Upon the break up of the Soviet Union, Belarus declared itself a sovereign nation from the USSR in 1990; in late 1991, Kazakhstan declared its independence, and held its first elections. The similarity in their modern governments is evidence to the numerous parallels in their history. The historical development of both countries was heavily influenced by the rule of the Mongols and the Tartars, also both Belarus and Kazakhstan would come under the control of the Bolsheviks and later in the 20th century the Soviet Union. Today, each country has established their own governments, both have developed working constitutions and are conducting their affairs separate from the former Soviet Union. In comparing the two adolescent countries this essay will look at their brief history, examine the establishment of their new governments branches: their executive office and its power, their legislatures, and judicial systems. Current military makeup, as well as membership in certain world organizations provides important insight into the progress of relatively newly created states. The most important factor in shaping the governments of a modern nation state is the historical development of that country, a brief history of the two nations will better help to understand the choices made during the state creation process.

Belarusians are believed to have descended from Slavic tribes, the Krivichi, Dregovichi, and Radimichi; who, between the 6th and 8th centuries settled first on the Daugava (Western Dvina) River and later in the vicinity of the Pripyat’ and Sozh rivers. The medieval period of Belarusian history dates mostly from the last quarter of the 10th century, when Prince Rogvold ruled the local principality of Polotsk (Polatsk). In the late 10th century, Polotsk was annexed into Kievan Rus, the first significant East Slavic State. The Tatar invasions that destroyed Kievan Rus and the city of Kiev (Kyiv) in 1240 left the Belarusian territory relatively unscathed. In the 14th century Belarusian territory became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, with its capital at Vilnius.
By the 16th century a Slavic culture had begun to emerge, symbolized by the translation of the Bible into the Belarusian language by Frantsysk Skaryna in 1517. In 1569, however, the Grand Duchy formed a political merger with Poland by the Union of Lublin, forming the Rzeczpospolita (Commonwealth) and making the sovereign of Poland also the grand duke of the Lithuanian kingdom. During this time, Belarusians faced pressure from the Poles to convert from Eastern Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism. The union lasted until the late 18th century, by which time the lands of Belarus had fallen under the control of the Russian Empire, as a result of the partitions of Poland that took place in 1772, 1793, and 1795. In 1839 the Eastern (Uniate) Catholic Church in the Polotsk region was dissolved, and the Lithuanian statute of 1588 that codified civil rights was prohibited. Belarusian culture nevertheless made great strides in the 19th century and during this period the concept of a Belarusian nation first truly emerged.

The historical development of Kazakhstan followed a similar path, Turkic tribes, in about the 8th century AD began to settle the region now known as Kazakhstan. In the 13th century the area was incorporated into the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan, and upon his death in 1227, the empire was divided among his descendants. Most of present-day Kazakhstan became part of the territory ruled by his son Chagadai, but the western and most of the northern parts were included in the far-reaching empire of the Golden Horde established by Batu Khan, Genghis’ grandson. By the end of the 15th century, the Kazakhs emerged as a distinctive group, created by the intermingling of Mongol and Turkic peoples. In the early 16th century the Kazakh tribes united to form a great nomadic empire under the warlord Kasim Khan. However, the Kazakhs soon became divided, with the tribes fighting among themselves. The khan Haq Nazar succeeded in uniting the Kazakh hordes between 1538 and 1580, but by the 17th century the Kazakhs were again fragmented. In the 1680s the Kazakhs began to fight a series of wars against invaders from the east called Oirots, a group of four Mongol tribes, including Dzungars, that sought to conquer Kazakh lands. Although the Kazakh hordes united again for purposes of war, Dzungar invasions completely devastated the Kazakhs by 1720. This period in Kazakh history is remembered as the “Great Disaster.”
In the early 18th century the Cossacks established a line of settlements and fortifications across the Kazakhs’ northern boundary in order to defend the Russian frontier, which had expanded eastward into Siberia. During the Dzungar invasions, the Kazakhs appealed to Russia for protection and military supplies. Although Russia was, at the time, unwilling to become involved, the Kazakh hordes subsequently declared their allegiance to Russia in return for Russian protection. Russia gradually came to dominate local affairs, limiting the powers of the khans and imposing the Russian administrative system. As Russian domination increased, the power of the khans began to completely erode. In the 1790s the Kazakhs revolted against Russian rule, but their uprisings were ultimately ineffectual and were followed by Russia’s decision to abolish Kazakh autonomy.
The tumultuous histories of the two countries led them to establish similar governments, both with popularly elected executives, unicameral legislatures, and similar judicial systems; also both are broken up into comparable administrative districts. Belarus adopted its first post-Soviet constitution in 1994. Under that constitution, a popularly elected president replaced the chairperson of the unicameral legislature, called the Supreme Soviet. As head of state; the president could dismiss the Prime Minister and members of the Council of Ministers, but not the legislature or other elected governing bodies; however, a 1996 amendment to the constitution gave the president the power to dissolve the legislature.

The president of Kazakhstan is the head of state and is directly elected to a seven-year term. With the approval of the legislature, the president appoints a Prime Minister to head the government. The president also officially confirms the Prime Minister’s recommended appointments to the Council of Ministers. Under the constitution the president of Kazakhstan is given extensive powers, including the right to rule by decree and to dissolve the legislature under certain conditions. However, the constitution specifically prohibits the president from being officially affiliated with a political party.

Under the 1994 constitution, Belarus was to have a unicameral legislature, the Supreme Soviet, of 260 members elected for a term of five years. However, constitutional amendments passed in 1996, established a bicameral National Assembly, consisting of a 110-member Chamber of Representatives and a 64-member Council of the Republic which replaced the Supreme Soviet.
Under the 1993 constitution, Kazakhstan had a unicameral legislature of 177 members, but in 1995 Kazakhstan ratified a new constitution which reconfigured the legislature into two chambers. The Senate (Upper house) and the Majlis (Lower House) with a combined total of 114 members and under the 1998 constitutional amendments, members of the Lower House serve five-year terms, while members of the upper house serve six-year terms. Of the 47 members of the Senate, forty are elected by regional assemblies, special electoral colleges comprised of members of local councils, and the president appoints seven. All 67 members of the Majlis are directly elected.

The judicial system of Belarus consists of three high courts: the Supreme Court, the Supreme Economic Court, and the Constitutional Court. The latter court is charged with protecting the constitution, and its decisions are not subject to appeal. It has the power to review the constitutionality of presidential edicts and the regulatory decisions of the two other high courts. The amended constitution allows the president to appoint half of the judges on the Constitutional Court and its chairperson; the legislature is to appoint the remaining members. Under the 1994 constitution its 11 judges were nominated by the president and elected by the Supreme Soviet. Following the reconfiguration, seven of its judges, including the chairperson, resigned in protest.

The highest court in Kazakhstan is the Supreme Court, whose members are nominated by the president and chosen by the Senate. Supreme Court judges are appointed for life. Under the 1995 constitution, the Constitutional Council replaced the Constitutional Court that had been established in 1991. The council rules on all constitutional matters, but its decisions are subject to a presidential right of veto. The council is composed of seven members: three appointed by the president and four appointed by the legislature.

Belarus is divided administratively into six oblasts, which have the names corresponding to their largest cities. The Minsk, Hrodna, Homyel’, Mahilyow, Vitebsk, and Brest oblasts are each divided into smaller administrative districts, called rayony. The oblasts have their own councils for the administration of regional affairs. In addition, the president has appointed a plenipotentiary, or diplomatic agent, in each oblast to report local affairs to the executive.

For purposes of local government, Kazakhstan is divided into 16 administrative units, or 15 provinces (in Kazakh, oblystar) and Almaty City. Councils (maslikhat) that are directly elected for four-year terms administer these units. The president of the republic appoints the heads of these councils, which implement national policies on the local level and coordinate these policies with the individual needs of their particular region. The president is empowered to cancel or suspend the acts of the councils—a system that makes local governments directly subordinate to the president.

Along with governmental infrastructure, party politics in the two nations run parallel as well. Belarus and Kazakhstan are careful regarding their political party structure, communist ideals have been banned in both countries, however, underlying support for old ideals ultimately broke through in both nations. The Communist Party of Belarus had a monopoly on power until 1990, when a coalition of pro-reform groups was allowed to participate in elections to the Supreme Soviet. The legislature was hardly changed, as Communist Party members won most of the seats. The party was banned in the wake of a failed coup attempt by Communist hard-liners to take over the Soviet government in August 1991. However, the ban was lifted in February 1993 and the party was restored as the Party of Communists of Belarus (PCB). The Communists won a plurality in the 1995 elections to the Supreme Soviet, followed by the Agrarian Party. Both parties support the retention of a centrally planned economy and state-run farms. The United Civic Party occupies the political middle ground. The main opposition movement since its formation in 1988 has been the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF). No members of the BPF were elected to the Supreme Soviet in 1995. More than 20 political parties were active in Belarus in 1996.

Kazakhstan’s preeminent party is the Party of the People’s Unity of Kazakhstan (formerly the People’s Unity Party), which promotes centrist policies and opposes radical nationalism. Other major parties in Kazakhstan include the Republican Party-Azat, founded in 1992 by the merger of three nationalist opposition parties. The Yedinstvo (Unity), a Russian nationalist group; the Socialist Party of Kazakhstan (SPK), founded in 1991, the Kazakhstan Peasants’ Union, an agrarian party, and the People’s Congress Party of Kazakhstan, a party that advocates civil peace. The Communist Party of Kazakhstan (CPK) was banned in 1991 but then granted legal status in March 1994. However, it is an important political force in Kazakhstan today. Smaller parties in Kazakhstan include Alash, a movement promoting radical Kazakh nationalism, and the Slavic Movement-Lad, an organization that represents Slavic communities.

Military power between the two nations is relatively similar as well, both have armies comparable in size and stature. In Belarus, Military service is compulsory for all males for 18 months beginning at the age of 18. In 1998 the Belarusian army was composed of 43,350 troops and the air force had approximately 22,450 servicemen. In addition to the regular army, Belarus maintains a border guard with about 8,000 members. Belarus has a nuclear arsenal which consists of more than 500 strategic and tactical nuclear warheads that it inherited when the USSR was dissolved in 1991. In 1992 Belarus signed a protocol in which it agreed to implement the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) and to adhere to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. In December 1996, Belarus completed the process of deporting its nuclear warheads to Russia, where they were to be dismantled.

Prior to independence, Kazakhstan had no armed forces separate from those of the Soviet Union. In 1992 Kazakhstan established a national defense force also, in 1996 a small navy was instituted. By 1998 the country had an army of 46,800 personnel, an air force of 19,000, and a navy of roughly 100 servicemen. The armed forces also include three paramilitary units—the Republican Guard, security troops of the Ministry of the Interior, and border guards. A two-year term of military service is mandatory for all males when they reach the age of 18.

A major developing force in national politics is a country’s membership to specific international organizations. These organizations shape many political decisions made by member nations and often establish a path that must be followed by its members. Belarus is a member of approximately 50 international organizations, most notably the United Nations (UN), the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the World Health Organization (WHO). In early 1995 Belarus joined the Partnership for Peace program of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a plan designed to promote military cooperation between NATO and non-NATO states.

In 1991 Kazakhstan joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a loose military and political alliance of 12 former Soviet republics. Kazakhstan is also a member of the United Nations (UN); the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), which promotes economic and cultural cooperation between Islamic states. Kazakhstan also holds membership in the Partnership for Peace program of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Both countries have seen their fair share of conflict and ever changing government evolution. Their people have survived through great hardships and they today have constructed their own governments, both on a national level and local level. Both have granted powers to an executive authority, a legislative body and a judicial body. They have created different alliances in the world outside their borders, which is healthy for young nations. However, both countries are not completely stable and there is definitely room for improvement. It will be interesting to see where these countries stand in the future, hopefully by controlling their local issues, they will contribute to the betterment of the world as a whole.

Upon the break up of the Soviet Union, Belarus declared itself a sovereign nation from the USSR in 1990; in late 1991, Kazakhstan declared its independence, and held its first elections. The similarity in their modern governments is evidence to the numerous parallels in their history. The historical development of both countries was heavily influenced by the rule of the Mongols and the Tartars, also both Belarus and Kazakhstan would come under the control of the Bolsheviks and later in the 20th century the Soviet Union. Today, each country has established their own governments, both have developed working constitutions and are conducting their affairs separate from the former Soviet Union. In comparing the two adolescent countries this essay will look at their brief history, examine the establishment of their new governments branches: their executive office and its power, their legislatures, and judicial systems. Current military makeup, as well as membership in certain world organizations provides important insight into the progress of relatively newly created states. The most important factor in shaping the governments of a modern nation state is the historical development of that country, a brief history of the two nations will better help to understand the choices made during the state creation process.

Belarusians are believed to have descended from Slavic tribes, the Krivichi, Dregovichi, and Radimichi; who, between the 6th and 8th centuries settled first on the Daugava (Western Dvina) River and later in the vicinity of the Pripyat’ and Sozh rivers. The medieval period of Belarusian history dates mostly from the last quarter of the 10th century, when Prince Rogvold ruled the local principality of Polotsk (Polatsk). In the late 10th century, Polotsk was annexed into Kievan Rus, the first significant East Slavic State. The Tatar invasions that destroyed Kievan Rus and the city of Kiev (Kyiv) in 1240 left the Belarusian territory relatively unscathed. In the 14th century Belarusian territory became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, with its capital at Vilnius.
By the 16th century a Slavic culture had begun to emerge, symbolized by the translation of the Bible into the Belarusian language by Frantsysk Skaryna in 1517. In 1569, however, the Grand Duchy formed a political merger with Poland by the Union of Lublin, forming the Rzeczpospolita (Commonwealth) and making the sovereign of Poland also the grand duke of the Lithuanian kingdom. During this time, Belarusians faced pressure from the Poles to convert from Eastern Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism. The union lasted until the late 18th century, by which time the lands of Belarus had fallen under the control of the Russian Empire, as a result of the partitions of Poland that took place in 1772, 1793, and 1795. In 1839 the Eastern (Uniate) Catholic Church in the Polotsk region was dissolved, and the Lithuanian statute of 1588 that codified civil rights was prohibited. Belarusian culture nevertheless made great strides in the 19th century and during this period the concept of a Belarusian nation first truly emerged.

The historical development of Kazakhstan followed a similar path, Turkic tribes, in about the 8th century AD began to settle the region now known as Kazakhstan. In the 13th century the area was incorporated into the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan, and upon his death in 1227, the empire was divided among his descendants. Most of present-day Kazakhstan became part of the territory ruled by his son Chagadai, but the western and most of the northern parts were included in the far-reaching empire of the Golden Horde established by Batu Khan, Genghis’ grandson. By the end of the 15th century, the Kazakhs emerged as a distinctive group, created by the intermingling of Mongol and Turkic peoples. In the early 16th century the Kazakh tribes united to form a great nomadic empire under the warlord Kasim Khan. However, the Kazakhs soon became divided, with the tribes fighting among themselves. The khan Haq Nazar succeeded in uniting the Kazakh hordes between 1538 and 1580, but by the 17th century the Kazakhs were again fragmented. In the 1680s the Kazakhs began to fight a series of wars against invaders from the east called Oirots, a group of four Mongol tribes, including Dzungars, that sought to conquer Kazakh lands. Although the Kazakh hordes united again for purposes of war, Dzungar invasions completely devastated the Kazakhs by 1720. This period in Kazakh history is remembered as the “Great Disaster.”
In the early 18th century the Cossacks established a line of settlements and fortifications across the Kazakhs’ northern boundary in order to defend the Russian frontier, which had expanded eastward into Siberia. During the Dzungar invasions, the Kazakhs appealed to Russia for protection and military supplies. Although Russia was, at the time, unwilling to become involved, the Kazakh hordes subsequently declared their allegiance to Russia in return for Russian protection. Russia gradually came to dominate local affairs, limiting the powers of the khans and imposing the Russian administrative system. As Russian domination increased, the power of the khans began to completely erode. In the 1790s the Kazakhs revolted against Russian rule, but their uprisings were ultimately ineffectual and were followed by Russia’s decision to abolish Kazakh autonomy.
The tumultuous histories of the two countries led them to establish similar governments, both with popularly elected executives, unicameral legislatures, and similar judicial systems; also both are broken up into comparable administrative districts. Belarus adopted its first post-Soviet constitution in 1994. Under that constitution, a popularly elected president replaced the chairperson of the unicameral legislature, called the Supreme Soviet. As head of state; the president could dismiss the Prime Minister and members of the Council of Ministers, but not the legislature or other elected governing bodies; however, a 1996 amendment to the constitution gave the president the power to dissolve the legislature.

The president of Kazakhstan is the head of state and is directly elected to a seven-year term. With the approval of the legislature, the president appoints a Prime Minister to head the government. The president also officially confirms the Prime Minister’s recommended appointments to the Council of Ministers. Under the constitution the president of Kazakhstan is given extensive powers, including the right to rule by decree and to dissolve the legislature under certain conditions. However, the constitution specifically prohibits the president from being officially affiliated with a political party.

Under the 1994 constitution, Belarus was to have a unicameral legislature, the Supreme Soviet, of 260 members elected for a term of five years. However, constitutional amendments passed in 1996, established a bicameral National Assembly, consisting of a 110-member Chamber of Representatives and a 64-member Council of the Republic which replaced the Supreme Soviet.
Under the 1993 constitution, Kazakhstan had a unicameral legislature of 177 members, but in 1995 Kazakhstan ratified a new constitution which reconfigured the legislature into two chambers. The Senate (Upper house) and the Majlis (Lower House) with a combined total of 114 members and under the 1998 constitutional amendments, members of the Lower House serve five-year terms, while members of the upper house serve six-year terms. Of the 47 members of the Senate, forty are elected by regional assemblies, special electoral colleges comprised of members of local councils, and the president appoints seven. All 67 members of the Majlis are directly elected.

The judicial system of Belarus consists of three high courts: the Supreme Court, the Supreme Economic Court, and the Constitutional Court. The latter court is charged with protecting the constitution, and its decisions are not subject to appeal. It has the power to review the constitutionality of presidential edicts and the regulatory decisions of the two other high courts. The amended constitution allows the president to appoint half of the judges on the Constitutional Court and its chairperson; the legislature is to appoint the remaining members. Under the 1994 constitution its 11 judges were nominated by the president and elected by the Supreme Soviet. Following the reconfiguration, seven of its judges, including the chairperson, resigned in protest.

The highest court in Kazakhstan is the Supreme Court, whose members are nominated by the president and chosen by the Senate. Supreme Court judges are appointed for life. Under the 1995 constitution, the Constitutional Council replaced the Constitutional Court that had been established in 1991. The council rules on all constitutional matters, but its decisions are subject to a presidential right of veto. The council is composed of seven members: three appointed by the president and four appointed by the legislature.

Belarus is divided administratively into six oblasts, which have the names corresponding to their largest cities. The Minsk, Hrodna, Homyel’, Mahilyow, Vitebsk, and Brest oblasts are each divided into smaller administrative districts, called rayony. The oblasts have their own councils for the administration of regional affairs. In addition, the president has appointed a plenipotentiary, or diplomatic agent, in each oblast to report local affairs to the executive.

For purposes of local government, Kazakhstan is divided into 16 administrative units, or 15 provinces (in Kazakh, oblystar) and Almaty City. Councils (maslikhat) that are directly elected for four-year terms administer these units. The president of the republic appoints the heads of these councils, which implement national policies on the local level and coordinate these policies with the individual needs of their particular region. The president is empowered to cancel or suspend the acts of the councils—a system that makes local governments directly subordinate to the president.

Along with governmental infrastructure, party politics in the two nations run parallel as well. Belarus and Kazakhstan are careful regarding their political party structure, communist ideals have been banned in both countries, however, underlying support for old ideals ultimately broke through in both nations. The Communist Party of Belarus had a monopoly on power until 1990, when a coalition of pro-reform groups was allowed to participate in elections to the Supreme Soviet. The legislature was hardly changed, as Communist Party members won most of the seats. The party was banned in the wake of a failed coup attempt by Communist hard-liners to take over the Soviet government in August 1991. However, the ban was lifted in February 1993 and the party was restored as the Party of Communists of Belarus (PCB). The Communists won a plurality in the 1995 elections to the Supreme Soviet, followed by the Agrarian Party. Both parties support the retention of a centrally planned economy and state-run farms. The United Civic Party occupies the political middle ground. The main opposition movement since its formation in 1988 has been the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF). No members of the BPF were elected to the Supreme Soviet in 1995. More than 20 political parties were active in Belarus in 1996.

Kazakhstan’s preeminent party is the Party of the People’s Unity of Kazakhstan (formerly the People’s Unity Party), which promotes centrist policies and opposes radical nationalism. Other major parties in Kazakhstan include the Republican Party-Azat, founded in 1992 by the merger of three nationalist opposition parties. The Yedinstvo (Unity), a Russian nationalist group; the Socialist Party of Kazakhstan (SPK), founded in 1991, the Kazakhstan Peasants’ Union, an agrarian party, and the People’s Congress Party of Kazakhstan, a party that advocates civil peace. The Communist Party of Kazakhstan (CPK) was banned in 1991 but then granted legal status in March 1994. However, it is an important political force in Kazakhstan today. Smaller parties in Kazakhstan include Alash, a movement promoting radical Kazakh nationalism, and the Slavic Movement-Lad, an organization that represents Slavic communities.

Military power between the two nations is relatively similar as well, both have armies comparable in size and stature. In Belarus, Military service is compulsory for all males for 18 months beginning at the age of 18. In 1998 the Belarusian army was composed of 43,350 troops and the air force had approximately 22,450 servicemen. In addition to the regular army, Belarus maintains a border guard with about 8,000 members. Belarus has a nuclear arsenal which consists of more than 500 strategic and tactical nuclear warheads that it inherited when the USSR was dissolved in 1991. In 1992 Belarus signed a protocol in which it agreed to implement the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) and to adhere to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. In December 1996, Belarus completed the process of deporting its nuclear warheads to Russia, where they were to be dismantled.

Prior to independence, Kazakhstan had no armed forces separate from those of the Soviet Union. In 1992 Kazakhstan established a national defense force also, in 1996 a small navy was instituted. By 1998 the country had an army of 46,800 personnel, an air force of 19,000, and a navy of roughly 100 servicemen. The armed forces also include three paramilitary units—the Republican Guard, security troops of the Ministry of the Interior, and border guards. A two-year term of military service is mandatory for all males when they reach the age of 18.

A major developing force in national politics is a country’s membership to specific international organizations. These organizations shape many political decisions made by member nations and often establish a path that must be followed by its members. Belarus is a member of approximately 50 international organizations, most notably the United Nations (UN), the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the World Health Organization (WHO). In early 1995 Belarus joined the Partnership for Peace program of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a plan designed to promote military cooperation between NATO and non-NATO states.

In 1991 Kazakhstan joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a loose military and political alliance of 12 former Soviet republics. Kazakhstan is also a member of the United Nations (UN); the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), which promotes economic and cultural cooperation between Islamic states. Kazakhstan also holds membership in the Partnership for Peace program of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Both countries have seen their fair share of conflict and ever changing government evolution. Their people have survived through great hardships and they today have constructed their own governments, both on a national level and local level. Both have granted powers to an executive authority, a legislative body and a judicial body. They have created different alliances in the world outside their borders, which is healthy for young nations. However, both countries are not completely stable and there is definitely room for improvement. It will be interesting to see where these countries stand in the future, hopefully by controlling their local issues, they will contribute to the betterment of the world as a whole.


Bibliography:
Bibliography
Zaprundik, Jan.Belarus: At a Crossroads in History. Westview Press. New York, NY. 1993.


Olcott, Martha Brill. The Kazakhs. Hoover Institution Press. Stanford, California. 1987
http://www.undp.org/missions/belarus
http://dir.yahoo.com/Regional/Countries/Kazakhstan/Government/
http://www.kazakhstan-gateway.org