State ideology on Belarus syllabus

September 12, 2003

Belarusian students returning to university this year are facing compulsory courses on the "fundamentals of state ideology".

Although the government has said that "Soviet-style brainwashing" is not intended, the public - and especially students - are largely unconvinced.

According to president Alaksandr Lukashenka, "ideology is for the state what the immune system is for a human being".

Apparently in preparation for the change, Mr Lukashenka has replaced education minister Piotr Bryhadin and information minister Mikhail Padhajny. Their replacements - Aleksandr Radzkou and Uladzimir Rusakevich - were both, he said, "friends from his youth".

Mr Radzkou is former rector of Mahilou State University - the institution that Mr Lukashenka claims as his alma mater - though in his student days it was a teacher training college.

Mr Lukashenka has not decided who will be responsible for the courses - the education ministry or a special youth council yet to be appointed.

The "ideologists" needed to teach the courses have yet to be trained, and textbooks (which officials claim are being written by "the best creative minds") will not appear before December. One academic said that "informed rumour" suggested that the books would be a patched-up compilation of existing articles, with an overriding directive to use the president's speeches as a "methodological frame of reference".

Those students bold enough to express an opinion (with their identities withheld) were unanimously hostile to studying the presidential ideology.

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