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Belarus timeline

A chronology of key events:

1918 - Towards the end of World War I, Belarus proclaims its independence as the Belarussian National Republic. But, with the end of the war, these aspirations are short-lived. The Red Army invades.

Fishermen on frozen lake
Ice fishing on Lake Vyacha, north of Minsk

1919 - The Belarussian Soviet Socialist Republic is proclaimed.

1921 - The Treaty of Riga divides Belarus between Poland and Soviet Russia.

1922 - The Belarussian SSR becomes founding member of the USSR.

Stalin's purges

1930s - Belarus suffers from the purges against intellectuals and political opponents ordered by Stalin. More than one-hundred thousand people are executed in Belarus, thousands more sent to labour camps in Siberia.

1941 - Nazi Germany invades during the course of World War II. More than one million people are killed during the occupation, including many Jews. The capital, Minsk, is severely damaged.

1944 - The Soviet Red Army drives the Germans out of Belarus.

1945 - At the end of the war, much of western Belarus - previously belonging to Poland - is amalgamated into the Soviet Republic.

1960s - A policy of 'Russification' is pushed through.

1986 - Belarus is heavily affected by the fall-out from the nuclear explosion at Chernobyl in neighbouring Ukraine. Hundreds of thousands of people receive high radiation doses. Around 20% of agricultural land is contaminated and rendered unusable.

Old soldiers at Lenino, Belarus, site of 1943 battle against German forces
Belarusian, Polish veterans at the Lenino World War II battle site

1988 - Belarussian Popular Front formed as part of nationalist revival prompted by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of 'openness'. Details emerge of the full extent of the executions during the Stalin period.

1990 - Belarussian becomes the official state language.

1991 - Belarus declares its independence as the Soviet Union breaks up. Minsk becomes the headquarters of the successor to the Soviet Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Lukashenko era

1994 - Alexander Lukashenko becomes president. He introduces policies designed to strengthen ties with Russia.

1995 - Friendship and cooperation pact signed with Russia. National referenda result in a new flag almost identical to that of the former Soviet republic, and the restoration of Russian as an official language. The president's powers are also widened. There are protests on the streets, but these are broken up.

1996 - An agreement on economic union is signed with Russia. Lukashenko increases his powers again, extending his term in office.

1997 - Protesters against Lukashenko sign a pro-democracy manifesto 'Charter '97'. Belarus' observer status in the Council of Europe is suspended. Belarus and Russia ratify their union treaty.

1998 - The Belarus rouble sees its value halved. Food rationing is imposed. Belarus signs an accord with Russia, which would see their currencies and tax systems merge.

UNION WITH RUSSIA
Belarus president (left) with Russian President Putin, 2003
Lukashenko and Putin: Proposed union is beset by wrangling

2000 October - Parliamentary elections are criticised by election observers who say they are not free and fair. Turnout in some constituencies is so low that a re-run will be necessary.

2000 November - President Lukashenko and Russia's President Putin agree on the introduction of a single currency by 2008.

2001 March - Parliamentary elections are re-run in thirteen constituencies where voter turnout in October 2000 was too low. Belarus officials declare the votes valid. Thousands demonstrate in Minsk against Lukashenko.

Re-election

2001 September - Lukashenko re-elected to serve second term. Opposition and Western observers say elections were unfair and undemocratic.

2002 August - Lukashenko rejects Russian proposals for new form of union under Russian constitution with single government and single parliament.

2002 November - US, 14 EU states impose travel ban on Lukashenko and several government ministers over poor human rights record and after OSCE officials are told to leave.

Woman voting in 2004 referendum on changing constitution
2004 vote lifted ban on third term for President Lukashenko

2003 April - US, EU lift travel ban on president and ministers after OSCE readmitted. But they remain critical of country's human rights record.

2004 April - Council of Europe condemns human rights abuses after report accuses authorities of blocking investigation into the fate of four men with opposition links who disappeared in Minsk in 1999 and 2000. EU imposes travel restrictions on number of senior officials.

2004 October - Referendum backs change allowing president to serve more than previous limit of two terms. Opposition parties fail to win a single seat in parliamentary elections held at same time. Western observers say vote is neither free nor fair.

Street protests ensue. Demonstrators clash with police and dozens are arrested.

2004 November - EU extends travel restrictions on senior officials. US imposes sanctions.

2004 December - Opposition politician Mikhail Marinich jailed for allegedly stealing office equipment. He declares the charge to be politically motivated.

2005 August - Diplomatic row with Poland over treatment of ethnic Poles accused of stirring up unrest in a bid to overthrow President Lukashenko.

Poll protests

2005 December - As March elections approach, parliament approves bill setting out tough penalties for those found guilty of inciting demonstrations or distributing information regarded as harmful to national interests.

Police block opposition demonstrators protesting after March 2006 elections
Opposition protesters said 2006 poll was fraudulent

2006 February/March - Dozens arrested at opposition demonstrations in Minsk as election date draws near.

2006 March - President Lukashenko declared winner by landslide in elections condemned as unfair by Western observers.

Opposition arrests reported as protesters in capital demand fresh vote.

2006 April - EU imposes visa ban on President Lukashenko and numerous ministers and officials.

Defeated presidential election candidate Alexander Milinkevich jailed for 15 days after attending rally to mark anniversary of Chernobyl disaster in neighbouring Ukraine.

2006 July - Defeated presidential election candidate Alexander Kozulin convicted of hooliganism and incitement to mass disorder. He is jailed for five and a half years.

2006 November - Youth opposition activist Dmitriy Dashkevich jailed for 18 months for membership of an unregistered organization.

Gas and oil row

Belarus an important transit route for gas to Poland, Germany
Russia threatened to cut gas supplies in late 2006

2006 December - After tense negotiations during which Moscow threatened to cut supplies, a new gas deal is signed with Russia which more than doubles the price and phases in further increases over four years.

2007 January - Russia cuts the supply along an oil export pipeline to Europe amid a row with Belarus over taxation and allegations of siphoning. The dispute ends after Russia agrees to cut the oil duty it will charge Belarus.

2007 March - Police clash with protesters in Minsk as thousands of opposition supporters hold rally calling for an end to President Lukashenko's rule.

Human rights concerns

2007 May - Belarus fails in its bid to win a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, a result hailed by rights groups as lending credibility to the council.

2007 August - Russia says it will almost halve gas supplies to Belarus over unpaid debt.

2007 October - President Lukashenko says that Belarus will have to build a nuclear power station in order to meet its energy needs.

2007 December - President Lukashenko says he is ready to host Russian missiles if the US sets up bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.

2008 March - US Ambassador Karen Stewart leaves country indefinitely after Belarus asks her to leave. Belarus withdrew its own ambassador from Washington the previous week in a row over US sanctions. US denies Belarussian accusations that US diplomats recruited citizens as spies.

2008 April - Belarus refuses to release former presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin, imprisoned on charges of organising protests against the 2006 election. The US and European Union have made release of political prisoners a condition for improving relations.

2008 May - Belarus expels 11 US diplomats in row over US criticism of Belarus' human rights record.

Media curbs

2008 June - International tender launched for nuclear power plant.

Parliament passes new media law that independent journalists say will restrict online reporting and private media funding ahead of the autumn parliamentary elections.

2008 August - Former opposition presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin and two other dissidents freed from prison.

2008 September - Government candidates win all 110 seats in parliamentary polls; European observers say the vote fell short of international standards but note improvements since last election.

US lifts some of its sanctions after the recent release of dissidents.

2008 October - EU lifts its travel ban on President Alexander Lukashenko in an attempt to encourage democratic reform.

2009 April - President Lukashenko visits the Vatican in his first official visit to Western Europe since 1995.

2009 May - President Lukashenko does not accept EU invitation to attend "Eastern Partnership" summit with six former Soviet states in Prague.

Tensions with Russia

2009 June - Russia imposes ban on Belarussian dairy products, ostensibly on health grounds. Belarus retaliates by installing a highly symbolic customs post on the two countries' joint border. Both measures are later reversed.

2010 January - Belarus threatens to cut electricity supply to Russian Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad in wake of unresolved dispute over Russian oil supplies to Belarus. The two sides eventually reach a compromise over the amount of duty-free oil Russia will supply to Belarus.

2010 June - President Lukashenko orders the shutdown of transit of Russian gas to Europe, escalating a new "gas war" after Moscow slashes supplies to Minsk in a debt dispute. Russia's Gazprom state gas company later resumes supplies after Belarus pays the outstanding debt.

2010 July - Belarus signs up for customs union with Russia and Kazakhstan despite objections to continued Russian duty on oil and gas exports.

2010 September - European Union Foreign Affairs chief Catherine Ashton calls for probe into death of Oleg Bebenin, founder of opposition website Charter '97, who was found hanged.

2010 December - Presidential elections. President Lukashenko declared winner. Opposition and western observers allege vote rigging. Mass protests in Minsk are broken up by force, with 600 arrests.

International sanctions

2011 January - President Lukashenko is inaugurated for a fourth term in office. The EU reinstates a travel ban on him and freezes his assets, while the US imposes stricter financial controls and widens its travel bans on senior officials.

Belarus threatens the EU with retaliation over the sanctions and pushes ahead with plans to put more than 30 political activists, including four opposition leaders, on trial over the December protests.

2011 April - Explosion hits a busy metro station in Minsk, killing 11. President Lukashenko alleges a plot by "fifth columnists" to destabilize the country. Two suspects are arrested, and prosecutors say they confessed to the attacks.

2011 May - Opposition leader Andrei Sannikov is sentenced to five years in prison for organising protests over the December elections. His wife, the journalist Irina Khalip, receives a suspended prison sentence for "rioting".

Belarus cuts the official value of its rouble currency against the dollar by 36%, leaving it still less than half of the freely-traded interbank rate. This follows its most serious balance of payments crisis since independence drains its hard currency reserves.

Bailouts

2011 June - Belarus asks the IMF for an emergency loan of up to $8bn over the balance of payments crisis. The government raises its main interest rate from 14% to 16% and freezes prices on a number of staple foods. Panic buying of basic goods ensues.

Russia halves electricity supplies to Belarus over unpaid bills and in an effort to persuade the government to privatise lucrative assets. Belarus seeks a Russian-led $1.2bn bailout, which is conditional on reforms.

2011 July - Hundreds are beaten, manhandled and arrested after a month of nationwide anti-government protests.

2011 August - Royal Bank of Scotland ceases selling Belarusian government bonds after a campaign by human rights groups. RBS cites international sanctions, the deteriorating political situation and Belarus's tardy implementation of a IMF programme.

2011 September - The rouble falls sharply after the government allows a limited flotation in its latest bid to ease the financial crisis.

2011 November - Prominent human rights activist Ales Belyatski is found guilty of tax evasion and sentenced to four and a half years in prison. The EU says the case is politically motivated and calls for Mr Belyatski's immediate release.



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