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BELARUS


  

 

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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 17,493 14,304 12,200 76
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,590 1,360 1,290 122
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Belarus

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
207,595

Population
10,310,520

Principal ethnic groups
Belarusians 77.9%
Russians 13.2%
Poles 4%

Capital
Minsk

Currency
Rubel 
(Belarusian Rouble)

President
Alexander Lukashenka


Update No: 298 - (27/10/05)

Students of the world - unite
Often called "Europe's last dictatorship," Belarus held its first presidential elections in 1994. The elected president, Alexander Lukashenka, has been in office ever since.
His overthrow has now become a world-wide concern. He has become a butt of his own students in Belarus, who openly deride him. Out of sympathy other students in the world staged a walk on October 15th. Students for Global Democracy held its main, but not only, Worldwide Walk for Democracy in Belarus in Brown County, Indiana, US. Money raised will go to groups directly contributing to democratising Belarus. 
Students for Global Democracy, the walk's sponsor, is a worldwide organization with local beginnings. Started by Indiana University junior Charlie Szrom in the winter of 2004, there are now chapters at Stanford and Berkeley, in Chicago, Ann Arbor, Mich., Irvine, Calif., Ontario and Kathmandu, Nepal. 
The walk is titled "worldwide" because there were walks also organized for the weekend of October 15th-16th in 13 other locations around the world, including countries without chapters. Ghana, Poland, South Africa, Taiwan and Turkey are all supporting efforts to raise awareness and funds for Belarus. The group is non-partisan and supports non-violent, pro-democratic efforts by students living in countries without democracy.
As it so happens, it is not only students who are militating for a change of regime in Belarus. It is other layers of society also, both in and out of the country. A brilliant account of the subject is appended below:-

Opposition movement gains momentum in, and outside of, Belarus
By Tom Hundley
Chicago Tribune

Ukraine's was orange; neighbouring Georgia's was rose. But Belarus hasn't yet picked a colour for its revolution.
Back in 1989, when the first winds of change toppled the Soviet empire like a house of cards, Czechoslovakia had a "velvet" revolution. Lucky Czechs, lucky Slovaks. Belarusians are not expecting a similar smooth ride.
"More like Romania maybe," said Anton Cialezhnikau, 23, a pro-democracy activist from Belarus. "Lukashenka is a pretty brutal leader and he has powerful instruments of repression at his disposal."
President Alexander Lukashenka is the big dog in what President Bush has described as the "last dictatorship in Europe."
But after "people power" managed to topple corrupt and undemocratic regimes in Ukraine last year and in Georgia the year before, there is a sense that Lukashenka's days might be numbered. An opposition movement is quietly building strength inside and outside the former Soviet republic wedged between Russia and Poland.
Poland has become a critical support base for the opposition movement. Last month, when Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel and other heroes of 1989 gathered at the gates of the Gdansk shipyard for the 25th anniversary of the Solidarity movement, they used the occasion to remind the world that revolution is not yet complete. Later, at a rock concert in Warsaw, a band from Belarus called N.R.M. ignited a youthful audience, which began chanting: "Freedom for our neighbours."
Polish political leaders, meanwhile, have been banging the drum for the Belarus opposition in the European Union's corridors of power, urging the European powers to become more involved.
"The EU can't have a country like Belarus on its doorstep," Janusz Onyszkiewicz, the former Polish defence minister who now serves as vice president of the European parliament, told journalists.
All of this has infuriated Lukashenka, a former state farm boss and Soviet apparatchik who enjoys the political backing of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Lukashenka has retaliated against Warsaw with a harsh crackdown on ethnic Poles living in Belarus. Poland responded by recalling its ambassador in Minsk, and suddenly the Polish-Belarus border is one of the chilliest in Europe.
"Our view is that Europe is larger than the EU, and the EU should feel some responsibility for all of Europe," said Edmund Wnuk-Lipinski, an analyst at the Collegium Civitas in Warsaw.
"But ask any Western European politician, 'What's going on in Belarus?' and he'll think, 'Well, how would Putin react to what I'm going to say,'" Wnuk-Lipinski said. "Most Europeans are stuck in this Cold War sensibility that Belarus somehow belongs to Russia." Or as Cialezhnikau, the pro-democracy activist, put it: "As long as the EU and the U.S. keeping trying to humour Putin, our situation will stay the same."
Cialezhnikau is typical of the new breed of young activists who have sparked peaceful regime change in Ukraine, Georgia and Serbia. A fourth-year university student, he is working on a degree in marketing and management. He and fellow activists eschew revolutionary rhetoric for business plans; beards for BlackBerries. The Internet is their weapon of choice.
"What we have is a business plan for beginning a revolution," said Vitali Locmanau, 28, an activist with the Union for Democracy Support in Belarus, an umbrella group based in Warsaw.
"Right now, we are networking private companies, NGO's (non-governmental organizations) and other people with financial resources to support the opposition. Then we need to do the political marketing," said Locmanau, who has a degree in economics and a day job as a marketing representative for a Polish company.
The main Belarus opposition group is Zubr, named for the bison that can still be found in the country's primeval forests. Modeled on Otpor in Serbia, Kmara in Georgia and Pora in Ukraine, Zubr is an organization dominated by twenty somethings specializing in non-violent protest. But their non-violent efforts are frequently met with violent suppression by the Lukashenka regime, which seems to live in a time warp.
In many ways, Belarus exists as a kind of Cold War-era Soviet republic preserved in aspic. The media are strictly controlled. State television broadcasts endless reports on agriculture, paeans to Lukashenka and little else.
The KGB is alive and well here. Even after the collapse of the USSR, the local branch in Belarus didn't bother to change its name.
"Why would they?" Locmanau asked. "It's a very strong brand name."
Last year, Lukashenka arrested Mikhail Marinich, a leading opposition figure, on trumped-up charges of stealing U.S. government property. The American Embassy in Minsk had lent Marinich several computers on the theory that borrowed embassy property would be harder for the host government to confiscate. Marinich is in jail.
Facing elections next year, Lukashenka recently appointed Viktor Sheiman as his chief of staff. According to prosecutors who have since fled the country, Sheiman's previous assignment was organizing the death squads that murdered four of Lukashenka's most bothersome political rivals. A month ago, Lukashenka banned foreign assistance for all political activity, clamped down on the ability of NGOs to operate freely in Belarus and made it much more difficult for young people to travel in and out of the country. For good measure, he also imposed strict limits on foreign music on the airwaves.
With an eye on the election, the Belarus opposition chose a former U.S.-educated physicist Sunday to challenge Lukashenka. About 800 representatives of Belarus' opposition parties and movements named Alexander Milinkevich as their candidate at a congress in Minsk.
"We believe that Belarus will be next after Georgia and Ukraine," Milinkevich told The Associated Press.
But the pro-democracy movement also understands the difficulty of the task ahead.
"Belarus was handed its independence on a silver platter," said Cialezhnikau, referring to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. "Freedom came too easily. Now we understand that you have to earn it."

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ECONOMY

Belarussian economy grows 8.7% in 9 months 

Belarussian GDP grew 8.7 per cent year-on-year in January-September, reported Interfax News Agency, citing the Statistics and Analysis Ministry. 
The ministry said that industrial output rose 9.7 per cent, agricultural output grew 3 per cent and capital investment rose 23.3 per cent. GDP will grow 8.5-10 per cent this year, according to the socioeconomic development program approved by the Belarussian president. The president in April asked the government to ensure GDP growth of at least 10 per cent in 2005. The International Monetary Fund at the end of March raised its GDP growth forecast for Belarus to 7.1 per cent from 5.5 per cent.

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