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BISR director: no need to oppose the Belarusian language against Russian

In February 2019, the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko approved the establishment of the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Research (BISR), which in fact replaced the Information and Analytical Center (IAC) under the Presidential Administration. In an interview with Radio Svaboda Belarus, Oleg Makarov, Director of BISR, spoke about the threats that Belarusian analysts see in the information space and how they will tackle them.

On February 12, the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko signed Decree No. 49 "On the establishment of the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Research". According to the document, the main activities of the new organization will be the study of the development trends of international, socio-political and socio-economic processes, the study of risks and challenges in the information sphere. Oleg Makarov, who previously worked as the Head of the Information and Analytical Department of the State Secretariat of the Security Council of Belarus, was appointed the Director of the BISR.

Makarov said that the Institute is currently selecting personnel. The BISR staff will include several dozen people who are professionals in domestic and foreign policy analytics. According to him, the activities of this new organization will be significantly different from those performed by the Information and Analytical Department under the Security Council.

"My work in the new place will be different from what I was doing before, since now the task is strategic analysis. It’s a difficult task. I’m not aware of organizations and analysts which would perform high-quality strategic analysis today. At the IAC, I was doing so-called situational, practical analysis. Analysis of events. The new task is much more difficult", Makarov said.

The Director of the Institute stressed that the new organization will also involve independent experts.

"The idea is to understand all opinions and rely on the best practices. We are going to interact with foreign organizations, with similar think tanks. We intend to collaborate with experts. For example, those who were invited to the "Big Conversation" with the president, also with others. After all, analytics requires objectivity", stressed the Director of the BISR.

Oleg Makarov notes that the Institute of Strategic Research will not monitor information security risks in Belarus. The purpose of the new organization is to analyze them.

"There are many challenges in the information sphere, they come from different sources. The concept of information security was considered today, and it answers these questions. It will systematically reflect the risks and challenges that arise in the information sphere. We know that there is negative content that affects minds of young people, destroys them, etc. There is content related to extremism. But in truth, it is not the Institute’s job to monitor risks and challenges. It is rather to analyze the information space and to anticipate risks", Makarov added.

The Director of the Institute notes that the BISR is an analytical organization in its pure form, which will not perform “any administrative functions or any special monitoring functions”. He also believes that everyone assesses the risks caused by the prevalence of Russian content in the Belarusian information space at the consumer level in their own way. But it is necessary to strive to ensure that the content created in Belarus prevails.

"The ideal situation is when we live with the content created by us. This is the priority and the most correct situation. But even speaking about consumer experience, if you say that Russian content prevails in our country, then I have an impression, for example, that there is a lot of Ukrainian content when I watch YouTube channels with my child", Makarov noted.

According to the Director of the Institute, Belarusian content doesn’t have to be in Russian. "Content in Belarusian is, of course, important. But it seems to me that language shouldn’t be used as a weapon. Language shouldn’t separate, it should unite. In this respect, I think that the Belarusian language should undoubtedly be supported. But it shouldn’t be opposed (against Russian – comment by Radio Svaboda). In general, languages shouldn’t be opposed. This situation is rather difficult in our country, and the country should be united, not divided", the Director of the BISR concluded.