Belarus doesn’t feature on many bucket lists. Often subtitled “Europe’s last dictatorship”, it has changed less than its neighbours since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The state has maintained control of key industries, as well as owning all the land, all the collective farming and many of the hotels, the restaurants and the cafés.
On the shore of Lake Drivyaty, the biggest in Braslav, you feel your problems drifting away, becoming at one with nature. The sun shimmers on the water, which is adorned with delicate water-lilies.
There was no hesitation on Steven Seagal’s face as he took a raw, freshly peeled carrot from the hands of Belarusan President Alexander Lukashenko and bit into it with a satisfying chomp.
Emily Watson: “If you go to Belarus for about two seconds you realise it was probably the worst place to be on the planet in the mid 20th Century and the extinction of the population coming from the East and the West was just astonishing and she would have been a child at that time, so people with incredible strength, survival and toughness and she was just someone who was tough and steams in there.”
Around 4,000 people a year visit Belarusain health resort located half a kilometer deep underground – in a depth of potassium salt layer.
There is a tired old cliché that Belarus is a Soviet theme park, a phrase overused in the West, most often on Internet tourist sites. Most Belarusians do not want a return of the Soviet Union, but they do have some ties to a Soviet identity, one that has been consciously and deliberately fostered by the Lukashenka presidency and linked to the USSR’s victory over Nazi Germany.
Belarus Digest and the Centre for Transition Studies are launching a series of analytical papers offering in-depth analysis of various aspects of Belarus often overlooked by Western experts and press.