Structural Roots Of Belarusian Dissent

The same conditions that enabled the 2020 demonstrations, also provided for several weaknesses in the opposition that will be exploited by Belarusian authorities.

27 October 2021

While conjunctural issues such as the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 economic recession played a part, these not only explain how such unprecedented dissent, but also the methodology Belarusian authorities applied in their ‘normalisation’ strategy.

This article is part one of a two-part series. The second part will come out next week.

Indeed, by appearing blind and silencing protesters, the government implemented a rational strategy based on an analysis of the structural factors enabling wide and explicit dissent, reminding the theoretical framework used by Stalin to quash kulaks. While the second article will analyse such repressive methodology, this first one will focus on the structural roots of Belarusian descent. The stability of Lukashenka’s power was the result of the emergence of new social interests linked to the private sector, alienation of his power base due to austerity policies implemented after 2014 and the perception of Russia’s tolerance for a political transition in Minsk. Yet, the same conditions that enabled the 2020 demonstrations, also provided for several weaknesses in the opposition that will be exploited by Belarusian authorities.

Belarus as an island of authoritarian stability

The Belarusian economic model played a fundamental role in ensuring the stability of Lukashenka’s rule thanks to three components: state market dominance, state-affiliated trade unions and management ensuring discipline and consistently increasing living standards. State-affiliated trade unions are mandatory in all workplaces in the public sector. The state dominance over the marker ensures that the majority of the workforce is materially dependent on authorities and supervised by them. Imposing labour and political discipline is relatively easy in a system that uses mostly fixed-term contracts to regulate labour relations. Most workers are precarious and thus strongly incentivised to discipline under the supervision of management and trade unions. Politics was thus kept out of workplaces and all other main socialisation spaces.

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German Carboni

A researcher interested in Post-Soviet affairs and energy policies. He holds degrees from the College of Europe, Jagiellonian University and the University of Padova. He is a regular contributor for outlets such as New Eastern Europe and Osservatorio Russia.

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