Monday, January 7, 2019

Russians Visiting Belarus See No Compelling Reason for Uniting the Two Countries

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 7 – Russian tourist continue to flock to Belarus for vacations, and those the Belarusian news agency interviewed on the streets of Minsk recently saw no reason for the two countries to combine given that things are fine as they are now. Indeed, many of them indicated that they really don’t understand what Moscow officials are talking about in this case.

            Mariya and Maksim came to Minsk from Kazan with their children. They said that the standard of living in Minsk is roughly equal to that in Kazan, although they noted that some Muscovites feel Belarusians have a much lower one than they do. Both said they saw no reason for the two countries to fuse (news.

            Irina and Yevgeny from Nizhny Novgorod said that they’d be happy if there were a single currency – then they wouldn’t have to calculate prices – but they saw no reason for the formation of a single state, especially if Belarusians don’t want one. “Let’s just be good neighbors,” they said, rather than trying for something different.

            Igor and Sergey, from St. Petersburg, said they had very positive impressions of Belarus and Belarusians. “We’ve never met more hospitable people. And they all knew that we came from Russia. Therefore,” the two aid, “relations between people and politics do not intersect,” at least in this case.

            Alfiya and her daughter from Vladimir have travelled widely but never spent time in Belarus before.  According to them, the average Russian thinks about Belarus primarily in terms of the high-quality products from its factories.  Their relatives always buy Belarusian shoes, for example.

            They said that all the talk in Moscow about “closer integration” seems to them to be “very strange. Why? We think that things as they are are fine.” They added that “Minsk seemed to them to be a European city, and Belarusians quiet well-behaved brother Slavs.

            Mikhail and Tatyana came to Minsk from near Moscow with their son Timofey.  They said it was “extremely difficult to compare it with Europe.” However, what they said they liked best about Belarus was the absence of advertising signs.” With us they are everywhere and we are fed up.” You have fewer – and that is “a plus for you.”

            Belarusians and Russians are close but not the same. It used to be, they indicated, that Russians viewed Ukrainians in the same way, but that is no longer so. Tatyana’s mother for example was listed ass a Belarusian in her birth certificate, Russian in her Komsomol ticket, and Ukrainian in her first passport.

                They said they saw no reason for the two countries to join into one.  Each has its own interests and should defend them. “Why should you be subordinate to Russia or to anyone else?” Cooperation is fine.

            Two Muscovites, Aleksandr and Nikolay, said that Belarusians must decide for themselves what relations they will have with Russia.  “There is no doubt that Russians view Belarus now as a separate state, like Kazakhstan, Georgia or Azerbaijan, for example.” But, of course, Belarus should not “spit on Russia” as Ukraine has done.

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