Paradox of Belarusian province: 92% support Lukashenka in poor region

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The destroyed buildings, abandoned houses and shops of the former Soviet Union. For Sharkaushchyna, 25 years of independence meant even more misery. At the end of eight months, the region has become a leader of the lowest wage trend in the country – an average of 4.221 million rubles. But even these wages – and especially pensions – are rare here.

Local residents talk about their profits:

“My wife gets 1.7 million rubles, she is a secretary at the school, I get 2 million,” says a passer-by.

Young woman describes an avid support of the welfare state:

“I have had a disability since childhood – my pension is 1,7 mln.”

People here are searching not only for decent pay, but also for work. Most residents are engaged in agriculture, which is going through hard times. Of the enterprises, only a canning and drying plant is left.

“The bakery was closed, it was once a brick factory – also got closed, people do not have work,” complains the pensioner.

We are immediately made sure of it in conversations on the streets of the village.

“Give people a job, there is no work here. I searched the entire Sharkaushchyna and found no work,” said the outraged unemployed man.

Many people, just like this man, cannot find work and go to the big cities. According to the census of 1999, the village had 7,760 persons, and after 10 years the population decreased by one-tenth.

“Sharkauski rayon does not only take the last place in terms of wages, but probably has the first place in terms of alcoholic consumption,” describes the sad reality of the region a local resident Alyaksandr Asipenka.

How do people vote in one of the poorest regions of Belarus? If you believe the CEC, more than 92 percent of locals voted for Lukashenka.

Locals explain their loyalty to Lukashenka:

“There is one president, let it stay this way. If a new one comes, he or she may then begin doing something wrong,” convinces me a young man.

“He gave us life. We sleep under the blue sky, not like in Donetsk, right?” adds the woman.

“I personally voted for Lukashenka, but whomever I voted for, he would still be president,” summed up the woman with a smile.

But there were also those who deny the totality of voting for the permanent leader of the country. However, the name of the candidate is already forgotten.

“We all voted for this, what’s her name? For the woman,” says the man.

“I voted for the woman, I like her more, she is nicer,” says a passer-by referring to Tatsiana Karatkevich.

However, regardless of their own choice, few people here believe in real change. A quarter of the century has passed in Sharkaushchyna under the sign of impoverishment and ruin. But a stable one and without war.

Volha Zharnasiek

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