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Lukashenko, Alexander Grigorievich

LUKASHENKO, ALEXANDER GRIGORIEVICH

(b. 1954), president of Belarus.

Alexander Grigorievich Lukashenko became president of Belarus on July 10, 1994, when he defeated Prime Minister Vyachaslav Kebich in the country's first presidential election, running on a platform of anti-corruption and closer relations with Russia. He established a harsh dictatorship as president, amending the constitution to consolidate his authority.

Lukashenko was born in August 1954 in the village of Kopys (Orshanske Rayon, Vitebsk Oblast), but most of his early career was spent in Mahileu region, where he graduated from the Mahileu Teaching Institute (his speciality was history) and the Belarusian Agricultural Academy. From 1975 to 1977, he was a border guard in the Brest area. He then spent five years in the army before returning to Mahileu, and the town of Shklau, where he worked as manager of state and collective farms, and also in a construction materials combine. He was elected to the Belarusian Supreme Soviet in 1990, where he founded a faction called Communists for Democracy. In the early 1990s he chaired a commission investigating corruption.

In April 1995, several months into his presidency, Lukashenko organized a referendum that replaced the country's state symbols and national flag with others very similar to the Soviet ones and elevated Russian to a state language. A second referendum in November 1996 considerably enhanced the authority of the presidency by reducing the parliament to a rump body of 120 seats (formerly there were 260 deputies), establishing an upper house closely attached to the presidency, and curtailing the authority of the Constitutional Court. Lukashenko then dated his presidency from late 1996 rather than the original election date of July 1994.

By April 1995, Lukashenko had established a community relationship with Boris Yeltsin's Russia, which went through several stages before being formalized as a Union state in late 1999. Under Vladimir Putin, however, Russia distanced itself from the agreement and in the summer of 2002 threatened to incorporate Belarus into the Russian Federation.

Lukashenko clamped down on opposition movements and imposed tight censorship over the media. His contraventions of human rights in the republic have elicited international concern.

See also: belarus and belarusians

bibliography

Marples, David R. (1999). Belarus: A Denationalized Nation. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers.

Zaprudnik, Jan. (1995). Belarus: At a Crossroads in History. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

David R. Marples

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