Close

Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

Embroidery by Prague-based Belarusian artist Rufina Bazlova, depicting a standoff between riot police and protesters in her home country. Image (c): Rufina Bazlova. Used with permission.

Belarus is undergoing perhaps its most serious political crisis since independence. This eastern European country of nearly 10 million has been ruled by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka since 1994. The former collective farm manager is a great survivor. For over 20 years he has outmanoeuvred political opponents, playing off Russia against the European Union and cracking down on dissent with ruthless efficiency. In the international press, he is known as Europe’s last dictator. Meanwhile, he has held absolute power over Belarus, and expected his rule to continue.

Only one election in Belarus has ever been judged free and fair by international observers. Lukashenka appeared committed to continuing that tradition, breezing through elections in August 2020 to secure a sixth consecutive term as president. One by one, his most promising challengers were ejected from the race. The popular blogger Syarhei Tsikhanouski was detained at the end of May 2020 on suspicion of being a foreign agent. The businessman Viktar Babaryka, whose candidacy was rejected, was detained in mid-June. In late July, the entrepreneur Valery Tsepkalo, whose candidacy was likewise rejected, fled to Russia fearing political persecution. Sporadic street protests began to be held in June. The protesters were arrested and Lukashenka reacted as expected — by deriding them as the paid lackeys of undefined foreign powers.

But when Tsikhanouski’s wife, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, registered as a presidential candidate in his place, the opposition to Lukashenka was able to unite around a new figure. Tsikhanouskaya’s goal was simple: to resign after six months, by which time free and fair elections would be held. But when the official results were announced on the morning of August 10, Belarusians found them implausible. Lukashenka had allegedly received 80 percent of the vote compared to just ten percent for Tsikhanouskaya.

The situation has since deteriorated. Tsikhanouskaya has fled to neighbouring Lithuania. Thousands of Belarusians have been protesting across the entire country, which has seen internet shutdowns, labour unrest, a crackdown on independent journalists, and credible accounts by detained protesters of torture at the hands of the security services. Several protesters are reported to have been killed in clashes with riot police, and at least one has died in prison. Many observers now believe that whatever goodwill there once was towards Lukashenka has evaporated. If he rules, he will depend on fear to a degree unprecedented by Belarusian standards. His opponents are all too aware of that prospect.

With growing pressure and sanctions from Western powers, compromise looks improbable, as protesters and the opposition now demand nothing less than a full recount of the results and Lukashenka’s resignation as president of Belarus.

Stories about Belarus In Turmoil

Belarus bans foreign travel for citizens, EU closes airspace to Belarusian flights

Most Belarusians, including many foreign residency permit holders, have been temporarily banned from going abroad, while new EU air space restrictions further narrow travel options to and from Belarus.

Belarus grounds Ryanair flight, detains independent journalist amid regime's crackdown on media

Pratasevich was formerly an administrator of NEXTA-Live, the Telegram channel covering the anti-government protests in Belarus. He is currently editor-in-chief of Belarus Golovnogo Mozga, another independent media outlet.

Israeli phone hacking firm stops sales to Belarus and Russia

Cellebrite, an Israeli software company known for making tools used to extract data from smartphones, has announced it will halt sales to Russian and Belarus state bodies and law enforcement.

Bloggers, journalists and creatives in the crosshairs of the Belarusian state

As the space for free expression in Belarus narrows, many journalists and artists who covered the protests are awaiting trial.

In Belarus, Lukashenka's rule endures 2020 — can it survive 2021?

Belarus faces a stalemate: protesters cannot take power by force, the authorities cannot disperse them by force. But in the long term, Alyaksandr Lukashenka's rule looks precarious.

In Belarus, a new civic culture is born out of recycled historical symbols in urban yards

As Belarusans continue to fill the streets in protests against Alyaksandr Lukashenka, a hyper-local movement is forming a new civic culture.

How global tech companies enable the Belarusian regime — and the Belarusian revolution

Belarus has globalised enough for its rulers to be undermined if western technology becomes less accessible, but also globalised enough to reorient itself to larger markets in the East

Join us LIVE on December 14 for ‘Belarus 2020: Still Uploading’

Join us and three guest speakers to revisit the events that erupted in Belarus following the August presidential elections. This free event will be streamed live on Zoom and Facebook.

Belarusians mourn the death of young opposition supporter

The 31-year-old Roman Bondarenka was the fourth person killed since protests began over the results of August's presidential election. As they mourn, Belarusians fear that they could share his fate.

In the heat of political crisis, Belarus launches first nuclear power plant

Next month, the Astravets nuclear power plant commences operation with fanfare. But in a country which suffered greatly from the Chernobyl disaster, not everybody shares the government's optimism.

From Belarus to Thailand, Hong Kong’s spirit of resistance is nurturing grassroots protests elsewhere

While Hong Kong protests have influenced organisational and protest tactics in anti-authoritarian movements abroad, the current wave of grassroots uprisings, in turn, prompts Hongkongers to develop a transnational solidarity.

In Belarus, tech workers fear for their industry’s future

Longtime Belarusian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka boasts that he has created a "paradise" for Belarusian IT. So why are young tech workers protesting against him — or even moving their businesses...

Supergirl and Vieršnica: Symbols of revolution and gender equality in Belarus

From the early days, women have stood at the forefront of the protests in Belarus, whether on the streets or as leaders of the opposition movement.

Is Belarus in the midst of a generational upheaval?

Our survey reveals societal divisions behind protests against the Lukashenka presidency. Foremost is a generational rift between those who became adults during the Soviet period and those born after 1990.

How churches became entangled in Belarus’ political crisis

As the crisis drags on, the leader of Belarus' Catholics was denied entry into the country and his Orthodox counterpart was replaced. Both had publicly criticised the crackdown on protesters.

What is Russia's endgame in Belarus?

Moscow has wearied of embattled President Alexander Lukashenka and is now concerned with protecting its interests in an eventual (and inevitable) transition of power, says Belarusian political scientist Yuri Tsarik.

The path to the square: The role of digital technologies in Belarus’ protests

Today, state violence against protests is becoming less effective in suppressing them. As the situation in Belarus shows, violence provides a new motivation for people to take to the streets.

‘We could present our revolution at a design festival': a Belarusian artist reflects on protest imagery

Many of the banners and placards waved by Belarusian protesters are works of art in their own right. Theirs is a mass movement with an artistic sensibility, says Darya Sazanovich.

Disinformation about Belarus spreads in the Balkans via online portals and social media

Fact-checkers from Serbia and North Macedonia have been detecting and countering disinformation favoring the authoritarian regime in Belarus in the mold of previous propaganda narratives from pro-Kremlin troll armies.

Belarusian labour activists pressured as political crisis drags on

Growing labour unrest and strikes at key state-owned businesses have become a major challenge to embattled president Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The authorities have struck back with a pressure campaign against the...

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency



No thanks, show me the site