Archive for May, 2009

Russian Bread Crumbs

It’s very likely that from now on the movement of Belarusian authorities towards Brussels’ requirements will be even more visible. The Belarusian president was furious about yesterdays’ remarks of the Russian finance minister Alexei Kudrin who publicly cast doubt on the Belarus’ ability to default on its debt by the end of the year due to the dire state of economy. He warned it was too early to say whether Belarus would receive any further loans from Moscow.

“The future of Belarus can no longer depend on Russia… The days of Minsk bowing down to Moscow are over… Belarus needs to look for its happiness on a different part of the planet.”– announced Lukashenka. And underlined that he was saying this in public consciously.

The escapade came a day after his talks with the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Minsk. Putin who travelled together with Kudrin played a “good cop” and expressed hope that Belarusian-Russian trade kept increasing in the period of the global crisis.

Lukashenka in contrast expressed outrage that Kudrin’s comments had been agreed with Putin and commented that the Russian minister had also fully consolidated with the Belarusian opposition which lived on Western grants and tried to teach the authorities to work. (That’s probably the worst you can say about someone: he is with the opposition!)

The stakes according to Lukashenka are high: “If we don’t stand tall… we are going to be running in a sweat to the right and the left in the hope that someone is going to throw us a piece of bread from the table.”

He mentioned no alternative to Russia. But we have two strong neighbours. And if we don’t bow down to Russia, the movement towards EU could become more visible. The problem is that this visibility is nothing new. So there’s little hope this movement is going to be more effective this time.

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Project Belarus Inside-Out

Call for authors, artists, journalists, photographers from Belarus, Germany, Czech Republic and other CEE countries

Deadline: June 11. 2009

For more information contact: belarusATplotki.net

PLOTKI magazine, youth portal Generation.by, and citizen journalism platform iBelarus.net are looking for authors, artists, photographers and journalists with an interest in exploring Belarusian life from the inside.

Aim of the international project “Belarus Inside-Out” is to investigate, critically approach and creatively disclose the various aspects of Belarusian reality through the exchange of ideas between Belarusian and non-Belarusian counterparts.

Young authors, artists, photographers and journalists from Belarus, Germany, Czech Republic and other Central and Eastern European countries are invited to contribute creatively to an attempt of making Belarus more understandable to the international public.

*Project description*

Until recently Belarus has been often seen as a country stuck in the Soviet past. Today the EU officials consider the possibility of establishing a dialog with “the last European dictatorship”, which in its turn is studiously hiding the Belarusian realities behind the facades and proclamations very much reminding those of the Soviet era. Behind them one can find a unique culture, unique problems and unique people who are still in search of their own unique identity.

Together the participants will analyse the variety of socio-cultural dimensions of Belarusian everyday life; turn inside out the old stereotypes and create the new ones; they will look for a unique image of Belarus and spread it around.

*Project realisation*

The core of the project is a 10 days seminar which will take place in Belarus from the 14th to the 23rd of August 2009. It will consist of two parts: the workshop and the research trip. The gathered material will later be compiled in a bilingual publication, which will be distributed in the CEE countries. In January 2010 all project outcomes will be presented at release event in Berlin where the participants will meet once more.

*Topics*

There are various aspects of a socio-cultural life and countless topics connected to each of it: from the phenomenon of the generation “Y” to the immigration of youth, from the tragic consequences of Chernobyl disaster to the unique natural wonders, from the co-existence of the various religious confessions to the life of sexual minorities. The project plans to explore the interesting, little-known, controversial, provocative and exciting sides of the Belarusian day-to-day life. All ideas are welcomed.

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The Belarusians’ New Clothes

Numbers are more objective anyway. Having a look at the way the Belarusian government calculates the minimum living wage, I couldn’t believe they actually have Belarusians – along with themselves! – in mind.

The minimum living wage has been raised to 243 000 Belarusian roubles (about 64 Euros: roughly 3 8000 BYR = 1 EUR). Monthly we are supposed to have at least 5 100 (1,3 EUR) for medications and hygiene products and 40 000 BYR (10,5 EUR) for clothes. No trousers, one warm dress and one skirt for 5 years…

article

number

service (years)

outerwear

winter coat

1

8

in-between-season coat

1

7

raincoat

1

7

dress (half wool)

1

5

dress (cotton)

2

5

dressing-gown

1

5

skirt

1

5

blouse

2

5

pullover

1

5

tracksuit

1

5

underwear

night gown

2

3

undergarment

2

4

panties

6

2

bra

2

2

tights

7 pairs

1

headgear

cap (fur)

1

8

cap (cotton)

1

4

scarf (wool)

1

6

mittens

2 pairs

3

shoes

boots (winter)

1

5

boots (autumn)

1

4

shoes

1

1,5

sandals

1

1,5

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We Will Be Back

The most philosophical of all signs at kiosks, shops or drug stores is We will be back in 15 minutes.

It has the taste of eternity. No date, no time, no people. This sign is the witness and the proof of the reality. It survives any nuclear blast to be optimistic about not less than life on the planet. It’s spontaneous and reliable, objective and absolute, promising and promiscuous, laconic and expressive. It’s Buddha,  Nietzsche and Shakespeare.

We will. We will be… Will we be back?

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EUROveni EUROvidi EUROvici

Eurovision is too pop and not very euro anyway. Every year the whole Belarus watches its best participant to struggle hard to be among the first from the end.

They say this year we double our chances as there are two Belarusians: Petr Elfimov and Alexander Rybak from Norway.

Rybak was born in Minsk, migrated to Norway with his family at the age of five and has never been in Belarus since then. He may consider himself to be whatsoever: Belarusian, Russian, as that’s the mother tongue of his parents, or Norwegian, it’s a very subjective thing. But I don’t see anything Belarusian about him.

Rybak seems to be open, positive, outright and independent-minded. Belarusians are usually too serious about life, their occupations, their victories and losses. They take themselves too seriously. They live once and need to have everything right. They find suffering to be an integral part of their existence.

Moreover, Rybak is a “product” of a different society. I am not sure he would be able to achieve the same success in Belarus. The only thing Minsk and Oslo could have in common is a wee number of sunny days. So if this Norwegian boy wins (as most bookmakers say) that would be a well-deserved victory of Norway.

… the funny point is: Rybak’s father looks like a twin brother of Belarusian president Lukashenka… :)

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V-Day in Black-and-White

Honestly I am amazed. After all the years the Victory Day and the 9th of May is still an ultra important holiday with parades and fireworks…

I grew up with the books about war heroes, brave partisans and pioneers, young and tough, who died but never surrendered, my favourite was “We will never forget” (Nikoli nie zabudzem). As a pioneer I enjoyed veterans’ visits to school with their very personal sagas. I even used to take my birthday guests to the Great Patriotic War Museum first and then to the festive table.

But as you grow older, you learn that the image, the pathos of the WWII in ex-Soviet Union countries is as black-and-white as the old war chronicle.

Too many people died for us to forget about the V-Day. I don’t mean to forget but to understand. The Germans call it Vergangenheitsbewältigung. My granddad said: those who saw the war, would never tell about it. My granny commented that her relatives had no way out: when the war came, they had nowhere to live so they joined the partisans in the woods. As a child travelling with my parents around Belarus I heard villagers’ stories that it was difficult to tell German and Soviet soldiers part – both came to kill and take scarce food reserves away. That at the beginning Soviet Army was equipped so poorly that soldiers had just spades against German steel. The Soviets didn’t have enough arms but too many people, that’s one of the reasons why so many died.

I can’t understand for instance… There were Belarusian partisan groups who targeted high ranking military officials. If they were successful, the fascists killed hundreds or thousands Belarusians for each assassinated German. Was it worth it? Each general was replaced.  The notorious village Khatyn was burnt together with all 149 inhabitants after partisans had blown up a car killing several Germans.. By the way there were Ukrainian policemen helping Germans to burn Khatyn. So it’s not a simple story with good fellas and bad guys.

No, parades and politicised memento mori speeches on May’9 – that’s OK with me. People love holidays, some don’t really care what they mark or celebrate anyway. Because that is the question: what do we celebrate? Why all those Soviet propaganda films and five-year-olds in khaki uniforms singing about “celebrations with the tears in our eyes” on each TV channel and from the stages all over the country? What “will we never forget”? The thoroughly created films and books?

Why after 64 years we still need to compare the modern Belarus with the Belorussia after the war? With no alternative point of view allowed: today is a celebration that is glorious because we won and sorrowful as every third Belarusian perished. No attention is drawn to the big number of Jewish population. By the way how old were the veterans who we congratulate today? And this “no war” hysteria.. sorry, sirs, we have always been a very peaceful nation, it’s a quiet region with no disputable borders. And a hypothetical world war would be pursuit without soldiers and tanks.

Last year Belarusian president Lukashenka said the victory in the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) was the greatest achievement of the Belarusian nation. Not the cultural heritage, no. It’s not important that in 1529 the first constitution in Europe was written in old Belarusian language. Or that the first book printed in Eastern Europe was in Belarusian.

The worst warfare in Europe ended 64 ago and Belarus was among the winning nations. Yes, that’s a great achievement. I shouldn’t have missed the parade in Minsk.

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