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The Daily Vertical: A World That Could Have Been, But Never Was (Transcript)

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

Dozens of people arrested in Minsk at a public demonstration is hardly something that grabs our attention.

This, after all, is pretty much par for the course in authoritarian Belarus.

But this weekend, the dozens of people arrested in the Belarusian capital serve as important reminders of a world that could have been -- but that never was.

WATCH: Today's Daily Vertical

And those brave souls are also an important reminder that everybody hasn't given up on that world.

Because a century ago this year, as most of Europe's empires crumbled in the aftermath of the First World War, some brand-new countries appeared in Europe.

Some of them lasted and some of them didn't.

Belarus, of course, was one of the ones that didn't.

The dozens of people arrested in Minsk this weekend were commemorating the 100th anniversary of Belarus's declaration of independence on March 25, 1918.

The new Belarusian People's Republic, of course, barely survived a year before it was forcefully absorbed into the Soviet Union.

Like the new Ukrainian and Georgian states that also appeared on the scene in 1918 and suffered similar fates, most of the world forgot that it ever even existed.

But it did exist.

And the reason that they ceased to exist is that because of all of Europe's empires that collapsed -- or began to collapse -- in 1918, only one, the Russian Empire, fought and succeeded in reconstituting itself in the form of the Soviet Union.

And today, a century later, we are revisiting that history as Vladimir Putin's regime seeks again to put that empire back together again.

Russia's 2008 invasion of Georgia, the current war in Ukraine, and a small demonstration in Minsk this weekend are all reminders of the ongoing ambitions of Europe's last empire -- and the ongoing resistance to it.

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