The West likes to poke fun at Alexander Lukashenko, Belorussia’s strong-man President. True, he’s been sporting a slightly silly moustache (and ruling the country autocratically) for nearly twenty-two years, but this week, Belorussians themselves had a chance to poke fun at him when their President seemed to ask them all to strip naked at work.
“Innovations, IT technologies, privatisation — it is all clear. We’ve conquered all of them. But in the end, it is very simple: one should get undressed and work,” he told a conference in Minsk last week.
Analysts of Russian say that the 61-year-old Mr Lukashenko probably meant to say “develop” instead of strip off, as the two verbs sound very similar.
(So much fun has been had with the ‘naked’ word that everyone seems to have taken it for granted that Belorussia has indeed conquered the worlds of IT and innovation, but I believe this is very far from the case. They’re still using floppy disks.)
Citizens, ever obedient, have this week taken him at his word, at least the word they chose to hear. Fortunately the weather in Belorussia has been kind.
Lukashenko is very much his own man, and remains a man of the people, despite his long tenure as President, and very much a man of the Belorussian soil, too. See him digging potatoes at his dacha:
BUT…my Belorussian colleague, Evgeny, tells me that Lukashenko didn’t actually say what everyone says he said. The two words – for develop and naked – sound almost the same. Evgeny pronounced both words in front of me and to my uneducated ear the words sounded identical. Apparently Lukashenko’s diction isn’t crystal clear (he is still a man of the soil), so it’s understandable that some will have heard the more improbable word. Evgeny (no great admirer of Lukashenko) is adamant that he said ‘develop’, not ‘naked’.
But, even though he didn’t say it, someone clearly thought it would be funny if he was thought to have said it. In fact, it is all the more interesting that the citizens of Belorussia permit themselves to laugh at their President.
This is him saying what he said. Judge for yourself.
Belorussians themselves enjoyed the joke, but, as far as anyone knows, Lukashenko has remained unamused.
So, don’t believe everything you read, see, or hear in the media. Even the BBC got the story wrong. It is typical of the running dogs of imperialism and the decadent lackeys of Western capitalism that they should wish to see a good man ridiculed.