Alexander Lukashenko, Self-Proclaimed (see Wikipedia article here) President of Belarus (in office since Jan 2000)
Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko (also transliterated as Alyaksand(a)r Ryhoravich Lukashenka;born 31 August 1954) is a Belarusian politician who has been serving as the president of Belarus since the establishment of the office on 20 July 1994, making him the longest serving and longest current serving European president. Before his political career, Lukashenko worked as director of a state farm (sovkhoz), and served in the Soviet Border Troops and in the Soviet Army.
Lukashenko continued state ownership of key industries in Belarus after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and retained important Soviet-era symbolism, which can be seen in the coat of arms and national flag of Belarus, adopted following a controversial 1995 referendum, which were based on the symbols of the Byelorussian SSR. Following the same referendum, Lukashenko was given more power with the ability to dismiss the Supreme Soviet of Belarus and another referendum in 1996 allowed Lukashenko to further consolidate power. The Russian language was also given the same status as Belarusian, and economic ties with Russia were strengthened, which furthermore led to the creation of the Union State with Russia, which allows Belarusians to freely travel to, work, and study in Russia, and vice versa. However, relations with Russia have not always run smoothly under his tenure, such as during the Milk War.
Lukashenko heads an authoritarian government and has referred to himself as the “last dictator” in Europe. Elections are not considered to be free and fair by international monitors, opponents of the regime are repressed, and the media is not free, leading to sanctions on Lukashenko and other Belarusian officials being imposed. His disputed victory in the country’s 2020 presidential election led to widespread allegations of vote rigging, which strongly amplified anti-government protests, the largest during his rule. Following the contested election, Lukashenko is not recognized by the United Kingdom, the European Union, or the United States as the legitimate president of Belarus, although he remains recognized by a number of states including Russia, China, Iran, Armenia, Syria, Venezuela, and Cuba.
Lukashenko describes himself as an “Orthodox atheist” and has said that he believes that the president should be a conservative person and avoid using modern electronic technology such as an iPad or iPhone. He used to play the bayan, a musical instrument similar to an accordion and has a pet dog, a spitz named Umka.
Alexander Lukashenko and his youngest son Nikolai during a Great Patriotic War victory parade in 2012. His eldest son Viktor can be seen in the background.
Lukashenko married Galina Zhelnerovich, his high school sweetheart, in 1975. Later that year, his oldest son, Viktor, was born. Their second son, Dmitry, was born in 1980. Galina lives separately in a house in the village Shklow. Though they are still legally married, Galina Lukashenko has been estranged from her husband since shortly after he became president. In a 2014 interview, Lukashenko said that they had not lived together for 30 years and the only reason they had not divorced was that he did not want to traumatize his adult sons. Lukashenko has been seen on public occasions with various women; when asked about this in the same 2014 interview he explained that he did not want to sit with an official with a “sour face”, preferring “My son on one side, and a girl on the other”.
Lukashenko fathered a son, Nikolai, who was born in 2004. Though never confirmed by the government, it is widely believed that the child’s mother is Irina Abelskaya—the two had an extramarital affair when she was Lukashenko’s personal doctor. There has never been any public statement about who Nikolai’s mother is; Nikolai was raised solely by his father. It has been reported by Western observers and media that Nikolai, nicknamed “Kolya”, is being groomed as Lukashenko’s successor. According to Belarusian state media, these speculations were dismissed by Lukashenko, who also denied that he would remain in office for a further thirty years—the time Nikolai will become eligible to stand for election and succeed him.
Lukashenko used to play football, but stopped playing during his presidency. His two elder sons also play hockey, sometimes alongside their father. Lukashenko started training in cross-country running as a child, and in the 2000s still competed at the national level. He is a keen skier and ice hockey forward. In an interview he said that he plays ice hockey three times a week. He has established the Belarus President’s team, an amateur team which he sometimes plays for. Numerous ice rinks intended to enable competitive ice hockey games to be played, have been built all over Belarus at Lukashenko’s behest. Lukashenko was instrumental in getting the 2014 IIHF World Championship in ice hockey to be hosted by Belarus which was considered controversial due to Lukashenko’s repressive regime. Belarus was supposed to host the 2021 IIHF World Championship in May 2021, but that was cancelled after international condemnation and threats by sponsors to withdraw.