Sunday, October 27, 2019

Getting the Facts about Belarus Ever More Difficult for All Concerned, Telegram Channel Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 23 – Belarus may be reaching out to the West and becoming an ever greater object of Moscow’s attention, but getting the facts about that country, never easy, has become ever more difficult for four reasons, the Lizan telegram channel complains ( reposted at

            These reasons reflect a fundamental underlying reality, it says. For the Lukashenka regime, “information is recognized as having a greater value than the establishment of trust between the authorities and the population” which lives not by facts established by statistics and scholars but by rumors people spread because they have nothing else.

            First of all and especially since “approximately 2016,” the telegram channel says, data on a wide variety of basic economic indicators has simply ceased to be published lest experts are in a position to establish exactly what the authorities in Minsk are doing legally or illegally such as contraband exports of tobacco products.

            Second, there is no sociology to speak of regarding social and political issues. The telegram channel author says that in 30 months of work on Sonar-2050, he “doesn’t remember a single case when there was even once published in Belarus something similar to the regular results of VTsIOM or the Public Opinion Foundation” in Russia.

            Of course, he continues, “there certainly is sociology in Belarus;” but it is quite restricted in what it is allowed to study or report on.  There is no basis for knowing how many Belarusians support or oppose particular policies or the regime as a whole – and that is how the Lukashenka regime wants things to be.

            Third, “approximately in 2017,” Minsk decided to “stop publishing data on the financial status of enterprises.” There has not been any comprehensive data issued since 2016, apparently a decision that reflects a regime calculation that “if there are no data, there will not be any criticism of the powers that be.”

            And fourth – and this may be increasingly important – there are a number of institutions which don’t issue public reports because their power and influence depends exclusively on what they tell Lukashenka. They have no interest in others finding anything out that might call their reporting into question or lead to objections by the population.

            For example, Lisan reports, “in Belarus there are no publicly available data on the tax declarations of top managers or officials.” In Russia, these may be falsified in various ways; but at least they exist. As a result, both the population and increasingly the government in Belarus are flying blind, acting not on the basis of facts but rather on propaganda memes.

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