Behind the Bastards

There’s a reason the History Channel has produced hundreds of documentaries about Hitler but only a few about Dwight D. Eisenhower. Bad guys (and gals) are eternally fascinating. Behind the Bastards dives in past the Cliffs Notes of the worst humans in history and exposes the bizarre realities of their lives. Listeners will learn about the young adult novels that helped Hitler form his monstrous ideology, the founder of Blackwater’s insane quest to build his own Air Force, the bizarre lives of the sons and daughters of dictators and Saddam Hussein’s side career as a trashy romance novelist.

Part One: Alexander Lukashenko: The Dictator of Belarus

Part One: Alexander Lukashenko: The Dictator of Belarus

Tue, 18 Aug 2020 10:00

Part One: Alexander Lukashenko: The Dictator of Belarus

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Hello, I'm Erica Kelly from the podcast Southern Fried True crime, and if you want to go from podcast fan to podcast host, do what I did and check out spreaker from iheart. I was working in accounting and hating it. Then after just 18 months of podcasting with Spreaker, I was able to quit my day job. Follow your podcasting dreams, let's break or handle the hosting, creation, distribution, and monetization of your podcast. Go to That's Wanna say I don't know less? Listen to stuff you should know more. Join host Josh and Chuck on the podcast packed with fascinating discussions about science, history, pop culture and more episodes. Dive into topics like was the lost, city of Atlantis Real? And how does pizza work? Say goodbye to I don't know. Because after listening to stuff you should know you will listen to stuff you should know on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Hey there, it's Ebony Monet, your co-host for the San Diego Zoo's Amazing Wildlife podcast. In this special episode, we're speaking with Doctor Jane Goodall about the fascinating journey that led to her impactful behavioral discoveries on chimpanzees. It wasn't until one of the chimpanzees began to lose his fear of me, but I began to really make discoveries that actually shook the scientific world. Listen to amazing wildlife on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. I ******* hate Bluetooth and headphones. Yeah, this has been a terrible morning of figuring out. It's also three o'clock three things. And it's also three in the afternoon, which is 9 in the morning. For me, I'm Robert Evans. This is behind the ******** the show where every week I write a very long essay about a different, terrible person and then fail at the basics of setting up headphones. It's it's it's the worst. The reason we've been having such terrible technical difficulties is that today I actually have someone in the studio with me, which we haven't done since the plague. But the person, the studio? Yeah, my desk that's in front of my bed in my room that is filled with ants and pieces of guns. Why are there ants? Garrison? Say hello to the people. Hello? Hello? Hello? Hi, this is this is Garrison. This is Garrison. Garrison, who are you? I tell the people who you are. Hi. So some people may know me. As at Hungry Bow tie on Twitter or Garrison Davis. Teargas proof. I've been covering the protests in Portland. And have. Been working alongside Robert Evans and some other fine, fine folks while getting shot at by federal agents for months now. Yep, we we met in a cloud of tear gas and most of our relationship has occurred in that cloud of tear gas and now we are becoming podcast buddies in addition to tear gas buddies, which is which is an exciting moment. And I could have just stayed home and recorded from there and not had to deal with this terrible Bluetooth headphone situation. It's been awful. So this situation we want to have Sophie on. As we record. But a variety of things make that problematic, including the way that headphones work. Nobody sells headphone splitters anymore, so we eventually had to go buy these things that you zoomers love these these little headphones. Don't separate, separate Bluetooth. Don't blame me for don't don't rope me into this. I am absolutely blaming you for the state of headphones. Back in my day, back in my day Garrison, all we needed was an audio Jack and then a little splitter and you get as many headphones as you wanted on a laptop. Everything circle worse. Now can we circle back to the part where you say? Wanted to have Sophie on. Excuse me? Yeah. You were allowed to be here because I allow you to be here. Continue. OK. So, Garrison, you are you are one of the youth. Yes. That is the future. Yes, I am. I am the future. Yeah. You're you're famously 17 years old. Famously. What is a tik T.O.K? I've never had it. It's like, is it a sound o'clock mix? I I feel like that's not what the president's banning. And I feel like you're hiding your secret. Your secret. Millennial zoomer. Whatever. Yeah, I'm 17 for another month, but I've never had a tick tock. OK, so maybe the other thing you can explain. What is what is an Ariana Grande? No. No. *** **** it, Robert. You know how to pronounce her name. It's a coffee from Starbucks, right? Yeah, that sounds right. OK, flavor. Now that we've settled all these. Issues that the youth can teach us about the future. Sorry about climate change, by the way. That's gonna be a real problem for you guys. I'll be dead of many cancers by then. Thanks for that. In in a year and a half, we're talking today about Alexander Lukashenko, and maybe folks don't super know about this guy, but you've probably heard about some messed up stuff happening in Belarus. He's the dictator of Belarus. So this is a very timely episode and you know. Garrison, I was gonna have you want to talk about Doctor Jordan B Peterson, but considering the fact that Belarus's rising up against his dictator right now, and they're all getting horribly tear gassed and shot with rubber bullets, and we've been horribly tear gassed and shot with rubber bullets, I thought this would be a fun, a fun subject that also is timely. Yeah, there's a little bit of relatability there. What do you know about Belarus? Little to nothing. Except they are now experiencing a lot of tear gas and getting shot at by their police. So that is probably true for basically everybody. I'll, I'll be honest, like I knew that there was a dictator in Belarus and that he was famously called Europe's last dictator by a bunch of like American politicians, but that's that was that was about 90% of my knowledge of Belarus. Other than that I think they have arguments with Ukraine over who does the best strange pig based dishes, which I can't comment on, but there's some good *** pig based dishes. Salo man. ******* amazing. But they both have salo so I don't know. You were head sallo, Sophie. It's like guacamole made out of pigs, no? No, it kind of rules. Yeah, I'll take. You're not gonna get along in Eastern Europe. I'll trust you on that one, buddy. OK. So we're going to talk Lukashenko today. So yeah, Once Upon a time, and by which I mean, like three years ago, he was repeatedly called Europe's last dictator by a bunch of American politicians. And now there's a whole bunch of other dictators in Europe again. So that's not really, that's not true anymore. Yeah. You've got like, discounting Russia, if we call them like, because there's always that debate over, like, how European Russia is. Like, we've still got hungry. Hungry. Yeah. Have a fair amount of dictators. Yeah. Now there's a lot more dictators in Europe. So he's not. He's not a specialist. He used to be, but it is special because. Lukashenko has been in power for like 26 years, so like throughout the whole kind of golden age or if you want to call it that, if the like the kind of height of the European Union's influence, the height of NATO's power, he was like an old Soviet style autocrat hanging out in the in the middle of Europe. It's it's a pretty weird story and he's not, this is going to be, I think useful because this is in the news right now. He's plays it pretty close to the chest. So we just don't know as much about the guy personally as we do about some other. Figures. But I think it's still a useful story to get out to people in the moment here. So. Lukashenko survived the collapse of the USSR and basically spent the whole period of capitalist democracies victory lap ruling over a nation of 9.5 million people. He survived economic downturns, the birth of the Internet, conflicts between his nation's neighbors, and a bunch of really awkward hangout sessions with Steven Seagal. Today, though, he's obviously in trouble, and for the first time in 30 years, yeah, he's this is the we talked about this on the Segal episode. This is the guy who, like, gave Steven Segal a giant carrot. He's just out there, Steven. All just *******. Yeah, he sure is. Just occasionally kidnapping women and locking them in a. I don't want to finish that thought. Yeah. So no, we we shouldn't. So there's a lot of eyes on Belarus right now. We should probably start by covering some basic facts because most people don't know anything about Belarus. Belarus is located in Eastern Europe. It's about as Far East as you can go without hitting Russia. It's immediate Western neighbor is Poland and its neighbors to the north are Latvia and Lithuania. You could call it Ukrainian Canada, although nobody does. No one does that no one has ever done, including this Canadian. Yeah. And yeah. Yeah. There's not really any comparisons to make between Ukraine and Belarus and in that regard and less like, is Canada a dictatorship, Garrison? Not really. OK, OK. It tries not to be. Yeah, garrison's Canadian. So, I mean, our current Prime Minister did not get the majority of the votes in our last election. Because we have a weird system that is different than the Electoral College but has some similarities. It's weird and not great, but yeah. Anyway, it's cute how both of our countries make the same horrible decisions, but, but just a little bit, a little bit, a little different shine on them. Yeah, yeah, that's nice. That's what friends do. So yeah, if you know a little bit of history and geography, you can tell that Belarus has had a rough time of it historically being right between Poland and Russia. Doesn't seem great. Not not great. There's a lot of problems with both those countries. Not the best spot to have, like, not maybe not as bad as starting place as Germany, which is a pretty rough location to have a country, as you might gather. But like they're they're they're kind of in the middle of a lot of **** historically in the middle of a lot of genocide. Yeah, in the middle of genocide, because next to Ukraine, Russia and Poland, there's a lot of genocide in the adjacent area. Yeah. Belarusian history has a couple of different points where we say. And then a shockingly high percentage of the nation's entire population was killed in the space of a year. So, yeah, Belarus. Bad place to start as a country. If you're if you're playing like civilization or whatever, and this is where you land, you're going to have a rough you're gonna have a rough game of it. Belarusian identity is generally traced back to kind of starting to form in the 10th century and the establishment of the Principality of Polotsk the first Belarusians entered history largely for their ability to maintain and profit off of a trade route that connected the Vikings to the Greeks. Which is part of why it's such a rough place to be is it's like kind of right in the middle of a bunch of roads. Like if you want to get anywhere in Europe from Asia, you're going to wind up rolling through Belarus probably. And that, you know, is a recipe for getting the **** kicked out of you a bunch. They had a lot of ups and downs the medieval period, and spent a lot of time fighting with the ******* which are not a group of people you really want to fight. But eventually they won. By the 1300s, what is today Belarus had become a central part of the Grand Dutchie of Lithuania. So Lithuanians and Belarusians were the same people for a while. At least that's what the historians I've read tend to say. I'm sure there's historians who will say that that's a horribly inaccurate, but that seems to be broadly the consensus, and that at around like the 1400s, Belarus and Lithuanian identity started to split. And by the 1600s that whole chunk of Europe was more or less a free for all of constant warfare between different kingdoms, between conflicts with Moscow. Poland, Sweden and the Ottoman Empire. The population of modern day Belarus was reduced by half over the course of a few decades in the 1600s. Ohh boy. Yeah. So that's the first time a gigantic percentage of the of the population dies hard. In the 1600s. Yeah, 1600s, wow, half of Belarus, they all just get murdered. So that's good. In the early 1800s, Belarus was absorbed by the Russian Empire and became its northwestern region. So it's like the Pacific Northwest for Russia. Oh yeah. There's so many relatable elements here. Yeah, that's why, in addition to Ukraine's Canada, Belarus's other nickname that nobody calls it is Russian Oregon. That's good, because I'm both Canadian and an Oregonian. Yeah, this is really, I feel, a deep kinship. We should be able to identify with these people. So being in the northwest of Russia was a bad place to be for basically all of the 20th century and the horrific wars of that era, World War One and World War Two, reduced the population of Belarus again by more than 1/3 by the end of like, they just. They just keep huge numbers of them. Keep getting anytime, like, you're able to say, like, and then this whole region was depopulated by this massive fraction. It's not a great history. So yeah, they've had a rough time of it. By the end of World War Two, Belarus had spent half a century being either torn apart by mechanized warfare or recovering from being torn apart by mechanized warfare. So the region settled into its new life after World War Two is one of the less memorable chunks of the Soviet Union. And for a while, things were like, relatively OK comparatively. Compared to everyone dying. Sure, sure. Yeah. I mean, once you've hit a low that bad. Yeah. Anything besides that is comparatively good. Yeah. And they did, you know, they they suffered. There was quite a bit of state repression in Belarus, which we'll talk about some of the effects from a little bit later. And everywhere in the USSR had its different experiences, both good and bad. It was a big, complicated thing that happened. You can make a case that Belarus was one of the parts of the Soviet Union that was kind of broadly happiest with the whole arrangement. I did come across interviews with a number of Belarusian anarchists who talked about severe repression of their cultural identity and the Soviet Union in favour of Russian identity. Yeah, this is something that happened all over the USSR, and it seems like it was a problem in Belarus too. But it is true that in 1991, when the various Soviets of the Union had a referendum on whether or not to keep being the Soviet Union, Belarus was one of the few places where most people wanted to keep going. 83% of Belarus voted to continue being a part of the Soviet Union. OK, 91 so seems like. People were like broadly like on board with what was, with what was going down, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Those numbers do get cited a lot as evidence that people were very happy with the system, but things aren't quite that simple. Faith in the Soviet government had begun to collapse, and Belarus, starting in 1986 with the Chair Noble disaster and its subsequent cover up, doesn't make people don't like. Nuclear power plants exploding and then being covered up and thousands of people being poisoned. Not not a fan of giant explosions than getting yeah, yeah, yeah. It's not it's not anyone's best day ever. Speaking of incompetence causing giant explosions. Also a timely, timely reference. I thought you were going to do an ad pivot there. Oh yeah, I was like, you know it will not explode because your city. This podcast is supported by the concept of nuclear power plants. Improperly maintained. It was a real big ad gift for US Raytheon sponsors blowing up this entire city. Yeah, I mean. Roberta, Nice influence. They don't stop it. Stop it. If it's if it's not OK to influence a a young man to appreciate Raytheon's fine product line that I don't know what is, is we grow up in a complicated, conflicted world. We all need the security that comes from a Raytheon based MX9 knife missile. It makes makes me feel safe and secure in my home. Look, Sophie, a 17 year old isn't allowed to own a firearm, but there's no law that says he can't own a drone fired knife missile. Not in this country. Not in this country. That's how you defend your home. With a knife missile. I thought it was with a machete. I I have those, too. Yeah. So people got angry in Belarus over chair noble. And that was 1986. And in 1988, that anger was compounded when an archaeologist named Zanon Pazaak discovered a series of mass graves that dated back to Stalin's terror. These graves were located at a place called Kurapati, outside of the Belarusian capital of Minsk. And they held more than 1/4 of a million corpses. So, OK, there we go. Are not at their. While most Belarusians vote to stay in the Soviet Union, there's a lot of those ones were not able to vote. Yeah. Those guys couldn't vote. Yeah. And it does broadly make people less trusting of the government when they find a quarter of a million dead people buried outside of their hometown. Yeah. I I wouldn't. I would be. I would have some questions. I would. We would. Yeah. That it's not great when you that's not the thing you want to hear about like. Yeah. So the fact that an archaeologist working for the state. Was allowed to reveal that 1/4 of a million people had been murdered and buried outside of Minsk. Is evidence that in 1988 there was a lot less repression in the USSR than there hasn't. Isn't that a good thing? That is nice. Yeah. Yeah. I love it when the state doesn't kill someone for saying there's a whole bunch of dead bodies. Yeah. Obviously this was very troubling to people. And so there were a lot of calls for reform and accountability. Activists within Belarus created the Belarusian Popular Front in October of 1988 after mass protests that ended in fights with state security forces and all of this. Brings us back around to Alexander Lukashenko, who by that point was running a series of collective farms. He was a pig farmer, basically. OK, love loves him some collective farms and was apparently pretty good at running collective farms, and we should probably hop back in time again at this point. Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko was born on August 30th, 1954, and this much a lot of people agree on. Pretty much everything else about his background is up for grabs, though many sources will say that he was born in the rural. Their village of copies in the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic. But Lukashenko himself has given multiple different answers. When asked where he was born, he's claimed he was born in a godforsaken half Belarusian half Russian village, and also that he was born in the city of Orsha. The reason for this discrepancy is simple. Lukashenko was more or less a nobody for most of his life. He was derided as just like a pig farmer by his rivals when he came to power, and there were very few public details about his early life. And that's kind of the way that Lukashenko wanted it. As he began taking over, he knew that. Biography was more of a tool for taking and holding power than it was an actual work of historical importance. And as such, most of what you'll read about Lukashenko tells us less about the man himself than it does about the culture of leadership and propaganda in the USSR, which I find kind of cool. So wherever you find like, a community, a subculture, a cult, a nation, an ideology that's based around, like, charismatic individual people, you will find specific traditions about writing biographies for those figures. And this is true everywhere. It's not just. Like a communist thing. It's not just a dictatorship thing. It's true of market capitalism. If you go grab a biography of Elon Musk and a biography of Steve Jobs and a biography of Bill Gates and, you know, maybe run through a couple of those fawning profile pieces and like The New Yorker of people like Elizabeth Holmes or Travis Kalanick of Uber or the Wework guy, like, before all of their grips became crashing to the ground. Yeah, if you read a bunch of that stuff in a row, you'll notice a bunch of patterns. Yeah, all of these biographies, they feel like kind of all just the same book they are more or less. Yeah. And there's the thing like you have to in those. What you have to have like, a period where they're working out of a garage. There's a structure. There's a structure that you like. When we learn about people, we like consuming a certain narrative. Exactly. And they constructed, let's, you know, Google was in this garage when it actually wasn't. You know, it's the same thing. Yeah. It's the same thing if you, if you find the books that presidential candidates, sure. Pub all, like every presidential candidate has to publish a stupid ******* book right before they start their campaign. It's required now. And they're all the same book, basically, because that's just what we expect. And if you grew up under. Evangelical Christianity, like you. You grew up like me or. Yeah, yeah. You know what? All of, like the whenever you have, like, a charismatic preacher who comes to, like, deliver their, you know, like, they all have the same. They all have the same story. It's the same grift over and over. Yeah, yeah, exactly. It's it's just a thing that people need in their stories of charismatic leaders. And it's the same in propagandistic biographies of Eastern Bloc leaders. So one thing that is emphasized in all of the stories about Lukashenko is that he was his dad was absent and he was raised by his single mother. Yeah, of course. As was Joseph Stalin. As was everybody. Yeah, everybody. As was Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan. Nikolai Chucu knew his dad, but his dad was an abusive prick and knew Nikolai was always a mama's boy. So, like, ******** absent Father is a Soviet leadership trophy. It's it's it's yeah. It's like it's a trope that they keep, they keep using whether it's true or not, right. It's still something that they will they will still reinforce that narrative. Yeah, they reinforce that narrative. And it's seen as being, like, important to getting people to, to, like, feel the way about the leader. They they kind of like Disney. Some of it's just. Yeah, it's like Disney. You gotta kill the parents, yeah. Yeah, yeah. You gotta kill the parents in order to have a good dictator. So if you want to make a dictator, Nope. I don't know. Probably. Where are you going anyway? Continue. I don't. I don't know, Sophie. I don't know. It's it's. I'm just angry about the headphones. But you know what? I'm not angry about Sophie. You know what I'm not angry about? Please be an ad for a headphone products and services that support this podcast, none of which are headphones. I hope there's some wireless headphone. I hope. I hope Rakon gets in here real quick. If Raycon starts trying to advertise on our podcast, they're going to have to deal with our other sponsor, Raytheon. And I tell I'll tell you who I think's gonna win in a fight between people who make headphones and our our good friends with the knife missiles. All right? It's a knife missiles, all right, products. Mint Mobile offers premium wireless starting at just 15 bucks a month. And now for the plot twist. Nope, there isn't one. Mint Mobile just has premium wireless from 15 bucks a month. There's no trapping you into a two year contract. You're opening the bill to find all these nuts fees. There's no luring you in with free subscriptions or streaming services that you'll forget to cancel and then be charged full price for none of that. 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There are so many people that just have no idea about some injustices in the world and if you can give a voice to them, you can create change to be able to do it within podcasting. It's just such a gift. I believe it was 18 months after I got on with speaker that I was making enough that I could quit my day job. It was incredible. I always feel like an ambassador for speaker, but that's because I'm passionate about podcasting. It's really easy to use. I always tell people I am so not tech. Took me 5 minutes to get comfortable with speaker, and when I find a new friend that has an incredible show, I want them to make money. I want them to be able to do what I did. Follow your podcasting dreams. Let's break your handle the hosting, creation, distribution, and monetization of your podcast. Go to That's Get paid to talk about the things you love with spreaker from iheart. We're back. Ohh, that was horrible. I accidentally made a minor adjustment to these *** **** newfangled Bluetooth earbuds he ruined turned off. The whole situation was horrible. We spent hours getting this set up and just live it destroyed it in a few seconds. I I feel comfortable saying that. Soviet Union works about as well as these horrible Bluetooth headphones in 1991, meaning these headphones have committee responsible for multiple genocides. Well, not 1991. OK, OK, OK, fair, fair. Just like, well, I mean you could argue series of war crimes in Afghan anyway, whatever, whatever. OK, so yeah, we're we're talking about like Soviet leader tropes and and Lukashenko. So obviously all of his biographies will point out that his dad was gone. They all will say very different things about why. His dad was gone. Which is, I think, kind of interesting. Like, it's like the Joker. Yeah, I think so. Are they like stories? Like, well, like, is it like, like, yeah, kind of. One of his stories is that his dad died during World War Two, which is like a turkmenbashi. The dictator of Turkmenistan had the same story. His dad died in World War Two. The problem with this is that Lukashenko was born in 1954. So I love how that works out. He doesn't quite work, yeah. Well, yeah. Like he said, it would come all those true crime shows when they're like, and then we we found the murder and then they're like, I was in jail at the time of that death. That's what it feels like. Yeah. Yeah. It's it's like that. And it may seem kind of baffling that a guy who's already in power would choose such, like, an obvious lie, but Lukashenko started making this claim during a different. For his regime between 2006 and 2008, when a bunch of opposition groups rose up in protests against one of his many sham. Elections. He I mean, yeah. I mean our US and America have no experience with the leader in office making obvious lies about his family history. Yes, we don't know anything about that. This only happens in a post Soviet Union satellite. Not not in this country. Yeah. So yeah, it it. So he started lying about his dad dying in World War 2A, decade before he would be born during, like, this period of time when he's, you know, his legitimacy as president was being challenged and thousands of protesters were out in the streets fighting with cops. And I'm going to quote now from an article in the Journal of Journal of Folklore Research that's kind of about the different ways Lukashenko has presented himself. And it's going to sort of try to explain why maybe he made this kind of baffling call. Quote Lukashenko sought to gain support through different means, including an established genre from the Soviet period of Belarus, fakelore epics about Soviet heroes. They were often made-up by professional folk singers guided by professional folklorists to glorify Soviet ideologies, in particular protagonists linens, Stalin, workers of the Soviet Union, et cetera, who embodied them. These new epics, called Novini, combined the structures and motifs of traditional epics and were purposefully recorded and published. So like, basically it was, it was this kind of thing that everyone probably more or less. Knew where he was lying about his background, but he was lying about his background in order to make a specific kind of propaganda art that everybody, like knew what to expect from. So like, everyone kind of knew that he was lying, but also the people who liked him didn't care. Just part of the thing. This is just what like leaders do in this part of the world as they talk about how their dads died fighting the Nazis, even if their dad did so. Yeah, when you were born like 10 years not have been old enough to make a baby in 1945. Yeah. So yeah, that's very funny. I find all of this interesting anyway. So the the write up in the Journal of Folklore Research that I found compares Lukashenko's Lukashenko shifting birthdate and birthplace to the book 1984, where like the reality is actually meaningless to even him. What matters is like that the state can get people to believe it, or at least act as if they believe it, which is cool. Yeah, that's always neat. I'm going to quote again from that article. We might expect official narratives to strive for monologic uniformity, but the results of my research demonstrate that official discourse on Lukashenko's birth, and life as a whole is an incoherent mess of official representation, altered narratives, literary productions, and quotations ascribed to the president. That the president's own words are often contested provides a good example of how fragile his biography is and how easily it can be challenged by vernacular alternatives, which is something we'll talk about a little bit later. The idea that. A bunch of people have kind of made-up their own. Opponents of Lukashenko get to also make up their own backgrounds for the guy because everyone knows that everything you say about him is is just sort of a lie or propaganda. Like, it's like a choose your own back story book. Yeah, for the president, if you want this back story, I turn to page ***. Yeah, this back story turn to page XY. It's cool. So the alternative back stories for Lukashenko that his his opponents come up with are often based on. Like racism, which is unfortunate, yeah, yeah. Many in the Belarusian opposition are convinced that Lukashenko's father was a German soldier, which is the non racist option where they're like, he's so ****** his dad must have been a Nazi. Others contend that his father was secretly a Jewish man, which is not a rumor I like as much. Yeah, and he's also regularly accused of hiding his Roma ancestry, although they they are not polite enough to use the correct name and and go with calling him a gypsy. That's like a common slur against Lukashenko. Interesting. Yeah. So I did want to get a clear idea of what the modern state propaganda about Lukashenko's background sounded like. I wanted to know, like, what is what is the actual government, right about this guy? And I found a book called with a very fun title, Belarus country study guide that certainly seems to be government propaganda. It's published by the US based publishing house, but the the Inside Jacket notes that the information inside was provided by the Belarusian government. Good. And yeah, you can kind of tell by reading it that it was just published by the A dictatorship dictatorship propaganda arm and and not edited at all the government propaganda version of his life, or at least. This one that I found because again, they throw out a bunch of different versions, just states that he, quote, grew up and reared without a father and not not perfect grammar. In this translation here they put this put a considerable amount of responsibility for his family's care on his shoulders. Quote. This is why it is logical that as early as in childhood, such qualities as perseverance, respect to work, sensibility to truth and Verity as the main basis of the human soul were being revealed. He was interestingly taking part in the social life of the collectives in which he studied or worked. The whole thing kind of reads like that. OK, yeah, it's mostly incomprehensible, but it does have, I don't know, a couple of of of attempts at facts in there and notes that he served in the served in the Soviet Army from 1975 to 1982. It notes that he became an officer in the Communist Party and eventually found himself managing collective farms. Notes that he rose in prominence like a DIY bio for himself. No, it's I like. Yeah, kind like he at least oversaw it. Yeah. I think that there's like a different points in his rule. He's kind of let the people putting out state propaganda know that he wants them to write different biographies for him, to emphasize different things. So it's like when you have a friend who acts different around different friend groups. Yeah. But instead of that, it's like a friend who acts different around different crowds of angry Belarusians in order to, I don't know, keep everybody happy and in order to maintain power in a yeah, in the eastern, very weird. It's very strange quality. Yeah, it is. It is. And and Lukashenko is interesting just because, like, we actually know so little about the guy as a person. Which is different. Like I I much prefer it when we have a really detailed back story about one of these individuals, but we we just kind of have really the history of the different lies that his regime has told about him. So yeah, that's unfortunate. So he rose in prominence within the Communist Party throughout the late 1980s and he developed a reputation as a firebrand. Like he was an anti corruption crusader within the Soviet Union for a period of time and he received repeated reprimands from the party because he could not keep silent. Yeah, and thankfully for him, you know, by the time he was getting in trouble for talking out against basically trying to drain the swamp within the USSR, things that opened up culturally there enough that he didn't get disappeared or in trouble for it. And in fact, he was elected to the Belarusian Parliament in 1990 as a People's deputy on a platform of fighting corruption. Lukashenko straddled an interesting line of criticizing the Soviet government that had managed things for decades while also opposing any breakup of the USSR. He was the only deputy of the Belarusian. Parliament to vote against the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union, which is something he brags about today because, like, a lot of folks in that part of the world missed the Soviet Union. Some older folks are probably nostalgic for it. Yeah, and he can be like, I was the one guy who knew that it was a bad idea. Yeah, it is a cool flex. Yeah, but at the same time, like he actually got to power by repeatedly criticizing the Soviet Union and pointing out how like ****** ** and corrupt the government was, which is interesting. He's a fakey, he's playing both sides, he's playing both sides. He's doing what you got to do as a politician. It's like how you got a 2 faced badge. Yeah, he's pulling a Joe Biden, yeah. Yeah, yeah, or Biden's pulling up Lukashenko. So as the USSR fell apart, Western interests rushed in to help their former enemy transition to the world of democracy. And in practice, this meant something for most, like Soviet satellite state, something called shock therapy, which was this kind of like theory among capitalists that, like, as these nations sort of opened up, the best thing to do was immediately privatize every single thing in the country. And that that would work that like shocking people. To full on capitalism would be a good idea for reasons that were unclear and probably based around the fact that it was extremely profitable for capitalists. Yeah, shock therapy was not a wild success. It caused widespread economic and social turmoil and is generally seen as having been a disaster in most places. It was tried. Yeah, which is why you have all those old people who are kind of nostalgic because, yeah, they got their lives kind of ruined in the mid 90s. Yeah, it was nice when, like, soulless business people didn't own our power plants. And they were instead, like, property that was held in common is kind of the way a lot of people feel now. 1990 is the year Belarus held its referendum on membership in the Soviet Union. People overwhelmingly wanted to stay, but the Belarusian Popular Front had also grown into a significant pop political force at that point. These are the guys who are like nationalists. They want Belarus to be its own separate country, and they're also Democrats. So, like they they they wanted democracy and they want Belarus to be an independent nation and under their charismatic. Spokesman a fellow named Pozniak the BPF started at agitating for Belarusian national ambitions for the first time in a generation in that year's elections to the Supreme Soviet, the BPF 110% of the seats and this probably would have satisfied most of the desire for change in Belarus at this point. But happenings elsewhere in the USSR forced people's hands in the direction of national sovereignty. In August of 1991 there was a coup attempt in Moscow. It didn't work but it led to yay. I mean wait, are you pro KU or anti KU? So broke. I was broke. You're pro ku. You're you're you're in favor of this coup in Moscow. I was like, it's a strong stance in favor of Soviet hardliners by ******** communist Sophie. Like decided over the word coup. Yeah, I mean, I always support a coup. It's always an exciting word. Yeah, we, we we recently went through a coup with a riot rib restaurant. There's a rib restaurant in Portland that had an armed coup recently. Yeah, I actually didn't enjoy that one. It was not fun. It was seemed like a big mess. Yeah. And much like the rib restaurant that briefly existed in downtown Portland, the Soviet Union did not survive its armed coup or this attempted an armed coup. So it the coup failed and it led to declarations of independence by all of the Soviets. Bordered Belarus, Estonia, Latvia and Ukraine. By this point, the writing was on the wall, 1990. It's 1991 or 929191. Yeah. Yeah. So every it's kind of, most people in Belarus don't seem to really want the Soviet Union to go away, but also just because of how ****** ** everything gets and how badly it's handled in Moscow, all of these other states in the Soviet Union start declaring their own independence and the writings kind of on the wall. Yeah. It's like it's going to come down. So yeah. We might as well like get a head start on being Belarus, so Belarus declares its own independence on August 25th, 1991. The sudden end of the Soviet Union meant opportunity for a lot of people. Liberals, including members of the BPF, saw it as their chance to turn the country into a democracy along western lines. There was a great deal of resistance to this though, and for a while the country's old style Soviet organization remained mostly unchanged. By 1994, conservatives had been pushed into creating a new position at the head of Belarusian. Political life, the presidency. So everybody expected that the Prime Minister, a guy named Kiebach, would slide seamlessly from one head of state position to another, and that he would just kind of go from being the Prime Minister to the President now that they had a president. But then, from out of nowhere came Lukashenko. He ran a Lightning campaign based around fighting corruption in the ossified old regime. And again, the guys. A pig farmer at this point. But he's a deputy, and he kind of like. Proves himself to be a really successful rabble rouser. His campaign slogan was, I'm neither with the leftists nor the rightists, but with the people against those who rob and deceive them. He's he's just like a Paul. He's an effective politician. He's a very and he's he's doing a drain the swamp sort of thing. Yeah, he does one of the things that he's he's kind of focused on that. That is probably a good idea in the long run, is he? He doesn't want to privatize Belarus's like state assets. He wants to keep the economy, pretty much. The same way it was under the Soviet Union. And this is really the only the only Soviet satellite state in Europe where this happens. And so, yeah, Lukashenko won a democratic election with about 80% of the vote. And this is probably like an actual election. Yeah. It's like, it's not a fake election like the one that just happened. No, it seems like I haven't heard any real arguments that he that this was a fake election and he kind of came out of nowhere. He didn't have a lot of institutional support when he won the Presidency. Yeah, and he's, he's kind of a weird guy to have as your first president because for one thing he didn't really think there should be presidents. He was not a fan of democracy. He supported immediate reunification with Russia. So he wasn't really a big supporter of Belarus being an independent nation at the start. And yeah, mostly he mostly the reason that people voted for him was his anti corruption stances, right. Like his other, his other the the other things that he like sort of focused on weren't as popular. Find interesting just like reconciling that with what he and he's he's kind of a weird guy to have as your first president because for one thing he didn't really think there should be presidents. He was not a fan of democracy. He supported immediate reunification with Russia so he wasn't really a big supporter of Belarus being an independent nation at the start. And yeah mostly he mostly the reason that people voted for him was his anti corruption stances right like his other his other the the other things that he likes sort of focused on weren't. Is popular. Kind of interesting, like reconciling that with what he is now. Yeah. So and like it's yeah, it's odd he, he changes a lot in terms he keeps rewriting his stories, you know? Yeah, he gets to do that because he's the guy who controls the state security forces. But I'm just saying like, so that's it makes sense that he's so wishy washy, flip floppy out of character. I think he just has like a really bad identity crisis. Maybe he just doesn't know who he is. Maybe he just like needs to like. About the therapy and, like, find himself thoughts? No. Yeah. I think you should take some Molly and maybe, like, hmm, you know, maybe he was told he was born at a time and was following somebody else, following a different star sign when he should have been following another. We don't know. Oh, it's an astrology problem. Is that what you're saying? So I'm just saying that might it might, it must be. Yeah. I mean, the wrong chart on people because he doesn't know what his birthday is. What he could do is he could he could sign up for better help. Yeah, you're right. Better help online counseling. That's something that he could do, is if you want to stop yourself from becoming the dictator of Belarus, the only option is better help online counseling. 100% of people who don't use online counseling become the dictator. Of Eastern Bloc nations can. It's guaranteed to prevent you from becoming a dictator too. Exactly. It's the only promise they make it better health is that you will not become Alexander Lukashenko if you use better help. I mean, it is actually time for an ad break, though, Robert. I know. That's why I did that. Oh well, I know what I'm doing. I might as well roll into ads hopefully. I'm telling you, Garrison is hired you products. Yep. You beat me. 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Listen to amazing wildlife on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Your miraval mate courage already runs in your blood. He needs to be stopped. We've been silent and complacent for far too long. Sisters of the Underground is a new scripted series about fearless women exploring the life and legacy of the Mirabal sisters, Dominican women who were brave enough to challenge decades of oppression. Together, they led their country toward a revolution against Rafael Trujillo, the brutal dictator who ruled the Dominican Republic for 30 years. Please, please help us has blood on his hands from executive producers Dania Ramirez and Eva Longoria. That's me comes the powerful retelling of this all too relevant narrative. Listen to sisters of the underground as part of Michael Toura podcast network, available on the iHeartRadio App, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. We're back when you realize that you OK, so you've mentored somebody who's younger than you and knows how to do more things and is slowly taking over your role and he's sitting right next to you and you don't know what to do. I know it's terrible because he hasn't ruined his brain with drugs yet. It's very funny. He hasn't ruined his brain with a series of horrible decisions and has. And he has flu for your hair than you. It's just so funny. Going to count me out of my show. Just. I know. I'm telling you, I'm watching it happen. Yeah, that's why I'm stocking up on machetes. Ohh, *** **** it. This is just knives at my bank. And we and we slowly realized that your cat likes him more than you. It's just happening. I'm going to have to hire riot police to protect my my podcast. And then I'll become what I've always from a teenager. Yeah, which is what the right place are doing right now. That's what. That's what they're doing. So you could use the same guys. Don't worry. Anderson and I always choose you. We will always choose you. Sorry, Gary, I'm skeptical about. Sure. Always. We'll see. Always and forever. And loyalty back to actual dictators, back to Lukashenko. So he, he gets elected. This guy who doesn't really want to be president and who wants to basically go back to being the Soviet Union and who is like the only thing that he's really popular for wanting is, is fighting against corruption like that. This is the guy who becomes the president of Belarus and his presidency is kind of conflicted from the beginning. And I'm going to quote now from a study on the country that was written by an academic named Helen Fedor, quote Lukashenka's. Residency was one of contradictions from the start. His cabinet was composed of young, talented newcomers as well as veterans who had not fully supported the previous Prime Minister. As a reward to the Parliament for confirming his appointees, Lukashenko supported the move to postpone the parliamentary elections until May 1995. Lukashenko's government was also plagued by corrupt members. Lukashenko fired the Minister of Defense, the Armed Forces chief of staff, the head of the Border Guards, and the Minister of Forestry, following resignations among reformists and Lukashenko's Cabinet parliamentary deputy. CR hey Anton chick. Sorry, good job. Russians read a report in Parliament on December 20th, 1994 about corruption in the administration, and this is Lukashenko's administration. So he kind of like immediately puts new people in place and they'll wind up being corrupt as **** too. Although Lukashenko refused to accept the resignations that followed, the government attempted to censor the report, fueling the opposition's criticism of Lukashenko. Lukashenko went to Russia in August 1994 and his first official visit abroad as head of the state there he came to realize that. Russia would not make any unusual efforts to accommodate Belarus, especially its economic needs. Nevertheless, Lukashenko kept trying, and in February 1995 Belarus signed the Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation with Russia, making many concessions to Russia, such as allowing the stationing of Russian troops in Belarus in hopes that Russia would return the favor by charging Belarus lower prices for fuels. However, because the treaty included no such provision, there was little hope of realizing this objective. So he's not great at this at 1st. And his main plan for being the president seems to be be like become a Russian satellite state. So they'll sell you cheap oil, which is, I don't know, not a great plan, but I've never been in charge of Belarus. What do you know? What do I know? So right off the bat, Lukashenko had issues with Parliament, mainly over the fact that he didn't think it should exist or be able to tell him what to do, which is a problem to have. He was convinced that as president, he had the right to dissolve. Parliament at any moment, although no one else was really sure they had this right. He was just like, I'm pretty sure I could do this. And there were there were disagreements, including by the parliamentarians, who did not think that he could do this. So eventually the Parliament of Belarus starts carrying out a hunger strike against the president. Oh boy. And the protest ends when all of the striking deputies were evicted from the Parliament House in the dead of night by police who claimed that an alleged bomb had been hidden somewhere in the building so they all get forced out of the parliament. Building. And they head over to the national TV and radio building to make a statement. And they find that those buildings have also been closed off by the police due to an alleged bomb. A bomb threat? Again. You don't think there were real bombs in those places? Well, yeah, this could have been something. So after all this, Parliament gave in to Lukashenko on a number of his demands because thanks to Belarus's complete lack of a Free Press, he'd made it impossible for them to publicize their strike. There were the bombs. What else can you do? Yeah, there were bombs. And now we don't have a parliament. It's not no more. It's the problems happening in Europe. It does. You know. You know who else doesn't have a Senate right now? Us. Because they all just decided to not to work September. Yeah I wish that. Nope, not gonna make that claim on don't know wrong wrong podcast. Don't need to have another conversation with the secret anyway. The parliament. I'm going to quote again from Helen Federer's write up quote the parliamentary elections held in May of 1995. We're less than successful or democratic the restrictions placed on the mass media and on the candidates expenditures during the campaign led to a shortage of information about the. Candidates and almost no political debate before the elections and several cases. No one candidate received the necessary majority of the votes in the May 14th elections, prompting another round on May 28th. The main problem in the second round was the lack of voter turn out. After the second round, Parliament was in limbo because it had only 120 elected deputies, still short of the 174 members necessary to seat a new legislature. After another round, another round of elections was discussed, probably near the end of the year, but the government claimed to have no money to finance them. So basically he forces. The old Parliament out, which forces a new set of elections, but he also makes it impossible for anyone to report on this and makes it impossible for any of the campaigns to be funded so that nobody can actually have an election or vote or know that they even need to vote. And he kind of just does away with a Parliament that can do anything against him in this in this manner. Seems like a real anti corruption president. Yeah, yeah, that's how you get rid of the corruption. I mean I'm sure all of those guys were corrupt, probably probably, but there's another. They got rid of 1. Corruption substituted for another. That's right. Thus solving the problem forever. So the the not to make a not all that Long story short, Lukashenko emerged from his fight with Parliament as basically a dictator. So in the space of his first like year or two in power, he kind of does away with any of the restrictions against him. Political analyst Valerie Karpowich, author of an opposition biography of Lukashenko, cites 2 factors as explanations for why Belarus went straight to a strongman dictator. After the fall of the USSR and just kind of, you know, they had a democracy for like a minute there, and they just kind of gave it up as soon as the first guy came along who was like, but what if we said, **** that? And her explanation is, quote Lukashenko was hungry for power and rejected having his powers curtailed, and Belarusian society yearned for a sense of of Soviet stability. So in 1996, Lukashenko decided to change the Constitution on his own and allow himself to fire Parliament whenever he wanted, which really made the situation a lot. Easier for him. He got rid of all the deputies who provided even mild resistance to his whims, and he replaced them with a parade of yesmen. Since then, he has not dealt with any serious challenges his to his rule from within the political establishment. In 1997, Lukashenko established the Union State of Belarus and Russia with Boris Yeltsin. This was never a real organization, but it's like, it's like a fake EU for Russia and Belarus that they tried to get a couple of other countries on board with. There was an idea that, like they might, Russia might cede. It's sovereignty to this so that Putin could be president past his third term, but then they just wound up doing that anyway. But yeah, it's just like this kind of fake political organization that existed to kind of tie Belarus to Russia. And the fact that it existed gave them sort of like political cover for some of the things that, like Russia wanted to do. And in exchange for agreeing to this, Lukashenko got the ability to achieve what would go on to be the only real success of his reign, which was like slow, steady economic growth and reliable payment of state wages. On paper, Belarus was a quasi Marxist. 8 about 80% of the economy is a controlled by the state. Some people say 60. It's somewhere in that ballpark. Belarus remains the only former Soviet state where all farms are still collectivized. And while many Soviet former Soviet republics have gone on to have tumultuous economies, you know that have outright collapsed like Albania and like Russia, Belarus has on the surface like kept a relatively steady course. And this is basically all been due to Russian economic support. Belarus has survived by buying heavily subsidized Russian crude oil, refining it, and then selling it to the rest of Europe at a profit. This is kind of like what funds everything in bell or what did fund everything in Belarus. And an economy based on cheap Russian gas allowed Lukashenko to mostly ignore Western complaints about the human rights abuses within his country. There were many of these. He disappeared at least two of his cabinet colleagues after they got too popular, and at least four of his political opponents. Opponents like people running against him in elections have just sort of been. Are are no longer. Their whereabouts are no longer known now. Lukashenko has felt the need over the last 26 years of his rule to provide the occasional illusion of democracy and choice to people's opposition. Parties are generally allowed, but then they tend to be either heavily compromised by the get go or they're very quickly banned and their leaders are arrested. And in fact, it does kind of seem like the only reason there are opposition parties in Belarus is so that he can arrest the leader. That's his argument and he's he's an authoritarian. And that's like, no, no, no, you don't understand. I'm not a dictator. I'm an authoritarian. Yeah, very, very different. Very different. It's like, it's like claiming you're a civil libertarian as opposed to, I don't know, a Nazi. Yeah, yeah. So Belarus's international political alignment has remained broadly Russia focused for most of Lukashenko's reign. He made a point, particularly early on, of thumbing his nose at Western powers. In 1998 he bought a house in an upscale gated community in Minsk, which was shared by 25 ambassadors, including the British and American envoys. And it was, like, nicer than most housing developments in Belarus tended to be. So I'm surprised. Yeah. Lukashenko decided he liked it, and he wanted it all to be hits. Yeah, including all of the other people's houses who lived there. So the British and American envoys refused to leave. And so Lukashenko ordered water, electricity and gas cut off to their homes. When they still refused to leave, he changed the locks on the front gate so they could no longer get back inside. And eventually he got his nice compound. There you go. That's how you do it. That's how you do it. That's how I procured. All my housing? Yeah. Just change the locks. Yeah, turn off all the water and gas, then change the locks. Then people stop coming to the house. Exactly. And then it's yours. That's a that's a good way to deal with the fact that nobody in your generation can afford rent. Yay. So eventually the US and England withdrew their ambassadors in protest. Lukashenko ignored this because he didn't give a ****. But his antipathy to the West has not been consistent in recent years, nor has his alignment in Russia. After the 2006 elections, the US and the EU threw a bunch of sanctions. About Belarus because, you know, because there wasn't protection. Yeah. And he beat them up. And then Russia invaded Georgia. And around the same time, like basically 2006, Lukashenko has some sham elections and he beats the **** out of people who protest. And the EU and the US put sanctions on him. But then Russia invades Georgia at around the same time, and he, like, is vaguely critical of Russia. And that makes the EU and the US happy. That makes it much better, but it makes Russia angry. So they double the price of the gas. They're selling Belarus. Well, you can't. You can't win it at all. No, no. And that's like, he's kind of just been dancing between NATO and Russia for most of the last 10 years in particular, which is is like, interesting. You'll see a lot of people will claim that, like, like, there's a lot of suspicion that, you know, he was going to win. The protest started getting out of hand. He was going to call on Russia to defend his sovereignty. But Russia hasn't been super positive towards Lukashenko lately. And. The Belarusian Government actually arrested like a bunch of Russian mercenaries at the whole start of thing. So it's like, it's a pretty complicated situation because like, you also have people who will be like, oh, this uprising in Belarus is just like orchestrated by NATO to try to remove another, you know, a good old fashioned socialist leader from Europe. And it's like, well, actually there have been periods where, like, NATO was kind of OK with Lukashenko and it's it's it's much more complicated than all that. Yeah, it doesn't seem super straightforward. No, he's basically. Like he he's he's kind of like, he's kind of a **** ***** like that. That's Lukashenko within the context of European politics is like, he'll flirt with Russia a little bit and then he'll run over to the US to make Russia jealous. And then, like, that's just kind of how things would make a great soap opera. Yeah, yeah. Gone with the sheep, Russian unfiltered gas, I don't know. So, yeah, this dance has continued to regularly for the last, like, 15 years. And you might look at Luka. Make those position in the new Cold War era as similar to positions taken by like a bunch of African and Middle Eastern nations during the old Cold War, where they would kind of try to play both sides. The Bush administration gave Lukashenko his last dictator in Europe nickname in 2005, but after 2006, Western powers were a lot more careful about how they were referred to him, and Lukashenko threw them raw meat too, releasing his nation's most prominent political prisoner, Alexander Kozulin, from prison after his 2006 conviction for hooliganism. We're leading a demonstration that protested against a rigged poll. Hooliganism is how most Belarusian political opposition leaders wind up getting charged with this. Just like we have. Felony mischief. Exactly. Felony mischief. Don't call it that. Got like, at least make it sound like a serious crime. Mischief. Yeah, hooliganism as A and again, he was still like, the guy that he was. So as he releases this prominent political prisoner to make the West happier, he also detained 20 independent journalists. After a series of cartoons making fun of him showed up on the Internet. Yeah, so I don't know. You know, he's, he's, he's continued to be the guy that he is now the clearest shortcut to guaranteeing a government response in terms of like, being an activist, like, because it's always been kind of weird, like what the state would respond to. As a rule, Belarus would allow protests but would always punish the people who organized them. But he for years actually got a lot of political mileage out of attacking the United States and the UK for tear gas and crowds because, like, we don't have to do that. Belarus because we just torture and murder the people who organized the protests. How how things have changed. Yeah. And they also, he also tear gas. And he also. Yeah, absolutely. Sure. Absolutely. If there's no media, that doesn't have to get out. So, yeah, there were a number of other kind of weird rules that the media had to abide by in Belarus. Television stations in Belarus have been ordered on pain of arrest and presumably torture, to never film him from behind. That's good. Yeah. And this started because he went bald. In the mid aughts, uh, and he didn't want his bald spot to be visible. I don't. I think he's bald enough now. He's a comb over, so I don't know that that rule is still in place, because it's very obvious. But yeah, he he would imprison you for showing that he was bald for a while. And it's probably fair to say that, like, if you're going to, if you're going to, you're going to like rank dictatorships. Belarus is pretty low in terms of like, if you're gonna, if you're gonna make a list of like, which dictatorships have been the worst to live under, I guess it's one of the better ones, like the level of repression. You wouldn't really compare it to, like North Korea, so to speak, or to Syria. Like in Syria they have their secret prisons where they torture people and they killed 10s of thousands of people in those prisons. And Belarus, they kill a handful and they they do eventually. That most people go, so you know. Not great, but I guess it could be. I don't know. I don't want to say that either about a horrible dictatorship. You know, it's it's just, it's just that's where they that's where they land on the worldwide things like you, you get information out of Belarus, people are able to report on things, but you also never know if reporting on something happening in Belarus is going to get you beaten and tortured by state authorities. But it might not. It could not. Yes, it could not. I I love the uncertainty of if I'm going to get abused by the state for doing journalism. That's what makes it a good place, favorite part of journalism. Yeah. So, uh, yeah. And again, for most of this. Like Lukashenko there, there would be kind of regular frustration with aspects of state repression. But most of the country was kind of on board with things just because, like, things were pretty stable. There was like, slow, steady economic growth. Belarus kept enough of the old Soviet era institutions around to ensure that social inequality remained very low. Belarus has one of like the lowest levels of social inequality of any place in the world. So you didn't see a lot of, like, regular people on the street. Nobody had, nobody was really rich. Like, they wouldn't have known anybody who had, like a lot, but also like, you didn't know anybody who was dirt poor. For most of the history of Lukashenko's reign, like people, people there there wasn't like, it wasn't like you wouldn't see homeless people on the street or whatever, right? And so people were like, well, at least things are stable, and we don't have to worry about, like, all of these because, like, you look over at Albania and a bunch of other places. Would, like, experimented with capitalism suddenly in the 90s and they they wound up like people lost everything and wound up on the street and like, that didn't really happen in Belarus. OK. So that made that helped him, like, maintain popularity. And there were still kind of quasi Marxist for a little bit. Yeah. Aspects of it. Like it's one of those things where people actual Marxists and stuff will point out like a bunch of ways in which that actually is not the case. And, oh, really? People, people pointing out differences between Marxism? Really? Yeah. We're shocked. But yeah, it broadly speaking, life in Belarus continued on from under, under Lukashenko pretty similarly to how it had been under the Soviet Union. And that is in in in the good ways. And that, like people continued to be able to benefit from sort of some of these state institutions that got taken away in other parts of Eastern Europe and in the bad ways and that, like, there was still massive political repression and no real free, no real like freedom to to, you know, pick your own political leaders or whatever. Early on in his reign, Lukashenko earned the nickname Botka, which means father, and that's broadly how he's attempted to portray himself ever since. It's like the father of the Belarusian people. And this kind of dictate differs a lot from dictators like Gaddafi, turkmenbashi or the Kims because he never portrayed himself as a superhuman figure like he. He preferred to kind of the image he seems to refer to himself as, like, as a farmer. So there's a lot of propaganda about how Lukashenko, you know, as opposed to like the what you hear from, like, the Kims. Where it's like, oh, they they built a rocket ship, you know, or whatever. They invented the game of golf with Lukashenko. The stories that they tell about him were like, he went to a collective farm and saw that cows were being abused. And so he fired his Minister of Agriculture to, like, make sure that cows are taken care of now in Belarus. He's like the father farmer. That's kind of, that's the image she tries to put out. Yeah. That's that's sort of like, yeah, like, yeah, yeah, yeah. Farming Dad is the is the way Lukashenko wants to be known. And it's like worth, like when Steven Seagal visited, like, they went and. Hung out at a farm, and Segal had to eat gigantic carrots. Good. Lukashenko pulled out of the Earth. Good, good. Yet it's a weird video. Very awkward. So yeah, it's probably accurate to say that Lukashenko never really had a cult of personality like most dictators we talk about. It's just not something he really went for. And I'm going to quote now from an article in Politico about this. It cites an expert on Belarus named Lisenko quote. On the face of it, that's a weakness, but Leshchenko argues it differently. Ideology, she writes, is one of the most. Successful undertakings by the Belarusian leader. Unlike traditional Soviet ideology, though, it does not consist of truths, but attitudes, principally feelings of security and pride. Belarusians are constantly reminded by the state propaganda machine that the outside world is dangerous, whereas life in Belarus is enviably calm and well protected. Wages and social payments are on time. There is no terrorism, no political upheavals as in Ukraine or Georgia. The constant struggle by authorities against external and internal enemies is not just successful, but grounds for pride. Belarus, or, argues Lukashenko in 2003. Has been endowed with the great mission of being the spiritual leader of Eastern European civilization. So that's interesting to me, like, because you've got this country where there's a a strong history of, like, half of the nation dying in horrible violence. And so a lot of Lukashenko's kind of argument for why he should stay in power has been like nothing happens. We haven't had a massive genocide in our country. Yeah. Like, yeah. And that means I'm a good leader here since we were all killed 26 or whatever. Yeah. Which is, you know, I guess one thing. So, yeah, again, no real cult of personality for Lukashenko. But he has had some songs written about him, and his favorite is a ditty called Master in the house. And it includes I don't. I don't know the how to sing this to a tune, but here's here's the English translation of kind of the most relevant chunk of the song. He is a hard nut to crack. He wouldn't teach you anything wrong. He can call everybody to order. He is really cool. He can easily redress all grievances. He is reliable and calm. That is. That is a good ditty. That's a good Diddy. Yeah. I love it when people can easily redress all grievances. But, like, also, you see that, like, he's kind of a boring dictator in a lot of ways. Seems like it seems kind of the only way he's gotten some support is just he's just kind of boring. Yeah. Yeah. That's like what people like about him because things have been so tumultuous. That's what people liked about him, I think, like, you know, in some places you need to have, like, the dictator is, you know, holds up the sky. And is the only thing keeping, you know, uh, you know, the Western hordes back or he invented all these wonderful things in Belarus. It's like he's calm, he's reliable, he keeps everybody chill. Yeah, so the rest of the song goes on for a pretty considerable length of time anyway. Yeah, it's it's he's a weird guy, he's kind of hard to get your hands around, and I I he's definitely not the kind of colorful figure that we tend to cover on behind the ********. He is a terrible dictator who suppressed a lot of people very violently, but he's also just like. Kind of a boring middle manager. He seems like a boring dictator. Yeah, he's, he's he's, he's kind of a boring dictator at the end. And yeah, I found a quote from him, another quote from him where he kind of talks about himself as an authoritarian from an August 2003 interview where he says, again, an authoritarian style of rule is characteristic of me and I've always admitted it in the notes. You need to control the the country and the main thing is not to ruin people's lives, which is a really self aware thing of for a dictator to say like. As long as I don't **** people up. I'll be I. People will support me. They're gonna keep letting me be a dictator as long as I don't do something massively terrible. So in Part 2, we're going to talk about the time Lukashenko did a bunch of massively terrible things that made people not want to support him as a dictator anymore. But first this episodes over, Garrison. You want to tell people where they can find you on the Internet before we talk more about Belarus? Yeah. If you want to see me talk about protests and getting shot at by police and federal agents, you can go to my Twitter at Hungry Bow tie. Hungry. It's in the accessory, not the country. Yeah, that's where. That's where most of my stuff lives right now. I'm working on a few other things, but yeah, mainly my Twitter right now. So follow Garrison's Twitter tweet, things at him fill up my mentions with any anything that's legal. Yeah, yeah, that's legal. I follow me on Twitter and fill my mentions up with anything that's illegal. That's how it works. Crimes to me, laws to Garrison. That's how the Twitter goes. Yeah, but I you're at the eye writes, alright. Yeah, that's right. That's the thing. So the podcast is over. You can find us on the website at You can buy T-shirts. We have masks that will cure your diseases. FDA approved 100% guaranteed to cure all diseases which. First I thought this was a fake ad for you until I saw one of these masks in person. If you days, I'm like, Oh no, these masks are real. This isn't just a joke you do at the end of the podcast. No, they're actually selling these. Yeah, they're real. FDA approved masks that prevent all diseases. Yeah. And if the FDA has a problem with me claiming that, then they can come. They can. They can attack Teepublic. Yeah, they're gonna attack T publics. Mountaintop compound with a basement full of children. Bring it on, FDA. Hello, I'm Erica Kelly from the podcast Southern Fried True crime, and if you want to go from podcast fan to podcast host, do what I did and check out spreaker from iheart. I was working in accounting and hating it. Then after just 18 months of podcasting with Spreaker, I was able to quit my day job. Follow your podcasting dreams, let's break your handle the hosting, creation, distribution, and monetization of your podcast. Go to That's espr E If you could completely remove one phrase from your vocabulary, which phrase would you choose? I don't know. 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