How a crafty outsider exploited a peculiar set of historical and political circumstances in post-Soviet Belarus to take the reins of power.
by Alexander Martynau
Among the Baltic and Eastern European Soviet republics Belarus was worst positioned for independence, democratic reform, and the transition to a free market. Unlike the Baltic states, it did not enjoy an interwar period of independence, nostalgically remembered by the common people and carefully nurtured by national elites. Belarusians have never come close to establishing a viable independent state entity since the 16th-century Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Unlike Soviet Ukraine, in Belarus there were neither mutually balancing regional elites competing for control over the country, nor a politically and culturally vibrant region with strong historical ties to Central Europe, which was Ukrainian Galicia. Belarus was an ethnically homogeneous and relatively prosperous Soviet republic whose economic well-being relied largely on the preservation of the Soviet economic model.