Archive for June, 2009

To Iran. From Belarus With Love

Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are? Doesn’t work: look at Belarus. We are everyone’s friend.

One week Russian Prime Minister Putin is in Minsk, we welcomed EU Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner quickly after. Well it’s been not that easy recently but Belarus tries to develop relations with both big neighbours at the same time: EU and Russia. Mutually beneficial, sure.

Another success is a miraculous political stretch between Israel and Iran.

Some weeks ago the new Israeli FM Liberman came to shake hands with Belarusian authorities. He was the first Israeli minister in Minsk for a decade and both sides were satisfied with the talks. Today we got some more good news — this time from Tehran. Ahmadinejad meeting Belarusian senior parliamentary delegation suggested that Iran and Belarus should manage the world through cooperation. Wow… These shook hands middle in the post election fever with Belarusian representatives to praise the elections. And it’s all about mutually advantageous cooperation as well.

This foreign policy reminds me of no politics at all. It’s business as usual: tell me what you can give me and I’ll tell you what I am ready to do for this.

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Bitter Friends

The whole week-end is the first ever Milk Festival in Minsk. A logical choice after a week of cold milk war between Belarus and Russia.

Any ministry could be used as a foreign policy instrument in any country. This time Russia’s federal consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor banned the import of some 1.000 titles of Belarusian dairy products. Almost all Belarusian dairy products have been placed onto ban list as they don’t have the necessary permits in accordance with Russia’s food standards in effect since December 2008. Now just three Belarusian companies are allowed to deliver dairy products to Russia.

Right, the necessary permits. But the scandal is bigger and started as Russian Finance Minister Kudrin questioned Belarus` worthiness of getting a $500-million loan from Russia.

In return Mr. Lukashenka questioned his mental health. Then he invited Russian journalists to express his point of view on the situation, but only four dared to come. They could publish some fascinating stuff: for e.g., that Moscow blackmails Belarus with this loan over Abkhazia and South Ossetia recognition.  And that Russian oligarchs wanted to buy Belarusian dairy factories for a mere song.

During the same days Belarus reaches an agreement with IMF to increase its loan by $1 billion. It looked like: hello, Moscow, you are no fun any more, the West has better loan conditions anyway!

But no comments followed from either side.

Meanwhile Belarusian exporters process their stocks of milk into butter and freeze it. And organise festivals in hope that the capitals will solve all the problems and open up the Milky Way to the huge neighbouring market.

And everyone understands that economically we can’t do without Russia. Russia knows that it needs Belarus. We are doomed to be together, as Lukashenka once put it.

Oh, Lord, life would be so much easier if people could take it easier and be more diplomatic and polite…


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Belarusian Rabbits Rock

I don’t remember if anything “made in Belarus” has ever attracted that much attention in the country and via Internet also in Russia and Ukraine. A song written by a 12-year-old Yury Demidovich about a magic rabbit is forwarded around, discussed at forums, downloaded as mp3 and a ring tone. The boy has several fan clubs and a community in livejournal.

I loved his performance at the Belarusian semifinal for the Junior Eurovision – song contest for kids. Boys and girls from Belarus have won it several times – with nice songs for kids and well rehearsed performances. But Yury’s song is really extraordinary and very original.

The Magic Rabbit starts as rap (He lives in a thick forest and composes poems. Who is he!? Who is he!? The Magic Rabbit! The Magic Rabbit!) and goes on as an opera in meaningless Latin (Etis Atis Animatis Etis Atis Amatis). His mates from the choir help him: they go on their knees to shake the heads, they jump and spin.. The ensemble is so natural, so real, so genuine. It’s 100 percent, pure, positive emotion. I’ve never enjoyed anything that much for years.

Of course, it’s being discussed if the kids are drugged and what kind of heavy drugs could cause such an effect, if their choirmaster is a satanist, a mason or just a goth. It’s a joking mater, everything. Anyhow this song is an issue, it’s a hit. Right, according to Warhol, everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame. But it has never been a case with a Belarusian song or book!

Belarusian cultural life is rather a still-life. The pop part of it is supported by the authorities or at least not hindered in its development. The rest: uncontrollable as all art, incomprehensible and weird, unconventional and experimental is too marginal and difficult to find. Especially in Belarusian language. It’s unusual if a foreign ambassador speaks Belarusian – but nobody wonders as he introduces the days of his country and advertises not only his country but asks Belarusians to take interest in their own culture and art, insisting that they are worth it. Everyone understands why he says this.

I do hope that it’s no accident that all of a sudden Yura is so popular. Although I don’t really believe Belarus will have the courage to send Yura and his song to Junior Eurovision.

There’s another sign of hope is that this week we got a new Minister of Culture.  Pavel Latushka is 36, mass media already dubbed him as the first Belarusian speaking minister. Time will show if magic rabbits can be bred in Belarus.

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