OSW Studies

Changes in the political elite, economy and society of Belarus. Appearances and reality

In late 2006 and early 2007, relations between Russia and Belarus were hit by the most serious crisis in many years. In a setting of heightened tension, the Belarusian authorities decided to gradually modify their economic policy and thoroughly restructure the ruling class. The new situation created new, much more difficult challenges for the Belarusian opposition.

The processes initiated by the authorities were not intended to bring about either the democratisation of public and political life or full economic liberalisation; their only purpose was to enable the regime to tackle new challenges and survive in the changing international context. Nevertheless, modernisation has been initiated in Belarus' authoritarian system of power, which until now was considered to be completely incapable of reform. This puts the country's main political and economic partners, including the European Union, in a new situation.