Belarus and the Struggle for Democracy in Europe

Monday, March 27, 2023

SIS professor Keith Darden will moderate a conversation with Belarus' President-elect Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. Audience Q&A will follow.

Belarus has been central to the struggle for democracy in Europe since the mass non-violent democratic protest movement of 2020. With the Russo-Ukrainian war now entering its second year, Belarus is playing a critical role in the armed struggle for European democracy as both a staging ground for Russian forces and a critical point of popular and partisan resistance to Russian efforts to subjugate its neighbors. Please join us to discuss Belarus' vital role in the future of Europe with President-elect Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya of Belarus.

SIS professor Keith Darden will moderate this conversation, followed by an audience Q and A.


Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is a national leader of Belarus and head of the United Transition Cabinet whom independent observers agree won the presidential election on August 9, 2020, against the long-lasting dictator Aliaksandr Lukashenka.
As the leader of the Belarusian democratic movement, she has visited 28 countries, gathering support and advocating for the release of more than 1500 political prisoners and a peaceful transition of power through free and fair elections. In meetings with President Biden, then-Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, President Emmanuel Macron of France, President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission, President Charles Michel of the European Council, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, 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 of people.
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.

Keith Darden (moderator) is an associate professor at American University’s School of International Service. His research focuses on nationalism, state-building, and the politics of Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia. His forthcoming book, Resisting Occupation in Eurasia, explores the development of durable national loyalties through education and details how they explain over a century of regional patterns in voting, secession, and armed resistance in Ukraine, Eurasia, and the world. His award-winning first book, Economic Liberalism and Its Rivals, explored the formation of international economic institutions among the post-Soviet states and explained why countries chose to join the Eurasian Customs Union, the WTO, or to eschew participation in any trade institutions. His analyses and interviews concerning events in Ukraine have been published in Foreign Affairs, Survival, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Le Monde, National Geographic, the National Interest, Russia in Foreign Affairs, the AP, the New Yorker, and Reuters, and he has been interviewed on CNN, Washington Public Radio’s Kojo Nnamdi Show, Sirius XM radio, CBS, Voice of America, Echo Moscow, Ukrainian television (Channel 5), and C-SPAN.

This event is co-sponsored by the Transatlantic Policy Center and the Student Association for Slavic Studies.

Katzen Arts Center at American University
4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW,Washington,20016,US
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