Monday, March 20, 2006

Getting used to it

The second world war killed around a third of Belarus's population, and left scarcely a pre-war building standing in Minsk. Before and after it, Stalin's purges were severe. The nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986 contaminated a fifth of the country. The legacy of this wretchedness is the powerful third force of Belarusian politics.

The nature of this force is captured by many of the jokes Belarusians tell about themselves. In one, a partisan is hung by his captors. Two weeks later, he is still alive. How did he survive? "I got used to it." (Waving the denim)

The head of the International Republican Institute operation for Belarus referred to the elections as a farce. It sounds like he may be right. How very unlike the 98 to 100% return of incumbents to Pyongyang on the Potomac.

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