In 2020, Belarus was thrust into the global spotlight as pro-democracy protesters flooded the streets, waving red and white flags in a hopeful display of dissent. This movement, however, was met with brutal repression by the state under the leadership of Alexander Lukashenko, often referred to as Europe’s last dictator. This article explores the historical context of Belarus under Lukashenko, the events leading up to the 2020 protests, and the subsequent geopolitical and social dynamics.

The Rise of Lukashenko

Post-Soviet Transition

When Alexander Lukashenko took control of Belarus in the mid-1990s, the entire former Eastern Bloc was undergoing significant change. The fall of communism disrupted long-standing political, social, and economic systems. In Russia, the attempted coup by Soviet loyalists marked the beginning of a decade of turmoil, termed the “smoocha” of the 1990s—a period characterized by social crisis and lawlessness.

In contrast, Belarus experienced a comparatively mild transition by deviating minimally from the existing communist structure. Lukashenko, a former manager of a state-owned collective farm, capitalized on the public’s nostalgia for communism and disdain for corruption. He ascended to power in 1994, winning by a significant margin. His campaign was marked by accusations of corruption against nearly everyone, including the first head of state of independent Belarus, Stanislav Shushkevich.

Consolidating Power

Once in office, Lukashenko worked to reestablish close ties with Russia. He signed a friendship and cooperation pact, restored Russian as a co-official language, and even attempted to merge the currencies and tax systems of Belarus and Russia. Though this merger did not materialize, his nostalgic communism and anti-corruption stance secured his position. Lukashenko’s regime retained Soviet symbols, such as monuments to Lenin and Marx, and adopted a flag mirroring the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic.

The 2020 Protests

Prelude to Unrest

By 2020, Lukashenko’s grip on power had been cemented through a series of questionable elections. His governance style, marked by authoritarianism, stifled opposition and free media. Despite the economic challenges and increasing dissatisfaction, his regime seemed unshakeable until the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated public discontent.

Lukashenko’s handling of the pandemic—denying its existence and refusing to implement preventive measures—ignited widespread dissatisfaction. Activist Sergey Tikhanovsky and opposition politician Viktor Babariko mobilized support for democracy but were arrested on dubious charges, preventing them from registering as candidates in the presidential election. In their stead, Tikhanovsky’s wife, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, ran for office, rallying significant support.

The Election and Its Aftermath

The August 2020 election saw widespread allegations of fraud, with Lukashenko declared the winner by a landslide. This announcement triggered massive protests across Belarus, met with severe repression. Police used tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons to disperse demonstrators, leading to mass arrests, reports of torture, and several deaths.

Despite the brutal crackdown, the protests persisted for months. The European Union, United States, and United Kingdom condemned the election as illegitimate, imposing sanctions on Belarusian officials. Tsikhanouskaya fled to Lithuania for safety, becoming a prominent voice for the opposition in exile.

Belarus on the Global Stage

International Reactions

The 2020 protests brought unprecedented international attention to Belarus. Opposition figures in exile, such as Tsikhanouskaya, kept the spotlight on the country’s plight. Lukashenko’s regime faced intensified scrutiny and sanctions from the global community.

The Ryanair Incident

In 2021, Belarus once again captured global headlines when it forced a Ryanair flight to land in Minsk to arrest journalist Raman Pratasevich. This brazen act was condemned worldwide, resulting in further sanctions and a ban on Belarusian flights over EU airspace.

Migration Crisis

Later in 2021, Belarus orchestrated a migration crisis on its western border with Poland. Encouraging migrants from the Middle East to cross into the EU, Lukashenko aimed to destabilize the region in retaliation for sanctions. The resulting humanitarian crisis drew widespread condemnation and further strained Belarus-EU relations.

Geopolitical Dynamics

Alliance with Russia

Lukashenko’s survival increasingly depended on support from Russia. Belarus’s economy, heavily reliant on Russian trade and loans, faced additional strain as relations with the EU soured. Russia provided energy supplies below market prices, but these arrangements were set to change, forcing Belarus into deeper economic dependence on Moscow.

Military and Political Vulnerability

Belarus’s military, reliant on outdated Soviet equipment, is weak compared to neighboring Ukraine. Lukashenko’s regime remains vulnerable to potential Russian intervention, a threat underscored by Belarus’s role in supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The Future of Belarus

Opposition in Exile

Despite the suppression of protests, the Belarusian opposition remains active. Figures like Tsikhanouskaya continue to campaign for democracy from abroad, while groups such as the Belarusian People’s Liberation Army (BPLA) openly plot to overthrow Lukashenko’s regime.

Economic Challenges

Belarus’s economic outlook remains bleak. With the EU cutting trade ties and Russian energy subsidies diminishing, the country faces significant financial challenges. Dependence on Russia for economic survival limits Belarus’s autonomy, raising concerns about its long-term stability.


Belarus’s journey since 2020 has been marked by intense repression and international isolation. Alexander Lukashenko’s regime, though resilient, faces mounting internal and external pressures. The future of Belarus hinges on the continued efforts of the opposition and the geopolitical dynamics between Minsk, Moscow, and the West. As the struggle for democracy persists, the world watches closely, hopeful for a new beginning in this resilient nation.


Q: Who is Alexander Lukashenko?
A: Alexander Lukashenko is the long-time president of Belarus, often referred to as Europe’s last dictator. He has been in power since 1994.

Q: What triggered the 2020 protests in Belarus?
A: The 2020 protests were triggered by widespread allegations of election fraud in the presidential election, along with growing dissatisfaction with Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: What was the international response to the 2020 Belarusian election?
A: The international community, including the EU, US, and UK, condemned the election as illegitimate and imposed sanctions on Belarusian officials.

Q: How has Lukashenko maintained power in Belarus?
A: Lukashenko has maintained power through a combination of electoral manipulation, suppression of opposition, and reliance on state security apparatuses, including the Belarusian KGB.

Q: What are the economic challenges facing Belarus?
A: Belarus faces significant economic challenges, including dependence on Russian trade and loans, diminished energy subsidies, and strained relations with the EU, leading to economic instability.

Q: What role does Russia play in Belarus’s current situation?
A: Russia is a crucial ally for Belarus, providing economic support and military backing. However, this dependence limits Belarus’s autonomy and complicates its geopolitical position.

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By Ryan Hite

Ryan Hite is an American author, content creator, podcaster, and media personality. He was born on February 3, 1993, in Colorado and spent his childhood in Conifer, Colorado. He moved to Littleton in 2000 and spent the remainder of his schooling years in the city. Upon graduation from Chatfield Senior High School in 2011, he attended the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated from the university in 2015 after studying Urban Planning, Business Administration, and Religious Studies. He spent more time in Colorado in the insurance, real estate, and healthcare industries. In 2019, he moved to Las Vegas, NV, where he continued to work in healthcare, insurance, and took his foray into media full time in 2021. His first exposure to the media industry came as a result of the experiences he had in his mid to late teens and early twenties. In 2013, he was compelled to collect a set of stories from his personal experiences and various other writings that he has had. His first book, a 365,000-word epic, Through Minds Eyes, was published in collaboration with Balboa Press. That initial book launched a media explosion. He learned all that he could about creating websites, marketing his published works, and would even contemplate the publication of other works as well. This book also inspired him to create his philosophy, his life work, that still influences the values that he holds in his life. Upon graduating college, he had many books published, blogs and other informative websites uploaded, and would embark on his continued exploration of the world of marketing, sales, and becoming an influencer. Of course, that did not come without challenges that would come his way. His trial-and-error approach of marketing himself and making himself known guided him through his years as a real estate agent, an insurance agent, and would eventually create a marketing plan from scratch with a healthcare startup. The pandemic did not initially create too many challenges to the status quo. Working from home did not affect the quality of his life. However, a series of circumstances such as continued website problems, social media shutdowns, and unemployment, caused him to pause everything between late 2020 and mid-2021. It was another period of loss of momentum and purpose for his life as he tried to navigate the world, as many people may have felt at that time. He attempted to find purpose in insurance again, resulting in failure. There was one thing that sparked his curiosity and would propel him to rediscover the thing that was gone from his life for so long. In 2021, he started his journey by taking on a full-time job in the digital media industry, an industry that he is still a part of today. It was at this point that he would also shut down the rest of the media that he had going at the time. In 2023, he announced that he would be embarking on what has become known as PROJECT30. This initiative will result in the reformation of websites, the reinvigoration of social media accounts, the creation of a Youtube channel and associated podcast, the creation of music, and the continued rediscovery of his creative potential. Unlike past projects, the purpose of this would not expound on the musings of a philosophy, the dissemination of useless news and articles, or the numerous attempts to be someone that he was not. This project is going to be about his authentic self. There are many ways to follow him as he embarks on this journey. Most of all, he wants everyone to be entertained, informed, and, in some ways, maybe a little inspired about the flourishing of the creativity that lies within the mind and soul of Ryan.

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