First democratic elections: 1990-1994

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First democratic elections: 1990-1994

The first alternative elections to the Parliament of Belarus (Supreme Soviet) were held in spring of 1990. The anticommunist forces achieved great success there. Despite unfair conditions and bold falsifications, the dynamic opposition fraction headed by Zianon Pazniak was formed in the new Parliament.

The Supreme Soviet of Belarus adopted the Declaration on State Sovereignty. At that moment this document had a symbolic meaning only. Real authority was still given to communists. A party functionary, Nikolai Dementei, became chairman of the Parliament, and another communist, Viachaslau Kebich, became head of the government.

Early 1991 marked by a mass strike movement. Almost all major plants in Minsk stopped working, and thousands of workers poured out onto Minsk’s central square, presenting their political and economical demands. The communist leader managed to calm them down, partially by compromises, but mainly by threats. But the myth that says that Belarusian people are unable to fight for their rights lost its credibility forever.

After the Soviet coup d’état attempt in Moscow (1991), Belarusian leaders displayed a wait-and-see attitude, hoping to stake on the winner. Only the BPF opposition and young parliament member Alexander Lukashenko protested against the revolution, and it was quite a political debut for him. From that moment, he became a real “star” in the Parliament.

After the Soviet coup d’état attempt failed, the Soviet system immediately collapsed. The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was banned; the Head of the Republic, Nikolai Dementei, left office and was followed by Stanislav Shushkevich, who supported the opposition. As he was a spiritless conformist, the post-communist majority in the Supreme Soviet was satisfied with him. In addition, he was against Belarus leaving the USSR. But the fate of USSR was decided not in Minsk: Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kravchuk shaped their course to liquidate the Soviet Union and the Belarusian leader simply followed them.

The following two years brought a lot of severe ordeals for the Belarusian people. The country’s economy was in chaos, most enterprises stopped working, and millions of people lost their jobs. Galloping inflation annihilated their savings, and total deficit of all consumer commodities, including food, began.

A lot of Belarusian people returned to subsistence farming to make ends meet. They grew their subsistence on their country land plots. There were a lot of “shuttle traders” — people who bought goods on the black market in Belarus and sold them in Russia and Poland. At the same time crime flourished, racketeering and gangsters appeared as they robbed "shuttle traders". And as mass poverty grew, total corruption at all levels of government prospered.

Author: Handbook on Belarus for International journalists