Belarus Arrests: Belarusian "wreckers". Why Lukashenko cannot grasp that Putin's USSR will go to pot
Vitaly Portnikov Vitaly Portnikov Ukrainian journalist

15:28 Dec. 20, 2016

Belarusian "wreckers". Why Lukashenko cannot grasp that Putin's USSR will go to pot

President Alexander Lukashenko (L) of Belarus and President Vladimir Putin of Russia seen after talking to journalists on Feb.25, 2016 (Getty Images)

There are no real remedies in KGB arsenal, so Belarusian economy has good chances to swim like a stone

Stalin's era show trials stuck in people's memories first of all because of death sentences handed out to former members of the Politburo [Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union] and other leaders of the Bolshevik Party.

Zinovyev, Kamenev, Rykov, Bukharin, not long before their arrest and trial, were the real "leaders" - their portraits were carried during demonstrations, their names were given to cities and streets [today's Kropyvnytskyi, for example, was Zinovyevsk). That is why the show trials were watched with bated breath by the whole country.

But there were other show trials – the trial of "wreckers", the heads of large industrial enterprises. After these enterprises were nationalized, smashed and looted, becoming slaves of the plans and official guidelines, the Soviet leadership needed to prove to society (and, it seems, to themselves) that accidents and failures - were not the result of their stupidity, but of "sabotage" or "wrecking". In such a way, the country's last qualified specialists were driven from economy to Soviet camps.

The most famous was the process of the mythical "Industrial Party", invented right in the NKVD [abbreviation for the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs, a law enforcement agency of the Soviet Union]. But there were also smaller processes. The main thing was a systematic fight against "wreckers", which helped to make a career of future prosecutors and judges of political processes.

I reflected on Stalin's show trials, after learning about the arrest of the heads of the Belarus' largest machine-building enterprises. They were detained by the local KGB as part of work "to ensure safety of functioning of the mechanical engineering enterprises."

Such wording is familiar, as well as the charges - corruption, the promotion of commercial structures, and acceptance of defective raw materials. In general - "sabotage and wrecking."

Read also Minsk worried about foggy future of economic union with Russia

Having these arrests made, the KGB tries to calm down the Belarusian president, who once was called Europe's last dictator. Now with Putin's regime established, Lukashenko became the next-to-last dictator.

But this next-to-last dictator is heavily dependent on last one's handouts and subsidies. The problem is that Russian sponsors run short of money for Belarus after sanctions were imposed and oil prices plummeted.

Being more than two decades in power Lukashenko seems to genuinely believe that his country really has its economy.

He does not comprehend that all these unreformed socialist mechanical engineering monsters continued to work just because they - like the rest of the Belarusian economy – were supported by Russia. He does not comprehend that Belarusian products - with few exceptions - are not competitive in the real market. That bribes and defects are natural for the functioning of state enterprises.

It was like this in the Soviet Union and why should Belarus have it elsewise?

After all, those who work in public enterprises of the renamed Soviet republic are not interested in the result. They are interested in salary.

But neither Lukashenko nor his chekists [KGB security service officers] are able to accept this truth, clear even to a child. That is why – like in Stalin's time - they start searching for wreckers and saboteurs. Then they will look for spies – someone for sure does not want Belarusian enterprises to work well!

In this regard Lukashenko does not have even a single idea of economic reforms, privatization of enterprises, and rejection of destructive model of integration with Russia.

As a true Soviet citizen, he simply does not believe that his dear Soviet Union in the form of Putin's regime will soon go to pot. And this "almost Soviet Union" will never have money for "brotherly Belarus".

While finding wreckers is something soothing, nervous breakdown is not something Belarusian economy suffers from.

Arrests of managers will definitely not cure it. While KGB is not a drugstore and has no real remedies, Belarusian economy has good chances to swim like a stone even before Russian economy sinks, and drag to the bottom the whole Lukashenko's pasteboard statehood.

Vitaly Portnikov is a Ukrainian journalist and political expert. This article originally appeared in Russian in

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