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Whither Belarus?

A Virtual Special Issue of Europe-Asia Studies, with articles selected by Dr Matthew Frear

In the quarter of a century that followed his first election (1994), President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been dubbed the ‘last dictator in Europe’ in an ‘outpost of tyranny’. As a subject of academic research, Belarus often represented an overlooked corner of the post-Soviet space. Europe-Asia Studies, however, has been publishing articles about developments in the country for just as long as Lukashenka has held power.

Belarus has burst into the public consciousness worldwide in August 2020. Lukashenka claimed re-election for a sixth term under conditions that, as has become the norm, were neither free nor fair. The candidate who had emerged as Lukashenka’s leading opponent, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, was standing on behalf of her husband, a well-known YouTube vlogger who had been arrested by the regime. Blatant electoral fraud, coupled with ongoing economic difficulties, as well as a poor initial response from the authorities to the COVID-19 pandemic, resulted in the largest protests post-Soviet Belarus has ever witnessed, with tens of thousands of citizens taking to the streets nationwide in over 30 towns and cities. The regime responded to these protests with a brutal crackdown, which saw the internet cut off, thousands of arrests, and widespread accusations of torture in prisons. This repressive climate pressured Tsikhanouskaya herself to go into exile in Lithuania. Amidst regime brutality, demonstrations and strikes continued across the country, bringing out many constituencies that have been traditionally seen as the president’s supporters, such as factory workers. Lukashenka has made baseless claims of Western interference to stoke a colour revolution in Belarus, dismissing protestors as ‘sheep’ being shepherded by outside forces. Meanwhile, there are concerns about the possible intervention of Russia in any potential crisis that might unfold. A clear, well-informed understanding of Belarusian politics and society has in this sense never been more necessary: this pressing demand can be answered by looking at a curated range of articles published over the past 25 years by Europe-Asia Studies.

Read the full introduction.

The articles below are free-access via this page only up until the end of 2020.

Europe-Asia Studies

Europe-Asia Studies is the principal academic journal in the world focusing on the history and current political, social and economic affairs of the countries of the former 'communist bloc' of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Asia. At the same time, the journal explores the economic, political and social transformation of these countries and the changing character of their relationships with the rest of Europe and Asia. From its first publication in 1949, until January 1993, the title of Europe-Asia Studies was Soviet Studies. The Editors' decision to change the title to Europe-Asia Studies followed the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991. It reflected the belief that countries of the former 'Soviet bloc' would gradually become more closely linked with both Europe and Asia, while continuing to present distinctive topics for research as a consequence of their specific experience. In 2007 the Editors took a further decision to extend the journal's scope to include China and other Asian countries that are or were under communist rule.

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