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Chronology for Russians in Belarus

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Russians in Belarus, 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469f386ac.html [accessed 24 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
Oct 1990 Byelorussia and Poland fail to reach agreement on a declaration of friendship and cooperation, despite the fact that Poland was able to do so with the Ukraine and Russia. Byelorussia does not trust the intentions of the Polish who have the potential to make claims on Byelorussian territory.
Sep 18, 1991 The Supreme Soviet of Belarus renames their independent republic, the Republic of Belarus.
Jun 1 - Dec 31, 1992 The Supreme Soviet passes a law prohibiting discrimination against national minorities. The law made it illegal to ask, in any way, a person's nationality for employment or other official reasons.
Oct 29, 1992 Parliament votes down a petition for a referendum to disband parliament and call for new elections. Deputies cited alleged breaches of the law in the collection of the petition signatures by the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF). The BPF is the main opposition party (holding less than 10% of the seats in parliament) and largely supports the communist-dominated government. While the party supports democratic reforms, it does hold some divisive nationalistic positions.
1993 The BPF continues to call for a new Constitution and new elections. They push for the referendum once again to no avail.
Feb 1 - May 31, 1993 The suspension of the Communist Party is lifted in February. By May, the Communist Party of Belarus and the Party of Communists of Belarus merge, taking the latter group's name.
Apr 1993 The Supreme Soviet orders Shushkevich to sign an amended version of the Commonwealth of Independent States collective security pact. Shushkevich refuses claiming the pact would violate Belarusian neutrality.
Jun 1993 The Supreme Soviet calls for a vote of no confidence for Shushkevich, but the vote fails to achieve a quorum due to the abstentions of the BPF deputies.
Jul 15, 1993 The Law on Citizenship is passed by the Supreme Soviet. This law grants citizenship to any person living on Belarusian territory as of October 11, 1991. Those going to Belarus desiring citizenship must know the Belarusian language (minimal requirements), swear an oath to the Constitution and laws of Belarus, have a legal source of income, and have lived in the country for seven years. The last of these requirements is waved for former citizens of the Byelorussian SSR and members of the armed forces of Belarus.
Aug 1993 With Belarus owing more than $100 million for energy supplies to Russia, the Russians decide to cut back gas supplies from 33 million cubic feet to 12 million cubic feet. Belarus quickly raised the rubles to make a partial payment, and sought to strengthen its economic ties to Russia, hoping to lessen the chances of another cutback (or worse, a cut-off) of energy deliveries.
Nov 1993 Shushkevich fails to support the BPF's call for early elections, despite the BPF's role in saving him from removal from office and the collection of 738,000 signatures in support of the early elections. Demonstrations are threatened, but the Supreme Soviet stations troops outside the parliament building and warns against anyone holding a demonstration in Minsk.
Jan 26, 1994 The Supreme Soviet gives Chairman Shushkevich (the head of state) a vote of no confidence. The vote came in response to Shushkevich's refusal to move Belarusian policy closer to Russia's, though there were official charges of misconduct and corruption leveled at him. Shushkevich has demanded a constitutional assembly be held. The post is filled two days later by conservative, Mechislav Grib (Hryb).
Mar 15, 1994 Belarusian Supreme Soviet adopts a new constitution. A few days previously, they had passed a law which set up a presidency for the executive branch (on March 1). Grib signs the new constitution into law on March 28, and it goes into effect on March 30. Presidential elections are scheduled for June 23.
Apr 12, 1994 Belarus and Russia sign the final accord allowing Belarus to enter into monetary union with the Russian Federation. With the monetary union, Belarus surrenders the ability to make monetary policy of any kind, including the independent ability to budget and tax. In Russia, two top government ministers resigned largely due to the impending union with Belarus which they felt would bankrupt the Russian Federation. In Belarus, the BPF claimed the union will surrender their sovereignty and that Russia simply will use Belarus as a free energy corridor for delivering energy to the West (Markus, May 20, 1994). The new Belarusian Constitution requires amendment to allow for the control of Belarusian monetary policy by the Russian Central Bank. The chairman of the National Bank opposes this.
Jun 16, 1994 An assassination attempt is made on presidential candidate Lukashenka. Later, a journalist who had taken pictures of the incident is kidnapped and beaten before being released.
Jun 23, 1994 Elections for president do not designate a winner so run-off elections must be held. The two candidates for the run-off are the anti-corruption minister, Lukashenka, and the current prime minister, Kebich. The second round of elections is set for July 10. Both candidates have run campaigns backing monetary union with Moscow. However, aids to the front-runner, Lukashenka, have leaked statements to the effect that Lukashenka would not support any agreement which would take away Belarusian sovereignty. In the past, he has gone so far as to advocate the reconstitution of the Soviet Union.
Jul 1994 Meetings are held between the Russian and Belarusian prime ministers on the implementation of the monetary union. It is believed that the Russian Duma will require that the Belarusian National Bank come directly under the control of the Russian Central Bank. A grenade is thrown at a national security official closely associated with Prime Minister Kebich. He is not injured. Russian government officials make clear that they support Kebich in the upcoming elections. Kebich is also supported by the conservative Popular Movement of Belarus (PMB), an umbrella organization of pro-Russian and Communist parties.
Jul 10, 1994 Aleksandr Lukashenka becomes the first president of Belarus, winning the popular election with 80.1% of the vote. He won on a platform of monetary union with Russia, a freeze on food prices, and anti-corruption. The Central Electoral Commission reports that 69.9% of the electorate voted.
Jul 11, 1994 Prime Minister Kebich resigns his government, though they remain on until the resignations are accepted.
Jul 15, 1994 Lukashenka criticizes the accords for monetary union with Russia and states that he will not support them. He said he will support an earlier version, but not the one signed by Kebich.
Jul 20, 1994 Lukashenka is inaugurated as president and nominates his first 6 positions. The following day, all but one are approved by parliament.
Aug 4, 1994 President Lukashenka moves towards opening up the Belarusian markets, removing price supports on some commodities (including staples such as bread). These moves are in direct contradiction to his campaign statements. He appears to be moving to bring Belarusian inflation under control, either in order to facilitate Belarus' incorporation into the Monetary Union with Russia, or to facilitate greater investment from the West (or perhaps the former as a short-term goal, and the latter as a long-term goal). A week later further moves are initiated by Deputy Premier Chyhir to remove price supports from most commodities in order to stem their flow to neighboring states where the prices are much higher.
Aug 23, 1994 The Belarusian opposition party, the Belarusian Popular Front, wants air time in the media in order to advance its views. This is not the first time the opposition has asked for media time, but the previous government always denied the request. There has been no response to this request reported.
Aug 28, 1994 The Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on national television says he favors Belarusian unification with Russia and all Slavic countries. This statement is in line with his campaign statements, but reverses a trend in his statements of late which talked of the pragmatic reality that the CIS had to be based on sovereign, independent states.
Sep 25, 1994 Four prominent Belarusian politicians -- including former Deputy Secretary for CIS Affairs Henadz Kazlau -- have applied for Russian citizenship at the Russian embassy in Minsk. All are reportedly pro-Russian supporters of former Prime Minister Vyachelsau Kebich. This either may be a move to protest the citizenship law which does not allow dual citizenship, or a move to demonstrate their general dislike for the situation in Belarus (RFE/RL Daily Report 9/26/94).
Oct 1994 The Belarusian Central Commission on Elections and Referendums has been approached by an initiative group seeking a referendum on granting Russian the status of official language, along with Belarusian. This group also reportedly wants a referendum denouncing the Belavezha agreement of 1991, which dissolved the USSR and created the CIS. The referendum is rejected by the commission because Belarusian law states that questions violating the rights of Belarusian citizens or the country's sovereignty, culture, or language may not be put to the vote (RFE/RL Daily Report 10/25/94).
Oct 19, 1994 The Belarusian parliament votes to make the Belarusian ruble the sole legal tender in Belarus. By January 1995, all hard-currency shops in Belarus must accept the Belarusian ruble for exchange.
Nov 21, 1994 The Liberal Democratic Party in Belarus and the Slavic Assembly forms a political bloc which is registered at the Justice Ministry. The two Russophone groups will cooperate in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Dec 15, 1994 The economic situation in Belarus is worsening. Price hikes are increasing the prices of basic commodities by as much as 600% and residents of two eastern districts in Belarus have been issued ration cards for food staples. The shortages are especially acute in eastern Belarus near the border with Russia as both Russians and Belarusians have been buying up the heavily subsidized commodities to resell them back in Russia. The price increases are designed in part to stem this tide.
Feb 10, 1995 This was excerpted from the OMRI, Daily Digest: "Parliament deputy Aleh Trusau expressed his personal thanks to President Alyaksandr Lukashenka for finally having given a speech in Belarusian, albeit in the Lithuanian parliament. Lukashenka has been criticized by the opposition for speaking in Russian. Meanwhile, the pro-Russian "Belaya Rus" appealed to the president to go ahead with his plan to hold a national referendum on granting the Russian language official status (along with Belarusian) and increasing cooperation with Russia (Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.). There are signs of increasing activism by BNF members of parliament over the impending accords with Russia (monetary and defense unions).
Feb 13, 1995 The Belarusian National Front (BNF) calls for a halt to construction of Russian military facilities on Belarusian soil and the removal of all Russian forces from Belarus. The BNF begins a petition drive to get the government to renounce the agreement on collective security with Russia. However, the drive is side-tracked as President Lukashenka holds a referendum in March. Later in the week, Mechyslau Hryb, Chairman of the Belarusian Supreme Soviet, suggests the aggreements were signed too 'hastily' and need to be re-evaluated.
Feb 27, 1995 A sociological institute releases an opinion poll on the collective security accords. "Of the respondents, 19% approved of the agreements, 33% partly approved; 9% partly disapproved; 4.5% fully disapproved; and a majority, 35%, were unable to say how they felt about the accords (Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.)." This poll severely undermines the efforts of Belarusian nationalists to stop the accords.
Mar 1995 Rhetoric from Belarusian nationalists picks up once again as parliamentary deputy, Uladzimir Hribanau claims that not a single employee of the Belarusian embassy in Moscow is a Belarusian citizen. Hribanau claims this contravenes the Belarusian constitution which precludes non-citizens from holding high positions, and has contributed to Belarus' loss of sovereignty. Later in the month, another opinion poll (gathered by another sociological center) is reported. "According to the poll, 54% of the respondents were in favor of giving the Russian language official status; 30% were opposed; and 17% gave no answer. On the issue of political union with Russia, 59% were in favor; 23% were opposed; and 18% did not reply (Ustina Markus, OMRI, Inc.)." As 54% and 59% of Belarusians supposedly support offical status for the Russian language and political union with Russia (respectively), it is clear that support for Belarusian nationalists is quite limited in Belarus. The challenges to the advantaged position of Russians does not likely have much popular support even among ethnic Belarusians.
Mar 14, 1995 President Lukashenka restarts the privatization program he had suspended last summer.
Mar 31, 1995 Belarusian and Russian officials agree on the implementation of the economic union accords. Over the next four months, both countries would move to bring their legislation into line with each other and then trade barriers would be lifted, creating a common economic zone. The Belarusian parliament ratifies the agreements in mid-April.
Apr 1995 President Lukashenka proposes a referendum on the increased ties to Russia, making Russian an official language, and on instituting Soviet-era state symbols (as well as one to allow the president to dissolve parliament, an on-going battle between the president and parliament). The parliament initially rejected 3 of the 4 (accepting only the one on the Russian ties), but later accepted all 3 under pressure from Lukashenka. In the battle over the referendum and accords, 18 opposition deputies (of the BNF) staged a hunger-strike and sit-in on the floor of parliament until they were removed by force.
Mar 29, 1996 Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgystan signed a treaty aimed at creating A community of integrated states The treaty provides for hamonization of the economy, science, education, culture and social spheres. (TASS).
Apr 2, 1996 Yeltsin and Lukashenka signed a treaty on the formation of a Community of Sovereign Republics (Interfax)
Oct 19, 1996 The Supreme Soviet began an emergency session. Deputies were expected to work out a plan for further actions in connection with the fact that the Constitutional Court has started proceedings on the impeachment case brought by them against the president. In Minsk about 20,000 people demonstrated against Lukashenka. (BBC).
Oct 22, 1996 Lukashenka claimed that Ait proved impossible to ensure smooth work between the president, the Supreme Soviet, and the Constitutional Court and the only solution is constitutional reform (BBC).
Nov 17, 1996 About 10,000 opposition demonstrators in Minsk protested against Lukashenka's decree sacking Victor Ganchar, the Chairman of the Central Elections Committee, on November 14. The claim was made that only Supreme Soviet had the right to do so. Demonstrators clashed with official forces (BBC).
Nov 20, 1996 Rivals rallied in Minsk. One of these, with red-and-white flags of the opposition Belarusian People's Front, was demonstrating in support of the Supreme Soviet. The other group, waving Belarusian state flags and red banners was calling on the deputies to support the president and not to disrupt the republic's referendum (TASS)
Nov 22, 1996 Russian Public TV (ORT) and Russian NTV television reported that the Russian media in Belarus was being restricted on orders from Lukashenka (BBC).
Nov 22, 1996 An agreement was signed between Lukashenka and the Belarusian parliament, the Supreme Soviet (Interfax)
Nov 24, 1996 Constitutional Referendum was held in Belarus. As a result, Lukashenka was given presidential powers until 2001 (BBC).
Nov 28, 1996 Yeltsin recognized the official outcome of the Belarusian referendum (BBC).
Dec 7, 1996 Yeltsin urged closer CIS intergration (BBC).
Feb 14, 1997 Between 2,000 and 5,000 young Belarussian people supporting opposition to Lukashenka marched through Minsk in protest against the "Soviet Emprire" (Interfax).
Mar 10, 1997 The opposition staged demonstrations in Minsk to protest against further integration between Russia and Belarus (Interfax).
Apr 2, 1997 Security forces dispersed the opposition demonstration in Minsk. About 70 people were arrested and dozens injured. It was the largest forcefully dispersed demonstration by security forces in a year (BBC).
Apr 3, 1997 Yabloko leader Yavlinskiy stated that Russia cannot afford to get involved in an act of charity to boost Belarus' economy (BBC).
May 21, 1997 A group of members of the Belarusian People's Front (BPF) and the United Civic Party (UCP) handed a petition to the Russian Embassy in Minsk to express a protest against Belarusian-Russian integration (BBC).
May 23, 1997 The Russian-Belarussian Union Charter was signed in Moscow (Interfax)
May 26, 1997 The Belarussian opposition claimed that it would not recognize the parliamentary ratification of the Russian-Belarussian Union Charter (Interfax)
Jul 27, 1997 The radical right-wing Belarussian opposition, Belarussian People's Front and the Social Democratic Party organized a march and rally in Minsk to mark Belarussian Independence Day. About 3,000 demonstrators in Minsk carried Belarussian national flags and anti-presidential placards and burned Russian national flag (Interfax).
Jul 31, 1997 About 50 journalists accredited in Minsk gathered near the Belarussian Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanding the release of the Russian Public TV crew and an investigation into the violation of speech in Belarus. Police arrested about 10 of them (BBC)
Nov 10, 1997 The founding of Charter '97 was announced in Minsk. It will unite one hundred prominent figures in Belarusian culture and science, members of leading political parties and trade unions, and journalists. The organization's objectives include restoration of law and order based on the Belarusian constitution of 1994, and the provision of rights and freedoms for every citizen. (BBC)
Jan 26, 1998 Lukashenka praised Russian-Belarussian economic cooperation. The countries decided to set up a joint television and radio company as well as other joint ventures. While welcoming Russian investments in Belarus, Lukashenka noted that his country will be more cautious in implementing market reforms than Russia had been. (BBC)
Feb 2, 1998 About 80,000 private-sector retail and small wholesale traders began a strike in Belarus to protest against tax demands (BBC).
Mar 15, 1998 Belarus celebrated Constitution Day. In his address to the nation Lukashenka stated that the present constitution is a guarantee of stability and democratic freedoms in Belarussian society. About 3,000 opposition supporters organized a demonstration and protest rally (BBC).
Apr 2, 1998 About 300 people demonstrated in Minsk against union with Russia, burning the Russian flag (Belapan, BBC).
Apr 12, 1998 About 70 people demonstrated in Minsk on the occasion of the third anniversary of the violent eviction of opposition deputies from the parliament chamber by special forces using (Belapan, BBC)
Jun 22, 1998 US Ambassador and the heads of diplomatic missions of a number of Western countries left Belarus in a protest against the expulsion of the ambassadors by the Belarus authorities from the Drazny residential complex (outside of Minsk) (TASS)
Jun 23, 1998 Members of the disbanded Belarussian legislative assembly [Supreme Soviet] staged a demonstration in Minsk to protest against human rights violations (Interfax).
Jul 13, 1998 A number of European countries outside the EU officially declared that they are joining the EU decision to impose restrictions on issuing visas to official representatives of Belarus. The decision was taken in protest against the eviction of Western ambassadors from their residencies in the Drazny compound (outside of Minsk) (TASS)
Jul 17, 1998 A radio station called Radio Free Belarus and run by Belarusian exiles planed to start broadcasting from eastern Poland in autumn (BBC)
Jul 27, 1998 The opposition staged an Independence Day rally in Minsk in protest against the policies of the Belarusian leadership. The rally, attended 2,000 to 5,000 people, passed a resolution "firmly denouncing the moves of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka directed at incorporating the republic into Russia" . The protest was held on the sixth anniversary of the proclamation of the sovereignty of Belarus. In 1992, the Belarusian parliament declared 27th July Independence Day. Four years later, a referendum initiated by Lukashenka moved Independence Day to 3rd July, when Belarus traditionally marks the anniversary of liberation from Nazi occupation during World War II.(BBC)
Jul 28, 1998 Forty Russian regional leaders visited Belarus (BBC)
Sep 16, 1998 Belarusian language activists protested over the decline of instruction in their native language in a rally in Minsk. They claim that, according to the Ministry of Education, the number of children who started their schooling in Belarusian has fallen by over 60 per cent over the past five years. The decrease in Minsk is over 87.5 per cent. Over the past two years, the overall number of Belarusian-language and bilingual (meaning the school has at least one Belarusian-language class) schools in the republic has dropped by 666, whereas the number of Russian -language schools has increased by 540. Lyavon Barshchewski, acting chairman of the Belarusian People's Front, thinks that the "ethnocide" against Belarusians is rooted in the rule of "the colonial administration" . "The country is short of real representatives of national intelligentsia who feel responsible for their language and the future of their nation." (Belapan, BBC)
Oct 18, 1998 The Belarussian People's Front, a radical nationalist opposition organization, held a small authorized rally in Minsk to mark its tenth jubilee. Speakers called for a fight against "the dictator regime of Belarussian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who pursues a damaging pro-Russian policy" (TASS)
Oct 22, 1998 Several hundred people staged a rally in defence of the Belarusian language in the centre of Minsk on 22nd October. According to those speaking at the rally, the proportion of children entering schools teaching in Belarusian shrank from 70 per cent in 1991 to about 30 per cent this year. In Minsk, only 7.3 per cent of the total number of children who reached the school age went to the Belarusian-language schools last year, and 4.7 per cent this year. The protest was organized by the Frantsysk Skaryna Belarusian Language Society, the Belarusian School Society and the Khloya youth association (BBC).
Nov 7, 1998 More than 3,000 supporters of left-wing parties rallied in Kiev, insisting that the country join the CIS Interpartliamentary Assembly and the Union of Russia and Belarus (Interfax)
Dec 1998 Documents on further unification between Belarus and Russia were signed by the presidents of the two countries (BBC)
Dec 30, 1998 Belarussian Police detained protesters who rallied against closer union with Russia (BBC)
Jan 1, 1999 In his New Year address to the nation, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka acknowledged that a considerable number of people in the republic had a tough year in 1998 but pointed out that this happened against a background of global economic crisis. He applauded growing closeness between Russia and Belarus but stressed that the sovereignty of Belarus was not under threat (Belapan news agency, BBC)
Jan 1999 An agreement was reached between the European Commission and the Belarusian Foreign Ministry that European diplomats would move to new residencies (Interfax)
Jan 17, 1999 Advocates of the Belarusian opposition Social Democratic Party "People's Hramada" held a demonstration and rally in Minsk in support of a sovereign Belarus. (Interfax)
Jan 27, 1999 More than 10,000 people gathered under the banners of eight sectoral trade unions to demand the indexation of pay (Russian Public TV, BBC)
Feb 27, 1999 Nearly 2,000 people protested in Minsk against spread of fascism in Belarus (BBC)
Mar 24, 1999 Lukashenka protested against the use of force against Serbs in Kosovo. (BBC)
Mar 28, 1999 Thousands of people took part in an authorized demonstration staged by the Belarusian opposition in Minsk to mark the 80th anniversary of the proclamation of the Belarusian National Republic. Demonstrators carried the slogan "No to Unification of Belarus and Russia" and "No to Nuclear Arms in Belarus." (Belapan, BBC)
Apr 1999 The Yugoslav Assembly decided to endorse Yugoslavia's joining the Russian-Belarus Union (BBC)
Apr 2, 1999 About 500 people protested against the possible return of nuclear arms to Belarus in view of statements by Belarusian and Russian politicians who said that the option was possible in response to NATO's air raids on Serbia (Belapan News, BBC)
Apr 15, 1999 Lukashenka visited Yugoslavia. He was greeted with the highest state honors (BBC)
Apr 23, 1999 Russian Muslims opposed plans for Yugoslav membership in the Russia-Belarus Union, stating that the country has embarked on the path of openly encouraging the ideology of Slav chauvinism. These fears have led to calls in Tatarstan for the creation of a union of Turkic peoples in order to safeguard the collective security of Russian Muslims (Nezavisimaya Gazeta)
May 3, 1999 US Ambassador Daniel Spockhard returned to Minsk after almost a year of absence (TASS)
May 6, 1999 Tadeuz Gawin, chairman of the Union of Belarusian Poles (UBP), said at a news conference in Minsk, that despite statements by Lukashenka about the absence of ethnic problems in the country and harmony in relations between ethnic groups, the Belarusian Poles have such problems and no harmony in relations with the authorities (Belapan News Agency, BBC)
May 24, 1999 Members of the Belarusian opposition held a protest action to demand the release of their leader, Mikhail Chyhir, from prison (BBC)
Jun 22, 1999 Yeltsin stated that "the idea of a Russian-Belarusian union is rooted in the community of the historic fates and the friendship between our people... The convergence of Russia and Belarus is taking place as part of the worldwide process and first and foremost of the European integration process." (BBC)
Jul 7, 1999 Russian Prime-Minister Stepashin claimed that the number of illegal immigrants from Ukraine and Belarus in the south of Russia is increasing every year (BBC).
Jul 20, 1999 Lukashenka continued to serve as a president although the opposition claims that his term expired and he must step down. Lukashenka refers to 1996 referendum that gave him presidential powers through 2001. The opposition claims referendum was illegal (BBC)
Jul 21, 1999 The opposition staged protest actions in Minsk under a slogan "farewell to Alyaksandr Lukashenka." Lukashenka stated that he is ready for a dialog with the opposition (Interfax).

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