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This week's editor

Rosemary Belcher-2.jpg

Rosemary Bechler is openDemocracy’s Editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

If you want to be a millionaire, go to Belarus

If you want to know what the Soviet Union was like, go to Belarus.


Drowning their sorrows in Belarus

Belarus is now officially the world’s heaviest drinking nation; and the socio-economic consequences are enormous.


Belarus and the EEU: caught between a rock and a hard place

On 29 May, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan are set to sign an agreement on the formation of the EEU (Eurasian Economic Union), designed to take the economic integration of the three countries to a new level. But the cracks are already showing.

A guide to Belarusian prisons

Minsk hosts the Ice Hockey World Championship this month. A Belarusian dissident who served time in twelve prisons shows a side of his country that sports fans might not get to see.  

Lukashenka as Machiavelli

For those who assume that the Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenka long ago lost his freedom of action vis-a-vis Moscow, his recent bout of assertive behaviour was unexpected. It delivered the desired result, though.

Ukraine, and a Europe-Russia crack

The conflict in Ukraine is part of a wider tussle over eastern Europe's political orientation. The European Union remains pivotal to progress, says Krzysztof Bobinski.

Belarusian Warsaw – ghetto or gilded cage?

For twenty years Alyaksandr Lukashenka, president of Belarus, has ruled with an iron hand, and ruined the economy; and still there is no sign of the screws loosening. Meanwhile, as Annabelle Chapman reports, his country has seen a brain drain of young talented Belarusians, many of them to neighbouring Poland.

Brokeback in Belarus

Valery Sidorenko and Sergei Ostapchuk, both tractor drivers, live together happily in a remote village in the Grodinsky region of Belarus. Alyona Soiko travelled there to meet them and hear their story.

Culture war in Belarus

THE CEELBAS DEBATE // In the post-2010 crackdown, cultural expression has become synonymous with political resistance in Belarus. But is it really possible for a regime to fight against its own national culture, and survive, wonders Simon Lewis? 

Ukraine and Belarus: the dawn of change?

Rigged elections and corruption in post-Soviet states such as Belarus and Ukraine are hardly news. Ukraine’s shift towards authoritarianism has highlighted new similarities between the two countries. But might they both eventually move towards a new bright dawn? Yegor Vasylyev wonders

Russia, EU and ECU: co-existence or rivalry?

The creation of the Eurasian Customs Union (ECU) could well enhance Russia’s position in the post-Soviet space at the expense of the EU. However, as the most important battleground,Ukraine would have to be persuaded to abandon its EU Association Agreement to join the ECU instead, say Rilka Dragneva and Kataryna Wolczuk.

The disabled need not apply: prejudice and discrimination in Belarus

The excitement surrounding the Paralympics brings home just how far so many countries have come in rethinking attitudes to disability and concentrating on social inclusion. Not, unfortunately, in Belarus, says Sergey Drozdovsky.

‘Minsk bombers’ executed: the questions that remain

Sometime between 11-16 March, the two men accused of planting a bomb on the Minsk underground were executed with a bullet to the back of the head. Amid suspicions that the Belarusian authorities may in fact have been behind the original explosion, their show trial and subsequent killing leave us with a lot to be concerned about, says David Marples.

A turbulent twelve months in Belarus

This Monday marked a year since Belarusians staged a peaceful protest (brutally suppressed) against rigged presidential elections. Although the regime has not been overturned, and the economy has managed to teeter on collapse without fully imploding, it is clear that Belarusian politics are now in a different place, writes Janek Lasocki

Belarus on my mind, and maybe on Putin’s too

Recent Russian protests against a stolen election were on the whole peaceful and well-policed. At similar protests in Minsk in December 2010, the Belarus police over-reacted, resulting in beatings and imprisonment for many of the demonstrators. Strong Russian support for the Lukashenka regime could indicate that future protests in Russia might be less peaceful, if the authorities start feeling threatened, says Yulia Gorbunova

The freedom fighters of Belarus

Next Monday marks the anniversary of Belarus' disgraceful 2010 elections, which led to a brutal campaign of intimidation, imprisonment, violence and torture against opponents of the regime. Last month, Nikolaj Nielsen travelled to Minsk — still pincered between paranoia and fear — to talk to the brave men and women fighting for their country's freedom.

The Belarusian Alexander Pushkin: holy fool, dissident performance artist

‘Ales’ Pushkin shares his name with Russia’s most famous poet, but is a very different kind of iconic figure. A restorer of church frescos, contemporary performance artist and nationalist political dissident, Pushkin is a surprising product of life in Belarus, ‘the only European country where the Soviet Union still exists’. Max Seddon meets him…

Bankruptcy and privatisation: the end of Lukashenka’s Belarus?

A failed economic model and falling transit subsidies from Russia have propelled the Belarusian economy to the brink. The harsh reality of stopgap sales and emergency loans that awaits will only delay the inevitable, writes David Marples.

Ukraine, Belarus, Russia — family reunited?

Ukraine is busy absorbing the news that opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko has been arrested under corruption charges. Most analysts consider the process to be politically motivated, and part of a strategy of power consolidation by the ruling Party of the Regions. Dmitri Travin asks if this means that “once-democratic” Ukraine has finally joined her Slavic siblings Belarus and Russia in a retreat to authoritarianism.

Belarus: paralysis and reinvention

Belarus is gripped by economic crisis, its people discontented, its government trapped by inertia. The depth of the problem requires no less in response - a degree of imagination and self-confidence sufficient to remodel the nation, says Natalia Leshchenko.

Springtime for Lukashenka?

Effective opposition in Belarus has traditionally been limited by a limited sense of nationhood, a deeply controlled society and a social contract that exchanges rights for “stability”. The country’s deepening financial crisis undermines all three of these pillars. Could it be that the time for change has come, wonders Janek Lasocki?

Lukashenka - what are the prospects for spring in Belarus?

Europe’s last dictator struggles for his survival. Europe should help the process along by applying targeted sanctions

Belarus: the president's dilemma

A dramatic devaluation of the national currency has combined with international isolation to plunge the usually reliable Belarus deep in a sea of instability. The crisis is unlikely to seriously threaten President Lukashenka's position, says David Marples. But the country may yet have to pay a high price for his clinging on.

Chernobyl: the first month

Twenty-five years after the Chernobyl disaster, Barys Piatrovich recalls the tension of unknowing that gripped him and those around him during the days that followed. Today, barely any of the Chernobyl evacuees are still alive. Spread throughout the country, they died alone and unnoticed, statistically insignificant.

A co-publication with Eurozine

Belarus: a European country with a European future

Despite its position out on Europe’s eastern flank, Belarus has historically and culturally been at the heart of European civilisation. Sooner or later, its time will come to rejoin the family of democratic nations, writes Uladzimir Arlou

Was that really Daddy on the phone? A woman’s battle with the Belarusian KGB

Milana Mikhalevich’s husband was a presidential candidate in Belarus’ disputed election, and is now one of dozens to remain incarcerated in KGB jails. Denied access and fed cruel disinformation, her battle for liberty has been a terrifying and closely monitored one. Mikhalevich spoke to Alexa Chopivsky.

Boxing with Lukashenka: why Belarus needs Europe to stay strong

In ten days time, Belarus will hold the first of its post-election political showtrials. The fate of all the remaining prisoners depends on how Europe reacts to the verdict. It must be a suitably firm response, says Andrej Dynko.

The EU and Belarus: what next?

The bloody postscript to last month’s Belarusian presidential elections has made any strategy of engagement clearly unfeasible, writes David Marples. Going forward, the European Union faces an extremely delicate task of managing relations with Lukashenka's unpredictable regime. It may well find it has to turn to Moscow for assistance.

Alexander Lukashenka’s new test

The Belarusian president’s latest election victory and the violent crackdown after it clarify the national challenge he faces, says Natalia Leshchenko.

Bringing Belarus in from the Cold

It is said that Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenka never misses an opportunity to surprise partners and foes alike. But the outcome of the last weekend’s presidential elections in Belarus may have taken by surprise even the country’s long-standing ruler.

Belarus: a most peculiar election (2)

On Sunday, Belarus goes to the polls, ending an election cycle that saw all the usual assumptions turned on their heads. In this, the second of a two part analysis, David R. Marples and Uladzimir Padhol look at the candidates and ask if a Lukashenka victory is anything other than a foregone conclusion.

Belarus: a most peculiar election (1)

On Sunday, Belarus goes to the polls, ending an election cycle that has seen all the usual assumptions turned on their heads. In the first of a two part analysis, David R. Marples and Uladzimir Padhol concentrate on a Russia-Europe tug-of-war that has dominated the campaign. Part II looks at the candidates and ask if a Lukashenka victory is anything other than a foregone conclusion.

Not quite a ray of sunshine: interview with Belarusian writer Uladzimier Arlou

The presidential election in December is unlikely to usher in a new president, young people feel no link to their Soviet past, and the wolf Lukashenka isn’t about to turn vegetarian. European Poet of Freedom Uladzimier Arlou is a towering figure in Belarus; here he talks to Ingo Petz.

Belarusians: in need of a nation

The contest between rival “Soviet” and “European” discourses fuels a dead-end debate about Belarus’s elusive national identity. It is time instead - whoever wins the presidential election on 19 December 2010 - to change the question, and find what Belarusians have in common. A shared archetype is a good place to start, says Natalia Leshchenko.

Belarus election: probably no change at the top

Is the December presidential election going to be more of the same? Lukashenka has been president for 16 years, but this time he is playing at democracy. Could his game get the better of him? Olga Birukova fears probably not, but a recent survey might be cause for hope.

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