Belarus One Year Later
One year after President Alexander Lukashenko's disputed re-election, Belarussian opposition leader Andrej Sannikov is serving a five year sentence on charges of organizing "mass disturbances." The German Marshall Fund commemorates the struggle of Sannikov and other pro-democracy activists who were violently suppressed by police in December 2010 as well as seven presidential candidates who were subsequently arrested by the KGB.
How to Thaw Belarus’ Permanent Winter
Only a year ago, things looked a lot more promising in Europe’s last dictatorship, which is sandwiched between the northeastern borders of the EU and Russia. In the campaign preceding the presidential elections, nine opposition candidates challenged Lukashenko, met voters in packed halls, and even debated in the state media. Relationships with the West warmed, an invitation was extended to Belarus to join the EU’s Eastern Partnership, Western leaders flew to Minsk and promised aid in exchange for democratic reforms. For a while, it seemed as if the Belarusian regime might open up after 16 years of iron-fisted rule.
Since the December 2011 elections and subsequent repression of political opponents, Belarus' leadership has been unable to provide a stable economic situation for its citizens. The situation in the country has become ever more desperate as Belarus hovers on a precipice. The numbers speak more strongly than any words. Independent journalist Maryna Rakhlei outlines the tumultuous year in Belarus in figures, including the Belarussian ruble's devaluation, slipping incomes, rising food prices and staggering Russian subsidies.
Released to mark the first anniversary of presidential elections in Belarus and the subsequent state terror against tens of thousands of peaceful protesters, “A Belarusian Dream” provides an emotional and sobering account of life in Europe’s last dictatorship. Jointly supported by GMF and the Warsaw-based Solidarity with Belarus, the film tells the story of a young man from Minsk who has lived most of his life under the autocratic rule of Alexander Lukashenko. Falsified elections, police brutality, and a severe economic crisis have prompted ever more Belarusians to doubt the most 'stable' post-Soviet country, and to demand long overdue political, social and economic change. Yet the regime is determined to hold on to power by all means. The film shows how democratic activists and ordinary Belarusians continue to struggle to survive and maintain hope in a state that possesses near-total control.
To mark the first anniversary of his imprisonment, GMF is releasing an unpublished interview with imprisoned Belarussian dissident Andrei Sannikov. Recorded in February 2005, the interview provides a personal account of Andrei Sannikov’s background as a senior diplomat in independent Belarus after 1991, his resignation from office in protest against Alexander Lukashenko’s dictatorial rule, his long-standing engagement in the country’s democratic movement, and his unwavering belief in Belarus’ democratic and European future.
My Friend, Andrei Sannikov
GMF Senior Transatlantic Fellow Pavol Demes shared his thoughts on his friend Andrei Sannikov, the Belarussian dissident and runner-up of the 2010 Presidential elections who was sentenced to five years of prison for his role in organizing the opposition. "If someone asked me to name a person who represents exemplary patriotism, Andrei Sannikov would come to mind. If someone asked me to name people who are true believers in Europe and democracy, Andrei would be among them," says Demes.