Belarusian Society Feels Shame for the War

Collateral Damage to Russia's Invasion

8 March 2022

Aliaksei Kazharski

Visegrad Insight Fellow

As Belarus is being dragged by its regime into Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, many Belarusians experience shock, guilt, and shame.

They fear that the stigma of war crimes will stay with them for decades, even though they did not choose to participate in the invasion. Belarus is a de facto Russian-occupied country whose ruling regime is increasingly dependent on Moscow. Aliaksandr Lukashenka has so far managed to avoid active military involvement in Ukraine but providing territory and infrastructure to Vladimir Putin makes him complicit in the aggression. The Russo-Ukrainian war is likely to reshape the foreign policy thinking in Europe in the way that the Yugoslav wars did in the 1990s. It is unclear where Belarus with its contradictory record will be placed on these new geopolitical mental maps. 

De facto Occupation 

The territory of Belarus has been used by Russia to launch an invasion of Ukraine, and for many Belarusians, this became a real tragedy. There are no reliable opinion polls left in Belarus but the discussions on social networks give one a sense of it. Fear of war is coupled with a sense of shame and guilt of being complicit in war crimes.  That is, despite the fact, that following the mass protests of 2020, Belarusian society faced an unprecedented wave of state terror, and the citizens of Belarus have had no practical ability to influence the authorities’ decision-making. In the past months, Belarus also became a de facto Russian-occupied country with large numbers of Russian troops being brought in under the pretext of ‘joint exercises.’

Editor’s Pick: Prisoners of Their Own Propaganda


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Aliaksei Kazharski

Visegrad Insight Fellow

Visegrad Insight Fellow. Researcher at the Institute of European Studies and International Relations of the Comenius University in Bratislava and a lecturer at the Department of Security Studies of Charles University in Prague


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