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The Skype Killers of Belarus

Founded by two Israeli army buddies, Viber has attracted 100 million users to its smartphone app and is challenging Skype’s dominance of Internet telephony. Even more unlikely is where the company calls home.
On a visit to Minsk, Igor Magazinik and Talmon Marco check out their creation
On a visit to Minsk, Igor Magazinik and Talmon Marco check out their creationPhotograph by Sasha Kumaz for Bloomberg Businessweek

Living in a dictatorship has its advantages. You don’t need to stay up all night to find out who won the election. It’s easy to be positive, since officially there are no problems. You hardly need to wind your watch, for the times never change. As your humor grows blacker, so do the jokes.

Such is life in Belarus. For the last 18 years, President Aleksandr Lukashenko has ruled the country’s 9.5 million people with cudgel and knout. The country’s political culture is one of intimidation, censorship, and marked ballots; the police recently imprisoned a man for publishing a photo of a teddy bear holding a sign supporting free speech.