Belarus profile

A chronology of key events:

1918 - Towards the end of World War I, Belarus proclaims its independence as the Belarussian National Republic. But, with the end of the war, these aspirations are short-lived. The Red Army invades.

Farmer ploughing a field in Belarus Agriculture is still an important feature of the economy in Belarus

1919 - The Belarussian Soviet Socialist Republic is proclaimed.

1921 - The Treaty of Riga divides Belarus between Poland and Soviet Russia.

1922 - The Belarussian SSR becomes founding member of the USSR.

Stalin's purges

1930s - Belarus suffers from the purges against intellectuals and political opponents ordered by Stalin. More than one-hundred thousand people are executed in Belarus, thousands more sent to labour camps in Siberia.

1941 - Nazi Germany invades during the course of World War II. More than one million people are killed during the occupation, including many Jews. The capital, Minsk, is severely damaged.

1944 - The Soviet Red Army drives the Germans out of Belarus.

1945 - At the end of the war, much of western Belarus - previously belonging to Poland - is amalgamated into the Soviet Republic.

War veterans at Lenino battle site Belarusian, Polish veterans meet at the Lenino Second World War battle site

1960s - A policy of 'Russification' is pushed through.

1986 - Belarus is heavily affected by the fall-out from the nuclear explosion at Chernobyl in neighbouring Ukraine. Hundreds of thousands of people receive high radiation doses. Around 20% of agricultural land is contaminated and rendered unusable.

1988 - Belarussian Popular Front formed as part of nationalist revival prompted by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of 'openness'. Details emerge of the full extent of the executions during the Stalin period.

1990 - Belarussian becomes the official state language.

1991 - Belarus declares its independence as the Soviet Union breaks up. Minsk becomes the headquarters of the successor to the Soviet Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Lukashenko era

1994 - Alexander Lukashenko becomes president. He introduces policies designed to strengthen ties with Russia.

1995 - Friendship and cooperation pact signed with Russia. National referenda result in a new flag almost identical to that of the former Soviet republic, and the restoration of Russian as an official language. The president's powers are also widened. There are protests on the streets, but these are broken up.

1996 - An agreement on economic union is signed with Russia. Lukashenko increases his powers again, extending his term in office.

1997 - Protesters against Lukashenko sign a pro-democracy manifesto 'Charter '97'. Belarus' observer status in the Council of Europe is suspended. Belarus and Russia ratify their union treaty.

1998 - The Belarus rouble sees its value halved. Food rationing is imposed. Belarus signs an accord with Russia, which would see their currencies and tax systems merge.

Union with Russia?

Belarus President Lukashenko and Russian leader Vladimir Putin

Lukashenko and Putin: Proposed union is beset by wrangling

2000 October - Parliamentary elections are criticised by election observers who say they are not free and fair. Turnout in some constituencies is so low that a re-run will be necessary.

2000 November - President Lukashenko and Russia's President Putin agree on the introduction of a single currency by 2008.

2001 March - Parliamentary elections are re-run in thirteen constituencies where voter turnout in October 2000 was too low. Belarus officials declare the votes valid. Thousands demonstrate in Minsk against Lukashenko.

Re-election

2001 September - Lukashenko re-elected to serve second term. Opposition and Western observers say elections were unfair and undemocratic.

2002 August - Lukashenko rejects Russian proposals for new form of union under Russian constitution with single government and single parliament.

2002 November - US, 14 EU states impose travel ban on Lukashenko and several government ministers over poor human rights record and after OSCE officials are told to leave.

2003 April - US, EU lift travel ban on president and ministers after OSCE readmitted. But they remain critical of country's human rights record.

2004 April - Council of Europe condemns human rights abuses after report accuses authorities of blocking investigation into the fate of four men with opposition links who disappeared in Minsk in 1999 and 2000. EU imposes travel restrictions on number of senior officials.

Woman votes in Belarus referendum

2004 vote lifted ban on third term for President Lukashenko

2004 October - Referendum backs change allowing president to serve more than previous limit of two terms. Opposition parties fail to win a single seat in parliamentary elections held at same time. Western observers say vote is neither free nor fair.

Street protests ensue. Demonstrators clash with police and dozens are arrested.

2004 November - EU extends travel restrictions on senior officials. US imposes sanctions.

2004 December - Opposition politician Mikhail Marinich jailed for allegedly stealing office equipment. He declares the charge to be politically motivated.

2005 August - Diplomatic row with Poland over treatment of ethnic Poles accused of stirring up unrest in a bid to overthrow President Lukashenko.

Poll protests

2005 December - As March elections approach, parliament approves bill setting out tough penalties for those found guilty of inciting demonstrations or distributing information regarded as harmful to national interests.

2006 February/March - Dozens arrested at opposition demonstrations in Minsk as election date draws near.

2006 March - President Lukashenko declared winner by landslide in elections condemned as unfair by Western observers.

Opposition arrests reported as protesters in capital demand fresh vote.

2006 April - EU imposes visa ban on President Lukashenko and numerous ministers and officials.

Election upset

Anti-government protesters in Belarus

Opposition protesters said 2006 poll was fraudulent

Defeated presidential election candidate Alexander Milinkevich jailed for 15 days after attending rally to mark anniversary of Chernobyl disaster in neighbouring Ukraine.

2006 July - Defeated presidential election candidate Alexander Kozulin convicted of hooliganism and incitement to mass disorder. He is jailed for five and a half years.

2006 November - Youth opposition activist Dmitriy Dashkevich jailed for 18 months for membership of an unregistered organization.

Gas and oil row

2006 December - After tense negotiations during which Moscow threatened to cut supplies, a new gas deal is signed with Russia which more than doubles the price and phases in further increases over four years.

2007 January - Russia cuts the supply along an oil export pipeline to Europe amid a row with Belarus over taxation and allegations of siphoning. The dispute ends after Russia agrees to cut the oil duty it will charge Belarus.

2007 March - Police clash with protesters in Minsk as thousands of opposition supporters hold rally calling for an end to President Lukashenko's rule.

Human rights concerns

2007 May - Belarus fails in its bid to win a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, a result hailed by rights groups as lending credibility to the council.

2007 August - Russia says it will almost halve gas supplies to Belarus over unpaid debt.

Battle over gas

Gas pipeline

Russia threatened to cut gas supplies in late 2006

2007 October - President Lukashenko says that Belarus will have to build a nuclear power station in order to meet its energy needs.

2007 December - President Lukashenko says he is ready to host Russian missiles if the US sets up bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.

2008 March - US Ambassador Karen Stewart leaves country indefinitely after Belarus asks her to leave. Belarus withdrew its own ambassador from Washington the previous week in a row over US sanctions. US denies Belarussian accusations that US diplomats recruited citizens as spies.

2008 April - Belarus refuses to release former presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin, imprisoned on charges of organising protests against the 2006 election. The US and European Union have made release of political prisoners a condition for improving relations.

2008 May - Belarus expels 11 US diplomats in row over US criticism of Belarus' human rights record.

Media curbs

2008 June - International tender launched for nuclear power plant.

Parliament passes new media law that independent journalists say will restrict online reporting and private media funding ahead of the autumn parliamentary elections.

2008 August - Former opposition presidential candidate Alexander Kozulin and two other dissidents freed from prison.

2008 September - Government candidates win all 110 seats in parliamentary polls; European observers say the vote fell short of international standards but note improvements since last election.

US lifts some of its sanctions after the recent release of dissidents.

2008 October - EU lifts its travel ban on President Alexander Lukashenko in an attempt to encourage democratic reform.

2009 April - President Lukashenko visits the Vatican in his first official visit to Western Europe since 1995.

2009 May - President Lukashenko does not accept EU invitation to attend "Eastern Partnership" summit with six former Soviet states in Prague.

Tensions with Russia
Women walking through snow in Belarus Belarus experiences frost for five or six months of the year

2009 June - Russia imposes ban on Belarussian dairy products, ostensibly on health grounds. Belarus retaliates by installing a highly symbolic customs post on the two countries' joint border. Both measures are later reversed.

2010 January - Belarus threatens to cut electricity supply to Russian Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad in wake of unresolved dispute over Russian oil supplies to Belarus. The two sides eventually reach a compromise over the amount of duty-free oil Russia will supply to Belarus.

2010 June - President Lukashenko orders the shutdown of transit of Russian gas to Europe, escalating a new "gas war" after Moscow slashes supplies to Minsk in a debt dispute. Russia's Gazprom state gas company later resumes supplies after Belarus pays the outstanding debt.

2010 July - Belarus signs up for customs union with Russia and Kazakhstan despite objections to continued Russian duty on oil and gas exports.

2010 September - European Union Foreign Affairs chief Catherine Ashton calls for probe into death of Oleg Bebenin, founder of opposition website Charter '97, who was found hanged.

2010 December - Presidential elections. President Lukashenko declared winner. Opposition and western observers allege vote rigging. Mass protests in Minsk are broken up by force, with 600 arrests.

International sanctions

2011 January - President Lukashenko is inaugurated for a fourth term in office. The EU reinstates a travel ban on him and freezes his assets, while the US imposes stricter financial controls and widens its travel bans on senior officials.

Belarus threatens the EU with retaliation over the sanctions and pushes ahead with plans to put more than 30 political activists, including four opposition leaders, on trial over the December protests.

Minsk Metro blast

Memorial flowers for victims of 2011 bomb blast

15 people died in the April 2011 bombing of the Minsk underground. Two suspects were executed, but motives for the attack are unclear

2011 April - Explosion hits a busy metro station in Minsk, killing 15. President Lukashenko alleges a plot by "fifth columnists" to destabilize the country. Two suspects are executed.

2011 May - Opposition leader Andrei Sannikov is sentenced to five years in prison for organising protests over the December elections. His wife, the journalist Irina Khalip, receives a suspended prison sentence for "rioting".

Belarus cuts the official value of its rouble currency against the dollar by 36%, leaving it still less than half of the freely-traded interbank rate. This follows its most serious balance of payments crisis since independence drains its hard currency reserves.

Bailouts

2011 June - Belarus asks the IMF for an emergency loan of up to $8bn over the balance of payments crisis. The government raises its main interest rate from 14% to 16% and freezes prices on a number of staple foods. Panic buying of basic goods ensues.

Russia halves electricity supplies to Belarus over unpaid bills and in an effort to persuade the government to privatise lucrative assets. Belarus seeks a Russian-led $1.2bn bailout, which is conditional on reforms.

2011 July - Hundreds are beaten, manhandled and arrested after a month of nationwide anti-government protests.

2011 August - Royal Bank of Scotland ceases selling Belarusian government bonds after a campaign by human rights groups. RBS cites international sanctions, the deteriorating political situation and Belarus's tardy implementation of a IMF programme.

2011 September - The rouble falls sharply after the government allows a limited flotation in its latest bid to ease the financial crisis.

2011 November - Russia agrees to sell Belarus gas at 60% below the price charged to other European countries, in return for the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom taking full ownership of the Belarussian gas pipeline firm Beltranshaz.

Opponent jailed

Belarusian opposition leader Andrei Sannikov

Presidential contender Andrei Sannikov was jailed for organising protests after elections

Prominent human rights activist Ales Belyatski is found guilty of tax evasion and sentenced to four and a half years in prison. The EU says the case is politically motivated and calls for Mr Belyatski's immediate release.

2012 January - A new law restricts access to foreign websites and forces internet clubs and cafes to report users visiting sites registered abroad. This prompts the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders media freedom monitor to add Belarus to its list of "Enemies of the Internet".

2012 February - The European Union recalls its ambassadors from Belarus after the government expels the EU envoy and Polish ambassador in protest at further sanctions.

2012 April - Opposition activists Andrei Sannikov and Dmitry Bondarenko are released from prison early, but others remain in jail.

2012 August - President Lukashenko replaces longstanding foreign minister Sergei Martynov, one of the few officials that the European Union was prepared to talk to, with a close aide. Earlier in the month he sacked the air defence and border guard commanders and expelled the Swedish ambassador after human-rights activists flew into Belarusian airspace to drop teddy bears with pro-democracy messages.

2012 September - Major opposition parties stage boycott of parliamentary elections, complaining that they are rigged. Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe observers complain that the election could not be considered free, and expresses concern about the counting procedures.

2014 March - Belarus asks Russia to deploy extra fighter jets and military transport aircraft to its territory after Nato boosts its forces in the neighbouring Baltic countries. The moves come amid increasing tension caused by the crisis in Ukraine and Russia's annexation of Crimea.

More Europe stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.