Europe’s Final Dictatorship


Belarus is a landlocked nation located in eastern Europe. With an estimated population around 9.5 million people and a rich culture and history dating back to over 100,000 years ago, it’s safe to say that Belarus should be a thriving and safe country. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Ever since its founding 29 years ago, Belarus and its people have had to endure numerous hardships. This, however, came to a head in May of 2020, when multiple protests broke out across the country. To explain what’s going on, we must first take a look at the country’s president.

For us on the other side of the world, all we can do is hope that Belarus will rebound and prosper”

The president of Belarus is Alexander Lukashenko, often described as “Europe’s last dictator”, and that’s for good reason. Lukashenko has been in power since 1994, or 89% of the country’s recent history. Belarus is quite isolationist as well, with their biggest ally being neighboring Russia, situated to their right.

Belarus is also known for having violations in human rights. Media within the country is highly censored and can rarely (if ever) discuss president Lukashenko negatively. Hunger is a looming threat, as well as poor conditions in prisons with exaggerated or unfair sentences, and more.

However, none are more glaring than president Lukashenko’s most recent addition, in which he stated that coronavirus did not exist and attributed it to nothing more than psychosis. Combined with their refusal to acknowledge a virus that has made its way into their country and the public being forced to make and deliver their own face masks, the Belarusian people have had enough.

In mid-May of this year, protests among Belarus’ citizens broke out in the country’s capital, Minsk. Protesters took to the streets, many of whom were waving Belarus’ old flag in defiance—two horizontal white bars on the top and bottom and a red bar in the middle. The flag represents Belarusian nationalism and rebellion, but it is only a small part of their struggle for democracy.

What sparked the protests, however, is authoritarianism. In the previous upcoming election in Belarus, a candidate arose who opposed Lukashenko and received a great deal of the votes. She is a younger, female candidate who wishes to see human rights and ethics reach Belarus, named Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

Sviatlana subsequently won many votes in the election, but due to the dictatorial nature of Belarus, Lukashenko still “won”. Fearing the worst, Sviatlana left her country and took exile in Lithuania. Combined with Sviatlana leaving the country, rigged elections, and human rights violations, protests began to erupt and demonstrators flooded the streets en masse.

Roads, gates, and even the Internet was blocked in response. Originally, said protests started out peaceful, demanding change. However, as tensions among protesters and guards escalated and some protesters became aggressive, guards began using drastic measures to quell the rebellions, using anything from rubber bullets, tear gas, and even grenades.

Many weeks in, strikes among workers became rampant. Soon, many protesters organized a march across Minsk. In response, police set up barbed wire to halt their advances. Ever since then, the protests have died down slightly, but not by much. Belarus is still in civil disorder, and without a government willing to help much, coming out of this slump will be far harder.

What will the future hold for Belarus? Unfortunately, without a lack of proper leadership and a government straight out of the Soviet era, not much. Until larger changes are made, the Belarusian government in all likelihood will do little to improve the current situation. For us on the other side of the world, all we can do is hope that Belarus will rebound and prosper.