The road to serfdom goes through Minsk

June 2, 2014

Gazeta.ru reports (see this Financial Times post for an English account):

Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko promised to sign a decree that would implement “serfdom” in Belarus villages, forbidding workers at collective farms from changing their employment or moving to town without the personal permission of high local officials….

“Yesterday, I was given a decree about, let’s speak frankly, ‘serfdom,'” stated Lukashenko.

In his own words, the decree will create tough regulation of the employee question in the agricultural sector….

In practice, what is being discussed is the rebirth in Belarus of the practice of Stalinist times, when Soviet peasants lacked internal passports and could legally leave the collective farm only in three ways — going to serve in the army, going to study in the city (with the permission of the chairman of the collective farm), or enlisting in special construction projects …. This practice was repealed in the 1960s by Nikita Khrushchev, but Alexander Lukashenko is ready to reinstate it….

“This decision at the presidential level has been ripening for a long time, and the current harvest is just the formal excuse,” said an anonymous source in the ministry of economics. “The problem is that people are simply fleeing the village. They are fleeing to local towns, to Minsk, where nearly one third of all Belarussians now live. Now three-quarters of the population of Belarus (7.275 million people) live in towns. In the villages are left only retirees and alcoholics, all the young people and the middle-aged people who are capable of work are leaving….”

Eugene Volokh teaches free speech law, religious freedom law, church-state relations law, a First Amendment Amicus Brief Clinic, and tort law, at UCLA School of Law, where he has also often taught copyright law, criminal law, and a seminar on firearms regulation policy.
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