Belarusian FM: Human rights issue is divisive

Uladzimir Makey has viewed his position on the human rights issue for ‘Russia in Global Affairs’. It is interesting that the article is presented solely in English – the Russian version of the journal’s web site does not share the Belarusian diplomat’s arguments with its readers. We would like to bring to your attention the most intriguing ones; the full text can be found here.

In his theory Mr Makey makes an attempt to clarify the reasons for Russia’s special treatment of the human rights issue. According to him, it stems from the country’s peculiar path: “So, viewed in the political perspective, specific historical circumstances determined the establishment by Russians of a highly centralized state, which was also replicated in some territories that came under Russia’s control or influence in later periods”. Speaking about ‘specific historical circumstances’ the Minister means the Mongol-Tatar invasion and the Troubled Times, when all power belonged to aliens. He refers to American philosopher and political analyst Francis Fukuyama: “Russian aristocrats, bearing in mind the Mongols and the Troubled Times, feared a weak state, thus they let the monarchy solidify its hold on power”.

As the author stated, it is the fear that made Eastern Slavs prefer centralized control: “Even though Russian and Eastern Slav societies, starting with Peter the Great in the 18th century, came to be divided by the two competing visions of their future associated respectively with Westernizers and Slavophiles, the specific historical circumstances of the earlier centuries seem to have clearly and irrevocably shaped their centralized and collectivist nature”.

In the article Mr Makey also appeals to the geographical factor: “Above all, Europe’s specific path was circumstanced by its geography. According to American evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond, the European terrain with its numerous rivers, mountains and forests was conducive to the establishment of multiple decentralized political units, in contrast to Eurasia, whose more or less flat terrain was instrumental to setting there large centralized entities”. Next, Europe’s own peculiar path of development was influenced by the rise and consolidation of the Catholic Church. Another development that served to entrench that trend was the Black Death that struck Western Europe in the mid-14th century. According to Fukuyama, the Black Death significantly reduced Europe’s population, which, in turn, forced the authorities to make concessions in the interest of a scarce labor force.

All the factors above contributed into the development of individualism and appropriate treatment of the human rights issue. According to the Belarusian diplomat, the United States has the same story. The American individualism was determined by the climate and survival code. Furthermore, he notes that as it was the Calvinist Puritans who dominated the first settlers Americans have seen themselves as the world’s saviours. The Minister quotes American historian and writer Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.: “Americans would do well to sober up from the ideological binge and return to the cold, grey realism of the Founding Fathers, men who lucidly understood the role of interest and force in a dangerous world and thought that saving America was enough without trying to save all humanity as well.”

Finally, Mr Makey points out that the human rights debates, which have been high in the past two decades, have proven futile. They increasingly make it clear that it is impossible to change attitudes that are enrooted in centuries-old specific cultural, religious, and other underpinnings, he adds.

According to him, the present moment is also troubled: “Since the West’s opponents, due to their own historically established societal mindsets, involved themselves more in building domestic peace and harmony than in proselytizing their values, it may appear to an ordinary observer that they have been on the defensive and, hence, that collective rights have been somehow lower in importance than individual rights”.

The issue of human rights must not be as divisive as it is, if only we begin to genuinely appreciate each other’s specific historical courses and treat each other accordingly, the Minister concludes.


On August 20, 2012 travel banned Uladzimir Makey was appointed Foreign Minister by Aliaksandr Lukashenka. He followed Siarhei Martynau, who was released from his duties in connection with “his transferring to other work”.

Uladzimir Makey, who had been Head of the Presidential Administration since July 15, 2008, was born in the Hrodna region on August 5, 1958. In 1980, he graduated from the Minsk State Teachers’ Training Institute of Foreign Languages (currently Minsk Linguistic University). He served with the USSR Armed Forces between 1980 and 1992. He received training at the Diplomacy Academy in Vienna in 1992-93. He speaks English and German and holds the military rank of Colonel in the reserve.

Makey served at the Foreign Ministry from 1993 through 2000, being Belarus’ representative to the Council of Europe and counselor at the Belarusian Embassy in France between 1996 and 1999, and Head of the Ministry’s Pan-European Cooperation Department in 1999 and 2000. In March 2000, he was appointed presidential aide and served in the position until his appointment as head of the Presidential Administration.

In 2011 Uladzimir Makey was included in the list of persons taking responsibility for human rights abuse and repressions against opposition and civil society in Belarus. Those on the black list are subject to a travel ban and a freeze of their assets within the European Union. But aiming at facilitating political dialogue between the EU and Belarus, the Council of the European Union chose to suspend the travel ban imposed on Uladzimir Makey while he holds the position of Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus.


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