Belarus in Crisis

From Domestic Unrest to the Russia–Ukraine War

April 2023 9781787389380 304pp
Available as an eBook Available from Oxford Scholarship Online
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In 2020, mass anti-government protests erupted across Belarus. The brutal crackdown that followed shocked the international community: the authorities arrested tens of thousands of citizens, shut down independent media and NGOs, and fomented a migrant crisis on the European Union’s border. But where many thought Belarus’s dictator, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, would fall, he instead turned to Moscow for support, intensifying repression. Many of his opponents fled the country.

Then, in February 2022, Belarus provided a staging area for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, allowing troops and missile systems to be based on its territory as large-scale war returned to Eastern Europe once again. Many outsiders now view Belarus as little more than a Russian military district, rather than a sovereign country.

Paul Hansbury offers a wide-ranging account of these two related crises. Exploring the domestic origins of Belarus’s political chaos and its international ramifications, he also assesses the effectiveness of western sanctions policy, as well as considering the history and prospects of Belarusian statehood. Does Belarus have a future as an independent polity? And how has Russia’s war with Ukraine affected Belarusians’ views of their dictatorship and the cause of democracy in their country?


‘Remarkable’ — Roger Boyes, The Times

‘[A] deeply researched and valuable study of the history, culture and current politics of Belarus.’ — Times Literary Supplement

‘Abounds in pointed and captivating reflections.’ — Politique étrangère

‘A concise and yet wide-ranging study. … [Hansbury] has a sharp eye for detail, capturing the pragmatic and slightly petty flavor of the regime’s repressions’ — The Moscow Times

‘An accessible and insightful portrayal of this much-neglected country. Paul Hansbury weaves historical background and contemporary politics into a sympathetic tapestry, depicting a long-suffering people hijacked by a dictatorial regime and its Kremlin backers.’ — Edward Lucas, author, security specialist and Times columnist

Belarus in Crisis is not just timely—both for the region at war and the world. It tells a personal story, invaluable to all, in an effort to understand today’s Belarus—as a country with its own voice, re-shaped by the trauma of the 2020s. An invigorating read!’ — Elena Korosteleva, Professor of Politics and Global Sustainable Development, University of Warwick, and co-founder of the Oxford Belarus Observatory

‘A masterly account of Belarusian history, with short “interludes” dealing with themes of particular interest, culminating in 2022 with the further violent crackdowns on popular unrest and uncertainty after Putin’s use of Belarusian territory to invade Ukraine. A good read.’ — Brian Bennett, author of The Last Dictatorship in Europe: Belarus Under Lukashenko

‘Paul Hansbury’s understanding of Belarus is deep and nuanced. Analysing the causes of the 2020 protests in Belarus and explaining the evolution of Belarusian politics since independence, Belarus in Crisis is a timely, engaging and fascinating read. A truly excellent book.’ — Ekaterina Pierson-Lyzhina, Associate Researcher, Centre d’Etude de la Vie Politique, Université Libre de Bruxelles


Paul Hansbury works with a number of Belarusian organisations, including Sense Analytics, a political consultancy, and the Minsk Dialogue Council on International Relations, a think tank. He also teaches International Relations. He was educated at Birkbeck, University of London (BA) and St Antony's College, University of Oxford (MSc, DPhil).

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