In the earlier periods, Belarus was occupied and ruled over by several people including the Slavs, the Mongols and Lithuania. This landlocked country on the eastern side of Europe was known as Belorussia or White Russia and was amongst the smallest Slavic Republics in the Soviet Union. In terms of location, It is a landlocked country bordered by Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest, by Russia to the north and east, by Ukraine to the south, and by Poland to the west. Today, there are Belarusian, Russian and small Polish- and Ukrainian-speaking populations in the country. The territory of Belarus has undergone partition and has had various powers ruling, making it inseparable from the history of its neighbours. Being one of the most contested lands, Belarus was at one point, after WWI even claimed by the Germans.
An evident consequence of this contestation manifested in the form of struggle for many when the country was divided between Poland and Bolshevik Russia, which later became the USSR. In 1939, the Soviet Union took back Poland ruled Belarus under the secret protocol of the Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact. It was incorporated into the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. Another disaster to have hit Belarus was the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in Ukraine in 1986. It was one of the major territories to have suffered from the radioactive fallout resulting in Cancer and other illnesses.
In July 1990 Belarus declared its sovereignty and later independence in August 1991. It became a co-founder of the Commonwealth of Independent States in December 1991.
In 1994 Stanislac Shushkevich, the first selected head of state was ousted. Following this event, he lost the first presidential elections of Belarus to Alyaksandr Lukashenka who is today accused of electoral irregularities, human rights abuses and moves to consolidate power in his three-decade rule. Known as Europe's "last dictator", Lukashnka is unpopular for state control, media control, police crackdowns amongst others.