The Soviets captured western Belarus after the Germans defeated Poland in 1939. It was incorporated into the Belorussian SSR, and the size of the republic was nearly doubled. The Germans invaded Belarus in June 1941, but were driven back by the Red Army in 1944. Although a few small areas were given to Poland, the 1939 borders were agreed upon in a treaty between Poland and the Soviet Union in 1945. Belarus joined the UN the same year.
Belarus was given independence after the collapse of Soviet Communism in 1991. It played a leading role in the creating of the Commonwealth of Independent States. In Dec. 1991 Belarus hosted the first CIS meeting. In July 1993, Belarus signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and it also promised to work twoard removal of all nuclear weapons by 1996.
In March 1994 a new constitution was approved. It proclaimed Belarus a neutral non-nuclear country. Belarus' first presidential elections were held in July. Aleksandr Lukashenko won a landslide victory. Lukashenko persistently attempted to establish close economic ties with Russia. A plan to integrate the economies of the two countries was rejected by Russia because of Belarus' weak economy.
Belarus joined the Partnership for Peace in 1995. Several border issues were settled with Lithuania the same year. In March 1996 Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Belarus signed a treaty that promised further economic and cultural integration.
In Nov. 1996 a much-disputed referendum changed the constitution, extended Lukasehnko's term 5 years, and gave him nearly unlimited power. He quickly dissolved the old parliament and created a new one made up of his supporters. Lukashenko then tried to incorporate Belarus back into Russia. Anger from Belarusian citizens and from the West as well as Belarus' weak economy caused Yeltsin to reject Lukashenko's request that Belarus became part of Russia. The two countries did sign an agreement on closer political, economic and military ties.