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Photo file Special features How life has changed Countdown to collapse Introduction Russian Version
Collapse of the USSR Countdown to collapse How life has changed Gorbachev webcast Photo file


Independence date: 25 August 1991

Population: 10 million

Capital: Minsk

President: Aleksandr Lukashenko (since 20 July 1994)

 Country profile


Iím no politician, and I donít want to make judgements about who was right and who was wrong. But I miss the USSR. It was somehow more friendly in those days. Life was sweeter and easier to understand. And Iím also sad because I have friends in Russia, the Baltic states and Kazakhstan. Itís difficult to see them now. Iíve not even seen my closest relatives in Kazakhstan for many years, because I donít have the hard currency or requisite visa.

Zoya Ivanovna Koval, nurse

My mother thinks that if things hadnít changed, my life would be very different. Ten years ago I was at school, and got top marks in everything. But I didnít get into university. To be honest, my interests had changed. In short, I have no profession. I take alcohol and cigarettes to Poland by train. I get up early, and in one day I can go there and back and make some money. I travel to the nearest station, where I have a contact who sells the goods, taking a cut of the profit. Many people work like this.

Katya Sitnyuk, Brest

The collapse of the USSR was a real tragedy for me because I didnít manage to get into the [Soviet youth group] Pioneers. I felt terrible, as if Iíd been cheated. But now I look at things differently. My parents and grandparents all say that nothing has improved. Ten years ago we used to eat my favourite fried chicken every other day, but now this same chicken has become a great delicacy, which we only have on New Year or birthdays.

Lyudmila Shestak, student

Introduction 4. Lithuania 8. Georgia 12. Uzbekistan
1. Russia 5. Belarus 9. Armenia 13. Tajikistan
2. Estonia 6. Ukraine 10. Azerbaijan 14. Kyrgyzstan
3. Latvia 7. Moldova 11. Turkmenistan 15. Kazakhstan

Anti-government demonstrations in Minsk, 1997/ AP
Lukashenko's actions have been criticised abroad/ AP'

The people of Belarus have experienced all the economic hardship of transition, but reaped few of the political rewards.

President Alexandr Lukashenko, who dreams of restoring the Soviet Union, has been intolerant of all political opposition. Some opposition figures have disappeared, and many more have been imprisoned.

Lukashenko has considerably broadened his powers and extended his term in office. The country has been criticized abroad for human rights abuses and press censorship.

Belarus has retained closer political and economic ties to Russia than any of the other former Soviet republics. But the country has gone through a period of steep economic decline.

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