In This Review

The Last Dictatorship in Europe: Belarus Under Lukashenko
The Last Dictatorship in Europe: Belarus Under Lukashenko
By Brian Bennett
256 pp, Columbia University Press, 2012

To call Belarus “Europe’s last dictatorship” has become a cliché. The description is accurate but incomplete, and thus misleading. It suggests that the dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko’s regime represents a vestige of the past likely to go the way of its kindred anachronisms. In fact, Lukashenko’s authoritarian system constitutes a fresh incarnation of repression, with no end in sight. Bennett was the United Kingdom’s ambassador to Belarus from 2003 to 2007 and tells a firsthand tale of how Lukashenko methodically transformed a firm grip on power into an airless, brook-no-opposition tyranny. Bennett, like other authors before him, 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.