At the beginning of the year Belarus was almost included in the U.S. travel ban list. Hollie McKay, a journalist of American Fox News, visited Belarus to find out what «one of the world’s most closed countries» hides
As Belarus is a former Soviet country, symbols from that times remain everywhere throughout the country, particularly in Stalin-erected Minsk.
Hollie McKay notices that «countryside is peppered with ecclesiastical palaces illuminating the vast wealth and power of yesteryear», and every town has a “ Lenin street” in homage to the communist ruler and one of the heads of the Soviet Union Vladimir Lenin.
Astonishing for her was to see roads and parks perfectly manicured without a hint of trash or graffiti. It is also admitted that there is no road rage or voracious car-honking and traffic doesn’t clog the wide lanes.
In the article she writes about Belarus being a growing technology center and gives as an example the popular chat messenger Viber created by Belarusians a decade ago. It is also pointed out that Belarus is last country in Europe to have capital punishment and that it is one of the top 10 countries for the lowest crime and unrest.
They spend Sundays at church, but nights in bars with vodka pairings. In summer you can find belarusians in forest homes “dachas” and in winter on ice-skating rinks playing hockey, because it is favorite pastime of Lukashenko, the President of Belarus.
In general, she had the impression of Belarusians as courteous people who don’t raise their voices.
Special attention is paid to the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko. Being called the last dictator in Europe, «he doesn’t shy away from making good-humored jokes about his “dictator” tag in the west.»
Lukashenko is known for his «charisma, trademark mustache, eccentricities and self-promotion as a “man of the people”.»
She emphasizes that there are «no state-sanctioned presidential posters and statues or billboards erected on buildings on the independence square in Lukashenko’s likeness.»
Such a delicate topic as personal life of the President is also considered. Namely, as though his wife has long been living on a farm far from the capital and he, meanwhile, appears at public functions with a beauty queen in her early 20s. “ It is a topic of private whispers”, Hollie McKay admits.
Complicated relationships between Russia and Belarus are also considered in the article. Putin does not hide his intentions to annex Belarus into Russia.
“The U.S. was probably using the ban list to threaten Lukashenko for perceived efforts to merge Belarus with Russia”, said Ivana Stradner, a research fellow specializing in Eastern European security at the American Enterprise Institute.
“As the U.S. did nothing to stop Russian aggression in Ukraine, it should prevent Belarus from becoming the next Crimea”, Stradner highlights.
As we see, Washington has taken steps to normalize diplomatic relationships with Belarus. Last month U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo visited Minsk as part of the return of ambassadors to the capitals of the two countries after a 12-year break. So, more close interaction is expected.