Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Belarus: Where The Soviet Union Still Lives

For those nostalgic for the Soviet Union, a visit to the town of Ranina, in Belarus, should be quite sobering. Belarus is a reminder what the Soviet Union once was: a poster child for socialism, and why it collapsed so spectacularly. It’s leader, Aleksandr Lukashenko, is your garden-variety tinpot dictator with a tendency for megalomania. Naturally, Lukashenko does not inspire confidence from the citizenry.

The civic-mindedness required to, say, pool money to buy some carp to take care of the pond's grass, has not exactly taken root in this environment. The owners spend every spare minute of the summer working on their dachas, but have no enthusiasm for doing anything for the greater good. "It's not that people can't afford it," says a homeowner who gives her name only as Tanya, "it is that people do not believe that if they hand over some money, no matter how small, and no matter how positive the cause, that something will actually come of it." After seven decades of Soviet life and 13 years of Lukashenko, mistrust runs deep.
As we can clearly see, socialism breeds apathy and cynicism. Tax revenue, what little there is, goes straight into the central government's coffers, with none of it coming back to the town. So there's no benefit for the residents of Ranina to do anything but take care of their own needs. It’s a town, in my opinion, in desperate need of incentives.