Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Tech Brains Flee Belarus Leader’s Crackdown

  • Companies are relocating staff to neighboring Lithuania
  • Baltic nation is also a base for Belarus’s exiled opposition
Belarus special police block a street during a protest against disputed presidential elections results in Minsk on Aug. 30.
Belarus special police block a street during a protest against disputed presidential elections results in Minsk on Aug. 30.

Photographer: AFP/Getty Images

After Belarus’s authoritarian leader faced down mass protests against his 26-year rule, the pioneers that turned the former Soviet republic into an unlikely tech hub are increasingly headed for the exit.

A government-backed industry park in Minsk was one of the flagship policies of President Alexander Lukashenko. Some of the most-famous startup successes are phone-messaging app Viber and online gaming service World of Tanks, which made founder Victor Kislyi the nation’s first billionaire.