Lukashenko & Putin’s Alliance: The Truth Behind the Unlikely Friendship
Lukashenko and Putin have been close of late. They were not always this close, however. Lukashenko condemned the Crimean annexation and always believed in Belarusian independence from Russia. Not many know that. He has been highly critical of Putin’s imperialist behavior in the past.
So, what changed?
It is no secret that Lukashenko is an autocrat. Many have come to call him Europe’s “last dictator.” His police state is reminiscent of Joseph Stalin’s surveillance in the Soviet Union. Many who oppose his rule have to flee to Ukraine and Poland, such as Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the exiled opposition leader, who has rightly claimed to have won the democratic vote in 2020.
It was not always like this in Belarus, however. Like Putin, Lukashenko initially promised to bring change.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Belarus became a comparatively prosperous formerly Soviet country. In comparison to Ukraine and Warsaw Pact countries, Belarus was experiencing an economic boom and steady industrial growth in the 1990s. Political dissent was also tolerated. Lukashenko was warmly welcomed as an alternative to USSR hegemony. In parks, schools, and workplaces, making fun of Lukashenko was common and relatively frequent. You could see the kind of harmless banter toward the head of state that you expect from a democracy.
But that slowly changed.
Lukashenko had to change the game in order to remain in power for as long as he saw fit. In order to do that, he would have to change the constitution. Initially, the constitution stated that the president was only allowed to serve two terms. In 2004, this was ammended in line with Lukashenko’s aspirations to remain in power.
Lukashenko has utilized a number of other important strategies to remain in power in Belarus. However, his methods are different from other dictators who utilize populism and national identity to their advantage. In fact, the Belarusian state has not made extraneous efforts to glorify the Belarusian language.
Lukashenko himself has argued that his critics could be right in thinking that he neglects the Belarusian language. Despite that, Lukashenko has always firmly believed that…