Living the High Life in Minsk

Living the High Life in Minsk: Russian Energy Rents, Domestic Populism and Belarus' Impending Crisis High

Margarita M. Balmaceda
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 236
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  • Book Info
    Living the High Life in Minsk
    Book Description:

    Looks at the sources of stability and instability in post-Soviet authoritarian states through the case study of President Lukashenka’s firm hold on power in Belarus. In particular, it seeks to understand the role of energy relations, policies, and discourses in the maintenance of this power. The central empirical question Balmaceda seeks to answer is what has been the role of energy policies in the maintenance of Lukashenka’s power in Belarus? In particular, it analyzes the role of energy policies in the management of Lukashenka’s relationship with three constituencies crucial to his hold on power: Russian actors, the Belarusian nomenklatura, and the Belarusian electorate. In terms of foreign relations, the book focuses on the factors explaining Lukashenka’s ability to project Belarus’ power in its relationship with Russia in such a way as to compensate for its objective high level of dependency, assuring high levels of energy subsidies and rents continuing well beyond the initial worsening of the relationship in c. 2004. In terms of domestic relations, Balmaceda examines Lukashenka’s specific use of those energy rents in such a way as to assure the continuing support of both the Belarusian nomenklatura and the Belarusian electorate.

    eISBN: 978-615-5225-47-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. List of Tables, Graphs and Figures
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. IX-XII)
  5. A Note on Statistical Sources, Translations and Transliteration
    (pp. XIII-XIV)
  6. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    The period from December 2010 to December 2011 could not have brought a starker contrast to the economic situation of ordinary Belarusians and their perceptions of their economic well-being. By the end of December 2010, Aleksander Lukashenka commemorated sixteen and a half years in power, and was celebrating another 80-percent victory in presidential elections which, by all accounts, were far from free and fair. The short-lived election campaign, with unprecedented levels of media access for opposition candidates, suddenly came to an end. On the very night of the elections, with heavy-handed repression of those protesting against the voting manipulation, and...

  7. 2 Belarus: Between Russia and the West, and at the Very Core of the Soviet System
    (pp. 19-32)

    In order to understand the way Belarus was incorporated into the Soviet Union, as well as the way its population approached the changes that came with independence in 1991, it is essential to consider the development of Belarus’ unique historical position between Russia and the West. But any attempt to characterize Belarus’ existence as a borderland between Russia and the West is perforce inadequate: a realistic assessment would put Belarus and the development of a Belarusian national consciousness at the cross-roads, not only between Russia and the West, but between multiple historical and nation/state-building projects: the multi-ethnic Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Russian...

  8. 3 The “High Years”: Energy and Russian-Belarusian Relations, 1994–2004
    (pp. 33-92)

    Having looked at Belarus’ economic, energy and political situation at the time of Aleksander Lukashenka’s coming to power in 1994, this chapter examines his use of energy policies and politics during the first ten years of his presidency, which largely coincided with the “high years” wherein Russia extended preferential energy trade conditions to Belarus, 1994–2004. The year 2004 is chosen as end-point for this period, as it saw the first large-scale suspension of Gazprom gas supplies to Belarus, as well as the end of Russian domestic prices for gas supplies.¹

    This chapter introduces the Belarusian “energy-political model” by analyzing...

  9. 4 Nomenklatura Players, Energy Corruption, and Belarus’ “Energy-Political Model”
    (pp. 93-116)

    Chapter 3 provided an overview of Belarus’ energy relationship with Russia in 1994–2004, and of the main types of macro-level energy-related rents accrued by Belarus during this period. These rents included the indirect subsidization of the economy through lower-than-international gas and oil prices, barter arrangements, extra income from transit fees, the direct and indirect re-export of energy resources, and taxes paid by energy companies. As discussed in Chapter 3, although these rents accrued at the macro level, affecting the country as a whole, they also benefited President Lukashenka politically, as they made the survival of the regime possible by...

  10. 5 The “Low Years”: Energy and Russian-Belarusian Relations, 2004–2009
    (pp. 117-158)

    On February 18, 2004, something almost unthinkable happened: Gazprom completely suspended gas shipments to Belarus, citing broken agreements on the privatization of Beltransgaz and the stealing of gas from the pipeline. Although the cut-off lasted less than 24 hours,¹ it was unprecedented: not even during the worst accusations against Ukraine about gas theft had Gazprom fully stopped gas supplies, affecting not only domestic consumers but also Gazprom’s consumers in Europe. In addition, effective gas prices paid by Belarus increased again in January 2005 as a result of a change in tax rules.²

    The February 2004 gas cut-off marks a natural...

  11. 6 The Energy Prologue and the Aftermath to the 2010 Elections: from Euphoria to Forced Concessions
    (pp. 159-178)

    The period between early 2010 and the end of 2011 was marked by a variety of, at times, seemingly contradictory events: attempts at energy diversification; the development of a new framework for a Customs Union with Russia; a bitter public relations campaign by Belarus and Russia against each other; the December 19 presidential elections and their aftermath of repression; and in 2011, a deep crisis of the Belarusian economy. In many ways, the 12 months between November 2010 and November 2011 represent the two extremes of a pendulum: on the one hand, relatively improved relations with the EU in the...

  12. 7 Conclusion
    (pp. 179-191)

    The repressive aftermath of the December 2010 presidential elections, together with the economic crisis of spring 2011, leave open many questions regarding Belarus’ future political development.

    Yet, regardless of how much longer Lukashenka will remain in power, a number of conclusions can be drawn about the role and long-term impact of the energy policies and discourses implemented by him during the 1994–2011 period. Analysis of these policies, discourses, and of Russian-Belarusian energy relations more generally allows us to draw broader conclusions about the nature of the Belarusian political system, Belarusian-Russian relations, and Russian energy behavior in the post-Soviet region....

  13. Map
    (pp. 192-192)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 193-212)
  15. Index
    (pp. 213-220)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 221-221)