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The government defaulted on payments for foreign loans used to pay for huge national budget deficits. Under heavy criticism, President Yeltsin resigned in December He appointed Vladimir Putin , a former Soviet espionage official, as acting president. Since , the economy has improved. It has benefited from the higher world prices for oil, which is a major Russian natural resource and export. Economic growth and wages are rising. Unemployment, however, is still above 10 percent. Russia is still struggling to separate business and government, which were fused together during the communist era.

In the s, government bureaucrats often took bribes from large new capitalist enterprises to permit their plundering of the nation's natural resources. Surveys of small-business owners consistently put bribery and corruption of government officials as the greatest barrier to a truly competitive free-enterprise system. Reformers say that Russia must modernize old and inefficient industries, make it easier to buy and sell farmland, improve tax collection, and rein in the cost of government social benefits.

Commercial law codes are inadequate, making enforcing business contracts sometimes difficult. Many people oppose the economic reforms. They want an improved social safety net. They are pushing for better protections for retirement, health, and employment. Decades of environmental neglect have resulted in much air and water pollution.

Pollution causes up to 40 percent of all illnesses in industrialized areas. The United States recently designated Russia as a "market economy. In , Russian voters approved a new constitution drafted by President Yeltsin. The constitution grants strong powers to the president, including the power to issue decrees that have the force of law. By contrast, the Russian parliament is relatively weak. In the area of national defense, Russia opposes NATO's expansion into Eastern Europe, but has a cooperative arrangement with the alliance.

Russian political parties are competitive, but are significant only in parliamentary elections. Elections have been generally free and fair with up to 70 percent voter participation. The Russian Communist Party won 25 percent of the popular vote in the parliamentary election. Acting President Putin won a full term in March Putin is continuing the economic and democratic reforms. But he struggles against opposition from communists and nationalists who yearn for the days of the Soviet superpower and the protections workers used to enjoy.

International observers have alleged major human-rights violations in Russia's continuing war against Chechnya. This is a Russian territory whose people are mostly Muslim and want to form an independent country. Russian troops invaded Chechnya in and again in to put down armed revolts.

FSI | CDDRL - Why did Russia Succeed in Building a Market Economy But Not a Democracy?

The Russian military used indiscriminate force, causing many civilian casualties. There also have been many reports of atrocities by Russian soldiers against the civilian population. The Russian government views Chechnya as a home to terrorists and sees its actions in line with the recent U. Security Council resolution against terrorism. Freedom of speech, assembly, and religion now exist in Russia, but freedom of the press is limited.

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The government has censored news stories and prosecuted journalists for insulting public officials. The government has often been slow to prosecute "skinheads" and "hooligans" who attack people belonging to religious and other minority groups. Workers have the right to join unions and to strike. But the law bars unions from representing members in non-payment of wages cases, a major grievance among Russian workers.


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Police beatings and torture are still widespread. Extreme overcrowding and other harsh prison conditions cause 10, inmate deaths a year. Russia retains the death penalty, but does not use it in practice. Belarus held its first presidential election in International monitors judged that it was free and fair.

The winner of the presidential election, Alexander Lukashenko , was relatively unknown. He was a communist member of parliament who had a reputation for fighting corruption. He ran on a platform of keeping government subsidies for industries and agriculture, maintaining government price controls, and unifying Belarus with Russia. As in most other emerging democracies, free-market reforms in Belarus at first caused rising unemployment and a depressed economy.

Once elected president, Alexander Lukashenko drastically slowed the transition to a free-market economy. Today, 80 percent of the industry in Belarus remains government-owned, inefficient, and unproductive. The hostile climate for private enterprise has kept away most foreign investment. A long decline in economic output has lowered the standard of living for many people.

The country depends heavily on trade with Russia and imports Russian oil and gas at discounted prices. Belarus also sells weapons to dangerous nations. It used to sell to Iraq.

The Moulding of Ukraine

The country faces a severe crisis in agricultural production. In , the Chernobyl nuclear power plant melted down in the neighboring country of Ukraine then part of the Soviet Union. About 70 percent of the radioactive fallout dropped on Belarus, contaminating a quarter of the country's territory, mostly farmland. In , President Lukashenko pushed for a referendum that illegally amended the Belarus constitution. The amended constitution strengthened Lukashenko's presidential powers, extended his term of office, and allowed him to replace members of parliament.

There are over a dozen political parties in Belarus. But human-rights observers declared that neither the parliamentary election nor the re-election of Lukashenko in were free or fair.

How Ukraine Became a Market Economy and Democracy: Q&A

There was much evidence of vote-counting fraud in both elections. Police beatings, "death squads," and kidnappings of political figures clearly reveal the lack of human rights in Belarus today. Public insults against the president are punishable by up to four years in prison. The government subjects the independent print, radio, and television press to censorship and libel prosecutions. Police tightly regulate peaceful protests and often beat up demonstrators. Even so, youthful protest groups regularly put on street skits criticizing the government.

In , protesters dressed in white doctors' smocks and handed out a mock psychiatrist report on Lukashenko, claiming that he was mentally unfit to govern. The government harasses independent unions and makes the right to strike difficult because of the regime's restrictions on public demonstrations. The government sometimes forces workers and students to "volunteer" to harvest crops. Police may arrest and interrogate people without a lawyer being present. There is no right to bail. Trial judges decide most cases, although local officials sometimes dictate verdicts.

Defendants may ask for a jury trial only in death-penalty cases.

In criminal cases, the defendant is presumed guilty. Prisons in Belarus are overcrowded; disease is widespread; and torture is common. President Lukashenko entered politics in the early s and campaigned against corruption in government. While some have accused him of misusing government funds since he became president, these charges are insignificant compared to the corruption of government institutions he has fostered.

Fraudulent elections, politically motivated police arrests, and judges deciding cases the way the government wants all make a mockery of Belarus as an emerging democracy. Poland Russia Belarus. Poland Russia. Poland Russian Federation Belarus. Poland Russia Belarus East Europe. News Nabou: Poland Moreover: Poland. Washington Post: Belarus. Russia's Fate Through Russian Eyes. Politics in Eastern Europe by George S. Below is a list of some characteristics of a democracy.

Form small groups to discuss and rank the characteristics from most 1 to least 10 important. Each group should then report its ranking, and give reasons for its number one and number 10 choices. Durham, N. Boulder, Colo. Los Angeles Times.

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10 Steps Ukraine Should Take Toward Reform

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