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Posts Tagged ‘belarus

[LINK] “Belarus Strongman Woos West, China, Snubs Calls for Shock Reform”

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Belarus, as Bloomberg describes, continues to counterbalance different partners. Can it continue to do so indefinitely? What might give way first?

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, his country caught between the conflict in neighboring Ukraine and a recession in Russia, appealed to both Europe and Asia as he tries to finesse the crises sweeping the region.

“We will ensure the interests of both the East and the West in Belarus,” Lukashenko, in power since 1994, said Friday in the capital Minsk as he was sworn in for his fifth term. “Don’t try to rip us apart, don’t try to make us collide with Russia, or with the West.”

In need of financial aid after a currency devaluation and the collapse of its export markets, Belarus needs to pull off a balancing act that lures investors without alienating any competing foreign powers. Lukashenko signaled he’s ready to reboot ties with the U.S. and Europe, cooperate with Russia and continue building a “strategic” partnership with China, while saying he’ll keep Belarus free from outside pressure.

Belarus, which like Russia is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, is attempting to rev up an economy that the International Monetary Fund predicts will contract the most of any ex-Soviet state in 2016. Lukashenko’s government is seeking about $3 billion from the IMF, whose mission is due in Minsk next week after repeatedly saying that Belarus needs to show its commitment to structural reforms at “the highest level” for new loan talks to be successful.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 10, 2015 at 10:35 pm

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • blogTO explains why there is no Terminal 2 at Pearson.
  • Crooked Timber notes the very strong case against coal and new coal mines.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper speculating that the solar system had five large planets.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes the Russian war in Syria, updates readers on the Ukrainian war, and suggests Russia is starting to run out of money.
  • Joe. My. God. notes Wil Wheaton’s refusal to let the Huffington Post use his material for free.
  • Language Log notes the complexities of Chinese language stop signs in Hong Kong.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes how elements of climate change like water shortages can make things worse.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw, among other things, notes that Australia’s approach to asylum cannot work in Europe.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes new proposals for exploring the Jovian system.
  • Spacing Toronto looks at an old murder on the Toronto Islands in the Second World War.
  • Supernova Condensate shares a Tumblr image set noting the need to not discourage women from being interested in science.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the awkward position of Crimean Tatar institutions and notes some Belarusians want a Russian military base because they want the income.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly talks about her enjoyment of Québec’s Eastern Townships.
  • Centauri Dreams suggests that the oddities of KIC 8462852 might be explained by gravity darkening on its surface.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes the ongoing debate as to when the Panama isthmus formed.
  • Language Hat notes the complex multilingualism of Elias Canetti.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money promotes Erik Loomis’ new book Empire of Timber: Labor Unions and the Pacific Northwest Forests, which reveals as complex the relationship between forestry workers and the natural environment.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes that work on lightsails continues.
  • Towleroad reports on a website that maps the world according to the permissibility of marijuana use.
  • Window on Eurasia quotes the fears of a Russian website that Belarus is leaving the Russian sphere.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • 3 Quarks Daily hosts an essay by one Akim Reinhardt talking about the history of the Oglala Sioux.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly shares her personal credo.
  • Crooked Timber notes the various concerns of different societies in the past over migration.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that O and B-class supergiants do not destroy their protoplanetary discs.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes the French development of hypersonic weapons.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers the question of infamy. To what extent should people responsible for horrors be studied?
  • Geocurrents maps some innovative Wikipedia maps of world religion.
  • Language Hat reports on new Chinese borrowings from Japanese.
  • Language Log notes the apparently strong preference for pinyin input in writing Chinese electronically.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money considers the complexity of colonialism in naming a sports team in Oregon the “Pioneers”.
  • Marginal Revolution describes how one Turkish economist disproved his father-in-law’s involvement in an alleged coup conspiracy.
  • The New APPS Blog looks at the philosophy job market.
  • Strange Maps shares some beautiful watercolour maps of the world’s divides.
  • Supernova Condensate points out how very small our civilization’s electronic footprint is.
  • Towleroad links to one defense of Danny Pintauro’s coming-out as HIV-positive.
  • Transit Toronto notes the threatened TTC lawsuit against Bombardier and notes the refurbishing of some older streetcars.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy reports on why a Pennsylvania court refused to recognize a Saudi custody order on the grounds of its inconsistency with American public policy.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that Russia does not own the Russian language, looks at Armenia’s intake of Syrian refugees, suggests the Russian intervention in Syria is not supported by Russia’s neighbours, and looks at how Belarus is using Lithuanian and Latvian ports instead of Kaliningrad.

[LINK] Three links on Belarus, elections, Svetlana Alexievich, and the future

Bloomberg View’s Leonid Bershidskiy approves of the granting of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Belarusian Sveltana Alexievich.

Alexievich, the first Russian-speaking winner since Joseph Brodsky in 1987, has long been a favorite for the prize. That said, there’s a clear logic to choosing her now. Born in western Ukraine to a Ukrainian mother and a Belarussian father, she is the closest thing to a strong Ukrainian author the Nobel committee could find, though she considers herself Belarussian. She is also among the purest and fiercest critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Her books document the woeful legacy of the Soviet era, which Putin and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko have tried to repaint in the gaudy colors of imperial glory.

Alexievich joins a very small group of nonfiction writers who have won the prize. Another was Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whose victory told the Communist leadership of the Soviet Union that the world knew the truth, or would like to know it. Alexievich’s selection sends a similar message to Putin’s Kremlin.

She doesn’t see herself as a literary wizard — she has described herself as “an ear, not a pen.” Her works are essentially collections of interviews with hundreds of ordinary people. Reached by the Swedish broadcaster SVT, she said that being honored alongside such great Russian-language writers as Ivan Bunin and Boris Pasternak was “a bit disturbing.” Alexievich’s approach is more journalistic, a style that suits her Belarussian heritage as described in “Chernobyl Prayer,” her stark investigation of the human consequences of the world’s worst nuclear disaster:

We are people of the earth, not of the sky. Our monoculture is potatoes, we dig it, we plant it, and all the time we look down at the earth. Down! And if a person should raise his head, it will be to look no higher than a stork’s nest. Even that is high for him, that is his sky. There is no sky that they call cosmos in our culture. Then we take something from the Russian culture or the Polish one. Now when we get a Tolstoy, a Pushkin, we’ll understand something about ourselves.

Instead, the Belarussians and all the post-Soviet Russian speakers — about 300 million of us — got Alexievich, who finds it hard to lift her eyes from an earth dotted with graves.

Aliaksandr Kudrytski at Bloomberg notes the high stakes in Belarus’ elections.

For an election deemed unnoticeable by international observers, there will be plenty of global attention when Belarus votes for president on Sunday.

Incumbent Alexander Lukashenko, 61, is seeking his fifth term against a fractured and weakened opposition, with the country besieged by economic turmoil and an 18-month conflict in neighboring Ukraine. After a campaign international observers called “largely invisible,” a government-sanctioned poll showed Lukashenko’s support at more than 76 percent. The Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies in Lithuania found his backing near 46 percent, short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.

Belarus, wedged between Russia and Poland, is at risk of becoming another geopolitical battleground as the Kremlin wrangles with its former Cold War rivals from Ukraine to Syria. Lukashenko, Europe’s longest-serving leader who’s been in power since 1994, campaigned with the goal of “normalizing” ties with the U.S. and Europe and pushed back against plans by President Vladimir Putin — his closest ally — to set up a military air base in Belarus.

“While toppling Lukashenko would be very difficult for Russia, especially without a plausible alternative candidate waiting in the wings, a rapprochement with Brussels may tip the balance in favor of those advocating regime change in Minsk,” said Daragh McDowell, principal analyst covering Russia and the former Soviet Union at Verisk Maplecroft, a Bath, U.K.-based global risk adviser. “‘Losing’ Belarus so soon after Ukraine would deal a crippling blow to Russia’s geopolitical ambitions in Europe.”

Window on Eurasia notes the reaction to Alexievich’s selection as signaling Belarusian national identity.

In a commentary today on Grani.ru, Vitaly Portnikov makes this point clear in a survey of the reaction to Aleksiyevich’s award in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine and in his assessment of what this says about the state of Belarusian literature and even more important of the Belarusian nation (grani.ru/opinion/portnikov/m.244887.html).

In many ways, he suggests, the reactions of people in the three Slavic countries was entirely predictable. In Belarus, the official media treated the event in a very low key manner because Aleksiyevich is an opponent of Alyaksandr Lukashenka even though she is the first Belarusian writer to win this prize.

In Russia, there were some who wanted to claim Aleksiyevich’s prize as “a victory of Russian literature” (echo.msk.ru/blog/minkin/1636924-echo/), as others denounced her for her outspoken opposition to Putin and his authoritarian and imperial rule as “a Solzhenitsyn in skirts” (ruskline.ru/news_rl/2015/10/09/solzhenicyn_v_yubke/).

And in Ukraine, as Portnikov notes, some wanted to claim her as a Ukrainian because she was born in Ivano-Frankivsk. (Although he doesn’t mention it, some Ukrainian commentators at the very least wanted to interpret her award as a slap in the face of Russia: dsnews.ua/society/u-nobelya-antisovetskoe-litso-08102015191000).)

“Beyond any doubt,” Portnikov says, “Svetlana Aleksiyevich is a Belarusian writer. Belarusian to the same degree that Joyce and Yates are Irish writers, Mark Twain and Hemingway are American, Marquez is Columbian and Llosa, Peruvian.”

Written by Randy McDonald

October 10, 2015 at 7:26 pm

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • blogTO looks at atypically-named TTC subway stations, the ones named not after streets.
  • Centauri Dreams examines the protoplanetary disk of AU Microscopii.
  • The Dragon’s Tales looks at China’s nuclear submarine issues.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog examines the intersections between game theory and water shortages.
  • Far Outliers notes the travails of Buddhism in Buryatia and the decline of Russia’s Old Believers.
  • Geocurrents looks at rural-urban–potentially ethnic–divides in Catalonia.
  • Savage Minds examines controversies over tantra in contemporary Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Torontoist notes that the TCHC is only now investing in energy-saving repairs.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests contemporary Syria could have been Ukraine had Yanukovich been stronger, notes Belarusian opposition to a Russian military base, and notes discontent among Russia’s largely Sunni Muslims with the alliance with Iran and Syria.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • James Bow links to some things he wrote over the past summer.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly argues journalists are just trying to do their jobs.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at some unusual orbits suited for space missions.
  • Crooked Timber suggests Bitcoin is literally a waste of energy.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze talks about using machine learning to discover exoplanets.
  • The Dragon’s Tales shares pictures of Neanderthal art, talks about Elon Musk’s plan for terraforming Mars, notes Lukashenko does not want a Russian base in Belarus, and reports on the stabilization of the front line in Donbas.
  • Language Hat notes false etymologies of some Russian words as indigenous.
  • Languages of the World suggests there is a close link between genetics and language.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the extent to which Jamaica has suffered because of colonialism, and examines the relationship of domestic work with slavery.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that women in Japan have surpassed women in the United States re: workforce participation.
  • Otto Pohl links to online publications on Russian Germans, and on Crimean Tatars.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog looks at nostalgia in Belarus for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
  • Transit Toronto notes that the TTC is installing bike repair stations at some of its stations.
  • Savage Minds considers reasons anthropologists should be concerned with the security of their fieldwork and other data.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests Ukraine could split back into Russia’s sphere of influence if it is not careful, notes the possible strength of autonomist sentiment in Tatarstan, looks at opposition in Belarus to a new Russian base while suggesting Putin is building Belarusian nationalism.

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