Belarus is a country roughly the size of Great Britain that borders Russia and Ukraine. With all the beef that’s going on between the two of them at the moment Belarus has suddenly become much more vital to Russia.
Putin has enjoyed the cushion that Belarus provides between Russia and Western Europe, it’s a country still very much steeped in Soviet ways. On the other hand, Europe has tried to kind of ignore the small country and its backwards regime. To the EU Belarus is the fish that got away with a mad Ã¼ber-controlling despot and human rights abuses coming out of its every pore.
The dictator, one Alexander Lukashenko, is popular with literally no one. Putin thinks of him as a low-grade hick and apparently once told him to “sod off”, the West looks on him as the maniacal tyrant that he is and his subjects think he’s an oppressive bully.
Whilst Russia has embraced capitalism and some semblance of democracy, Belarus has been kept in the closet. It’s a festering cocoon of Soviet megalomania. They still have a wing of the KGB, political prisoners, show trials, torture, penal colonies, collective farms and an imposing propaganda machine.
The Belarusian capital of Minsk is an immaculate faÃ§ade for a crumbling state. A strict bunch of pernickety laws keep the lipstick of the perfect city pristine. There are laws against jaywalking, treading on grass, swearing or drinking alcohol on the streets and photographing government buildings. And that’s just the start of it…
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