Minsk Conference

Tue 5 Aug 2003

Conference “social democracy and public consciousness”

Minsk, belarus 26 july

The conference “social democracy and public consciousness” was held to celebrate the 100 years anniversary of social democracy in Belarus, as well as the (unofficial) independence day, celebrating independence from the Russians. The official independence day, which is supported by the present administration, celebrates liberation from the Germans. The meeting was organised by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and women’s party "Nadzeya" and was attended mainly by people from the Belarusian Social Democratic Party NH of Mikalai Statkevich.

Participants from several countries (Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Czech Republic, Russian Federation, Ukraine, Germany, the Netherlands) as well as different parties (for example from Belarusian Popular Front - nationalists), NGO’s and trade unions were present. Around 100 people participated.

After the opening speech of Mikalai Statkevich, the first thematic block on ‘public consciousness : situation and its development since receiving independence’ started. Speeches on the connection between the beginning of social democracy in Belarus, the development of statehood and aspects of modern social democracy were given. The general impression is that the speakers find an independent Belarus, that is focusing on Western Europe (instead of Russia – as President Lukashenka is practically doing at the moment) most essential for the development of democracy. This was also felt by the fact that speakers apologized when they were speaking in Russian. Though the overall majority of the people speak Russian in daily life, speaking in Belarusian language is a political act, especially now Lukashenka is closing down the last schools that instruct in Belarusian.

In the afternoon, the international guests had the opportunity to say some words about social democracy in their own countries. Generally, it can be said that the attention for the international guests was overwhelming. It is obvious that Belarusian opposition suffers from the international isolation that is caused by the undemocratic record of the Lukashenka administration. Contacts with and presence of Western and Central European foundations, parties and institutions is of great importance for the opposition.

Kirsten Meijer