The Last Dictatorship of Europe

Riccardo Valsecchi

Minsk, the capital of Belarus, a modern city with enormous, austere buildings, an efficient public transportation system, a low cost of living, no crime, and fashionably dressed girls who crowd the clubs in the city center.

Behind Oktyabrskaja Square, at the crossing with Karl Marx Street, between neo-classical palaces and architectonic monuments to Soviet constructivism, there is the residence of President Alexander Lukashenko. First elected in 1994 and confirmed in subsequent presidential electoral contests in 2001 and 2006, Lukashenko has built a strong and powerful government around himself, based on the state monopoly of economic resources, on holding all executive power in his hand, on media demagogy, as well as on repression of the opposition. The Western media refers to him as "the last dictator of Europe," while his supporters call him "bat'ka" (father), but Belorussians prefer not to speak at all, as 21-year-old Natalya confesses, "I'm afraid to talk about him."

Alexander Milinkevich was the opposition presidential candidate during the 2006 electoral campaign. As the leader of the Movement for Freedom that reunites all the democratic forces in the country, he is the man in whom Western politicians have put their hopes to re-establish democracy in Belarus.



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