Articles

Belarus

Minsk

Last weekend I visited the Republic of Belarus (to build our next Big Mobile App) and the country was everything that I didn’t expect. It was the most calm and positively conservative society that I have ever seen. Everything was very clean and in order, the streets were big, but quite empty and quiet. It is almost impossible to compare it with any other country in the world. I can only say that it was NOT Estonia 10 years ago (like some have referred) or even a developing country (it was much more developed than some new EU countries), in ways it was even more European than Estonia is today.

Typical Western-European countries are strongly (Capitalistic) Socialism countries – businesses and the rich have to pay a lot to cover the social system costs that benefit the middle-class to live well and prosper. That is exactly what is going on in Belarus as well, some of the benefits for the middle-class:

  • Free healthcare.
  • Free education (both primary and higher education).
  • Free (dormitory style) apartment when starting to work.
  • 25% of the costs when buying an apartment covered by the government for families with 2 kids, 50% covered with 3 kids etc.
  • Free sanatorium visits (even to foreign countries) for workers.
  • Free dinner on work-days (dinner money provided).
  • Relatively high salaries for working-class.
  • Strong labour unions.

Those benefits are very similar to many Western-European countries (Estonia moving in that direction) although in Europe it is also possible to get social benefits when you are not working (absurd right?). So what is the difference? Some say that it is communism not socialism, but it’s not really true as free enterprise is fully allowed in Belarus (after all, I was attending a startup event that promotes entrepreneurship).

So what is the difference? Is it the fact that Belarus has dictatorship? Certainly dictatorship can be a very bad thing if the dictator becomes too greedy and blind from the power (which can also happen in non-dictatorship systems, like it happened in Ukraine), but it can also be very effective if he doesn’t. After all, we know that countries can afford to keep one family rather rich only from the tax-payers money (look at the “pointless” monarchy systems in many European countries). Also in the situation of democratic socialism systems (Western-Europe) they have the tendency to go deeply in depth and bust (Greece) as politicians are not able to make the “hard” choices. In the case of Belarus dictatorship socialism, if something doesn’t work, Lukashenko (the president) can just change it. It makes me think if socialism can actually only work effectively in case of non-democracy. A. Lukashenko himself has said that he tried to take the best of both socialism and capitalism when building the country.

The point of this post was not to praise the dictatorship, but rather to raise some valid thoughts. I obviously am not a supporter of any socialism systems but if I would, I could seriously choose Belarus as my dream destination rather than, say, France.

Minsk

The people

The people of Belarus are also very friendly, calm and not comparable with any other nation. They are very different from Russians and they see Russians as rather aggressive and not very likeable people, Belarusians can even get insulted when you pronounce the name of the country as BelaRussia. If you noticed then yesterday A. Lukashenko gave his support to the new government of Ukraine saying that they have acted very correctly from the very first day of the new power (clearly confronting with Russia).

It is also the safest society I have ever seen – in nightclubs girls leave their hand-bags on the counter while dancing on the other side of the club. People buy drinks and leave them on the counter to continue drinking later when coming back from a dance. They can’t even imagine that there would be anything to worry about. Quite amazing.

The whole country is such a surprise – I strongly recommend to visit!