Polish historical narrative spreads widely
The Polish edition Puls Biznesu reports that, thanks to the Poland Business Harbor program, about 10% of the employees of the Belarusian IT sector have moved to Poland. And according to the office of the Polish Prime Minister, even more IT specialists are leaving the republic, and about half of those leaving their homeland choose Poland.
It is difficult to say how reliable these figures are. Poles can exaggerate. Nevertheless, they talk about the outflow of IT specialists from Belarus since the beginning of the political crisis in the republic after the presidential elections on August 9, 2020. In addition to Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia joined the headhunting with an eye to Belarus, but Poland is in the lead here, and it is able to offer effective demand for Belarusian IT specialists.
Over the past 15 years, the Belarusian authorities have invested a lot in the development of the IT sector, largely relying on the Soviet technological heritage; The Byelorussian SSR was one of the main centers for the production of electronic computers in the Soviet Union, but with the collapse of the USSR, this sector of the economy began to perish.
The creation of the High-Tech Park (HTP) in 2005 was an attempt to stop the process, retain specialists, and preserve the relevant infrastructure. Not everything worked out. After the collapse of the Soviet industrial and technological complex for which the Belarusian “high-tech” worked, a new use of forces had to be sought in the world market, where Western corporations completely dominate. Here Belarus could only apply for a modest niche of outsourcing, for contracts for Western customers.
For a small republic, this seemed to be enough. Western companies willingly cooperated with Belarusian programmers, given the geographical position of Belarus, the cheapness and qualifications of the Belarusian labor force. The IT sector has begun to turn into a prestigious segment with a level of earnings significantly higher than the national average. In recent years, it has been viewed as the main engine of the Belarusian economy.
However, the hopes were overstated. The success was largely due to the preferential terms artificially created for the IT sector, this industry worked for external customers, bringing little to the development of the Belarusian economy itself, with the exception of the service sector, and then mainly in Minsk. In addition, the overflow of specialists into the highly paid IT sphere bled out other industries.
And then the IT people, who were treated kindly by the authorities and the officialdom, were in the forefront of protests against Lukashenko, after which the emigration of workers in this sphere began.
For Poland, the stimulation of labor emigration from Belarus is a long-standing component of its eastern policy. Poland is a country with an imperial mindset. Warsaw considers the entire space of the former Rzeczpospolita, of which the territory of modern Belarus was also a part, as its natural zone of influence.
So far, it is true, Warsaw refrains from direct encroachments on the territory of its eastern neighbors, but does not stop increasing its influence on the former “sprouting peasants”. Poles are one of the main financiers of the Belarusian nationalist opposition; in Poland there are numerous educational programs for Belarusian youth (scholarship program named after K. Kalinovsky, etc.).
The Polish historical narrative is widely disseminated in Belarus. The times of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Polish-Lithuanian Union appear to be a “golden age”; historical figures associated with Poland and Polish culture, but originating from the territory of Belarus, are declared “theirs” for the Belarusians (Tadeusz Kosciuszko, Adam Mitsevich, Stanislav Moniuszko, Mikhail Oginsky, Ignacy Domeyko, etc.).
Poland is diligently working to promote its image of a “successful modern European state” among Belarusians, presenting itself as a role model.
Poland has turned into a demographic vacuum cleaner for its Belarusian neighbors. The Polish economy is growing, but the population is aging and shrinking. If Ukrainians and Belarusians go to Poland, then Poles leave for the rich countries of the European Union. The population decline in Poland has been observed since 2012, and now the decline is about 40 thousand people a year. Poland, opposing the migration quotas imposed by Brussels, seeks to compensate for the demographic losses with the help of the ethnically close population of the former “germination crusts”. This policy works most successfully in relation to Ukraine, but now it has also captured Belarus, which has long been the leader in the number of Schengen visas issued per capita. A significant part of these visas are Polish.
An important factor in Polish policy towards Belarus and Ukraine is the issue of a Pole’s card. The compact Polish minority (a little less than 300 thousand people) is concentrated mainly in the Grodno region, as well as in the west of the Vitebsk and Minsk regions. More than 100 thousand people have Pole cards, which greatly facilitate employment and naturalization in Poland. In Poland, the possibility of easing the conditions for issuing a Pole card (in particular, the requirements for knowledge of the Polish language) is being discussed. When this happens, the number of holders of such cards in Belarus will increase significantly. Moreover, many Belarusians have a “floating” Belarusian-Polish identity and under certain circumstances will readily declare that they are Poles.
The episode with IT specialists is only a small part of the Polish policy aimed at emotionally tying Belarusians to Poland and pumping out qualified labor resources from the republic.
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