On 25 August 1991, the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Belarus entered into force. Belarus utterly and completely left the USSR and officially became a sovereign state.
Those events were preceded by a wave of workers’ strikes and protests. In the late 80s, the Belarusian nation learned about the mass graves of NKVD victims in Kuropaty Forest near Minsk; up to 250,000 persons might have been shot down and buried there by Stalin’s secret police. For the first time, lots of people started to openly discuss the issue of Stalinist repressions and share tragic stories of their families.
The emblem Pahonya (Pursuit) and the white-red-white flag were adopted as national symbols of the country. In such a way, the Belarusians paid tribute to the heritage of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Belarusian People’s Republic. Notably, Soviet ideology and historiography had long denied the significant role of the above state formations in the history of Belarus.
The collapse of the USSR deepened the economic crisis in many post-Soviet countries. In 1994, on the wave of the announced anti-corruption campaign, 39-year-old Alyaksandr Lukashenka, a Communist-leaning deputy who got nostalgic for the Soviet past, was elected president of Belarus. Lukashenka has been staying in power for 26 years, and, as the recent developments show, he is not going to resign.
Historical Belarusian symbols were official until the 1995 referendum, when on the tip from the Belarusian leader they were replaced by the Soviet ones, an emblem that bears a close resemblance to that of the BSSR and a red and green flag which was introduced in 1951.