5 Biggest Paradoxes About Belarus That Baffle Foreigners

This may come as a surprise to you, but Belarus – which sometimes may seem boring and predictable – is a land of paradoxes. No matter how many times one has been there, it always has something in its pockets to awe-strike and baffle you.

BelarusFeed asked its readers about all the illogical phenomena they spotted in Belarus and tried to explain them as we could.

Not so poor?

An economic situation in Belarus has been going through tough times. But you would never think of it when walking the streets of big Belarusian cities.

There are numerous luxury cars on the roads, young men and women in fancy clothes with iPhones in their hands posting photos to Instagram from their regular paradise-like vacations.

Which leads to several questions: “How do poor Belarusians afford so many nice cars and clothes? And why despite low salaries, the cafes, bars and karaoke clubs are always packed?

Well, many Belarusians ask the same questions and come up with various answersю. Some say that it’s just showing off – most of those artsy-fartsy kids are just wasting their rich parents’ money.

Others recall that banks here are eager to provide consumer loans, so basically, people live on credit. Also, it usually depends on the neighborhood the one is staying. Obviously, in the province, you will highly unlikely spot Mercedes, Bentley, Bentley or Rolls Royce.

And after all, even in a crisis there will always be people who have money and a desire to rub them in your face, right?

Democracy but dictatorship

Other foreigners are still confused how come that most Belarusians complain about their president (who by the way, has been in power for 25 years) and still he keeps winning the elections.

While many tend to explain the long-lasting phenomenon of Lukashenko by the elderly electorate who choose populist stability rhetorics over progress, others remain pretty skeptical about the transparency of the elections.

Still, wonder how the ‘dictatorship’ is even possible in the centre of Europe? Want to understand why locals usually recall the “two misfortunes” approach when it comes to the delicate question of the president in Belarus.

Read our explanatory text on the opposition and why it is destined to fail.

How much longer will ‘Europe’s last dictator’ last? Lukashenko says he will only step down if he loses an election but promises not to be a president for life. Neither seem an imminent prospect.

So you still have a unique chance to enjoy ‘North Korea in Europe’ paradox.

Has no work? Pay for it

Another kind of paradox is the parasite tax that was in the news for pretty much time last year after it sparked mass protests around the country.

parasite law belarus

Back then and now, people just couldn’t understand how they are supposed to pay the tax for the job that their government failed to provide them and where to find the money for that?

While other countries pay their jobless citizens unemployment benefits to help pay living expenses until they return to work, Belarus authorities chose the other way and paid for it.

It should be noted that a controversial law was later canceled. Instead of paying taxes, the out-of-work citizens (at least 500, 000 of them) now pay for the state services in full, housing and communal services included.

The change, however, doesn’t make the life of Belarusians easy.

Say something in Belarusian? Нет

The obvious one. People in Belarus don’t speak Belarusian, it even sounds absurd, isn’t it?

No wonder French, German, Polish, Lithuanian and even Russian tourists don’t know how to react when a Belarusian refuses to spoke to them in his/her native language.

belarusian language

One of the most delicate and tiresome questions has no single answer. The country’s territory, its language and people repeatedly became the spheres of influence of Russia, Poland, and other states.

It saw centuries of aggressive Polonisation and Russification policies. Belarusian was banned in schools and institutions, shunned as the language of villagers, and nationalists.

It faced a series of drastic crackdowns and there were just several short periods when Belarusian culture flourished. Some say nowadays is one of them. Do you ant to listen to Belarusian? We know where you can do that.

Smiiile. No, thanks

Unsmiling and stone-faced, this is how foreigners describe Belarusians when they first met them. But such an impression gradually turns into a “what friendly, kind and hospitable people you are, guys” exclamation.

How could the two mutually exclusive features co-exist still remains a mystery for those who just got acquainted with a regular Belarusian. Give us time!

True, we don’t smile at everyone and don’t hug strangers, but when it comes to family or friends, we are always here for them to share joy and sorrow.

This text on the reasons why Belarusians may seem so negative about everything will definitely open your eyes and let you understand us better. You’re welcome.