sundays)

      I have the freedom to write what I think, what I see. As you have too.

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  3. Sing me a song, Ramazotti-of-Minsk. I really appreciate your insights. It’s quite hard to imagine daily life there… I’m glad you spied on that in advance, to remind me of how good it is to be here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course there are nice things in Belarus, there is really low criminality, cars stop to let pedestrians pass and streets are clean.
      This article was extremely criticizing also because of the topic, politics in Belarus is not the best you can get from the country..

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      1. Hi) I’m Eugene. Maybe you can remember me. We met in Minsk. I read the whole article and what I thought. If I was in North Korea I would write the same) If you want to write true about this country you will have to live here more than month. You wrote almost true. But you gave the description of things which you had only saw.
        I never paid for toilet in malls or another public places (except the railway station and the open air cafe (by the way it is specially cafe for cyclists) near the Svisloch.
        I think the librarian asked you for passport because she thought that you wanted to get a member card.
        There are many bike-ways here. These ways cross the whole city, connecting opposite parts of the city. You should also know that there are a lot of ramps and elevators for wheelchairs and baby carriages. If you can’t find ramp for your bike you always can get to the another side of a street at a pedestrian crossing somewhere near.
        What about political situation? You’re right 100%. But people chose this life by themselves. Though, I can’t understand what for. Belarussian people just don’t like to change anything, especially if it makes them to do something.
        There are street musicians (naturally not every day) street theatres, markets in the centre (Have you been to Higher town on Sunday afternoon?). Why didn’t you write that there aren’t immigrants here as many as in EU? I think you just wanted to see Soviet Union and you saw it. Of course a lot of things what you wrote is true. Suburbs and villages live poor, you don’t even know how our heavy industry feels bad. But many countries in the World can say the same about themselves.
        So, if I meet you again here, I won’t know what exactly I can show you to open Belarus for you, but I will try to prove you that Belarus is not 100% Soviet Union)))
        P.S. According to the local law you could go to jail because you made photos of administrative buildings. LOL
        P.P.S Speak right: ” Izvinite pojalusta ” “vodka’ “lenin’ ‘balalaika”.

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  4. By the way. People in Belarus want money and power. That why our president is president during 21 years) And the largest part of people doesn’t watch national TV (maybe only football and hockey). National TV just must to be.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Eugene, I really appreciate your point of view.

      Of course one month is short to give a complete opinion, but my visa was just that short, could not have it for longer.
      I spent most of my time among locals, many of them great people of course, like you. That’s why I share my opinion, because I got my thoughts mostly from living in the inside, as much as possible as local. I don’t think that professional journalist would spend one month in a country to write an article or sleep with locals hosts in the countryside…

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      1. “…professional journalist would spend one month in a country to write an article or sleep with locals hosts in the countryside…”
        That’s why you don’t watch TV at all))

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  5. Oh… only one thing: not 240$/year but 3 500 000 Belarussion rubles.
    1 dollar = between 17700 and 17200 Belarussian rubles.
    So we’ve got 197.7 – 203.5$ per year.
    Be accurate :-))

    Like

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