Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 02/2012

Between Revolution and Stagnation: Perspectives for Belarus

Anna Maria Dyner

August 2011

The Polish Institute of International Affairs


First half of 2011 was devastating for the Belarusian economy. With a drastic depletion of foreign currency reserves, the Belarusian authorities will be forced to sell some of the most profitable state enterprises. In the longer run, the fate of the Lukashenka regime may depend on the ability to provide basic services to the population and avert the process of its pauperization. The author notes that mass protests may be imminent, as the Belarusians are increasingly critical of the ruling elite. However, even as the regime erodes, it is doubtful whether the unrest could be utilised by the feeble Belarusian opposition, which is internally disunited and lacks both poised leaders and a sensible plan to turn the country around. Even so, it is Russia that will be dealing cards both economically, as the most likely investor in the key branches of the Belarusian economy, and politically, as a guarantor of the interests of many members of the local nomenklatura. As serious as the coming wave of protests may turn out to be, it is unlikely to spark a full-fledged revolution—ordinary Belarusians are not ready for it yet.