country in Eastern Europe

Belarus is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital and most populous city is Minsk. Over 40% of its 207,600 square kilometres (80,200 sq mi) is forested. It was part of the Soviet Union until it broke up in 1991. It has been under the rule of President Alexander Lukashenko, the longest serving president in Europe, since 1994.

Official Flag of Belarus since 1995
A symbol of Belarusian opposition, this flag served as the national flag from 1991 to 1995.

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  • Only four countries in history have surrendered their nuclear weapons. And three of those countries—Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine—did so with nuclear arms that they inherited from the defunct Soviet Union, and didn’t have the wherewithal to control and maintain. (The decision to dispose of this weaponry, in exchange for support from the United States and security assurances from Russia, is still remarkable; had Ukraine and Kazakhstan kept the arsenals on their territory, they would have become the world’s third- and fourth-largest nuclear powers, respectively.)

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  • …the Lukašėnka regime is following in the footsteps of Russia and is under the influence of Russian anti-cultists such as Alexander Novopashin who have declared Pentecostal churches “non-Christian” and “anti-Russian” “cults,” accusing them of spying for the Ukrainian and American governments.

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  • Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus, three states of the former Soviet Union that have nuclear arms on their territory, formally agreed with the United States and Russia today to give up those weapons by the end of the decade and not to seek nuclear arms again. In a wordless, austere ceremony in the barroom of a Lisbon hotel, Secretary of State James A. Baker III and officials of Russia and the three other nuclear-armed former Soviet republics signed a protocol, or legal supplement, to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), pledging to carry out its terms. They thus laid the groundwork for ratification of the landmark START treaty and for permitting negotiations to go ahead between the United States and Russia for deeper cutbacks in nuclear arms. The full significance of the occasion, which took months of difficult negotiation to arrange, went far beyond the pale legalism of the six-page documents the diplomats signed. Today's ceremony was a hard-won milestone in a mostly invisible, yet intense diplomatic struggle to maintain control over the world's largest and most awesome array of long-range nuclear weapons, as the Soviet Union, the nation that created and held them during the decades of the Cold War, splintered into more than a dozen parts.

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  • The Belarusian failure therefore provides a useful test. Here we have an “ethnic group” which is the largest by far in the area in question. According to the Russian imperial census of 1897, more people spoke Belarusian in Vil’na province than all other languages combined. In Vil’na, Minsk, Grodno, Mogilev, and Vitebsk provinces, contiguous territories of historic Lithuania, speakers of Belarusian were three quarters of the population. In the twentieth century, this “ethnic group” did not become a modern nation. In combination with Lithuanian and Polish successes, this Belarusian failure helps us to perceive what national movements actually need.
    • Timothy D. Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999 (Yale University Press, 2003)
  • Officials at the Reich Security Main Office planned the annihilation with cynical precision. They planned a war that declared the entire Soviet population – the entire Soviet population – to be the enemies, from newborn babies to the very old. The enemies were to be defeated not just militarily, but were also to be made to pay for the war imposed upon them themselves, with their lives, their property, with everything that was part of their existence. The entire European part of the Soviet Union, whole stretches of today's Ukraine and Belarus – and I quote from the orders – were to be "cleansed" and prepared for German colonisation. Metropolises such as Leningrad, present-day Saint Petersburg, Moscow or Kyiv, were to be razed to the ground.

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  • We will need a President who is experienced in economics, in politics, in strategy. I am not supposed to say this, but that’s clearly not me. We have people in Belarus, including among the political prisoners, who deserve to be in this position. People will make their choice. And then, even if things don’t go as we want them to, we will all share the responsibility, because this will have been the people’s choice.

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