Will Belarus Become a Democracy?

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Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

Wednesday, October 28, 202010:00AM - 11:30AMOnline Event, Online Event
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Eurasia Initiative


Recent events in Belarus are a reflection of deep changes transforming the East European space – changes that caught many by surprise, but will undoubtedly have significant regional and global implications and are yet to be understood.

A panel of Belarusian and Canadian experts will explore unfiltered perspectives on what’s happening in the country, what potential scenarios may transpire and what that means for Belarus, Canada and the world in a virtual roundtable.

Dr. Zina J. Gimpelevich is a Professor Emerita at the University of Waterloo, Canada. Born in Minsk, Biełaruś, she came to Canada in 1979. Gimpelevich earned her Ph.D. in Slavic Studies from the University of Ottawa (1987). She worked for the Department of External Affairs and the University of Ottawa, teaching Russian language and culture (1980-1990). Her research interests are Biełarusian and Russian languages, literature, and culture. She has published seven books (the last received award from CAS and Taylor & Francis, 2019), thirteen book chapters, and over eighty articles. Gimpelevich co-authored one textbook and has given over eighty presentations at professional conferences. Zina Gimpelevich has been one of the three founding members of the Canadian Relief Fund for the Children of Chernobyl in Biełaruś (together with its first President, Mme Joanna Survilla [President of the Biełarusian Government in Exile] and Mrs. Paulina Smith-Paškievič). She was the first Vice-president of this national organization. Gimpelevich served as the President of the Canadian Institute of Arts and Sciences (BINiM, Canada 2002-2017) and its Vice-President (2017-2020). ZG served as the President and the Past – President of the Canadian Association of Slavists (CAS, 2008-2014) and was its Honorary President (2017-18). She is also the Honorary life- time member of the Biełarusian Writers’ Union (2017-) and other organizations. Zina Gimpelevich is active in the North American Biełarusian community. One of her dreams is to see her native country follow the example of her adoptive country, Canada, and to become democratic, prosperous, and free.

Valentina Holubeva is a regular active participant in Belarusian protests with a first-hand perspective on what’s happening in the country. She is a former Minsk State Linguistic University instructor and a corporate trainer also serving as Board Member of the Belarusian National Association of Teachers of English and Admin of Teaching English in Belarus Facebook Group. Valentina is a strong Advocate of learner centered learning, technology-driven methods of teaching English and cross-cultural studies. These new approaches in cross-cultural communication and pedagogy shape her vision of democracy-building in Belarus, equality and international cooperation. Having taught pre-service and in-service teachers at Minsk State Linguistic University for twenty years, now Valentina runs international professional development projects for teachers of Belarus in cooperation with Gallery Teaches and the Institute of IT and Business Administration. She has presented at a number of international conferences for teachers, worked as interpreter for international organizations, such as the World Bank, UNESCO, Council of Europe, ICOM and others, which helped her develop a global perspective on the developments in various fields.

Andrei Kazakevich is the Director of the Institute of Political Studies “Palitychnaya sphera” (Political Sphere) in Minsk. His research interests include Belarus’s foreign policy, the development of political institutions and the political history of Belarus and Eastern Europe.
Andrei graduated from the Department of Political Science of the Law Faculty of the Belarusian State University and received a PhD in Political Science in Lithuania (his thesis dealt with the judicial power in the Republic of Belarus). He is Co-founder and Editor-in-Сhief of the “Palitychnaya sphera” and Belarusian Political Science Review journals, Senior Research Fellow at Vytautas Magnus University (Lithuania) and Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the International Congress of Belarusian Studies.

Igor Leshchenya was the first senior diplomat to declare solidarity with protesters in Belarus. Previously the ambassador of Belarus to Slovakia, he was relieved of the post of Ambassador in August 2020.Mr. Leshchenya joined the diplomatic service in 1991 as an Attaché of the Embassy of the USSR. As soon as the Republic of Belarus became independent, Mr. Leshchenya continued his diplomatic career as a Head of Asia and Africa Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus. In 2002, he negotiated with the OSCE on the presence of this organization in Belarus and on December 30, 2002 (on behalf of the government of Belarus) he signed a Memorandum on the OSCE office in Minsk.From 2002 to 2006, Mr. Leshchenya was working as an Assistant to the President of the Republic of Belarus (issues of foreign policy and foreign economic relations). During his very successful diplomatic career, Mr. Leshchenya served his country as an Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Belarus in the Arab Republic of Egypt; the State of Israel; and the Slovak Republic. He also initiated the popular movement “I am a Citizen”.


Andrei Kazakevich
Director, Institute of Political Studies “Palitychnaya sphera”

Igor Leshchenya
Former Ambassador of Belarus to Slovakia

Valentina Holubeva
Board Member of the Belarusian National Association of Teachers of English (BelNATE)

Edward Schatz
Opening Remarks
Acting Director, CERES, University of Toronto

Robert Austin
Associate Director, CERES, University of Toronto

Zina Gimpelevich
Professor Emerita of Germanic and Slavic Studies, University of Waterloo

Lucan Way
CERES, University of Toronto

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