Dear colleagues and friends,
Please find enclosed the VIII issue of Belarus Headlines. If for some reason you are unable to open the attachment, please use the following link. This issue of Belarus Headlines commemorates the one year anniversary of prominent Belarusian political scholar Vitali Silitski’s passing. Dr Silitski served as academic director of BISS and left a profound legacy for Belarusian political science.
In this issue Belarusian and Western experts share their memories of Vitali as a person and reflect on the relevance of his works today.
Dzianis Melyantsou provides an overview of Vitali Silitski’s legacy and specifically looks into the concept of pre-emption as a strategic tool employed by autocracies to maintain their rule via manufactured consent.
Dr Alastair Rabagliati highlights the relevance of Vitali's writings on the value of opposition participation in fraudulent elections. He agrees with Vitali's conclusion that the opposition should participate in the elections and to use them as an opportunity to reach the Belarusian population. Matt Rojansky of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reflects on valuable perspectives offered by Vitali's idea of pre-emtive authoritarianism. David Marples shares Vitali's view that Belarus is less monolithic than most foreign media outlets seem to think.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Belarus became the most important recent foreign policy event in Belarus. Putin's first foreign trip outside of Russia has an important symbolic meaning for him because he hopes to further develop his idea of the Eurasian Economic Community. Russia and Belarus also reached an agreement to begin financing the construction of a controversial nuclear power plant in Belarus. At the same time, the Belarusian authorities increased pressure on civil society activists over the last few weeks by issuing warnings and conducting administrative arrests, including the detention of Alexei Pikulik, academic director of the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies.
Belarus Headlines also covers the recently established “Clearing House” Initiative and “EU and Belarus: Sharing Knowledge”projects. The projects, in which Office for Democratic Belarus plays a key role, aim to build the organisational capacity of Belarusian civil society organisations and enhance their cooperation. The initiatives also aim to improve coordination among Belarusian civil society, the European Union, European donors and international implementers.
Siarhei Bohdan's article is on the recent developments in the Belarusian army. He notes that unlike the security agencies or police, the army itself is not Lukashenka's reliable ally. The army is unlikely to play a role in a political transition and it has never done so. But its personnel are an untapped source of support for change.
The issue also includes summaries of the most interesting publications which appeared on Belarus Digest. They give valuable insights into the nature of the Belarusian regime, how Belarus is trying to play the EU border security card, why the Belarusian opposition should take a more proactive role inside the country and the role of Belarus in the World War II, which is often forgotten in the West.
In the Unknown Belarus section Olga Loginova writes on her visit to the Saint Elisei Lavra Abode in the Hrodna Region, hidden from the rest of the world by impenetrable woods and swamps.
Olga Stuzhinskaya, director of the Office for a Democratic Belarus
Tatiana Kouzina, executive director of Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies
Yaraslau Kryvoi, editor-in-chief of Belarus Diges