Public dialog in Belarus: from grass-roots democracy to civic participation (book)

The book continues the “Belarus for Beginners” series and deals with the problem of organizing political dialog in Belarus. The book studies successively a number of questions which lie in the foundation of this problem: from the differentiation of the notions “people” and “society” — to the specificity of public communication and dialog organization principles.
Much attention is given to the analysis of the Belarusan forms and precedents of the solution of this problem. As an annex to this book, there is Olga Smolyanko’s analytical material on the legal regulation of the activity of public advisory councils in Belarus.
The book is aimed at setting a reflective and reasonable attitude to the organization of public dialog in Belarus, suggesting notions, categories, and schemes for an activity attitude to this process. The book is intended for public, cultural, and political figures, as well as everybody who is interested in the adequate understanding of the processes that take place in Belarusan society.

Uladzimir Matskevich. Public dialog in Belarus: from grass-roots democracy to civic participation. 2012

This book is already the sixth in the “Belarus for Beginners” series.
This very series with such a provocative title studies the things and topics which are quite practical and even simple. Since 1994, the Cultural Policy program has been developing in Belarus. It is not a policy in the sphere of culture and art. It is a program of work and transformation of the cultural foundations (norms, samples, prototypes, etc.) which precondition our thinking, way of life and actions in today’s Belarus. The program conception may seem clear and simple. Any transformations, any actions have to be thought over at first, thought over “here and now” in Belarus, and have to include all circumstances and contexts, all subjects and positions. The best concepts, theories, techniques, and methods taken from the outside can only serve as a starting point for our own thinking and building of a strategy of actions. However, for Belarus, this “simple” requirement happens to be not so simple and feasible. Hundreds and even thousands of figures are zealously and enthusiastically developing local communities, improving the quality of life, building the nation, dealing with civic education, developing culture, etc., without even thinking of any theoretical, conceptual, and methodological questions, without understanding what the “material” they work with is. We can judge the results by looking at the current condition of the country. It means it is necessary to begin, to begin no matter how much time has elapsed and how many efforts have been made yet. It is necessary to start grappling with Belarus.
“Belarus for Beginners” is a series of small books which offer their
readers, following the authors, to begin to organize their thinking and then their activity in these or those spheres and themes. It is not scientific literature which professes to reveal the truth, to describe and explain what is actually there in deed and not in name. The books of this series are a summary of the way walked by the figures of the Cultural Policy, who try to comprehend Belarus. The reader can move together with them or build his/her own movement trajectory. Anyway, the reader has a possibility to understand, to puzzle out, and — probably — to correct his/her movement.
Uladzimir Matskevich’s book “Public dialog in Belarus: from grassroots democracy to civic participation” concerns the topic which
causes, perhaps, the most of all disputes and furious discussions today. Meanwhile, in these wrangles, one would not find any soundness and argumentation, or any aspiration to understand and straighten out positions. Of course, it is difficult to take lightly the problem which, if not being solved, makes any achievements local and ephemeral. Still, if we do not get to the heart of the matter and if we do not understand the foundations of the organization of public dialog in our country, we — the citizens of Belarus — will never become its real owners.

The book reviews the questions which, if not being discussed, make
it impossible to adequately understand the situation. Probably, the
first part is the most difficult — it is an attempt to answer the question “What is society?”. To answer it not abstractly, but from an activity point of view. Then, the author suggests that the contemporary Belarusan forms of the organization of dialog between society and the state should be considered. And in the third part — he studies the problems of the organization of communication. In addition to Uladzimir Matskevich’s reflections, we have included in the book the analytical material prepared by the director of the Legal Transformation Center (Lawtrend) Olga Smolyanko, where the aspects of the legal regulation of such a widespread form of “dialog” in Belarus as public advisory councils are presented. This text can serve as a material for readers’ own analysis of and reflection upon the problem.
In this book, there are no unequivocal recipes; there are no tactics
and strategies which concreteness is always alluring. Here are the
fundamentals and contemplations. They are not always simple and
they require effort. However, the topic and the problem are worth the effort. Even if on the whole the reader rejects all the proposed arguments and approaches, he or she will become a prepared and aware opponent. And it is already a step to the expansion of competent dialog this book is dedicated to.

Tatiana Vadalazhskaya

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