The Last Dictatorship in Europe

Belarus Under Lukashenko

January 2012 9781849041676 276pp


Belarus is an isolated country dominated by one man. Few tourists go there, despite its fascinating, cultured past and beautiful countryside. Belarussians are friendly and hospitable yet they rarely have the chance to speak their minds and are deprived of access to unbiased information. They have been removed from the flow of European history by a tyrannical regime described by Condoleezza Rice, the former US Secretary of State, as ‘the last dictatorship in Europe.’ The people of Belarus were not ready for independence in 1991 and were misled into believing that the young, unsophisticated Alexander Lukashenko would lead them into a bright future. Instead he foisted upon them a dictatorship little different from what they had known before.

Brian Bennett’s book tracks the history of Belarus from the collapse of the Soviet Union to the eventual establishment of dictatorship in 2006. It takes the reader through the excitement and mistakes of the first presidential election in 1994, undemocratic referendums and elections, suspicious disappearances of critics of the regime and the suppression of opposition. It ends with a close look at the enigmatic Alexander Lukashenko and hazards a guess as to how his regime will end.  Belarus deserves to be better known; this book pulls back the curtain.


‘A clear and well-documented history of social, cultural, economic, and political change during the autocratic rule of Alexander Lukashenko, a welcome addition for scholars and students of the history and politics of post-Soviet Belarus. … Lukashenko’s victory in December 2010 will ensure a sustained interest in this book in the coming years.’ — Professor Christian W. Haerpfer, University of Aberdeen

‘Brian Bennett’s lucid and judicious account of the rise of Lukashenko is based on his diplomatic work as British representative in Minsk during this bleak period. This unique, factually detailed book is a readable, authentic and shocking cautionary tale for modern times.’ — Arnold McMillin, Professor of Russian Literature, University College London

‘Incisive and well researched — The Last Dictatorship in Europe is an important contribution to a shamefully neglected subject.’ — Edward Lucas, author of The New Cold War

‘Bennett tells a first-hand tale of how Lukashenko methodically transformed a firm grip on power into an airless, brook-no-opposition tyranny. [He] recognizes that as large as Lukashenko’s role is, Belarus’ history and the character of its elites abetted the country’s descent into dictatorship. His discouraging verdict is that short of an act of God or a fundamental change of heart on the part of Belarus’ allies in Russia, a physically vigorous Lukashenko is, as Belarus’ constitution now permits, there for life.’ — Foreign Affairs


Brian Bennett was born in Portsmouth in 1948. After Sheffield University, where he read Russian, he joined the Diplomatic Service and served in Central, Northern, Western and Eastern Europe, the Caribbean and North Africa. His last posting was as Ambassador to Belarus 2003-2007. He is married with three children.

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