Volid Review: Belarus Magazine

Ah, the venerable PR magazine. Glossy, with short articles full of fun facts—and, of course—many an image. Every organization that can publishes them, with the purpose of making you feel all warm inside and distracting from any nasty inquiries about specific policies. For example, when reading the magazine Saudi Aramco World, one is more likely to think, "Wow, neato—the Abu Dhabi book festival" than ponder the influence and control exercized around the globe by the world's largest oil company.
Enter Belarus magazine. Founded by the Information Ministry of the Republic of Belarus and supported logistically by the offices of Sovetskaya Belorussiya and financially by Belvnesheconombank, I picked up a copy of Belarus in 2007 at the Belarusian Embassy in Washington, DC. Published in Belarusian (as Беларусь), English, and German (curiously, not as Weißrussland, but also as Belarus), the magazine claims to be "distributed in 50 countries of the world" and "published since 1930"[?!].

Belarus is also a monumental and hilarious failure of copyediting, translation, and targeted PR. The entire magazine seems to have been translated from Russian by plugging articles into circa 2003 Babel Fish with no subsequent editing. Thus, it is a wonderful archive of Russlish. Belarus advertizes itself as "Magazine for You" (which almost certainly originated as "Журнал для Вас"). The headlines are all wrong in terms of grammar and syntax. Instead the reader is presented with the inane ("Country Makes Proposal", "Characters and Roles on Photos", "There Was Something to See and Ask the Price of", "Art Has Been Evaluated"), the sinister ("Everything Goes in Accordance with Well-Defined Plan", "Everything is Visible for the Satellite"), and the absurd ("All Dutch Come Together", "Who Was Enchanted by the Night Fairy?", "Stability is Inherent in Trade"). One can also encounter some great not-quite-English words like "energetics" (i.e. energy technologies), "hyper markets" (i.e. superstores/big-box stores), and "folk car"/"bantam car" (i.e an affordable, light passenger car, directly taken from Volkswagen and Bantam). Somehow, I doubt that they were attempting to create new Fictionary terms...

Publishing a Russlish edition in place of an English one is perhaps not as big a PR failure as the choices made in article subjects and imagery. The cover features bosom buddies President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus and President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, possibly trollin' for some strange. Now, Belarus has had trouble finding playmates on the international playground and is very happy to have found a friend in Venezuela; however, putting Chávez on the English-edition cover is not going to increase the appeal of Belarus with the general American public. Another article proudly announces that the arms exposition MILEX occurred in Minsk, accompanied by an image of a Belarusian trying to sell some armored vehicles to a sketchy-looking Arab military officer. Charming! Combine this with the technocratic speak and overuse of statistics and production targets and you get a magazine that does little beyond convince the reader that Belarus remains some anachronistic Soviet timecapsule. Don't get me wrong, I find it to be the best unintentional comedy magazine for Eastern Europe enthusiasts. If possible, I would subscribe! But, it looks like I will have to stick to reading the somewhat less hilarious web version for now.

Who was enchanted by the night fairy? YOU WERE!

Belarus magazine has been evaluated. The Volidity Report would of course be glad to assist with copyediting, for a nominal fee in Belarusian rubles. If you are interested, please send an electrotechnic mail or a telegram to my microregion.


  1. I like how the wiki microregion link displays a photo of Tbilisian Microraion. Not to sound classist or xenophobic, because in objective terms, that place is a craphole. Don't get me wrong, I'd like to visit, but I saw a movie on trying to implement capitalism in that place, and the people were by and large staunchly against paying a nominal fee of under $15 monthly for electricity....

  2. XAxaxaxaxa, Tbilisian has been evaluated.