Unlike other Soviet bloc countries like Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Belarus had no national identity, it had been erased by mass deaths and foreign rulers, so they weren’t that bothered about slipping from Moscow’s grip.
Then in 1994 Belarus saw its first independent and fair elections, Lukashenko promised an end to corruption, cowboy capitalism and hyperinflation and swept to power. Once in control he swiftly made changes to ensure his total dominance. He may be horrible but he’s also smart and knows how to grab and hold power. He crushed the influence and powers of NGOs, trade unions and other useful bodies. He exiled artists and musicians and rigged elections.
Like any good tyrant he has an invasive and ubiquitous propaganda onslaught that makes sure people are as brain washed as possible. Everything he does and says is front page news, WWII documentaries and war memorials constantly remind the nation that they’re lucky to be alive and “independent”.
Opposition politicians find themselves and their party members bugged, imprisoned, banished, attacked and starved of funds. Any media outlet or individual attempting to oust or at least hold Lukashenko accountable is mercilessly quashed.
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