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Europe’s last dictatorship

Since 1994, when Belarus first elected Alexander Lukashenko as president, the country has stagnated as a Russian client state. But the global financial crisis may finally force change on the regime

By Sam Knight   April 2009

Alexander Lukashenko with Russia’s President Medvedev

It has not always been easy to see the point of Belarus. Unlike its neighbours, it has not spent the last 18 years celebrating its uniqueness, fighting wars, or reinventing itself as a Nato ally or as a place to go for stag weekends. If anything, it has done the opposite. After independence in 1991 and three years of chaotic nationalist leadership, its 10m citizens decided to stay as Russian and as Soviet as possible, electing Alexander Lukashenko, a farm manager and anti-corruption campaigner, to keep things the way they were when the country…

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