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Between repression and democratic conviction: Perspectives for the Belarusian civil society

Jana Shnipelson / Unsplash
Jana Shnipelson / Unsplash

What room for manoeuvre remains for the democratic opposition and civil society in Belarus? We will discuss these and other questions with guests from academia and politics. The event is being organised in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Berlin.

Monday, 29 April 2024 06:00 pm – Monday, 29 April 2024 07:30 pm

This event is in the past.

The situation in Belarus remains disturbing: Belarusians continue to be persecuted for political reasons and are often sentenced to draconic punishments. More than 1400 people are listed as political prisoners. There has been no sign of life for over a year from the most prominent among them, namely the politicians and activists from the 2020 democracy movement. The sham ‘parliamentary elections’ in February 2024 ruled out any opposition from the outset. Any independent civil society was banned. Thanks to his repressive apparatus and support from Moscow, dictator Lukashenka appears to be able to strengthen his grip on power. The price for remaining in power is the "socio-economic and humanitarian" integration with Russia, in other words: the extensive surrender of sovereignty. Emigration from Belarus for political and economic reasons has exacerbated the demographic crisis. Belarus remains internationally isolated due to its support for the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.

Under the leadership of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the presumed winner of the 2020 presidential elections, democratic political and civil society forces from Belarus in Europe are presenting a liberal and Europe-oriented image of the country. Belarusian exile groups are discussing how to shape a democratic future for Belarus. However, in view of the repression and tight control of the media, it is becoming increasingly difficult to involve people who decided to stay in the country.

How does Belarusian dependence on Russia manifest itself in reality? Under what conditions could Germany and the EU regain more influence over Belarus and how can they sustainably support the Belarusian diaspora? And what prospects are there for political prisoners in Belarus?

Location & Time

We invite you to discuss these and other questions with us on Monday, 29 April 2024 from 6pm at the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Schumannstraße 8, 10117 Berlin. The event will take place in German and Belarusian language. Followed by an informal get-together with pretzels and drinks.


  • Alena Aharelysheva, Gender expert and fellow of the VisiBYlity project of the IEP
  • Monika Lenhard, Head of Division Russia and Belarus, Federal Foreign Office
  • Dr Astrid Sahm, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP)
  • Olga Smolianko, Human Rights organization Lawtrend (online)

Welcome: Prof Dr Funda Tekin, Director IEP

Moderator: Robert Sperfeld, Heinrich Böll Foundation

Please register for the event below:


The invitation can be downloaded in Belarusian here:

Запрашэнне на мерапрыемства

Background papers

Our discussion is also based on two background papers in which two of the speakers address current issues. Olga Smolianko outlines the situation of Belarusian civil society in the country. Alena Aharelysheva describes the development of female Belarusian activists before and after the 2020 protests.

Background paper Smolianko (GER) Background paper Aharelysheva (GER)

The event is organised in cooperation between the Heinrich Böll Foundation and IEP in Berlin. The event is being organised as part of the project "VisiBYlity for Belarusian democratic actors".

In cooperation with:


About the VisiBYlity for Belarusian democratic actors project: Capacity building, advocacy and research for more attention for the Belarusian diaspora in the German and European public: these are the core contents of VisiBYlity.

Image copyright: Jana Shnipelson / Unsplash, Heinrich Böll Stiftung