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2020-08-18

Due to the current situation in Belarus

The Republic of Belarus, formerly Belorussia, has recently received a great deal of media attention. There were extensive demonstrations prior to the election on 9 August, due to widespread concern that the vote would be rigged to President Alexander Lukashenko’s benefit and that the opposition would be silenced. Södertörn University and its Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES) are following developments and, on the initiative of Professor Irina Sandomirskaja, CBEES wishes to express its support for the forces defending the universal principals of democracy.

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"As academic researchers specialising in the study of Baltic and Eastern European cultures and societies at the Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES) at Södertörn University, we wish to express our solidarity with Belarusian civil society and to support their commitment to the universal principles of democracy, political freedoms, equal rights and justice. We support the Belarusians’ right to peaceful protest and wish to express deep concern in connection with the reported cases of massive repression and police brutalities in the wake of the presidential election.”
Researchers and staff at CBEES

Alexander Lukashenko has ruled Belarus since 1994, with his long period in power being guaranteed through severe restrictions on civil and political rights. The country is one of the least democratic in Europe. Before the elections in early August, there was concern about manipulated results and persecution of people critical of the regime.

These fears were confirmed in that the official election results showed an improbably large victory for Lukashenko, says Joakim Ekman, professor of political science and director of the Centre for Baltic and East European Studies at Södertörn University. Demonstrators have been arrested and the country’s security forces deployed in an attempt to stop the protests. Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya has come to personify the hopes for a more democratic political climate in the country. Since the elections, she has chosen to go into exile and is demanding a recount of the vote.

“Few people take the results seriously and we can see how the protests are continuing, while the regime has come down brutally hard against citizens who has expressed their dissatisfaction publicly,” says Ekman.

The question many people are now asking is whether people will continue to protest, and whether this will lead to any change.

“Swedish interest in Belarus has varied over the years,” says Per Anders Rudling, Ph.D. in history and research leader at CBEES, “Both in research and politically. A relationship between Sweden and Belorussia developed in the early 1990s, but there was later significant cooling off, which also affected research cooperation between the countries.

“After that, there have been less frosty periods intermixed with sharp conflicts, embassy closures and a stop on visas. We have seen a slight upswing in relations since 2015,” says Rudling. “If we look at research about the region, there has been a great deal of focus on Russia and, since 2014, on Ukraine. Countries such as Belarus and Moldova have not been of as much interest.”

However, there are researchers that focus on Belarus at Södertörn University, such as Andrej Kotljarchuk, Nikolay Zakharov and Per Anders Rudling. If you have additional questions, please contact Sophia Nilsson, research communications officer.

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Page updated

11-09-2020