Not many nine-year old boys can say that they have met the Pope, have overseen military parades and sat in on Cabinet meetings.
However, Kolya Lukashenko has a different status in Belarus, where he is even allowed to carry a gold-plated pistol with himself, which was given to him by the former President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev. At this young age he is already ranked as 43rd on the list of Belarus’ top 100 most influential people. He sits higher on that list than any opposition politician in the country.
Nikolai, or Kolya for short, was born in 2004 to Iryna Abelskaja, who was Lukashenko’s former personal doctor. When Kolya made his first public appearance in 2008, no one knew his real identity. It was only revealed when during a television documentary he was seen addressing the president as “dad”. Mr. Lukashenko made the announcement about Kolya’s possible succession during a trip to Venezuela, when he visited the late Hugo Chavez. “You’re correct in pointing out that my kid is here with us,” said the President. “This shows that we have seriously and lastingly established the foundation for our cooperation, and that in 20 to 25 years there will be someone to take over the reins of this co-operation.”
Since this first public appearance, Kolya accompanied his father almost everywhere. During military parades, soldiers and generals salute him, showing the growing influence of the 9-year old child. Kolya is possibly the only person in Belarus who can ‘impeach’ the President. “When he learns on the television that I have been somewhere without him, he makes a scene,” says Lukashenko.
Exposing his child to the public was one of Lukashenko’s ideas to soften his image. However, his bizarre succession plan rather triggered negative reactions from the public and was ridiculed in the West. Many started to fear that Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994 is trying to establish a political dynasty. The President denies the accusations and blames the opposition of trying to scare his nation. The Belarusian society also reacted negatively to the fact that a nine-year old boy is allowed to do whatever he wants, when they have to suffer from so many restrictions. Lukashenko also realized the danger of losing power, and the even greater threat to his son when he has said that he hopes that no one will “victimize my children, especially the youngest ones. I hope they will be able to live and work peacefully without being stigmatized about their father.”
It is hard to predict the fate of a presidential child in the wake of so many uprisings, especially when he is nine-year old. However, like his father, Kolya already has his plans for the future. It was unlikely a coincidence that he said in an interview with Latvian TV that he wants to join the military special forces to defend his homeland from its enemies.
(The author has wished to remain anonymous for personal reasons)