Report: Belarus, the Last Dictatorship of Europe

On the 11th of January, the activity committee of the JASON Institute for Peace and Security Studies organized its second webinar of 2021. The goal of the event was to discuss the rising tensions between the so-called ‘’last dictator of Europe’’ and his population. By doing so we talked about what laid the basis for the current riots and what the future will bring for this young country. We had the pleasure to invite two guests to shed light on these topics and to tell us about their point of view. 

The first guest speaker of the evening was Olga Dryndova. She is a Belarus-born political scientist from the Research Centre for East European Studies at the University of Bremen. She has worked for NGOs in the field of human rights, civil society and election observation among others. The second guest speaker of the evening was Aleś Łahviniec. He is a Belrussian senior lecturer at the European Humanities University in Vilnius, where he teaches US- and Russian Politics. Furthermore, he is the vice-chairman of the Movement for Freedom in Belarus. Both speakers were glad to join this webinar to share their knowledge about the country and the people of Belarus. For them, this is an opportunity to gain attention to the current problems in their country. The more people know about what is going on in the country, the better they say.

We started the evening with an introductory topic on the history of Belarus under Lukashenko and the role Lukashenko had in creating the Belarus we know today. Both speakers were able to tell us more about how the political vision of Lukashenko shifted toward an agenda of political repression and restoration of the old Soviet economic system. Olga Dryndova then told us more about the role of women in the Belrussian society today by showing us some of her research on the Global Gender Gap Report. Not only the role of women in society was discussed, but more importantly their role in the protests and the politics of today was discussed.

After having looked at the years preceding the elections, the discussion went over to the topic of the protests and riots after the elections of 2020. We asked how the protests became, what was named by many, a ‘female revolution’. Mrs. Dryndova pointed out to us that this notion is not right. The role of women only became notionable for other countries a couple of weeks before the elections. However, the female candidates were able to mobilize a lot of people and Mrs. Dryndova explained how this was possible on the basis of a few important triggers. 

Mr. Łahviniec then told us that the protests were not only characterized by female empowerment but also the government’s violent and forceful counter. According to him international communities/institutions should intervene more to support the people of Belarus to independence. Not only by means of restrictive measures against the repressive regime and expressing solidarity, but also by helping the country to create its own European democratic identity. According to him, this will not be established with more intensive integration of Russia, because then Belarus has to sell some aspects of its independence. 

Mrs. Dryndova underlined the importance of international intervention and explained to what extent this is possible. Taking these points into account one can only hope to see Belarus gain a brighter future, a thought shared by both speakers. As Mrs. Dryndova pointed out events like this webinar can be seen as instruments to obtain this goal.

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