International Conference “Belarus 2020 and beyond: Path Dependency or Break with the Past?” (archive)

About the conference

Political developments in Belarus before, during and after the Presidential election on August 9, 2020 were marked by the protests of unexpected scale and duration. They have brought back questions of the Belarusian regime to the agenda of European politics and academic research. 26 years of Lukashenko’s rule, hundreds of thousands of protesters, and the regime’s extremely brutal response have prompted researchers and practitioners to look back into the factors of regime stability, public mobilisation, and the effects of external pressures on and incentives for regime transformation in post-Soviet countries. Though the end result of current events in Belarus remains unclear, there is an agreement among scholars that it would be almost impossible to come back to ‘business as usual’ in relations between the authorities and Belarusian society as well as between Belarus and its external partners, especially Russia.

Seeking to enhance research and academic discussion on political developments in Belarus Institute of International Relations and Political Science of Vilnius University invited scholars and researchers to the Conference on political developments after the 2020 Presidential elections in Belarus Belarus 2020 and beyond: Path Dependency or Break with the Past?, which took place in Vilnius and online on 7-8 October, 2021. The aim of the conference was to analyse the processes in Belarus in 2020-2021, which had shaken the foundations of Europe’s longest-lasting authoritarian regime.


Find #BYConferenceVilnius and #VUTSPMI on social media to see the main insights and ideas of the participants of the conference.


The event was organized by the Institute of International Relations and Political Science (Vilnius University) and Konrad-Adenauer Foundation (Liaison Office of the Foundation in Lithuania).

Program of the conference


09:00-09:30 Opening of the conference

  • Margarita Šešelgytė, Director of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science
  • Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Belarusian Opposition Leader
  • Rimvydas Petrauskas, Rector of Vilnius University
  • Linas Linkevičius, Lithuania’s ambassador-at-large for migration
  • Jakob Wöllenstein, Director Country Office Belarus (Konrad Adenauer Foundation)

09:30-10:30 Keynote speech “Repression and Protests in Authoritarian Regimes: Explaining the Interactions of Governments, Dissidents and Third Parties”

  • Prof. Em. Karl Dieter Opp, University of Leipzig and University of Washington

    Moderated by: Ainė Ramonaitė, Vilnius University

10:45-12:00 Panel “The Digitalization of the Protests in Belarus”

  • Volha Davydzik (Lingan Normal University), Antonina Stebur (independent researcher and curator), Digital Dimension and Reconfiguration of Political Life in Belarusian Protests of 2020-2021”
  • Hanna Liubakova* (Atlantic Council), Belarus Protests: How Telegram Shaped the Protest Movement”
  • Henadz Korshunau (European Humanities University), “#Belarus2020 – Denunciation of the Social Contract and Expansion of Horizontal Sociality”

          Moderated by: Jūratė Kavaliauskaitė, Vilnius University

12:15-13:30 Panel “The Effect of the Protests on the Nation Building in Belarus”

  • Aliaksei Kazharski (Charles University), “Belarus’ New Political Nation? 2020 anti-authoritarian Protests as Identity Building”
  • Juljan Jachovič* (Vilnius University), “Reinforcing the National “Identity: Changes in Belarusian Identity Building Social Practices”
  • Tatiana Shchyttsova* (European Humanities University), “Constituents of Solidarity in the Belarusian Protest Movement 2020: between Ethics and Politics”

          Moderated by: Nerija Putinaitė, Vilnius University

13:30-14:45 Lunch break

14:45-15:45 Keynote speech “Belarusian Revolution in Feminist Terms: Domestic Violence, Care Strike and Sisterhood”

  • Prof. Olga Shparaga, European College of Liberal Arts in Belarus

    Moderated by: Dovilė Jakniūnaitė, Vilnius University

16:00-17:15 Panel “The Role of Ethnic Minority and Diasporas in Political Protests”

  • Magdalena Lesińska*, Marta Jaroszewicz* (University of Warsaw), “Exit and Voice: Strategies of Political Mobilization of Belarusian Diaspora in Poland”
  • Peter Vermeersch (KU Leuven), “National Minorities in Perilous Times: the Politics of Being Belarusian in Poland, and Being Polish in Belarus”
  • Kiryl Kascian* (International Centre for Ethnic and Linguistic Diversity Studies), “Mistreatment of Belarus’s Polish Minority after the Presidential 2020 Election as a Tool to Counter Poland Support for Changes in Belarus”
  • Volha Verbilovich (University of Massachusetts Amherst), “Fragile Social Contract: Persons with Disabilities and Retirees Political Protest in Belarus 2020”

          Moderated by: Andžej Pukšto, Vytautas Magnus University

17:30-18:45 Panel “Protest, Mobilization and Social Composition of the Belarusian Uprising”

  • Michael Richter (University of Bremen), “Belarus 2020: A Middle Class Uprising that Failed because of the Working Class”
  • Irmina Matonytė* (General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania), Tatsiana Chulitskaya* (Vytautas Magnus University), “Political Crisis in Belarus and Female Political Activism: from Creativity to Captivity”

          Moderated by: Vilija Navickaitė, Vilnius University

19:00 Networking event



09:00-10:00 Keynote speech “Why and How Countries Democratize?”

  • Prof. Daniel Treisman, University of California (UCLA)
    Moderated by: Laurynas Jonavičius, Vilnius University

10:15-11:30 Panel “The Response of the Regime – The End Justifies the Means”

  • Tomas Dapkus* (Vilnius University), “Counterrevolutionary Strategies by the Belarusian Regime: From the Bulldozer Revolution to the Streets of Minsk”
  • Aryna Dzmitryieva (European University), “Protesters and Police Brutality under Authoritarianism”
  • Beāte Livdanska (Rīga Stradiņš University), “Civil Society Organizations as Agents of Europeanization: the Case of Belarus amidst 2020 Political Crisis”

          Moderated by: Laurynas Jonavičius, Vilnius University

11:45-13:00 Panel “The Response of the Regime – Narratives about the Protests”

  • Andrei Kalavur* (Masaryk University), “2020-2021 Media Landscape in Belarus: State-Run Media Discourses as Signaling of Institutional Strength”
  • Viktor Denisenko* (Vilnius University), “Coup in Belarus”: Transformation of the Narrative in Official Rhetoric of Minsk”
  • Nerijus Maliukevičius* (Vilnius University), Maksimas Milta (Yale University), “Fortress Belarus. Representations of the Enemy Image in the Media Controlled by the Lukashenko Regime”

          Moderated by: Inga Vinogradnaitė, Vilnius University

13:00-14:30 Lunch break

14:30-15:45 Panel “International Repercussions and Consequences of the Protests”

  • Tatsiana Kulakevich, Aaron Augsburger (University of South Florida), “Contested Elections, Protest, and Regime Stability: Comparing Belarus and Bolivia”
  • Marijuš Antonovič* (Vilnius University), “The Belarusian Political Crisis: an Instance of Poland‘s Foreign Policy‘s Failure?”
  • Ibrahim Kone (Jilin University), Hedging and the Survival of the Regime: Belarus in the Aftermath of 2014”

          Moderated by: Linas Kojala, Eastern Europe Studies Centre

16:00-17:15 Panel “The Aftermath of Protests: the Impact on the State and Society”

  • Piotr Rudkouski (Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies), “The Risk of a New Autocracy after Lukashenko — High or Low?”
  • Vytis Jurkonis* (Vilnius University), “Ownership of the Country as a Precondition of Non-Violent Struggle in Belarus”
  • Beāte Livdanska, Māris Cepurītis (Rīga Stradiņš University), “Future of Belarus-Russia Relations: Russia’s Acquisition of Belarus State – Owned Enterprises as a Tool for Closer Political Integration”

          Moderated by: Laurynas Jonavičius, Vilnius University


NOTE: All moderators and participants marked with * will join the conference at the venue.

Keynote speakers

Karl Dieter Opp is Professor Emeritus at the Institute of Sociology at the University of Leipzig in Germany and Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington. He received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Cologne. The author of more than 140 articles, author or editor of twenty-five books, including The Rationality of Political Protest. A Comparative Analysis of Rational Choice Theory (with Peter and Petra Hartmann); Social Institutions. Their Emergence, Maintenance and Effects (edited with Michael Hechter and Reinhard Wippler); Origins of a Spontaneous Revolution (with Peter Voss and Christiane Gern); Social Norms (edited with Michael Hechter); and Political Protest and Social Movements. A Multidisciplinary Introduction, Critique and Synthesis.

Daniel Treisman is a professor of political science at the University of California, Los Angeles and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. His latest book, The Return: Russia’s Journey from Gorbachev to Medvedev was one of the Financial Times’ “Best Political Books of 2011.” Since 2014, he has been the director of the Russia Political Insight Project, an international collaboration funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, to investigate political decision making in Putin’s Russia. He is the editor of The New Autocracy: Information, Politics, and Policy in Putin’s Russia (Brookings Institution Press 2018).


Olga Shparaga is a philosopher and professor at the European College of Liberal Arts in Belarus, as well as a member of the Coordination Council in Belarus. From 2006 to 2014 she was a co-editor of the intellectual journal Novaja Eŭropa. Olga Shparaga is a member of the editorial boards of Ideology and Politics JournalThe Interlocutor and pARTisan, as well as of the international philosophical book series Libri Nigri. Prof. Shparaga is the author of several books: Community-after-Holocaust: on the way to the inclusion society, Wake of Political Life: An Essay on the Philosophy of the Public Sphere, and The Face of the Revolution is Female.


Panel “The Digitalization of the Protests in Belarus”

Antonina Stebur – curator, researcher. Graduated from the European Humanities University, a co-founder of the research group

Volha Davydzik – master in philosophy, researcher at joint Sino-Belarusian centre of philosophy and culture (Lingnan Normal University, China), graduated from the European Humanities University.

Hanna Liubakova is a journalist from Belarus and non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council. She works as a journalism trainer and mentor. She started her career at the only independent Belarusian TV channel Belsat where she worked as a correspondent and TV presenter. Hanna has reported from various countries and regions, including Belgium, UK, Poland, France, and Chechnya. She was a recipient of the Václav Havel Journalism Fellowship at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Czechia, as well as a World Press Institute Fellowship in the United States. Hanna received a degree in Art History from The Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland in 2010 and a Master of Art with distinction in International Journalism from Brunel University in London in 2017. She was awarded the Peter Caws Prize for best postgraduate dissertation.

Panel “The Effect of the Protests on the Nation Building in Belarus”

Dr. Aliaksei Kazharski received his PhD from Comenius University in Bratislava (Slovakia) in 2015. As a doctoral student, he spent time as a guest researcher at the University of Oslo (Norway), University of Tartu (Estonia) and the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna (Austria). He has also been a visiting researcher at the University of Vienna and has worked as a researcher and lecturer at Charles University in Prague (Czech Republic) and Comenius University in Bratislava. Aliaksei’s doctoral dissertation was published by Central European University Press as a monograph in 2019 (Eurasian Integration and the Russian World: Regionalism as an Identitary Enterprise). He has also contributed to the work of regional think tanks and debate platforms such as the GLOBSEC Policy Institute and Visegrad Insight. Aliaksei’s main areas of research have been Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, regionalism and regional integration, and identity in international relations. He has published his scholarship on these subjects in Geopolitics, Problems of Post-Communism and other academic journals with an international impact.

Juljan Jachovič graduated from Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science bachelor’s program and master’s program in Eastern European and Russian studies. Studied under the exchange programs at the universities of Tartu (2012), Tbilisi (2013), and Lisbon (2020). Doctoral student of the Vilnius University, preparing a dissertation on the topic of the “Reconstruction of Belarusian National Identity” in the 2014-2019 period.

Dr. habil. in Philosophy Tatiana Shchyttsova, Professor in the Department of Social Sciences and Research Leader at the Centre for Research of Intersubjectivity and Interpersonal Communication at the European Humanities University, Vilnius. Editor-in-chief of the journal for philosophy and cultural studies Topos.

Panel “The Role of Ethnic Minority and Diasporas in Political Protests”

Dr. Magdalena Lesińska, assistant professor in the Centre of Migration Research at University of Warsaw (CMR UW), Head of Postgraduate Studies “Contemporary International Migration”. Her areas of expertise are migration policy in Poland and CEE countries, diaspora studies, transnational political and public participation of migrants, including voting rights. Currently she is Principal Investigator in project entitled “Diaspora policy in the context of post-accession emigration. Comparative perspective of Poland, Hungary and Lithuania”, funded by the National Science Centre in Poland. Her previous works have been published e.g. in Journal of Sociology, Ethnopolitics, International Migration, Central and Eastern European Migration Review (CEEMR).

Dr. Marta Jaroszewicz, assistant professor in the Centre of Migration Research at University of Warsaw (CMR UW) since October 2019 and a leader of the NCN-funded project “Securitisation (de-securitisation) of migration on the example of Ukrainian migration to Poland and internal migration in Ukraine”. In the past long-term researcher at the Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW) where among others she held a position of the senior research fellow, head of department, and project’s team leader. Previously worked also for the International Organization for Migration (Mission in Ukraine) as a project manager, and seconded national expert at the European Commission (Directorate General Neighborhood). Her research interests include: links between migration and security, policies’ diffusion, impact of external actors on the national policies, migration policies in the EU’s eastern neighborhood and at the Eurasian area.

Dr. Peter Vermeersch is a professor of politics at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the KU Leuven, Belgium. As a postdoctoral researcher he worked, among others, at the Center for European Studies, Harvard University. At the Faculty of Social Sciences in Leuven he has led the research group LINES (Leuven International and European Studies). His research focuses on minority politics, nationalism, democratization, and restorative justice. His work has appeared in a range of academic journals, and he has published several academic books.

Dr. Kiryl Kascian is a board member at the International Centre for Ethnic and Linguistic Diversity Studies and a consultant with the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum. He holds a doctoral degree in law (dr. iur.) from the University of Bremen. In the past, he taught at several universities in Czechia and Germany. He has also been a guest scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale and the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava among others. He provided his country- and region-specific expertise, inter alia, for the Office of OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, the Equal Rights Trust, and the Minority Rights Group Europe. His research interests include inter-ethnic relations, constitutionalism, electoral behavior, and security issues with a focus on Central and Eastern Europe.

Volha Verbilovich is a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology, UMASS Amherst. Her research project covers the 2020 social and political uprising in Belarus. She works with the concepts of post-socialism and neoliberalism and addresses social movement theories, disability, aging, and gender issues. She graduated from the Belarusian state university and got a Master’s Degree in Sociology at the Higher School of Economics. She also worked as a senior lecturer for the School of Media and a research fellow for the International Laboratory for Social Integration Research at the HSE. Fields of interest: social theory, disability, aging, communication studies, ethnography, and qualitative research.

Panel “Protest, Mobilization and Social Composition of the Belarusian Uprising”

Dr. Irmina Matonytė is professor of political science at Military academy of Lithuania, Vilnius. Previously she taught and carried out interdisciplinary academic research projects (in the fields of political science, sociology, communication and management) at ISM University of Management and Economics (Vilnius), Lithuanian Social Research Center, European Humanities university (EHU, Belarusian university in exile in Vilnius), Kaunas University of Technology, and Vilnius University. Her research interests include post-communist elites’ structure and behavior, civil society development, national and regional security, public policies (local, national and European level), and political communication. Since 2006, Irmina has been actively engaged in the research concerning the regime transformation in Belarus.

Dr. Tatsiana Chulitskaya is a senior researcher at the Vytautas Magnus University (VMU) (Lithuania). She got her PhD in social sciences from Vilnius University in 2014. Her research interests are public administration, public policy analysis, civil society and civic participation in non-democratic regimes, reforms in the post-Soviet states and Belarusian studies. Tatsiana has been recently involved in several international research projects including the EU-STRAT project focused on Eastern Partnership (EaP) program analysis. She has a number of academic and research publications. From 2011, Tatsiana also cooperates with the Belarusian informal educational project and think tank School of Young Managers in Public Administration (SYMPA) (Belarus) within which she is in the position of an academic director.

Michael Martin Richter is a research fellow at the Centre for East European Studies in Bremen, a PhD student at the University of Bremen within the EU’s Horizon 2020 Innovative Training Network (ITN) (MSCA grant), as well as a visiting scholar at the SWP in Brussels. He holds master degrees from the College of Europe, the University College London (UCL) and the Higher School of Economics (HSE) in Moscow as well as bachelor degrees from the ESB Business School and the Jagiellonian University. He collected professional experience at the Polish Embassy in Moscow, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, PwC, and Ecolab. He is passionate about political economy issues, particularly in the pan-European context, and enjoys publishing his analyses and comments in diverse European and international outlets.

Panel “The Response of the Regime – The End Justifies the Means”

Aryna Dzmitryieva is a Researcher at the Institute for the Rule of Law at the European University at St. Petersburg, Russia. She is also a PhD candidate at the University of Eastern Finland. Aryna Dzmitryieva’s research is primarily focused on the study of the Russian judicial and law enforcement system, legal professions, and reforms of judicial and law enforcement systems in Eastern Europe. She is an author of articles on criminal justice in Russia, policing, and Constitutional justice. She also co-authored “Russian Judges as a Professional Group. A Sociological Study” and “Legal Education in Russia and Abroad: between University, Profession, State, and Market”.

Panel “The Response of the Regime – Narratives about the Protests”

Dr. Viktor Denisenko finished PhD studies in Vilnius University Faculty of Communication in 2016. Topic of his doctoral dissertation research was “The Image of the Baltic States in Russian Periodical Press in Context of Geopolitical Changes (1991-2009)”. He is Associated Professor in Vilnius University (Faculty of Communication) and General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania. His scientific interests are propaganda, information warfare, political communication. He is the author of the book “In Encirclement of Propaganda” (Vilnius University, 2021).

Dr. Nerijus Maliukevičius research focuses on information warfare, strategic communication, conflict management as well as Russian studies. He is the author of two books about Russian information warfare strategies. He works as researcher and lecturer in the Institute of International Relations and Political Science (Vilnius University). His PhD thesis focused on the potential and spread of Russian informational geopolitics in Lithuania.

Maksimas Milta is a master’s student in European & Russian Studies at Yale University. His areas of interest include sanctions, higher education and democracy, small state studies. In 2013-2021, Maksimas worked at the European Humanities University, leading communication and development portfolio of the Belarusian University-in-Exile. He is a frequent commentator of Belarus affairs and a host of the Talaka weekly documentary on the Lithuanian National TV. Maksimas is a ReThink.CEE fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the US and an Associate Analyst at the Eastern Europe Studies Center. He holds a master’s degree in political science from Vilnius University.

Panel “International Repercussions and Consequences of the Protests”

Dr. Tatsiana Kulakevich is a researcher on Eastern Europe born and raised in Belarus. She is a Lecturer at the University of South Florida School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies, research fellow and affiliated faculty at the USF Institute on Russia. Dr. Kulakevich’s analyses appeared in media and academic journals, including The Washington Post, The Conversation, The Globe Post, The New Eastern Europe, International Migration, SAIS Review, Journal of Belarusian Studies, and East European Politics and Societies: and Cultures.

Dr. Aaron Augsburger is Assistant Professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Global Studies and affiliate faculty at the Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean at the University of South Florida.

Ibrahim Kone is a Ph.D. student in International Relations at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Jilin University China. His area of interest includes security studies, IR Theories, and Foreign Policy Analysis.

Panel “The Aftermath of Protests: the Impact on the State and Society”

Dr. Piotr Rudkouski is the academic director of the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS). He is the author of four books and over 100 articles or expert papers. In Oct 2020 – Sept 2021, he coordinated a BISS project on scenarios of political developments in Belarus, which resulted in a research paper ‘Toward a New Belarus. Transformation Factors’.

Recordings of keynote speeches
  • Opening of the conference and the keynote speech “Repression and Protests in Authoritarian Regimes: Explaining the Interactions of Governments, Dissidents, and Third Parties” by prof. em. Karl Dieter Opp, University of Leipzig and University of Washington. Watch here;
  • Keynote speech “Belarusian Revolution in Feminist Terms: Domestic Violence, Care Strike, and Sisterhood” by prof. Olga Shparaga, European College of Liberal Arts in Belarus. Watch here;
  • Keynote speech “Why and How Countries Democratize?” by prof. Daniel Treisman, University of California (UCLA). Watch here.