In a world where leaving the house and wearing a face mask seems like the new norm, it is easy to become disheartened. Normal life has come to a halt as students attend virtual classes, employees work from home, and the world’s economy fluctuates wildly. Thousands of people have suffered from the crisis that is the COVID-19 pandemic, and daily receive confusing messages on how to combat the virus. Most scientists would agree that the cure is not vodka, saunas, and hard work. However, this was the express recommendation of Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko.
Belarus is a small country located right in between Russia, Ukraine, and Poland, also bordering other countries such as Latvia and Lithuania. Belarus was a part of the Russian Empire until the collapse of the Empire in 1918. It would declare its independence and then quickly get taken over by the Soviet Union a few years later. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Belarus has been its own country since the early 1990s. However, since their declaration, Belarus has been under an authoritarian regime. President Alexander Lukashenko has remained the president of Belarus since the establishment of his office. However, people are now fully uprising to protest his harsh, dictatorial rule.
Recently, there have been massive uprisings in Belarus as a result of President Lukashenko’s corrupt leadership, lack of opportunities for employment for the citizens of Belarus, and low wages. Additionally, Lukashenko is often described as “Europe’s last dictator,” in that he still grasps onto Soviet-style communism, including government controlled manufacturing and media, as well as a powerful secret police force similar to the KGB. Protests are led by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a human rights activist and politician who ran for president of Belarus in 2009. Although she has been exiled to Lithuania, Tikhanovskaya is pushing for President Lukashenko’s removal as president. She has stated that “Sooner or later he will have to step away. It’s better for everybody. It’s better for the country if it will happen in the shortest time…the Belarusian people have changed. They will never accept the old authorities” (Al Jazeera News). There have been demonstrations, consisting of tens of thousands of people, across the country all of which demand an end to the president’s 26-year long dictatorship. Lukashenko has ordered his officials to take “stringent measures” in response to the mass protests in which two have died and dozens have reportedly been arrested and tortured while in custody.
Despite the danger that the citizens of Belarus are faced with, they still have hope. There is a sense of optimism among the protestors. There have been reports of cracks within Lukashenko’s regime, including members of his security forces resigning. Protestors are hopeful that as domestic and foreign pressure mounts, Lukashenko will leave the office and free, democratic elections can take place.
Al Jazeera. “Lukashenko ‘Will Have to Step Away’: Belarus Opposition Leader.” News | Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 22 Aug. 2020, www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/08/forget-forgive-tikhanovskaya-al-jazeera-200822175304752.html.
“Belarus.” Ducksters Educational Site, www.ducksters.com/geography/country.php?country=Belarus.