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Traveling without a visa dictatorship – Belarus is open

Independence Square with a fountain and main post offices in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. (Image: Julian Nitzsche / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Independence Square with a fountain and main post offices in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. (Image: Julian Nitzsche / CC BY-SA 3.0)

The authoritarian ruling Belarus is currently not only seeking political rapprochement with the West. It also advertises individual tourists, especially from neighboring Poland.

Paul Fl├╝ckiger, Warsaw

It is a strange community of destiny, which gathered in front of the Belarusian Consulate in Warsaw shortly before the end of the match: a Polish tourist, a truck driver in transit to Moscow, a stronghold driver and a journalist. Man waits for wind and rain without shelter, as he once did before Soviet consulates. This fits with the supposed earrings of the Soviet era in today's coat of arms of Belarus.

Those who enter the interior will eventually find a mix of a modern administrative and tourist center waiting for them. While some still have beautiful photos on the application forms, others flip through the flyers for advertising. It attracts Kresy, formerly the eastern territories of pre-war Poland, who can now visit without a visa. The tourist among the waiters wants to go to Memel, just across the border, because his grandmother was born there, with folk poet Adam Mickiewicz singing the river in the highest tones.

Bisons, castles and sanatoriums await other tourists. Among the latter stands out the offer of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences, which calls for an anti-stress program in a secluded forest area with red concrete blocks near Minsk. At the Islotsch Sanatorium, guests are fed five times a day, all in the equivalent of thirty francs a day, including overnight, as shown in a slightly yellow English note. If you arrive via Minsk airport, you can also enter Germany without a visa. So recently the last dictatorship in Europe has attracted guests.

President Alexander Lukashenko is celebrating a quarter of a century of absolute rule this year. His counterpart in the East, Putin, who has been in power for twenty years, indirectly contributed to today's Belarusian tourism offensive. Given the Kremlin's claim to power, Lukashenko has distanced himself from Putin. Suddenly, even some tourists are welcome. They are donors in foreign currency, but also the messenger of a Europe that does not want another Soviet Union.