Thursday, March 28, 2024

Concentration of Population in Minsk Agglomeration has Reduced Powers of Belarusian Regions

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 25 – Belarus is following a pattern typical of Russia and other former Soviet states: its population and their economic activity is increasingly concentrated in the capital city and the urban agglomeration around it, a trend that has strengthened the central government and weakened the influence of the regions, Anastasiya Gurina says.

            Many analysts suggest that the strengthening of central governments and the weakening of regional ones is the result of the policies of national leaders. There is much truth in that. But the Belarusians and the Market analyst says that deeper demographic and economic factors are at work or at least are assisting the centralizers (

            In 1990, only one Belarusian in six lived in the capital; but today, 38 percent live in the agglomeration, 22 percent in the city itself and 16 percent more in its suburban areas. And together they form 38 percent of the population of the country as a whole. And economically, this center is even more important: 42 percent of all Belarusians work there.

            As a result, the regions have become relatively less important; and any effort to reverse this trend, one that inevitably promotes the centralization not only of economic but political activity, will be extremely difficult, something that many regionalists fail to recognize and take into account in their programs.

            Just changing leaders from those who want to centralize to those who favor federalization and decentralization will unlikely be enough if the underlying demographic and economic situations are not addressed. If they aren’t, centralization is likely to continue not only demographically and economically but politically as well.

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