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Oleg Makarov, director of the recently established BISR: I didn’t use social networks. But now i will, of course

Marina Koktysh, journalist with Narodnaja Volya, spoke with Oleg Makarov, Doctor of Law, and Director of the recently established Belarusian Institute of Strategic Research (BISR). The following are the excerpts from the interview.

— Your biography is not in the public domain. And people want to know who you are, where you come from, how you live. Various speculations and rumors appear. Of course, journalists start digging... But if you had clarified these issues already in your first interview, these rumors would have hardly appeared. Sometimes a little more openness will only benefit our officials many of whom consider themselves above ordinary people...

— I agree with you...

— So tell us where you were born, where you studied, married...

— I’m a guy from Grodno. I graduated from the Grodno University, Faculty of Law.

— Why did you defend your dissertation in Russia?

— I’m still the only specialist in information law in Belarus. Since we don’t have doctors of sciences in this subject, I couldn’t defend my dissertation in Belarus. Thus, a decision was made by the State Commission for Academic Degrees and Titles, and I was allowed to study in Russia and defend my dissertation there.

By the way, my teacher was an outstanding scientist Illaria Lavrentyevna Bachilo, a Belarusian. She passed away a year ago. She was the founder and creator of information law in Russia, author of many textbooks. Illaria Lavrentyevna was a 1947 graduate of the Belarusian State University, and her photograph is in the museum of the Faculty of Law of the Belarusian State University.

— There is an opinion that information security is also the ability of responsible persons to balance a newsworthy event on time. Pressure shouldn’t be put on independent media, but a clever commentary should be given that will instantly reduce the emotional intensity. I’m talking about this because today it is very difficult for independent journalists to get a prompt comment from officials about any issue.

— I agree with this, and your concern is absolutely justified. Also, the head of state spoke about this at the meeting of the Security Council. We must not shut people up, instead we should fill the information space with the information which will be in demand, which will be expected.

— Former Minister of Information Oleg Proleskovsky openly stated that he "didn’t see any practicality" in the active representation of government officials in social networks, writing their blogs. Even though this is an opportunity to instantly react to newsworthy events, including fake news. Do you spend time on Facebook?

— I didn’t use social networks. Up to this point, there was no particular need for it. But now I will, of course.

— The institute you are heading has many tasks, including the study of the development trends of international, socio-political and socio-economic processes, the study of risks and challenges in the information sphere. I’m wondering – what data will you use? Independent sociological polls were effectively destroyed in the country, although the research of the Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies (IISEPS) was studied by many high-ranking officials at one time. And you know yourself how much the society trusts state sociologists these days...

— The Information and Analytical Center (IAC) was doing sociological polls, but we are not the IAC, it is being liquidated, and a completely new organization BISR is being established. And we won’t be able to carry on if we start doing field work. Our institute was established in order to perform strategic analysis. In other words, we will analyze analytics. In this respect, the issue of sociological polls is unfortunately completely not up to me. I will gladly use different data – both foreign and independent. But we can’t do sociological polls ourselves – we just don't have enough resources. And if we now bury ourselves in these tasks, we will not accomplish the main task. Which is the hardest task, by the way! We have no experience in strategic analysis. It is possible that I will offend someone with these words, but in principle there is no experience in strategic analysis in Belarus. And all the strategies that we have seen, including independent ones, are either irresponsible or too superficial. It’s easy to be an independent strategist, then you can make a forecast even for the next 50 years and you still won’t have to be responsible for it. But if you do analysis seriously, it becomes very difficult.

I think I know how to deal with it all, but only time will tell whether everything will work out. In the meantime, we have to really make more effort. Basically, the BISR is a startup. And its success depends only on us...