By crossing the border to Belarus one gets the impression to arrive back in the Former Soviet Union to some extent. The atmosphere in the country seems to be strongly ruled by control and distrust. Some people say that the president Aleksander Lukashenko is one of the last remaining dictators in the Western world. He does not necessarily obey international rules and regulations or practise and he does not care what others think or expect from him. From time to time, he even enters into a fight with his influential neighbours Russia and Ukraine. Media freedom and freedom of speech are certainly not practice in Belarus.

The country has a well-developed agricultural sector but at the same time it is still fighting with the aftermaths of the Chernobyl accident, especially when it comes to soil pollution. Belarus has had a well-developed industrial sector as a heritage from the Former Soviet Union. The consequences many other Republics faced after the breakdown of the Soviet Union were not so noticeable in Belarus in the first years. The educational level was and still is rather high and the living standard is generally acceptable. The health sector as well as the country’s infrastructure are also still on a satisfying level.

There are many issues one could criticize in Belarus, but there are also many positive things to mention. People are hospitable and very friendly and in comparison to their Ukrainian neighbours calm and not so emotional. The nature reminds you of some idyllic landscape of the past. Of course it is not easy to work in such an environment without having an understanding of work and life in “closed” societies. But the citizens’ approach and willingness to improve the current situation is enough motivation to work on projects in that country. 


© Waltraud Gehrig & Natalia Holl