Updated at 22:39,20-01-2017

Voytovich: Scientist is better to keep silent, than to tell the truth


On Thursday one more guilty of the economic crisis in Belarus has been found. Aleksandr Lukashenka at a meeting with the scientific community has accused the country's scientists, that they are "not able to help our managers with practical advice".

Also, the president has found the famous "fifth column" in the scientific councils on humanities and social sciences, where "a pitch is set by the people, who treat our country quite badly", and he was surprised by poverty of the Belarusian scientists.

In an interview to UDF.BY, the former President of National Academy of Sciences Aleksandr Voitovich has explained the reasons of Belarusian scientists' taciturnity, and told that one shouldn't confuse criticism of the authorities with betrayal of the motherland.

- Aleksandr Lukashenka said, that he "didn't hear an opinion of not a single scientist", nor on the economic situation in the country, nor on the Eurasian Union, nor on any vital for today's Belarus issues at all. Does Belarusian scientists really keep silent or the authorities don't want to hear them?

- I think, exactly the authorities should organize discussions on such issues. Instead, the officials order, but not listen. Such a practice we have had from the time when the current Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich was the head of the Academy of Sciences. Scientists simply are not allowed to discuss, for example, economic issues and to express their opinions.

-"If you are so smart, why are you so poor", Lukashenka said. Indeed, why?

- Our science is really very poor. State allocates 0.6 - 0.8% of GDP. This is its science linkage. For comparison, in developed countries the state allocates 1% to 3% for a science. Under the Soviet regime in Belarus, 2.3% of GDP was allocated for a science, so the president's words that we have maintained Soviet-era infrastructure of science and there is a stable state funding, to put it mildly, are untrue.

In addition, still there is no system of innovation development, the system that would use scientific achievements in the economy and industry.

- The president said precisely, this system exists and works effectively.

- To establish an effective system of interaction between science and industry, different economic system is required, and another legislation, another management of the economy. While there is no such transformations, everything works efficiently only in words and on paper.

Head of State said that in the scientific councils of humanities and social sciences "a pitch is set by the people, who treat our country quite badly". Does this mean the possibility of another ideological cleaning in the ranks of science?

- Recently, in the media and from high tribunes they argue more and more often, that anyone who has an independent opinion, automatically becomes an enemy of the people and a traitor of the motherland. These are completely different things. A scientist must be critical of reality, especially when the state acts so inconsistently and reckless. So one shouldn't confuse critical relation to the authorities' actions and the "bad attitude" towards Belarus.

- Anyway, can the scientists, who express a critical attitude towards the authorities's actions, be excluded from the scientific community? Do scientists afraid to express their position because of this?

- A lot of people afraid to speak critically about events in the country, and scientists are no exception. This atmosphere is created in the country, the same exists in the scientific community. A scientist is better to keep silent, than to tell the truth, and thus condemn oneself to persecution and exclusion from government-funded science. It is not normal, it contradicts the very essence of science.