Stalin’s Ghosts, Parasites, and Pandemic: The Roots of the 2020 Uprising in Belarus

2021 Annual London Lecture on Belarusian Studies

In: Journal of Belarusian Studies
David R. Marples Distinguished University Professor, Department of History and Classics, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta Edmonton, AB Canada

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The 2020 presidential election in Belarus was different from previous elections in the independence period. Three candidates emerged from the economic and political elite, and several factors reduced the popularity of the incumbent president Aliaksandr Lukashenka, particularly his so-called Parasite Laws of 2016, his dismissal of Covid-19 as a psychosis, and the destruction of crosses at the Kurapaty memorial site. Though several candidates were barred from running, the campaign of Svjatlana Cichanoŭskaja emerged as a serious challenge, with popular mass rallies and support from the other two major campaign teams. Yet the announced results gave Lukashenka over 80%. The response was the largest mass demonstrations seen in Belarus since the late 1980s, to which the government responded with repressions and arrests. The paper discusses the various analyses of the election results and whether the “national awakening” can herald real political change.

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