Reflecting on the Maidan

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April 22, 2016 18:47

On March 31st a debate entitled ‘Ukraine: lessons for Belarus’ took place in Warsaw, organized by Solidarity with Belarus Information Office, Solidarity Fund PL, and the Polish Institute of International Affairs. 

While Belarusian authorities appear to have drawn their lessons, and, as a result, are trying to occupy a position equally distant (or close) from all sides of the conflict, strengthen internal controls over all sectors and have checked the manageability of their own systems in light of dwindling resources – lessons for the democratic community still need to be drawn.

Experts from Belarus, Poland, and Ukraine discussed the extent to which events in Ukraine can influence Belarus’ policy and her relations with Russia and the European Union.

The following reflections emerged from the discussion: 

  • Due to the frosty political dialogue between Belarus and the EU, the latter needs to change its relationship with civil society and independent media who have played a prominent role in Ukraine.  
  • Developed democracies urgently need to review their approaches to former USSR countries, as today they are not proposing anything ‘of interest’, and their guarantees have proven void.
  • International and Belarusian policymakers need to understand, that two fundamental components need strengthening in Belarus’ middle class: first, economic – if there is no healthy economy, there is no middle class. If there are no entrepreneurs, tomorrow there will be no civil society; second – cultural, to raise the level of openness, including visas, study programmes etc.
  • The Belarusian elite and policymakers cannot but recognize the danger which the Ukrainian precedent has created, and should attempt to stop any further escalation in Ukrainian-Russian relations.
  • Belarusian opposition should have understood that the Maidan cannot be artificially created, and cannot be directed. Democratic transformations are only possible when a society has matured.
  • Right now it is important For international and Belarusian experts to discuss if Belarusian society is changing, and not if the government and the authorities are changing.
  • Taking into account that the average Maidan participant was a highly educated person, relatively well-off, with European-oriented views, who had been drawn to the Maidan to defend his/her values – it is vital to conduct a value-based sociological study among Belarusian society. 

Panellists included:

Anna Maria Dyner, political scientist, Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM)
Valeria Kostyugova, political analyst, Agency for Political Expertise, Belarus
Yevhen Hlibovytsky, political analyst, managing partner, Pro-Mova, Ukraine
Andrei Porotnikov, security analyst, Belarus Security Blog, Belarus
Oleg Bogutsky, political analyst, Belarus

The debate was moderated by Pavel Sheremet, Chief Editor, Belarus Partisan, Belarus.
Andrei Vardomatsky
, sociologist, Belarusian analytical workshop, Warsaw, was keynote speaker.

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