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Belarus' geopolitics. CTV's documentary I Am Walking Across The Country

To know a person, it is necessary to eat a peck of salt with them. In order to find out a country, you must be born, grow up and live there. Belarus, a country that is only 25 years old, learned to stand on its own feet and walk on its own. Of course, not without hitches. But note that this happened after a huge split in the family, the Soviet Union, which Belarusians still remember. 

Then it was not very well-fed childhood, when Belarus had to live with Soviet heritage and use the best of it for its own benefit. In our youth, we are looking for new friends not forgetting the old ones. Finally, we become adults. At 24, having graduated from universities of life, Belarus has learned to earn its living. And all this is in the heart of Europe.

To know a person, it is necessary to eat a peck of salt with them. In order to find out a country, you must be born, grow up and live there. Belarus, a country that is only 25 years old, learned to stand on its own feet and walk on its own. Of course, not without hitches. But note that this happened after a huge split in the family, the Soviet Union, which Belarusians still remember. Then it was not very well-fed childhood, when Belarus had to live with Soviet heritage and use the best of it for its own benefit. In our youth, we are looking for new friends not forgetting the old ones. Finally, we become adults. At 24, having graduated from universities of life, Belarus has learned to earn its living. And all this is in the heart of Europe.

(time 0:00-3:00) Wonderful footage of some of the most beautiful places of Belarus and Minsk.

(3:00) Some scientists believe that it is Belarus, not Ukraine or Lithuania, that is the geographical midpoint of Europe. Our correspondent Igor Pozniak stands right at the place that is equidistant from all parts of Europe, Glubokoye District.

(3:50) Belarus during Soviet times. The most significant problem was Belarus’ transit location on the roads from east to west. Now the country’s borders are much safer, largely thanks to the policy conducted by Belarus’ authorities, says Nikolai Bordyuzha, Secretary General of the CSTO.

(6:40) Vladimir Shimov, economy minister of Belarus (1996-2002), notes that the early 90s was a period of catastrophe.

(8:00) Belarus’ premier (1991-1994) Vyacheslav Kebich talks about the consequences of the breakup of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991. He says no one knew back then to what disaster that decision would lead.

Vladimir Shimov adds that the new sovereign state was being created on the ruins of the Soviet economy, which is a super difficult task. Belarus became the only country where there was no blood as a result of nascent national conflicts (Qarabag or Transnistria).

(11:00) The wellbeing of Belarusians has increased significantly over these 25 years. Lots of cars in the streets, fashionable clothing and shelves full of food at shops – all this was a dream for Belarusians several years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Inflation achieved about 1000% per year, says Sergei Ling, former premier of Belarus (1996-2000).

(14:50) The creation of the Commonwealth of the Independent Republics (CIS) was a logical step to preserve the lost ties after the breakup of the USSR. This was one of few ways to avoid anarchy and growing national conflicts in Armenia, Moldova and many other young post-Soviet states.

(17:00) Another step towards greater unity in the FSU was the union treaty between Belarus and Russia, which was forming gradually, from a Community to the Union State. The restoration of the lost economic links between the states was the main issue at the end of the 1990s.

(19:00) It was the Union State of Belarus and Russia that became a forefather of the Customs Union trio of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan and then the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), probably the most advanced integration association in the FSU, to which Armenia and Kyrgyzstan have recently acceded. The EEU is supposed to become one of the poles of the world politics.

The Eurasian Union is Belarus’ geopolitical choice, an attempt to withstand global economic challenges with a helping hand and in cooperation with other brotherly countries. Moreover, Belarus wants to become a bridge between the EU and the EEU.

(20:30) Vladimir Makei, current minister of foreign affairs of Belarus, says that the EEU is not working as Belarus initially wanted, which is why there are still lots of exemptions and limitations to the free movement of goods, resources and labor force in the EEU. The complete removal of all these restrictions is scheduled for 2025. However, in general, Belarus values this union and deems it pivotal for its idea of integration of integrations, which was once again voiced by the Belarus President during his UN speeches in New York in late September 2015.

(21:40) CTV correspondent Igor Pozniak is near the Dnieper River, the geographical artery that embodies the essence of eastern Slavic unity (Belarus, Russia and Ukraine). Unfortunately, this river is besprinkled with human blood from Donbass, near which the river flows. The war-torn country, Ukraine, has become a major problem for the whole Europe and Belarus decided to offer its diplomatic services to help settle the conflict.

(23:30) Minsk, President Hotel, 5 September 2014. That day, the sides, including the OSCE, signed the first major document, the 12 points towards peace, or the Minsk Protocol, which has become part of the history of diplomacy.

(25:20) However, that was not enough and on February 11-12, Minsk hosted the summit of the so-called Normandy Quartet, which brought together Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel, Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin. All of them were personally greeted by President Alexander Lukashenko. The whole world was watching the developments that night.

(30:00) To stay fit during all night, the leaders of the states were served coffee almost every 20 minutes, says a cook at the Palace of Independence, which hosted the talks. Angela Merkel also liked lard, Ukrainian national food, which is also popular in Belarus.

Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei adds that Belarus saw its task in one thing that night: to ensure all politicians felt comfortable from the physiological and psychological point of view and could work as fruitfully as possible. As a result of 16-hour long talks the parties arrived at a decision.

Angela Merkel:
Now we have hope. We have not just conducted talks but made specific steps. Now we need to implement them.

And there is no doubt that the Minsk talks helped save lives of lots of people.

(33:15) The voice of Belarus regarding Ukraine was heard all over the planet. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, personally thanked Belarus for its efforts in the resolution of the crisis.

CTV correspondent Igor Pozniak standing near the United Nations sculpture Good Defeats Evil reminds that return to Cold War mentality is unfortunately still possible in the world these days, in the 21st century.

(34:00) Belarus has always advocated in the UN for the strengthening of international security. Among the most famous Belarus’ initiatives are combating illegal migration and human trafficking.

(36:30) In foreign policy, Belarus stands for multi-vector cooperation with all the world’s countries. Preserving ties with the key partner, Russia, Belarus is trying to seek cooperation with other countries across the globe, including Latin America (including Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador), Asia (China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Iran and others) and of course Africa.

(37:20) China is one of the key partners of Belarus. The PRC can use Belarus as a stepping stone for developing cooperation with other EEU and EU member states. The Economic Belt of the Silk Road is among the most promising Chinese projects in which Belarus is going to partake. This section of the transcontinental road E-30 is a place 3,000km apart from Russia’s Omsk and Ireland’s Cork, which makes it a true link between parts of the big continent.

(39:20) At present, Belarus is a reliable transit country that benefits from cargo flows. The European Transport Corridor links Europe and Russia, Kazakhstan and the Asian-Pacific region. North-South is the 9th Pan European Corridor connecting Scandinavia and the Middle East.

(40:00) At the beginning of the 1990s Belarus still had on its territory strategic rocket forces. But Belarus de jure refused to keep these weapons. De facto their removal ends only in 1996. Belarus became neutral and nuclear-free nation. 25 years later, Belarus has restored its army potential.

(43:30) Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk has become one of the most popular festivals in the FSU, with participants from afar also taking part in it. It was the Belarus President that advocated the preservation of this festival and now it has grown into a full-standing show with its own traditions. Guests from all continents took part in Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk.

(46:30) Belarusian and Italian languages are among the most melodic, according to some scientists. Belarusian is similar to Polish and two people can speak these languages in one conversation without detriment to understanding.

(49:00) 1996. The first All-Belarusian Assembly. The Sports Palace was the only place that could seat 2,000 people. The Palace of the Republic, located in the central square (October Square) of Minsk was being constructed at that time. Now Belarus creates even more impressive structures (Minsk Arena and Independence Palace) without especially constraining the budget. This is because the GDP now has grown six times as compared to the middle of the 1990s.

(50:40) The 2014 IIHF World Championship set an all-time attendance record – 640,000 spectators and the IIHF noted that that championship was one of the best in terms of organization. Spectacular Minsk Arena and Chizhovka Arena, built specifically for the championship, now host lots of games of the national and international tournaments. Belarusian athletes such as biathlete Darya Domracheva glorified the country with their numerous medals!

(53:00) Belarus’ Raubichi hosted the Youth/Junior Biathlon World Championships in February 2015.

(54:30) Russian journalist Mikhail Gusman underlines that Belarus has always remained a friend of Russia but at the same time it knows the value of ties with the west.

Uniting the west, east, south and north and being a crossroads of European ways, Belarus is open to anyone who comes to our land with peace. Various cultures left their features in Belarus and the country was able to absorb all of them not losing its own identity.

CTV's documentary I Am Walking Across The Country. Part 1. Geopolitics