Flag of the Eurasian Economic Union

The EEU is an economic alliance between Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia. It evolved on 01.01.2015 from the customs’ union between Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan. The main objective is to simplify and streamline the exchange of services, goods and capital. The five countries want to coordinate their economic policy along the lines of the European Union. The principal milestones on the road to development of the EEU were:

– in 1994 the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, proposed the idea of a Eurasian Union

– in 2000 Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan founded the Eurasian Economic Community

– in 2010 the customs’ union between Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia came into being

– in 2012 the Eurasian Economic Union was created between Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan, with the aim of promoting a free transfer of goods, services, capital and workforce.

Each year a different member country chairs the EEU. In 2015, this was Belarus, followed by Kazakhstan in 2016 and Kyrgyzstan in 2017.

The ambition of the Union is economic cooperation. The member countries also aim to coordinate key issues of mutual interest such as transport, agricultural and industrial policy.

Among the most important targets of the EEU are:

–  creating conditions for the stable development of the economies in the member countries, with the aim of improving the standard of living of the population;

–  attempting to create a common market for goods, services, capital and workforce;

–  implementing extensive modernisation, cooperation and improvement in economic competitiveness.

Moreover, the EEU aims to create a common finance market by the year 2025. This should make a free transfer of capital within the EEU possible. The common finance market should include banks, stock exchanges and insurance.

The EEU also hopes to extend its sphere of activity by concluding free trade agreements with other countries. A free trade agreement with Vietnam was already signed in 2015. Negotiations over free trade are currently underway with about 50 countries, for example with Singapore, Egypt, Iran and India.

At the present time, the Commission is working with China on the “new Silk Road” project, in other words a joint trade and economic agreement with China. This cooperation would provide opportunities for both sides. On the part of the EEU, Russia in particular would be able to supply its hydrocarbons to the Far East. In return, China would obtain a reliable transit route to the West for its goods. The Silk Road could also include the regions of Western Asia, the Caucasus and Eastern Europe. Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran also seem to be interested in cooperating. This would lead to a trading area from China in the east via India and Iran in the south to Belarus in the west.

In the summer of 2017, a new customs code came into force with the intention of standardising and modernising import regulations and the work of the customs authorities.

As some of the member countries are lagging well behind with regard to modern technology, the Eurasian Economic Commission has set itself the goal of encouraging industrial innovation and promoting industrial cooperation between the member countries. In addition, the production of technology products will be stimulated and completely new branches of high-tech industry developed.

To achieve this goal, the Eurasian Economic Commission plans to modernise industrial and innovation structures. This includes industry and innovation clusters, industry and technology parks, economy and technology centres.

Eurasian Technology Platforms

Furthermore, platforms are to be created in priority fields of technology so as to encourage important key branches. Scientists and design engineers from all EEU countries will work together to find solutions for specific innovations for particular industrial branches. The results of the research and development work will subsequently be implemented in the production process.

Digital factories

In the EEU countries, so-called digital factories are to be created. The Eurasian Economic Commission is eager for the member countries to synchronise their national digitalisation strategies in order to create digital technology platforms, system and interdisciplinary projects. Digital technology in the fields of industry and agriculture is still negligible, but this should be remedied in future by digital factories.

Eurasian Centre for machine tool construction

The EEU is planning to create a Eurasian Centre for the machine tool industry, which will be instrumental in the technological development of machine tool construction.

Environmental technology  

The demand for modern, environmental technology is extremely high at the moment. The global market for environmental technology and services is one of the most dynamically growing sectors. With the aid of the Eurasian platform “Technology for ecological development”, the EEU is planning to open up this market for companies within the union. A top priority is the development of environmentally friendly transport facilities and modern solutions for climate and environmental protection.

According to a survey made by the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce, the majority of German companies questioned consider the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) has advantages. Apart from abolishing customs duties between the countries and creating a larger sales market, some of the advantages mentioned included savings in logistic costs and technical regulations.

The EEU provides easier access to five markets simultaneously through unified customs duties and a common certification process. This is beneficial in particular to companies which are active in other EEU countries as well as Russia.

According to Tigran Sarkisjan, the chairman of the Eurasian Economic Commission, the work of the Eurasian Economic Union is primarily of an economic and not a political nature. The Commission offers solutions for improving the business environment in the five countries and providing a single market for goods and services as well as freedom of movement for the workforce and investments.

It will take some time to be able to judge whether the EEU can fulfil these expectations in the long term.

Stork heraldic animal Belarus

The phrase White Russia is the literal translation of the word Belarus (Russian: белый – white,  Русь – the Rus). In earlier times the countries belonging to the Rus were given many epithets or qualifying adjectives. For example, the different regions were called Red Rus, Galician Rus, Black Rus, White Rus, Great Rus or Little Rus. White Rus proved to be the most viable name and over the centuries this became the name of the sovereign state. In textbooks and reference books it is generally stated that the origin of the term is not finally explained. However, there are five possible versions which are most commonly cited.

According to the first, the territory which was not overcome by the Mongolian khans in the 13th century was called white. Genghis Khan and his descendants conquered the territory from China to the Volga between 1237 and 1242 and controlled this until 1480. However, the princes of Polotsk and their neighbours resisted successfully and remained independent. So in this case, white meant independent, free.

According to the second alternative, the name comes from the white hair or colour of the clothing worn by the indigenous peoples in the respective area.

The third variation propounds that the White Rus were Christian, whereas the Black Rus remained pagans for quite some time. In the 13th to 14th century, the Black Rus inhabited the catchment area of the River Neman (Memel), with the main settlements between the actual Belarusian towns of Lida and Novogrudok.

A further interpretation supposes that the points of the compass were implied as follows: white – west, blue – east, black – north, red – south. As the territory of modern Belarus lay in the western part of Rus between the 9th and 13th century, it was therefore called white. At that time the Rus stretched from the Taman Peninsula (now in Russia) in the south to the upper reaches of the Northern Dvina in the north and from the Dniester and the upper reaches of the Vistula in the west to the tributaries of the Volga in the east.

The fifth variant is headed by the White Russian historian Vaclau Lastouski, who sees a link to paganism. According to him, in the 12th century Baltic and Slavic peoples worshipped the god Belobog (Russian: white god).

However, there is no documentary evidence beyond doubt on which to base any of these interpretations. Be that as it may, White Russia (Belarus) is nevertheless a very old term. The Russian scholar, Vladimir Lamanski, calls attention to it and refers to the Austrian poet Peter Suchenwirt (14th century) who mentions the „White Rus“ in his poems and calls the inhabitants „Di Weissen Reuzzen“ (the White Russians).

The Polish author Yan Charnkovski (also 14th century) mentions in his notes that the Polish King Jogaila and his mother “in guodam Castro Albae Russiae Polozk diсto”, i.e. “were imprisoned in a castle in White Russia”. Similar references to the term Belarus or White Russia can be found in letters by Vytautas (1350-1430). Vytautas was the Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1392 and founded the Polish/Lithuanian Union together with his cousin Jogaila. During his reign the Grand Duchy of Lithuania reached the height of its prosperity. These sources talk about White Russia as if it were something generally known and comprehensible. This confirms the supposition that the term has been in use for a very long time. According to Lamanski it can be said that in all probability the term “White Rus” has existed since the middle of the 13th century.

By all accounts, the term seems to have been widely used in Moscow in the 17th   century. There, the inhabitants of White Rus were called “Belorusszy”. This is proved by various charters of the time. In Moscow, the term White Russia was appropriated from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The word “Belorusszy” occurs frequently in documents from the 17th century. In the Moscow “Otpiski” records (1648) one can read the following: “Lithuanians and Belorusszy do not attack the kingdom” or “Belorussez Iwaschko” (proper name). Consequently, Belarusians (Belorusszy) were already recognised as a people in their own right.

The territory of White Rus was of particular importance for the Russian tsars. After Tsar Alexei Michailowitsch (Alexei I, also called the Gentle) captured the town of Vilnius in 1655, he added an honorary title “Ruler over Great, Little and White Rus) to his title as tsar. His sons, Ioan and Petr, who succeeded him to the throne, also used the same honorary title.

In the 18th/19th century, orthodox bishops from Mogilev were called White Russian bishops.  During the time of the Church Union of Brest (1596-1815), all Union bishops from Polotsk as well as the Union metropolitan were also called White Russian. (Church Union of Brest – a union between the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox bishops of the then Eastern Poland whose intention was to foil the demands of the Muscovite patriarch and to maintain the traditional liturgical Byzantine rite.

In tsarist Russia, one of the dragoon regiments bore the epithet “White Russian”. This confirms that the term was already of considerable importance at that time.

A White Russian province was established for the first time in 1796. The centre was Vitebsk, which was surrounded by 16 administrative districts (Russian: Ujezd).

Since the end of the 18th century, White Russia is the generally accepted name for all the territories which from an ethnical point of view are considered to be White Russian. The term “Belarus” is a national designation introduced by ideologists of the Belarusian nationalist movement at the end of the 19th, beginning of the 20th century.

The national territory covers the historic regions of White Rus (White Russian Podwinje and Podneprovje), Black Rus and Polessje (Gomel and surroundings). The country, which has been independent since 1991, bears the official name of Republic of Belarus.

By the way, on our YouTube channel you can also watch an interesting story of a former prisoner of the concentration camp Buchenwald, who had to endure inhumane conditions at the camp, survived and managed to remain an unbroken and optimistic man.