A Soviet-Style Strongman Still Rules Belarus

There are reasons“s” December Special IssueThe 30th anniversary marks the end of the Soviet Union. This is part of an ongoing investigation into the global legacy that this evil empire left behind. We want to make sure that there are no further tragedies. The terrible consequences of communism cannot be ignored

Belarus gained formal independence from Soviet Union in August 1991. The country remains in the USSR on many levels.

Streets can still be named after communist figures. A statue of Lenin is found in Minsk, the capital. KGB, the Soviet state intelligence agency, is still in use. Callbacks to Soviet times are much more extensive.

Alexander Lukashenko was a dictator, demagogue, and saboteur who came to power in 1994. His actions have been detrimental to democracy and freedom in Belarus. In the country’s first and only open election, Lukashenko—who ran on an anti-corruption platform—was elected president. However, once he was in power, Lukashenko refused to give up his position or allow for dissent.

According to the Associated Press, Lukashenko had a tendency to be “openly nostalgic for Soviet days” in 1996. He was critical of his country’s parliament and hostile towards constitutional limits. His enthusiasm about the state controlling information is what the Associated Press described as being “openly nostalgic for Soviet Times”. In 1995, Lukashenko signed a friendship agreement with Russia that provided concessions like the permission for Russian troops in Belarus. He encourages people to learn Russian and not Belarusian.

Lukashenko proposed amendments to the Constitution in 1996 to prolong his term and increase his power. It was rejected by Parliament, which instead proposed impeachment. Lukashenko replied, vowing that he would not relinquish the power. But he didn’t.

Lukashenko has remained in power by suppressing the opposition, interfering during elections and denying civil liberty and political freedom to Belarusians.

Zhanna litvina, a journalist from Ukraine told the Committee to Protect Journalists in 1997 that “we have a revival in the ideological control & brainwashing which prevailed in past.” This statement was made after her independent radio station was closed down by authorities. Only this time, it’s not the Communist Party. It is the propaganda of one man with his followers.

In 2001 Belarus had its second presidential election. Lukashenko declared a surprising victory. According to some reports, the margin was even greater in 2006. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe declared that Belarus “failed” to fulfill its OSCE commitments for democratic election.

Despite periodic resistance from Belarusian democratic activists, little has changed. My country is in grave trouble. One man is the only one who runs it. It is controlled by one man,” Alyaksandr Kasulin, an ex-leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party told the Oslo Freedom Forum 2010.

Lukashenko declared presidential victories for 2010, 2015 and 2020.

Belarusians didn’t like the result of the previous “win”. The Human Rights Foundation stated that leaked results and unofficial polling proved that Sviatlana Tesikhanouskaya, the main opposition candidate, had won the election.

The biggest anti-government demonstrations of post-Soviet Belarus were ignited by Lukashenko’s claim that he received 80 percent. In August 2020, thousands marched through Minsk and the rest of Belarus.

The big protests were met by a lot of force. Protesters were punished with violence and tear gas by police; thousands of people were detained. Amnesty International claimed that the election was the “catalyst for the most egregious clampdown on freedoms in expression, peaceful assembly or association in Belarusian post-independence” history.

According to the Viviana Human Rights Center, 649 Belarusians held in detention were currently considered political prisoners as of August 2021. According to Viasna Human Rights Center, most of the detained Belarusians were “targeted by politically motivated criminal prosecutions in connection with events that occurred during and after August 2020’s presidential election.”

During this summer’s Olympic games, Belarusian authorities allegedly tried to force Kristina Timanovskaya—in Tokyo to compete in the women’s 200 meter sprint—back to Belarus after she criticized the country’s sporting authorities on Instagram for entering her into relays without her consent. Timanovskaya flee to Poland.

Belarusian authorities diverted a flight to take a journalist into custody. This prompted sanctions by the United States and the European Union. Many experts fear that the isolation of Belarus from the international community could push it further towards authoritarianism.

This year, the Atlantic Council foresaw a Russian soft takeover Belarus. The Council stated that it “will not be an extraordinary event like 2014’s annexation in Crimea” nor a “shock-and-awe spectacle similar to 2008’s invasion of Georgia.” We should prepare for a gradual, methodical, and stealthy operation, which will end before the majority of people know. This will be an invisible annexation. You can think of it as a frog boiling in hot water.