In the wake of the overtly manipulated August 2020 Belarusian presidential election, nationwide protests against thirty-year-president Alexander Lukashenko broke out on the largest scale in the history of modern Belarus. Despite suppression, protests have continued to this day, pressuring Lukashenko into vaguely promising constitutional reform and eventual resignation. Belarusian democratic development appears to have reached a key turning point, and this paper seeks to answer whether recent protests can catalyze lasting change. In employing the Mills Method of Comparative Analysis and establishing a contrast with Latvia, this paper analyzes and isolates key domestic variables shaping Belarusian democratic development in both a historic and a present/futuristic context. My results show that while Belarus is at a turning point, a lack of long-term vision and unity among the opposition groups will likely prevent enduring, systemic change from occurring.
Since 1994, President Alexander Lukashenko has held on to virtually unrivaled political power over Belarus. Despite the lobbying of the Belarusian diaspora,1 the moniker “Europe’s last great dictatorship”and inclusion on U.S. President George W. Bush’s “axis of evil,”2 the cries of a weak opposition,and minor protests following a series of elections, most Belarusian citizens chose not to challenge the status quo and protests failed to gain traction.3 Any sort of shift appeared highly unlikely. Thus, the national outcry in the wake of the overtly manipulated August 2020 presidential election was unprecedented, shocking, and potentially pivotal. Still more remarkably, on November 27th of 2020, President Lukashenko agreed to step down pending the implementation of a new constitution.4 Moreover, protests continue to this date despite state repression. The current situation could represent a turning point for Belarus as well as a destabilizing force for the balance of power in Eastern Europe.
Though live reporters, active journalists, and quick-time analysts, including the Belarus Digest, New Eastern Europe, and Reuters continue their coverage of the crisis, large-scale scholarly analysis of the events from August 2020 to the present remain scarce—especially within the English-speaking world. Limited scholarly research, including Buzgalin and Kolganov’s “The Protests in Belarus: Context, Causes, and Lessons,”has covered initial analysis and broad sociological applications,5 but several key questions still require scholarly attention: (1) how could Lukashenko remain unrivaled for so long? (2) what caused the present shift? and (3) to what extent will recent protests and potential constitutional reform lead to actual change? Though some scholarly literature has examined the first question in some depth, current events illuminate old arguments with new brightness and greater nuance. A historical factor analysis is vital to gauging the future trajectory of Belarusian democratic development. To place the democratic development of Belarus in context, the Mill’s Methods of Comparative Analysis will be applied to Belarus and Latvia following the Most Similar Systems Design.6
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, both Belarus and Latvia began to rebuild and reinvent themselves, but the two states set off on completely different paths. Although the two countries border each other and shared history, culture, and government for hundreds of years, the forms of “democracy” present in today’s Latvia and Belarus are vastly different. In Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko took complete, continuous control of a nominally democratic government deeply tied to the Soviet tradition. In Latvia, however, a contentious parliamentary system tenuously balanced relationships among progressives, conservatives, nationalists, loyalists, ethnic Russians, and ethnic Latvians. The reasons for such democratic divergence can be understood only by studying the history of both states since they gained their independence.
An abundance of shared variables ripens the situation for comparative analysis of democratic development. Due to the two states’ great similarities prior to 1991, the impact of each subsequent difference is significant and should be fully considered as a potential determining variable when using the Most Similar Systems Design. In a study comparing Latvia and Belarus, the dependent variable of democracy level can be quantified using The Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual Democracy Index, which is based on assessments of civil liberties, political culture, political participation, government functioning, and freedom within the electoral process. In 2019, Belarus earned an index of 2.48 out of 10—150th in the world, just above Iran. Meanwhile, Latvia received a 7.49—38th in the world, just a half a point below the United States.7
Major study control factors include similar location, similar cultural and ethnic roots, a common border, and a shared bordering of Russia. These factors help isolate democratic development as the variable of study. However, their shared history of governance stands out as the key control between the two cases, as both present-day Latvia and Belarus found themselves within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Russian Empire, and the Soviet Union. Thus, political institutions in the two states frequently functioned similarly until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. This collapse bifurcatedthe democratic development of Belarus and Latvia and provides an ideal focal point for analysis.
While few studies simultaneously compare the democratic development of Latvia and Belarus, many analyze the democratic process within each of these countries individually; these studies can help in forming theories as to why the two states developed their current patterns. Three main domestic factors emerge to explain their contrasting paths, centering around conceptions of national identity, the nature of state histories surrounding protest, and the organization of democratic idealogues. A combination of these factors should be used to assess democratic development and future potential within Belarus.
Introduction to the Democratic Situation in Belarus
Alexander Lukashenko, a former Supreme Soviet deputy, Soviet KGB border guard, and collective farm leader, came to power following a series of comparatively free elections in 1994. As the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR) struggled to reconstruct itself into the independent state of Belarus, Lukashenko appeared as a relatively moderate candidate, promising stability and familiarity in an already turbulent time.8 Just as the Supreme Council of the BSSR Declaration on State Sovereignty adopted policy aimed at pacifying both Belarusian Popular Front Nationalists and Belarusian communists friendly to Russia, Lukashenko also appeared to provide a semblance of balance.9 Above all else, he worked to provide economic stability while other countries of the former Soviet bloc suffered from major recessions.
Lukashenko followed a simple strategy once in office: consolidate power, reconstruct a command economy in the Soviet style, and insulate the country from political and economic turmoil. In so doing, he gradually removed a series of political checks and balances, squashed mere stirrings of opposition, and worked to maintain ties to the Russian sphere of power.10 Heavy censorship targeted the media and all members of the opposition to Lukashenko.11 Within a few months, Lukashenko abolished local autonomy by appointing new regional heads of government and by nationalizing antagonistic private ventures. With a constitutional referendum in 1995, Russian became an official state language—in addition to Belarusian—and Soviet heritage was reintegrated into state symbolism and flags.12 In November of 1996, opposition members of parliament responded by moving to impeach Lukashenko, but bribes, blackmail, and Russian coercion stalemated the effort.13 In retribution, Lukashenko initiated a 1996 constitutional referendum, which elevated the weight of presidential decrees to equal that of law, sliced parliament down from 260 deputies to 110, and granted control of both the Constitutional Court and the Central Election Commission to the president.14, 15 Until August, Lukashenko held almost absolute control. Nevertheless, he perceived opposition as simultaneously irrelevant and constantly threatening.
The overall state of democracy in Belarus has been discouraging. In 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice referred to Belarus as one of the world’s remaining “outposts of tyranny,” full of “oppressed people.”16 On the media front, socio-political information—until recently—was a state commodity, Russian products have dominated the market, and journalists have regularly suffered beatings and incarceration. Despite the registry of approximately 1,400 periodicals, as of 2011 fewer than 30 of the 988 non-state-run periodicals covered social or political issues.17
On the electoral front, arrests of opposition candidates and protestors coupled with unbelievable margins of victory have dominated recent politics. The March 2006 presidential election marked the sixth consecutive election/referendum not recognized by the international community.18 Detailing the 2010 presidential elections, scholar and former Australian public servant John Besemeres described an elaborate system election fraud: the willingness of trustees to pad the Lukashenko vote, “preliminary voting laws” used to supervise and coerce the voting of government employees, and ballot-stuffing designed to mechanically increase both voter turnout and support for Lukashenko—all guaranteed Lukashenko’s astounding eighty percent share of the vote.19 Besmeres also detailed the arrest of 640 peaceful demonstrators, the seizure of seven out of nine 2010 opposition candidates, and the routine beatings and forced apologies of political prisoners.20 Lukashenko’s government beat, abducted, and imprisoned the 2010 leading opposition candidates Vladimir Neklyayev and Andrei Sannikov, and any form of resistance movement existed thereafter without a head.21 For years, such brutal tactics proved effective at silencing opposition.
Surprisingly, for a brief period in the late 2000s, Lukashenko appeared to embrace democratic reforms. Desperate for foreign investment and hoping to reduce fiscal dependency on Russia, Lukashenko curried favor with European and American leaders by discussing reforms, tolerating the opposition, and allowing a few token opposition leaders into government positions. However, fearful of losing regional influence following recent developments in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, Russia began to flex its muscles carrying the Belarusian economy and began an anti-Lukashenko propaganda campaign. Meanwhile, Lukashenko’s European and American counterparts failed to provide benefits that outweighed Russian pressures. Following the newfound political challenge of the 2010 elections, Lukashenko made a calculated gamble to end democratic reforms and tighten connections to Russia.22 He, perhaps correctly, gauged that the Western response would be short-term and mild and worth the risk. It seems that Lukashenko preferred dependency on a country permitting his undemocratic control to alignment with on powers which ask him to jeopardize his position.23 Following renewed political ties with Russia, political suppression re-escalated.
Thus, Lukashenko has maintained an iron grip on Belarusian politics and has threatened to strangle the opposition “as one would a duck.”24 Lukashenko’s motives and suppression of democracy are clear, but his success is startling. Why did Belarusians not stage large-scale sustainable resistance, as in the ‘color revolutions’ which swept Eastern Europe and beyond? Why did Belarusians choose not to demand popular control to begin with, as in Latvia?
Introduction to the Democratic Situation in Latvia
In contrast with Belarus, Latvia is led by a highly democratic parliamentary system of government. Immediately after gaining its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Latvia experienced a power vacuum and multi-faction tug-of-war for control. Whereas Lukashenko served as the individual capable of cutting through the turmoil in Belarus, twenty-three groups—intentionally called “groups” so as to distance themselves from the Soviet-sounding “party”—vied for control of the new Latvian legislative body, the Fifth Saeima, in 1993.25 No individual or group fully dominated, the state adopted a new constitution, and subsequent Latvian administrations have worked to increase suffrage, public awareness, and political participation. Over time, European citizenship and democratic traditions have grown increasingly central to the Latvian identity.26 As a result, levels of democracy and political freedoms in Latvia today compare to those of its twenty-seven fellow European Union member states.
While power in Belarus originates with and unfailingly cycles back to President Lukashenko, power in Latvia follows a clear chain of authority, linking Latvia’s constitution to its legal system to regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers to normative acts of local government. At the heart of the legal system, the Latvian constitution guarantees citizens the rights to free and fair elections and participation in the governing process.27 Specifically, Article 101 codifies the eligibility of all citizens—and permanent residents from elsewhere in the European Union—to serve as civil servants, and Latvians maintain the right to engage with their government as private citizens.28 The Latvian political elite and general public subscribed to the same belief espoused by theorist Francis Fukyama,29 thata state needs a market economy and vibrant democratic system to survive the “end of history.”30 This creates a practical public mandate for Latvian politicians to support democratic growth, secure participatory rights in decision making, and produce an environment which stimulates participatory governance. These legal protections and processes exist to safeguard the Latvian right to democracy.
At the national level, democratic norms are well and deeply entrenched, recently causing much focus on decentralizing power and increasing local-level political engagement. At the local level, political engagement is protected, but infrequent, which the federal government seeks to change. Such governmental concerns reflect a democracy that is well into its later levels of development. Already, thirty-five percent of surveyed Latvians claim they would feel comfortable actively responding to a local council decision which they felt did not serve the public interest.31 Recent reforms of the Law on Local Governments and new policies released by the Ministry of Regional Development and Local Government illustrate the continued Latvian dedication to progress.
Of course, Latvian democracy still faces its own major challenges, with the main political divide appearing to center around reconciling ethnic Latvians and Russian minority groups. To many nationalist Latvians, ethnic Russians and Russian speakers (many of whom were born on Latvian soil) represent the lingering influence and “invasion” of the Soviet Union. Thus, efforts exist to delegitimize the Russian language, and many Latvians challenge the national allegiance of ethnic-Russians.32 As early as the 1993 elections to the new Fifth Saeima, political targeting restricted the electorate to pre-1940 Latvian citizens and their direct descendants, effectively shutting out Soviet-era migrants and the Russian minority. Though allied alternative parties often stalemate the Russian minority party, voter rights and the right to hold public office have since expanded and persistent inequalities are subject to continuing debate. Latvian society appears highly committed to overcoming deeply rooted divisions through democratic means.33
On the other hand, ethnic Russians seek political recognition precisely for their language and heritage, and the Latvian parliament reflects this national division. Though the ethnic-Russian Harmony Party stands out as the largest, most popular political party in Latvia, routinely receiving between thirty and forty percent of the national vote, the party fails to form a government every year. Leaders from all other major parties have pledged not to ally with Harmony.34 Thus, despite free and fair elections, the Latvian democratic process does not necessarily represent the voice of all its constituents.
Nevertheless, interviewed Latvian citizens can express these frustrations publicly and work to reconcile their differences, leading many to remain hopeful and positive. As stated by Kenneth Minogue, politics can be defined in contrast with despotism—the former serving as democratic contestation and discussion of the role, scope, and actions of the government and the latter serving as a lack of debate and discussion.35 The competitive, sometimes problematic components of Latvian governance represent the living status of the political system. While the Latvian democratic system is far from perfectly balanced, Latvian citizens have a voice in politics and a societal commitment to growth which the Belarusian people—until recently—seemed even further from in the modern age than they were thirty years ago.
Theory One: National Identity
A cohesive national identity and a sense of nationalism—regardless of their potential drawbacks—frequently prove critical to the consolidation of state authority, construction of new governmental systems, and development of a national vision. After their independence from the Soviet Union, Belarus and Latvia both paused to reevaluate which qualities comprise their ‘nation.’ Although both states have far from homogeneous populations, Latvia pushed to define “Latvian” and “Latvian goals” in a way that Belarus could not emulate.
Belief in a cohesive Latvian heritage and national identity has been critical to the maintenance of a strong, democratic state. Soviet-era, ethnic-Russian immigrants composed thirty percent of the population of Latvia in 1991, which primed the country for the majority-minority conflicts prevalent today.36 However, certain aspects of uniquely Latvian heritage endured Soviet control and united the majority of those living within the borders of present-day Latvia with a shared sense of self. Critically, the Republic of Latvia experienced an approximately twenty-year period of independence between the first and second world wars and its integration into the Soviet Union.37 A unique Latvian identity developed during this independence: the Latvian language flourished, stable statehood formed as part of historic tradition, and symbols like the beautiful Daugava River, central to both local life and folklore, evolved as a national heritage.38 Furthermore, the Latvian identity of the time was steeped in Western democratic ideas, as laid out in the 1922 constitution.
Throughout the decades of Soviet control, Latvians maintained a “strong moral belief in the supremacy of the Latvian language and culture” due to the survival of the Latvian alphabet, the low degree of emigration among ethnic Latvians, and the persistence of the Latvian language both in public and alongside Russian in educational institutions.39 Once independent, Latvia embraced its historic identity as a European democracy, spurring the country to unite in support of Western political systems, to protect and institutionalize the Latvian language, and to distance itself from Soviet economic systems and the ruble despite the high immediate cost.40 As a result, Latvia experienced a brief, painful systemic and economic jolt followed by rapid growth. In recent years, Latvian society began developing a more inclusive identity,41 while still defining itself by its history, language, and public governance.
Meanwhile, across the border, the ambiguity of a uniquely Belarusian national identity may prevent the formation of a government without Lukashenko at the helm. Following the Polish uprising of 1863 and the Russian Empire’s subsequent efforts at complete Russification, the people living within present-day Belarus witnessed the methodical elimination of their unique heritage.42 Though Belarus experienced a brief period of independence between World War I and World War II, the moment passed quickly—lasting much less time than Latvian independence—and the Soviet identity became the newest one superimposed on Belarus.43 The eventual fall of the Soviet Union left Belarusians without a “concept legitimate enough to serve as a solid ground for a traditional national state,” creating a climate of uncertainty that gave rise to a self-assured populist like Lukashenko.44 It would be incorrect to fully deny the existence of an alternative Belarusian identity, but the sheer number of antithetical perceptions prevent the myriad of conceptualizations from “[linking] in a coherent identity narrative.”45 Indeed, polled citizens of Belarus defined “Belarusian” merely as being a citizen of the country of Belarus, regardless of ethnicity, language, or heritage.46
Quite directly, Belarus serves as a gateway between Russia and the West. Three main views—Belarusian as Western, Belarusian as quasi-Soviet, Belarus as a “bridge”47—and their offshoots divide society. In the absence of a unique narrative, the one borrowed by Lukashenko presents a semblance of order and even of compromise. The Lukashenko camp, the official state camp, defines ‘Belarusian’ in parallel terms to the Belarusian SSR. In consequence, state history begins with the Great Patriotic War (WWII),48 collectivism and militarization are prized, Russian content saturates the media and internet,49 the state flag is a mere alteration of the Belarusian SSR flag,50 and Lukashenko maintains the same level of state control. Reflected linguistically, as recorded in 2009, only three percent of Belarusian citizens speak Belarusian almost exclusively, while fifty-seven percent speak Russian exclusively.51 The presence of a clear Belarusian identity could have led to a greater public voice during the transition process and less reliance on strong governance. Thus, the existence of a formed national identity may have played a key role in the distinct trajectories of Latvian and Belarusian democratic development, and it may continue to shape the future path of Belarus.
Theory Two: Longevity of Protest and History
A second credible theory attributes Latvia’s growing democracy and Belarus’s merely nominal democracy to the historically differing levels of anti-government resistance within the two states. The two states’ markedly different responses to external rule indicate the varying degree of voice and power of the populace. Though Latvia and Belarus were both part of the extremely liberal Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Belarus lost that autonomy through Polish and Russian conquest.52 The years of external rule would dilute the Belarusian nation and ultimately normalize political repression.
As the Russian Empire sought to secure its control and enforce Russification, protests were harshly quelled. In March of 1918, following the chaos of World War I and the Russian Revolution, the Belarusian National Republic formed under a brief defiance of authoritarian control, but the resistance lasted less than a few weeks. German conquest reestablished outside control and then quickly transferred to the Soviet Union.53 Under Soviet control, intellectuals and political leaders were purged from the country, and educated elites loyal to the short-lived Belarusian National Republic were cast as villains in the class struggle.54 Frequent violent crackdowns effectively eliminated the appeal of dissent or resistance far before the fall of the Soviet Union. Although a Belarusian Popular Front existed, it never gained the momentum or general popularity of resistance parties in the Baltic states or in Ukraine55 and had minimal impact on the fall of the Soviet Union.56 Thus, Belarus received sovereignty in 1991 without societal push.
The surprise of self-rule coupled with the elitism and weakness of a democratic movement left Belarus vulnerable to Lukashenko’s populist promises of order and a return to a familiar Soviet system. Lukashenko’s suppression techniques and attempts at denationalization followed a long tradition. In the short-term, conservative policies, the maintenance of ties to the ruble and Russia, and authoritarianism prevented economic abruption, but such benefits are now beginning to disappear.57 Belarusians are starting to realize that they exchanged familiarity for freedoms that they never had the opportunity to experience.
Conversely, Latvian independence “was a dream come true” and the culmination of years of struggle.58 Many citizens experienced or heard the tale of the twenty years of independence between world wars, causing Latvians to react to outside control less passively than Belarusians. Interestingly, it was environmental symbolism that kept Latvian heritage and resistance alive. In 1958, major protests—later put down—preceded a dam construction project which led to the flooding of Staburags cliff, a major mythological and cultural symbol of Latvia.59 However, the Soviet leadership allowed citizens to participate in forms of environmental protest by the 1980s, which served as the beginning of Latvia’s political protests. When prominent literary newspaper Literatura un Maksla published an article detailing the dangers of a government plan to construct a hydroelectric dam on the cherished Daugava River, the resulting protests of October 1986 rocked the land.”60 Further incensed by environmental damage in the wake of Chernobyl, Latvians rallied to protect the national symbol.
The protests successfully prevented dam construction, but they did not end. Instead, protests gained momentum, taking only a few years to evolve into the peaceful anti-state “Calendar Demonstrations”/ “Singing Revolution.”61 Years of protest and memories of independence prepared Latvia for self-rule in ways that Belarus was not. Latvia’s democratic transition naturally resulted from anticipation and desire. The confusion, past conquest, traditionalism, and reactionaryism of Belarus denied it the same opportunity.
Theory Three: Viability of the Opposition
A third potential factor for the divergent development of the two states emphasizes how protests developed into pro-democracy movements and/or parties.
In Latvia, the liberal, pro-democracy groups which began by leading anti-Soviet protests successfully transitioned into viable political parties with clear membership and aims. The initial protests to damming the Daugava provided an organizational framework and public introduction to democratic organization which proved invaluable to party development—and ultimately to parliamentary development. Even under the communist political system, pro-democracy parties started to gain massive popular support.62 As a result, they began to form clear plans for the of an eventually sovereign Latvia. The generally high level of public education in the Baltic region, which far exceeded education levels elsewhere in the Soviet Union, blossomed under glasnost policies and contributed to the growth of democratic ideas.63 Following independence, Latvian democratic parties already advertised a clear ideology, quickly dominated the construction of a parliamentary system, drew from the democratic Latvian Constitution of 1922, and asked the West for developmental assistance.64 Generally methodical, understandable, and directed, the parties earned the support of the Latvian people and allowed for the effective construction of democracy. To this day, democracy in Latvia is viable due to its systemic and structured nature.
In contrast, democratic groups in Belarus lacked a clear direction for the future. In the early days of independent Belarus, democratic groups simply lacked the time to organize or define appealing promises to the public, catalyzing the election of Lukashenko.65 The opposition remained divided following the election of Lukashenko: they could neither agree on a platform, find a unifying leader, nor determine the best means of opposing current systems.
Until the elections of 2020, two main democratic coalitions existed, the “people’s referendum” and the Talaka Civil Alliance for Fair and Honest Elections for a Better Life. The former coalition has rallied around petitioning Lukashenko’s government for a referendum on six proposed social-political reforms. Lukashenko, however, has not complied, and the haphazard alliance of groups fails to unite during elections or on other initiatives. The latter coalition consists of all groups not willing to organize around pushing for a referendum.66 All groups, in both coalitions, have historically had their own leaders, policy visions, and candidates. All groups have historically been reactionary rather than proactive, pushing for change only after the release of elections results.
All the while, Lukashenko has worked to increase his legitimacy. First, he tolerated the presence of opposition, albeit pruned with censorship, misinformation campaigns, arrests, and preemptive crackdowns.67,68,69 Moreover, he pursued policies which bolstered the economy. The number of Belarusians earning less than $5.50 a day dropped by over ninety-eight percent. Belarus rose to the top of the World Health Organization’s countries with the most accessible healthcare. Belarusian society experienced less income inequality—as measured by the Gini coefficient—than Russia, the United States, or Sweden by 2018.70 After Belarus lowered the national discount rate in 2010, started the conversion of Belarusian rubles into euros and dollars in 2011, and the Russian oil bubble burst, public satisfaction declined due to hyperinflation and depleted currency stores.71 However, intense development of the technology sector and foreign investment kept the Belarusian economy relatively strong and citizens relatively prosperous for the region. As Lukashenko assessed, a generally satisfied public with a comfortable lifestyle rarely rebels.
Without organization and a clear agenda, the early development of democratic groups in Belarus was anemic, and subsequent democratic groups appeared more as “a group of dissidents” than as a legitimate opposition or alternative to the present government.”72 Many moderate Belarusian citizens hesitated to claim strong support for Lukashenko, but their quality of life increased under his tenure, and they understood what to expect from his government.73 Without a figurehead, a platform, and/or great economic and social dissatisfaction, opposition groups could not garner the level of public support required for change. The pain of loss, clarity of purpose and agenda, and rapid democratic organization in Latvia may have been key to its path of development.
When viewed in conjunction, each of these domestic factors serves as a gateway for assessing the viability of democracy. Together, they paint a more complete picture of democratic development. Latvia’s brief period of statehood following World War I, its comparably late date of absorption by the Soviet Union, and its self-association with Western Europe strengthened Latvian nationalism, preserved the Latvian language, and defined the Latvian identity. As a result, Latvians associated themselves with Scandinavian, not Slavic, countries. This led to resistance of Soviet rule, the desire for self-determination, and preparation of the populace to lead themselves. Due to resulting protest movements and anti-Russian sentiment, Latvia turned westward, joined both the European Union and NATO, embraced extensive democratic strategies, and sought to distance their political system from their Soviet past. Meanwhile, Belarus experienced such direct, continuous conquest that a strong Belarusian identity never developed. The absence of a national identity led to a lack of resistance and liberalization and a focus on familiarity rather than a plan for a new and unfamiliar future. When change caught Belarus by surprise, its people accepted their first offer of stability, and most elected to forfeit democratic rights.
Regardless of how the Belarusian people choose to define themselves—be it by citizenship, birth, or doctrine rather than by language or ethnicity—progress requires a firm identity and solid democratic visions. The protest movements in the wake of recent elections may have provided the catalyst for a new direction.
Recent Developments and Factor Reevaluation
The events of the past year challenged the norm in Belarus and led the ‘ordinary men’ of the country to protest a political system they increasingly feel does not support them. The entrenched system slowly built resentment as Belarusians gained increased access to new technology and social media as economic development stagnated. Then, a rapid succession of developments including state denial of COVID-19, destruction by COVID-19,74 and economic struggles75 undercut Belarusian contentment. In August 2020, the Lukashenko government committed blatant electoral fraud—overtly falsifying that 80.1 percent of the vote went to Lukashenko76,77—which released a wave of monumentally large, long, creative protests, with brutal crackdowns and international pressure only further inflaming the protests.
President Lukashenko’s position is unprecedentedly precarious. Thus, he agreed to step down, pending constitutional reform. This reform will be a central topic of the upcoming Belarusian People’s Congress.78,79,80 However, as stated by Lukashenko himself, the Congress is a meeting and discussion of elected representatives, and it cannot replace the existing constitution.81 In the meantime, Lukashenko has not yet specified what reforms to expect, how reforms will take place, or when changes will come, and he has taken no concrete steps toward either reform or resigning. Opposition leaders, including opposition leader and presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, declared Lukashenko’s agreements to resign and reform the constitution constitute a grand scheme to consolidate power while stalling for time.82,83 Neither the government nor the opposition appears to have a viable plan for the long-term trajectory of the country. So, can true systemic change occur? Is there sufficient push to force Lukashenko’s resignation?
Factor One: National Identity
Unlike their predecessors, recent Belarusian demonstrators appear to have constructed a common identity as Belarusians. Under the Benedict Anderson conceptualization of nationalism, a sense of community can develop from language, the written word, and symbols84—all of which have proved critical to the opposition in Belarus. The old red and white flag of the weeks-old Belarusian National Republic serves as the symbol of the ‘true Belarusians,’ establishing a historic tie that also functions as a uniting force under Walker Connor’s concept of the “homeland society.”85 The music of protest, songs like “We are not a ‘little nation’” (“Мы не ‘народец’”), Kupalinka, and folk music,86,87,88have become resistance anthems. The opposition speaks, posts, and sings in the Belarusian language, not in Russian.89,90 The national emblem of Belarus was adapted in early January 2021 to include more Western symbology, balancing out the heavily Soviet and Russian imagery.91 However, such steps alone cannot develop a full national identity and future state character. The greater debate over Belarus’s identity as Eastern, Western, or something entirely unique remains unresolved, but must be addressed before establishing a stable government.
Factor Two: Longevity of Protest and History
According to this factor, the Belarusian opposition has been most successful. The recent protests have gone on long enough, have garnered enough support, and center on deep enough grievances that citizens will neither sit out a transition of power nor quickly be silenced. Belarusians weathered years of political repression in exchange for stability and a higher quality of life,92 which COVID-19 and economic strife recently jeopardized, destroying the implicit contract with the Lukashenko government. In consequence of the breach, protests began in the grassroots and at the local level, and they remain fueled by the newly politically active common people—workers, women, and the elderly. When the state unleashed police brutality, fines, and mass detention against peaceful demonstrators, technology ensured stories of COVID-packed jails,93 arrested 89-year-old grandmothers,94 refugee families,95,96 and beaten musicians97 circulated to inflame the public. When a woman wore a wedding dress painted with a red stripe to match the old flag,98 demonstration “flash-mobs” broke out and resistance flags were found frozen in ice,99 and an old woman repeatedly refused to let go of her flag or abandon her protest,100 stories circulated to fuel the public’s flame. Moreover, the opposition took ownership of the legacy of the Belarusian National Republic, using history as an anchor that extends the length of the Belarusian independence movement well beyond the present.101 The combination of the recent scale of protests and the new ownership of a history of protest bodes well for change in Belarus. Time will tell if other critical factors align to support democratic, despotic, or purely anarchical change.
Factor Three: Viability of the Opposition
For the first time, the opposition groups of Belarus have united in calling for an end to Lukashenko’s control. In his zeal to eliminate competition in the 2020 election, Lukashenko arrested and disqualified as many rival political candidates as he could. As a contender, Lukashenko left only the vastly inexperienced Tikhanovskaya, a seemingly unthreatening housewife and mother, who assumed the mantle of candidacy only because her husband forfeited it upon his arrest.102 In so doing, Lukashenko provided the missing unifying figurehead for all sects of his opposition. Tikhanovskaya provided a recognizable figurehead to protestors; contesting the fraudulent election results provided a common goal.103 Furthermore, the high-profile leadership of “ordinary” women—including Tikhanovskaya, Maria Kolesnikova, and others—drew in a wider swath of society than even before.104,105 The actions of Belarusian supporters abroad have gained international recognition for protests.106,107 In the short term, the opposition is a force to be reckoned with. The uncertainty lies in the short-term nature of Belarusian unity. Following the removal of Lukashenko, the protestors will have achieved their goal and their immediate rallying point, but formerly problematic decisions regarding state matters will reemerge in full force. It appears doubtful that unity can last without a clarity of purpose and definition of long-term intent.
Conclusion: Whither to?
According to the domestic factors of evaluation, in the official “Year of Unity,”108 the democratic development of Belarus hinges on the ability of diverse groups to reconcile a common vision of the country. The country is at a key turning point for democracy that extends beyond the replacement of Lukashenko. The pull between Russia and the West, diluted immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union, also plays a vital role today, which adds a confounding variable. As Russia seeks to influence state development for its own ends, hoping to use the current confusion to set up a Russophile administration, it is even more important that the people of Belarus pursue a clear agenda and system of governance. With a clear vision and unity, even outside influence—in the absence of full-scale conquest or blatant intervention—will not stop the gradual onset of a more democratic future. Thus, Belarus finds itself at a turning point with a popular figurehead, but the lack of a long-term vision makes continuing unity or systemic change appear unlikely. At the moment, all options are possible, but the near future likely holds a years-long, chaotic process as power routinely shifts, leaving democracy far on the horizon.
- Yarik Kryvoi, “Transformation of Belarus Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint,” Belarus Digest, November 3, 2020.
- David R. Marples, “Europe’s Last Dictatorship: The Roots and Perspectives of Authoritarianism in ‘White Russia,'” Europe-Asia Studies 57, no. 6 (2005): 895.
- Tatsiana Kulakevich, “Twenty Years in the Making: Understanding the Difficulty for Change in Belarus,” East European Politics and Societies, vol. 28, no. 4 (2014): 887-8.
- Saphora Smith and Tatyana Chistikova, “Belarus’ Lukashenko Says He Will Leave His Post, State Media Reports,” NBC, November 27, 2020.
- V. Buzgalin and A.I. Kolganov, “The Protests in Belarus: Context, Causes and Lessons,” Critical Sociology (30 December 2020).
- Jay Steinmetz, “Chapter 8: Comparative Politics,” In Politics, Power, and Purpose: An Orientation to Political Science.
- “Democracy Index 2019: A year of democratic setbacks and popular protest,” The Economist Intelligence Unit (2019): 10-14, 18-22, 30.
- Marples, “Europe’s Last Dictatorship: The Roots and Perspectives of Authoritarianism in ‘White Russia,'” 895-6.
- Victor Shadurski, “Chapter Six: Belarusian National Identity, State Building and Regional Integration,” In Lithuanian and Belarusian National Identity in the Context of European Integration, (Kaunas: Vytautas Magnus University, 2013), 160-5.
- Franak Viacorka, “How Russian ‘soft power’ manipulates Belarusian identity,” American
University School of International Service (n.d.), 4-5.
- Jason Motlagh, “Dark Days in Belarus,” The Virginia Quarterly Review 87, no. 4 (2011): 70, 78-9.
- Vitali Silitski, “Preempting Democracy: The Case of Belarus,” Journal of Democracy 16, no. 4 (October 2005): 87-89.
- Silitski, “Preempting Democracy: The Case of Belarus,” 87.
- Silitski, “Preempting Democracy: The Case of Belarus,” 88-89.
- “Marples, “Europe’s Last Dictatorship: The Roots and Perspectives of Authoritarianism in ‘White Russia,'” 896.
- Condoleezza Rice, “Opening Statement,” (speech, Washington, DC, 18 Jan. 2005), Archive.org.
- Oleg Manaev, Natalie Manayeva, and Dmitry Yuran, “’Islands in the Stream.’ Reflections on Media Development in Belarus,” in Media Transformations in the Post-Communist World: Eastern Europe’s Tortured Path to Change (Lexington: Lexington Books, 2012), 196.
- Andrei Sannikov, “Belarus: Dictatorship in the EU Neighborhood,” International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs 15, no. 2 (2006): 3.
- John Besemeres, “In Belarus, the leopard flaunts his spots,” in A Difficult Neighborhood: Essays on Russia and East-Central Europe since World War II (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 2016), 173.
- Besemeres, “In Belarus, the leopard flaunts his spots,” 167.
- Motlagh, “Dark Days in Belarus,” 73-4.
- Besemeres, “In Belarus, the leopard flaunts his spots,” 173-178.
- Sannikov, “Belarus: Dictatorship in the EU Neighborhood,” 8-9.
- Nicola Murray, “Human rights violations in Belarus: UK statement,” Speech, Vienna, 17 Dec. 2020.
- Viola Olga King, “LATVIA’S UNIQUE PATH TOWARD INDEPENDENCE: THE CHALLENGES ASSOCIATED WITH THE TRANSITION FROM A SOVIET REPUBLIC TO AN INDEPENDENT STATE,” International Social Science Review 87, no. 3/4 (2012): 139–140.
- Robert S. Colton, “Nationalism & Cultural Formations: A Critical Examination of Latvia in the Context of European Trans-Nationalism,” (Whitman College, 14 May 2020): 1-2, 7, 27-29, 34-37.
- Lilita Seimuskane, “Participatory Democracy in Latvia: Limitations of the Statutes of Local Government,” Social Research 1, no. 34(2014): 63–70.
- Latvian Constitution, art. 101.
- Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?,” The National Interest (Summer 1989): 1-18.
- Daina Bleiere, “The ‘End of History’ and Latvia,” in The Centenary of Latvia’s Foreign Affairs: Global Thought and Latvia, edited by Andris Spruds, Valters Scerbinskis, Karlis Bukovskis, 117.
- Seimuskane, “Participatory Democracy in Latvia: Limitations of the Statutes of Local Government,” 63.
- Samuel George, Harmony: Latvian Democracy at Russia’s Doorstep, May 2019: The Bertelsmann Foundation (North America), Inc.
- King, “LATVIA’S UNIQUE PATH TOWARD INDEPENDENCE: THE CHALLENGES ASSOCIATED WITH THE TRANSITION FROM A SOVIET REPUBLIC TO AN INDEPENDENT STATE,” 147-8.
- Samuel George, Harmony: Latvian Democracy at Russia’s Doorstep.
- Kenneth Minogue, “Why Despots Don’t Belong in Politics,” in POLITICS: A Very Short Introduction, (Oxford: Oxford Press, 1995), 1-9.
- Li Bennich-Bjorkman and Karl Magnus Johansson, “Explaining moderation in nationalism: Divergent trajectories of national conservative parties in Estonia and Latvia,” Comparative European Politics 10, no. 5 (December 2012): 5.
- Anders Åslund and Valdis Dombrovskis, “Latvia’s Post-Soviet Transition,” in How Latvia Came Through the Financial Crisis (Washington DC: Peterson Institute forInternational Economics, 2011), 5.
- Eglitis, Daina S. Imagining the Nation: History, Modernity, and Revolution in Latvia (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2005), 6-7.
- Carol Schmid, “Ethnicity and Language Tensions in Latvia,” Language Policy 7, no. 1 (2008): 5.
- Åslund and Dombrovskis, “Latvia’s Post-Soviet Transition,” 7-8.
- Ieva Zake, “Nationalism and Statism in Latvia: The Past and Current Trends,” Sociology Department, Rowan University (n.d.): 2-4, 29.
- Marples, “Europe’s Last Dictatorship: The Roots and Perspectives of Authoritarianism in ‘White Russia,'” 899-900.
- Vitali Silitski, “Still Soviet? Why Dictatorship Persists in Belarus,” Harvard International Review 28, no. 1 (2006): 46–53.
- Liudmila Volakhava, “National Identity Dilemma: the ‘Who Are We?’ Case of Belarus,” ALPPI Annual of Language & Politics and Politics of Identity 4, no. 4 (2010): 32.
- Maryia Rohava, “Identity in an Autocratic State – Or What Belarusians Talk About When They Talk About National Identity,” East European Politics and Societies: and Cultures 32, no. 3 (August 2018): 4.
- Volakhava, “National Identity Dilemma: the ‘Who Are We?’ Case of Belarus,” 37.
- Nelly Bekus, “European Belarus versus State Ideology: Construction of the Nation in the Belarusian Political Discourses,” Polish Sociological Review, no. 163 (2008): 269-276.
- Marples, “Europe’s Last Dictatorship: The Roots and Perspectives of Authoritarianism in ‘White Russia,'” 896, 902.
- Viacorka, “How Russian ‘soft power’ manipulates Belarusian identity,” 3-4.
- Andrej Kotljarchuk, “The Flag Revolution: Understanding the Political Symbols of Belarus,” Baltic Worlds 13, no. 4 (2020): 48.
- Oleg Manaev, Natalie Manayeva, and Dzmitry Yuran, “MORE STATE THAN NATION:
LUKASHENKO’S BELARUS,” 102.
- Manaev, Manayeva, and Yuran, “MORE STATE THAN NATION: LUKASHENKO’S BELARUS,” 93-4.
- Buzgalin and Kolganov, “The Protests in Belarus: Context, Causes and Lessons.”
- Volakhava, “National Identity Dilemma: the ‘Who Are We?’ Case of Belarus,” 36.
- Shadurski, “Chapter Six: Belarusian National Identity, State Building and Regional Integration,” 160-66.
- Manaev, Manayeva, and Yuran, “MORE STATE THAN NATION: LUKASHENKO’S BELARUS,” 101.
- Silitski, “Still Soviet? Why Dictatorship Persists in Belarus,” 48–9.
- Åslund and Dombrovskis, “Latvia’s Post-Soviet Transition,” 5.
- Katrina Z. S. Schwartz, “‘The Occupation of Beauty:’ Imagining Nature and Nation in Latvia,” East European Politics and Societies 21, no. 2 (May 2007): 281-3.
- King, “LATVIA’S UNIQUE PATH TOWARD INDEPENDENCE: THE CHALLENGES ASSOCIATED WITH THE TRANSITION FROM A SOVIET REPUBLIC TO AN INDEPENDENT STATE,” 134-6.
- King, “LATVIA’S UNIQUE PATH TOWARD INDEPENDENCE: THE CHALLENGES ASSOCIATED WITH THE TRANSITION FROM A SOVIET REPUBLIC TO AN INDEPENDENT STATE,” 134-6.
- Åslund and Dombrovskis, “Latvia’s Post-Soviet Transition,” 6.
- King, “LATVIA’S UNIQUE PATH TOWARD INDEPENDENCE: THE CHALLENGES ASSOCIATED WITH THE TRANSITION FROM A SOVIET REPUBLIC TO AN INDEPENDENT STATE,” 127-8, 132.
- Åslund and Dombrovskis, “Latvia’s Post-Soviet Transition,” 9, 13-14.
- Silitski, “Still Soviet? Why Dictatorship Persists in Belarus,” 46–7.
- Tomasz Bakunowicz, “A game played according to Lukashenka’s rules: the political opposition in Belarus,” Ośrodek Studiów Wschodnich Centre for Eastern Studies OSW Commentary, no. 176 (8 July 2015): 3-5.
- Silitski, “Preempting Democracy: The Case of Belarus,” 90-96.
- Sannikov, “Belarus: Dictatorship in the EU Neighborhood,” 3-6, 8-9.
- Manaev, Manayeva, and Yuran, “’Islands in the Stream.’ Reflections on Media Development in Belarus,” 196-198, 200-202.
- Buzgalin and Kolganov, “The Protests in Belarus: Context, Causes and Lessons.”
- Buzgalin and Kolganov, “The Protests in Belarus: Context, Causes and Lessons.”
- Bakunowicz, “A game played according to Lukashenka’s rules: the political opposition in Belarus,” 2.
- Manaev, Manayeva, and Yuran, “MORE STATE THAN NATION: LUKASHENKO’S BELARUS,” 102-4.
- Maxim Rust, “The election that changed Belarus,” New Eastern Europe 43, no. 5 (2020): 7-8.
- Sergei Guriev, “The Political Economy of the Belarusian Crisis,” Intereconomics 55, no. 5 (2020): 274-5.
- “Belarus Election: Opposition Disputes Lukashenko Landslide Win,” BBC, August 10, 2020.
- Ivan Nechepurenko and Andrew Higgins, “Belarus Says Longtime Leader Is Re-Elected in Vote Critics Call Rigged,” The New York Times, August 9, 2020.
- “Mogilev Elects Delegates to 6th Belarusian People’s Congress,” Belta, December 30, 2020.
- “Belarusian People’s Congress Expected to Help Resolve Issues in Society,” BelTA, January 13, 2021.
- “Belarus to Hold Referendum on Constitutional Changes,” Al Jazeera, December 31, 2020.
- “Lukashenko: The Belarusian People’s Congress Will Not Change Any Constitutional Norms,” BelTA, December 31, 2020.
- Ben Aris, “The Insider: Kremlin Creating pro-Russia Party in Belarus,” BNE Intellinews, December 20, 2020.
- “Embattled Belarusian Leader Lukashenko Tells Russian TV He Is a ‘Squirrel’ and Claims Putin as Personal Friend & Political Ally,” RT, January 11, 2021.
- Kirk Bowman, (Course lecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, Fall 2020).
- Kirk Bowman, (Course lecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, Fall 2020).
- Jaroslaw Kociszewski, “Singing revolution in Belarus,” in Voices from Belarus, New Eastern Europe and Free Range Productions, Podcast audio, December 14, 2020.
- Kociszewski, “We are Belarusians.”
- Michele Kelemen, “The Women ‘Fighting For Freedom’ In Belarus,” NPR, December 26, 2020.
- “Speaking Up For The Belarusian Language Amid Anti-Government Protests,” October 19, 2020.
- Anne Applebaum, “The 22-Year-Old Blogger Behind Protests in Belarus,” The Atlantic, August 21, 2020.
- “Less Russia, More West On Belarus’s Updated Emblem,” Radio Free Europe, January 7, 2021.
- Kulakevich, “Twenty Years in the Making: Understanding the Difficulty for Change in Belarus,” 890.
- “Virus Besets Belarus Prisons Filled with President’s Critics,” Associated Press, December 26, 2020.
- “Court Fines 89-Year-Old Grandma For ‘Long Live Belarus!’ Protest Chant,” Radio Free Europe, January 13, 2021.
- “Belarusian Crisis Center for Political Refugees Established in Lviv,” Ukrinform, November 1, 2020.
- Neil Bowdler, “Flag Wars: Woman In White And Red Flees Belarus,” Radio Free Europe, December 23, 2020.
- Abdujalil Abdurasulov, “Belarus Protesters Battered, Bruised but Defiant after 100 Days,” BBC, November 17, 2020.
- Bowdler, “Flag Wars: Woman In White And Red Flees Belarus.”
- “Belarusian Protests Continue Using ‘Flash-Mob’ Tactics To Avoid Police Crackdown,” Radio Free Europe, January 9, 2021.
- David Baron, “From Housewife to Opposition Leader: The Story of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya,” Israel Hayom, December 28, 2020.
- Kociszewski, “We are Belarusians.”
- Baron, “From Housewife to Opposition Leader: The Story of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.”
- “Лукашенко о Санкциях Против Белоруссии: Сделано, Чтобы Подобраться к РФ,” News.ru, January 10, 2020.
- Kociszewski, “Women’s Revolution in Belarus.”
- Kelemen, “The Women ‘Fighting For Freedom’ In Belarus”.
- Daphne Psaledakis, “U.S. Expands Sanctions on Belarus over August Election, Crackdown on Protesters,” Reuters, December 23, 2020.
- Murray, “Human rights violations in Belarus: UK statement.”
- “New Year Address of Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko to Nation,” BelTA, January 1, 2021.
Abdurasulov, Abdujalil. “Belarus Protesters Battered, Bruised but Defiant after 100 Days.” BBC, November 17, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54961111.
Aris, Ben. “The Insider: Kremlin Creating pro-Russia Party in Belarus.” BNE Intellinews, December 20, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.intellinews.com/the-insider-kremlin-creating-pro-russia-party-in-belarus-199322/.
Applebaum, Anne. “The 22-Year-Old Blogger Behind Protests in Belarus.” The Atlantic, August 21, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/08/22-year-old-blogger-behind-protests-belarus/615526/.
Åslund, Anders and Valdis Dombrovskis. “Latvia’s Post-Soviet Transition.” In How Latvia Came Through the Financial Crisis, 5-16. Washington, DC: Peterson Institute for International Economics, 2011. ISBN: 9780881326024.
Baron, David. “From Housewife to Opposition Leader: The Story of Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.” Israel Hayom, December 28, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.israelhayom.com/2020/12/28/from-housewife-to-opposition-leader-the-story-of-svetlana-tikhanovskaya/.
Bakunowicz, Tomasz. “A game played according to Lukashenka’s rules: the political opposition in Belarus.” Ośrodek Studiów Wschodnich Centre for Eastern Studies OSW Commentary, no. 176 (8 July 2015): 1-8. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.ceeol.com/search/gray-literature-detail?id=563618.
“Belarusian Protests Continue Using ‘Flash-Mob’ Tactics To Avoid Police Crackdown.” Radio Free Europe, January 9, 2021. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.rferl.org/a/belarusian-protests-continue-using-flash-mob-tactics-to-avoid-police-crackdown/31039954.html.
Besemeres, John. “In Belarus, the leopard flaunts his spots.” In A Difficult Neighborhood:
Essays on Russia and East-Central Europe since World War II, 167-78. Canberra: Australian National University Press, 2016. https://doi.org/10.1080/ 09668136.2018.1455466.
Bekus, Nelly. “European Belarus versus State Ideology: Construction of the Nation in the
Belarusian Political Discourses.” Polish Sociological Review, no. 163 (2008): 263-83. Accessed January 22, 2021. Accessed January 22, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41275222.
“Belarus Election: Opposition Disputes Lukashenko Landslide Win.” BBC, August 10, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.intereconomics.eu/contents/year/2020/number/5/article/the-political-economy-of-the-belarusian-crisis.html.
“Belarus to Hold Referendum on Constitutional Changes.” Al Jazeera, December 31, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/12/31/belarus-to-hold-referendum-on-constitutional-changes.
“Belarusian Crisis Center for Political Refugees Established in Lviv.” Ukrinform, November 1, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.ukrinform.net/rubric-society/3168901-belarusian-crisis-center-for-political-refugees-established-in-lviv.html.
“Belarusian People’s Congress Expected to Help Resolve Issues in Society.” BelTA, January 13, 2021. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://eng.belta.by/society/view/belarusian-peoples-congress-expected-to-help-resolve-issues-in-society-136529-2021/.
Bennich-Bjorkman, Li and Karl Magnus Johansson. “Explaining moderation in nationalism:
Divergent trajectories of national conservative parties in Estonia and Latvia.” Comparative European Politics 10, no. 5 (December 2012): 1-23. https://doi.org/ 10.1057/cep.2011.28.
Bleiere, Daina. “The ‘End of History’ and Latvia.” In The Centenary of Latvia’s Foreign Affairs:
Global Thought and Latvia, edited by Andris Spruds, Valters Scerbinskis, Karlis Bukovskis, 117-135. Riga: Latvian Institute of International Affairs, 2020. ISBN: 978-9934-567-47-6.
Boulègue, Mathieu. “Russia’s Assets and Liabilities in Belarus.” The Center for European Policy Analysis (2020): 1-16. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://cepa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Russian-Assets-and-Liabilities.pdf.
Bowdler, Neil. “Flag Wars: Woman In White And Red Flees Belarus.” Radio Free Europe, December 23, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.rferl.org/a/flag-wars-woman-in-white-and-red-flees-belarus/31015574.html.
Bowman, Kirk. Course lecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, Fall 2020.
Buzgalin, A. V. and A. I. Kolganov. “The Protests in Belarus: Context, Causes and Lessons.” Critical Sociology (30 December 2020). https://doi.org/10.1177/0896920520982368.
Colton, Robert S. “Nationalism & Cultural Formations: A Critical Examination of Latvia in the Context of European Trans-Nationalism.” Whitman College (14 May 2020): 1-37. Accessed January 22, 2021. works.whitman.edu/2020010.
“Court Fines 89-Year-Old Grandma For ‘Long Live Belarus!’ Protest Chant.” Radio Free Europe, January 13, 2021. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.rferl.org/a/belarus-court-fines-89-year-grandmother-protest-chant/31044361.html.
“Democracy Index 2019: A year of democratic setbacks and popular protest.” The Economist
Intelligence Unit (2019): 10-14, 18-22, 30. Accessed January 22, 2021.
Eglitis, Daina S. Imagining the Nation: History, Modernity, and Revolution in Latvia, 6-7. University Park: Penn State University Press, 2005. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://books.google.com.
“Embattled Belarusian Leader Lukashenko Tells Russian TV He Is a ‘Squirrel’ and Claims Putin as Personal Friend & Political Ally.” RT, January 11, 2021. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.rt.com/russia/512121-lukashenko-putin-friend-ally/.
Fukuyama, Francis. “The End of History?” The National Interest (Summer 1989): 1-18. Accessed 22 January 2021. https://www.embl.de/aboutus/science_society/discussion/ discussion_2006/ref1-22june06.pdf.
George, Samuel. Harmony: Latvian Democracy at Russia’s Doorstep. May 2019: The Bertelsmann Foundation (North America), Inc. Accessed January 22, 2021.
Guriev, Sergei. “The Political Economy of the Belarusian Crisis.” Intereconomics 55, no. 5 (2020): 274-5. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.intereconomics.eu/contents/year/ 2020/number/5/article/the-political-economy-of-the-belarusian-crisis.html.
Kelemen, Michele. “The Women ‘Fighting For Freedom’ In Belarus.” NPR, December 26, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.npr.org/2020/12/26/949977023/the-women-fighting-for-freedom-in-belarus.
King, Viola Olga. “LATVIA’S UNIQUE PATH TOWARD INDEPENDENCE: THE
CHALLENGES ASSOCIATED WITH THE TRANSITION FROM A SOVIET REPUBLIC TO AN INDEPENDENT STATE.” International Social Science Review 87, no. 3/4 (2012): 127–154. www.jstor.org/stable/41887541.
Kociszewski, Jaroslaw. “Singing revolution in Belarus.” In Voices from Belarus. New Eastern Europe and Free Range Productions. Podcast audio. December 14, 2020. Spotify.
Kociszewski, Jaroslaw. “We are Belarusians.” In Voices from Belarus. New Eastern Europe and Free Range Productions. Podcast audio. December 14, 2020. Spotify.
Kociszewski, Jaroslaw. “Women’s Revolution in Belarus.” In Voices from Belarus. New Eastern Europe and Free Range Productions. Podcast audio. December 14, 2020. Spotify.
Kotljarchuk, Andrej. “The Flag Revolution: Understanding the Political Symbols of Belarus.” Baltic Worlds 13, no. 4 (2020): 45–54. Accessed January 22, 2021. http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:sh:diva-43018.
Kryvoi, Yarik. “Transformation of Belarus Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint.” Belarus Digest, November 3, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://belarusdigest.com/story/transformation-of-belarus-is-a-marathon-not-a-sprint/.
Kulakevich, Tatsiana. “Twenty Years in the Making: Understanding the Difficulty for Change in Belarus.” East European Politics and Societies 28, no. 4 (2014): 887-901. https://doi.org/10.1177/0888325414535429.
Latvian Constitution, art. 101. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.constituteproject.org/ constitution/Latvia_2016.pdf?lang=en.
“Less Russia, More West On Belarus’s Updated Emblem.” Radio Free Europe, January 7, 2021. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.rferl.org/a/less-russia-more-west-on-belarus-updated-emblem/31037914.html.
“Lukashenko: The Belarusian People’s Congress Will Not Change Any Constitutional Norms.” BelTA, December 31, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://eng.belta.by/president/ view/lukashenko-the- belarusian-peoples-congress-will-not-change-any-constitutional-norms-136310-2020/.
“Лукашенко о Санкциях Против Белоруссии: Сделано, Чтобы Подобраться к РФ.” News.ru, January 10, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://news.ru/cis/lukashenko-o-sankciyah-protiv-belorussii-sdelano-chtoby-podobratsya-k-rf/.
Manaev, Oleg, Natalie Manayeva, and Dmitry Yuran. “’Islands in the Stream.’ Reflections on
Media Development in Belarus.” Media Transformations in the Post-Communist World: Eastern Europe’s Tortured Path to Change, edited by Peter Gross and Karl Jakubowicz, 195-216. Lexington: Lexington Books, 2012. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.academia.edu/7003834/Islands_in_the_Stream_Reflections_on_Media_Development_in_Belarus.
Manaev, Oleg, Natalie Manayeva, and Dzmitry Yuran. “MORE STATE THAN NATION:
LUKASHENKO’S BELARUS.” Journal of International Affairs 65, no. 1 (2011): 93-113.
Accessed January 22, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24388184.
Marples, David R. “Europe’s Last Dictatorship: The Roots and Perspectives of Authoritarianism in
‘White Russia’.” Europe-Asia Studies 57, no. 6 (2005): 895-908. Accessed January 22, 2021. Accessed January 22, 2021. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30043929.
Minogue, Kenneth. “Why Despots Don’t Belong in Politics,” in POLITICS: A Very Short Introduction, 1-9. Oxford: Oxford Press, 1995.
“Mogilev Elects Delegates to 6th Belarusian People’s Congress.” BelTA. December 30, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://eng.belta.by/politics/view/mogilev-elects-delegates-to-6th-belarusian-peoples-congress-136284-2020/.
Motlagh, Jason. “Dark Days in Belarus.” The Virginia Quarterly Review 87, no. 4 (2011): 70-91. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://search.proquest.com/docview/920321794/ fulltextPDF/E0CB4F6E335844BDPQ/1?accountid=11107.
Murray, Nicola. “Human rights violations in Belarus: UK statement.” Speech, Vienna, 17 Dec. 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021. Gov.uk, gov.uk/government/news/human-rights-violations-in-belarus-uk-statement-17-december-2020. Transcript.
Nechepurenko, Ivan, and Andrew Higgins. “Belarus Says Longtime Leader Is Re-Elected in Vote Critics Call Rigged.” The New York Times, August 9, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/09/world/europe/belarus-election-lukashenko.html.
“New Year Address of Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko to Nation.” BelTA. January 1, 2021. https://eng.belta.by/president/view/new-year-address-of-belarus-president-aleksandr-lukashenko-to-nation-136329-2021/.
Psaledakis, Daphne. “U.S. Expands Sanctions on Belarus over August Election, Crackdown on Protesters.” Reuters, December 23, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-belarus-election-usa-sanctions-idUSKBN28X1ZG.
Rice, Condoleezza. “Opening Statement.” Speech, Washington D.C. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 18 Jan. 2005. Accessed January 22, 2021. Archive.org,
Rohava, Maryia. “Identity in an Autocratic State – Or What Belarusians Talk About When They Talk About National Identity.” East European Politics and Societies: and Cultures 32, no. 3 (August 2018): 639-668. https://doi.org/10.1177/0888325417741343.
Rust, Maxim. “The election that changed Belarus.” New Eastern Europe 43, no. 5 (2020):7-15. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://ceeol.com/search/article-detail?id=895817.
Sannikov, Andrei. “Belarus: Dictatorship in the EU Neighborhood.” International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs 15, no. 2 (2006): 3–9. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26590431.
Schmid, Carol. “Ethnicity and Language Tensions in Latvia.” Language Policy 7, no. 1 (2008), 3-19. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10993-007-9068-1.
Schwartz, Katrina Z. S. “‘The Occupation of Beauty:’ Imagining Nature and Nation in Latvia.” East European Politics and Societies 21, no. 2 (May 2007): 259-293. https://doi.org/10.1177/0888325407299781.
Seimuskane, Lilita. “Participatory Democracy in Latvia: Limitations of the Statutes of Local Government.” Social Research 1, no. 34(2014): 63–73. ISSN: 1392-3110.
Shadurski, Victor. “Chapter Six: Belarusian National Identity, State Building and Regional Integration.” In Lithuanian and Belarusian National Identity in the Context of European Integration, S. M. Hoffmann and R. Buhr (Eds.), 144-163. Kaunas: Vytautas Magnus University (2013). ISBN: 9789955129486.
Silitski, Vitali. “Preempting Democracy: The Case of Belarus.” Journal of Democracy 16, no. 4 (October 2005): 83-97. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/188321/pdf.
Silitski, Vitali. “Still Soviet? Why Dictatorship Persists in Belarus.” Harvard International Review 28, no. 1 (2006): 46–53. Accessed January 22, 2021. www.jstor.org/stable/42763085.
Smith, Saphora, and Tatyana Chistikova. “Belarus’ Lukashenko Says He Will Leave His Post, State Media Reports.” NBC, November 27, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/lukashenko-says-he-will-leave-his-post-after-months-protests-n1249124.
“Speaking Up For The Belarusian Language Amid Anti-Government Protests,” Radio Free Europe, October 19, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.rferl.org/a/speaking-up-for-the-belarusian-language-amid-anti-government-protests/30900978.html.
Steinmetz, Jay. “Chapter 8: Comparative Politics.” In Politics, Power, and Purpose: An Orientation to Political Science, n.p.FHSU Digital Press (n.d.).https://fhsu.pressbooks.pub/orientationpolisci/chapter/chapter-9-public-law-and-pre-law-training/.
Viacorka, Franak. “How Russian ‘soft power’ manipulates Belarusian identity.” American University School of International Service, n.d. Accessed January 22, 2021.
“Virus Besets Belarus Prisons Filled with President’s Critics.” Associated Press, December 26, 2020. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://apnews.com/article/belarus-coronavirus-pandemic-only-on-ap-prisons-802ce0309de3df0df64d82d4deaa0ab9.
Volakhava, Liudmila. “National Identity Dilemma: the ‘Who Are We?’ Case of Belarus.” ALPPI Annual of Language & Politics and Politics of Identity 4, no. 4 (2010): 31-44. Accessed January 22, 2021. https://www.ceeol.com/search/article-detail?id=140663.
Zake, Ieva. “Nationalism and Statism in Latvia: The Past and Current Trends.” Sociology Department, Rowan University (n.d.): 1-29.