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Lukashenka Unplugged: Two Decades Of Memorable Quotes

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka at a favorite haunt: in front of a microphone.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka at a favorite haunt: in front of a microphone.

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka certainly has a way with words. RFE/RL takes a look at some of Lukashenka’s more memorable -- and often inappropriate -- public statements over the past two decades since he came to power in July 1994.

The European Zoo

Due to a visa ban over his human rights record, Lukashenka doesn't get to Europe much these days. But this wasn't always the case. Back in 1998, he attended a political and economic forum at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana. He got a cold reception from other guests and apparently didn't enjoy his stay.

“In my view this is not democracy, but a zoo.... It was exactly what we expected, but not on that scale nor in that form. In a word, it was nothing but a zoo, you can't put it better,” he said. [LINK]

Falsify The Vote

When Lukashenka was running for reelection in 2001, he had an odd reaction to a suggestion from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that it send election monitors. "We do not need an imported system for falsifying elections!" he said in a speech broadcast on state television. "We will create our own, one run by the state!" [LINK]

Obama's Doppelganger?

Few people would think that Lukashenka has much in common with U.S. President Barack Obama. Few other than Lukashenka, that is.

"I look at Obama, a young man, a good-looking person. That is my first impression, I feel sorry for him. He looks 100 percent like Lukashenko, when I came to power after the breakup of the Soviet Union,” Lukashenka said back in 2008, shortly after Obama was first elected. [LINK]

Meanness Envy

Asked by Reuters in a 2012 interview to respond to allegations that he is "Europe's last dictator," Lukashenka appeared to embrace the label.

"I don't really understand what a dictator is, but on the other hand I sometimes, in a nice way, envy myself," he said. "I am the last and only dictator in Europe and indeed there are none anywhere else in the world." [LINK]

Dictator Homophobia

Also in 2012, as the European Union was deliberating further sanctions against Lukashenka, the Belarusian leader picked up on the dictator meme again -- this time to hurl an apparent insult at Guido Westerwelle, then Germany's foreign minister, who is openly gay.

"Whoever was shouting about dictatorship there...when I heard that, I thought: it's better to be a dictator than gay," Lukashenka said. [LINK]

Look Mom! No Guards!

Despite widespread allegations of rigged elections and persistent and brutal crackdowns on dissent, Lukashenka has always sought to present himself as a man of the people. In a 2012 interview, he even suggested there were no guards at his presidential palace.

"Look outside the window. Do you see the fence outside the palace? Do you see any guards? This is a country where everyone is safe." [LINK]

Misinterpreting Dostoyevsky

In his annual address to the nation on May 8, 2012, Lukashenka turned to the Russian classics to justify his heavy-handed rule -- quoting a famous line from Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov" that "there is nothing more unbearable for a man than freedom."

"The genius writer was correct," Lukashenka said. "In obtaining freedom, man suddenly understands that he has shouldered a heavy burden, because freedom involves responsibility. A person must make decisions himself and himself answer for them."

Lukashenka's Dostoyevsky quote, however, is actually uttered by a character in the novel, the Grand Inquisitor, who has given himself up to Satan and who is voicing a sentiment with which the writer himself did not agree. [LINK]

Tough Guy

Lukashenka often uses the chaotic period immediately after the Soviet breakup, the so-called "wild '90s," to justify his authoritarian rule.

But at his annual news conference in October 2013, Lukashenka appeared nostalgic for the days when fighting crime involved “a punch in the face.”

“A thug only understands you when you speak his language,” he said. [LINK]

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