Minsk remains a showcase for an infamous dictator who has kept landlocked Belarus from throwing away its Soviet yoke.
On the surface it looks a charm. Well-groomed and maintained with manicured parks and streets kept spotlessly clean. But although it is relatively stable there is little social or economic progress and dissent is hardly tolerated. Opposition to "the last dictator of Europe" has been brutally crushed and two attempted revolutions have failed.
Youngsters must do army service and many join the police who get amongst the highest state salaries available; twice that of doctors and teachers.
Today the future looks bleak for Belarusians living under the iron grip of President Lukashenko, who for over 20 years has carefully avoided conflict with the Kremlin and turned the country into a sleepy Soviet Union time capsule