Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the national leader of Belarus, gives a lecture at Ghent University

(15-12-2023) On December, 12 the Eureast Platform had the privilege of hosting Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leader of the Belarusian pro-democracy forces and head of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya became the leader of the Belarusian pro-democracy forces after she had confronted the  decades-long authoritarian rule of Aliaksandr Lukashenka, in the 2020 presidential election. Despite widespread and well-founded claims of voter fraud, Lukashenka proclaimed his victory, leading to the most significant protests witnessed in the country since independence in 1991. In response to peaceful mass protests, the regime resorted to unprecedented levels of brutal violence to contain the protests, resulting in the imprisonment, torture, beatings, and exile of hundreds of thousands of citizens, and this harsh repression continues till this day.

“Fight for democracy is usually a long process, it is not a sprint, it is a marathon. You just have to believe in what you do without expecting an immediate result. The most important thing is to keep on trying”.
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya

In her keynote lecture, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya focused on the current situation in Belarus that emerged in the aftermath of the 2020 protests against the election results and the massive violence committed by the public forces. Ms. Tsikhanouskaya shared her personal account of the events in Belarus following the 2020-2021 protests, Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and its implications for Belarus, and the role of the United Transition Cabinet established in response to these events in 2022 to facilitate Belarus' transition to democracy. She also shed light on the European Union's role in this critical process.

photos of the event

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s biography

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya

 Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is the leader of the Belarusian democratic movement and a Head of the United Transition Cabinet of whom independent observers agree won the presidential election on August 9, 2020, against the long-lasting dictator Aliaksandr Lukashenka.

She has visited 28 countries, gathering support and advocating for the release of more than 1500 of political prisoners and a peaceful transition of power through free and fair elections.  In meetings with President Biden, Chancellor Merkel, President Macron, President von der Leyen, President Charles Michel, Prime Minister Trudeau and other world leaders, Tsikhanouskaya emphasized the need for a braver response to the actions of the Belarusian dictatorship.

Tsikhanouskaya’s story began when she entered the race after her husband Siarhei Tsikhanousky was arrested for voicing his presidential aspirations. Lukashenka publicly dismissed her as a “housewife,” saying that a woman cannot become president. Nonetheless, Tsikhanouskaya united and successfully led the democratic coalition. Following her forced exile, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya inspired unprecedented peaceful protests in Belarus, with some rallies numbering hundreds of thousands people. When the Russia’s war against Ukraine has started, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya announced the anti-war movement to prevent the participation of Belarus in the war against Ukraine. Mass campaign of disobedience and dozens acts of sabotage took place aimed to stop Russian troops from entering Ukraine from Belarus territory.

In 2020–2023, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya became a symbol of the peaceful struggle for democracy and strong female leadership. Among dozens of distinctions, she is a recipient of the Sakharov Prize awarded by the European Parliament, 2022 International Four Freedoms Award, and Charlemagne Prize. In 2021 and 2022, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda and Members of the Norwegian Parliament respectively. Tsikhanouskaya has been recognized in Bloomberg’s Top 50 Most Influential People, Financial Times’ Top 12 Most Influential Women, and Politico’s Top 28 Most Influential Europeans.