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Belarus Today: A Personal Essay

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Note: Any Cyrillic Belarusian on this page is in Unicode (UTF-8) font encoding.

First of all, why should an American of Belarusian ancestry feel so strongly about the country of his ancestry? Possibly reading the following poem by one of Belarus' greatest poets may help you understand:   "Heritage",   (1918) by Yanka Kupala.

The A Belarus Miscellany Web site (a personal, very modest, non-commercial Web site) is intended to be helpful and positive toward the people of Belarus, and to provide the non-Belarusian world a better understanding of Belarus and Belarusian language and culture.

Belarus as a people and culture, until recently, have been essentially inaccessible for most of us--as we have been for them! The first step toward understanding one another is through communication, and the Internet certainly can help us communicate. . . .

Not only have the Belarusian people and culture (both current and historical) been essentially inaccessible, many people, including some of the political and scholarly leaders of Belarus' neighbors, often have not historically and do not today acknowledge Belarus' and Belarusians' roles in regional history and culture. (Whether this "oversight" is intentional or through ignorance, I do not know.) What has resulted is very clear however: we now have the almost laughable situation of all of these significant Belarusians being claimed as Russians, Poles, Lithuanians, Jews, and Ukrainians; no Belarusian, it would appear, made any significant contribution to scholarship, science, the arts, political thought, etc.! (They would claim, it seems, that Belarus and Belarusians never have and still do not exist!) This situation certainly needs to be corrected as quickly as possible.

The A Belarus Miscellany Web site is not intended to be political in its tone, nor to express nor support any political ideology. It does strive to provide complete and accurate information about Belarus and the Belarusian people. (Most of this information is not available, nor can it be discussed, in Belarus today--especially information about the non-Russian, non-Soviet history and languages.)

The A Belarus Miscellany Web site certainly supports basic human dignity and human rights. (Refer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.)

Regarding my presenting Belarusian linguistic information on this Web site: Although I do have advanced, formal education in modern languages and linguistics, I am not a Belarusian language specialist. I supply this summary about the Belarusian language as a first step until more detailed, accurate information exists on the Internet in English. (However, most "experts" writing about Belarus-related topics in English have a Russian, Soviet, Polish, and even including employment, etc., bias--something I do not have.) The A Belarus Miscellany Web site provides links to many Web sites with information about the Belarusian language. However, almost none of these Web sites are in English. (Note: See Google Translate for a first step at making Belarusian language materials more accesible for non-speakers.)

Above all, Belarusians need to first learn and then show their own respect for their cultural past, including linguistically. No one can do this for them. The Belarusian language can only be important if Belarusians in Belarus and among the diaspora use it. Belarus also needs to maintain friendly relations with all of its neighbors. Cold War politics and alignments will only impede Belarus' (still) delayed entry into the modern world.

And most especially, for Belarus to be forced to surrender its language and culture (that is, its identity as a people) is not a concession it should be expected to make as part of such "friendships" or "slavic brotherhood" (code words for Russian colonialism). No people should be asked such a thing. . . .

That said, one cannot ignore hundreds of years of genocide--both physical and cultural (including linguistic), especially by Belarus' neighbor to the east. One does not need to keep dwelling on it, but no one can pretend it did not happen. And one must ensure that it (1) does not continue, nor (2) does not recur.

Belarus should not continue to be subject to any of the colonialism and/or genocide of the too-recent past. Any individuals or nations pursuing such policies are certainly living in the past, and no friends nor partners of Belarus. The current, illegal regime ruling Belarus today has shown it is an ugly, primitive, brutal regression to the past colonialism and genocide of tsarist and Soviet Russia. There are those in Russia who encourage and support such abuse of Belarusian culture, and thus of Belarusians. (Today, most Russians and Belarusians are simply trying to "get by.") We truly hope that the Russian leadership will be able to mature beyond these diversions from their all-too-pervasive internal problems by distracting the world with primitive designs on Belarus and the other neighbors of Russia. Sad to say (up through the year 2006), it still has not been able to demonstrate it has such an ability or will.

The A Belarus Miscellany Web site in a modest way is a positive celebration of Belarusian culture (in its broadest possibly meaning). It cannot ignore the past, the problems of the present, nor the threat to the future. The Belarusian language is somewhat of a "canary in a coal mine" in terms of being an indicator of threats to Belarusian identity. (Note: Belarusian is considered one of the top 100 most threatened languages in the world.) Those who attack the language, attack the essence of Belarusian identity and self respect. (The current illegitimate ruler of Belarus has shown his contempt for Belarusian language and culture, and thus, is the primary enemy of Belarusian cultural identity. Those in Russia who help to keep him in power share in these crimes.)

No one nation has been more destructive to Belarusian identity and territorial integrity than the Russian nation with its colonial and imperialistic expansion--whether tsarist, Soviet, or post-Soviet. One does not have to do very much research to learn of Russian tribal, tsarist, and Soviet intentional destruction of Belarus and its people, on a genocidal scale, and for hundreds of years.

The Nazis, that is, the "Fascists," are a distant second, although many (most?) Soviet-educated Belarusians very strongly believe these "fascists" were Belarus' major enemy, and nothing one can show them or say will change this point of view. (It will take generations to overcome such effects of the decades of Soviet ideology & propaganda.)

Today, it appears that the Russian Federation is more interested in attempting to distract its citizens from its many internal problems by involvement in foreign actions in Chechnya and Belarus, etc., and with "finger-pointing" at NATO, the EU, etc., rather than work to solve the huge and widespread problems of transition from a Soviet state to a struggling democratic nation in a brutally competitive world economy. (We welcome friendship and cooperation with the Russian Federation as trading partners and as good neighbors, as we do all of Belarus' neighbors.) Up through the year 2006, the Russian state continues to behave as though it were the 18th or 19th century, rather than the 21st.

A recognition of the facts of the historical past, as outlined in the preceding, should under no circumstances be construed as "anti-" any nation. The present and the future are huge challenges for all nations of the region. Belarus needs to be on friendly terms with all of its neighbors--as well as become a respected, full member of the world community of nations. Too often, Belarus has served as a "pawn" in Russian-European politics, and today, it still appears to be in this situation. (Western European nations and the USA have committed their share of despicable acts toward Belarus as well--mainly through manipulation, as though Belarus were a minor chess piece. Today, the specter of economic exploitation replaces the territorial incursions of past centuries.)

As noted above, the current regime ruling Belarus is a cowardly, pathetic, and brutal continuation of the destruction of the Russian and Soviet occupations and genocide of Belarus, the Belarusian people, and Belausian culture. It is very easy for this regime to show it is not the totalitarian regime that it certainly has been thus far:

  • Obey the Belarusian constitution * --even the one that was eviscerated by the fake November 1996 referendum of the Lukashenka regime. Article 33 (see below) guarantees that there is unfettered access to all media by Belarusians. This article specifically states that the Belarusian government does not have the right to monopolize the Belarusian media (newspapers, periodicals, radio, TV, etc.).

  • Allow uncensored education. (Belarus is still using Soviet-era, ideologically based textbooks. Post-Soviet textbooks were created but have been stored in warehouses since Mr. Lukashenka has usurped constitiutional powers.)

  • Provide access to the KGB (NKVD) and other records of the Soviet occupation of Belarus, and allow true academic research and publications to occur. (Set up a "truth and reconciliation commission," as was done recently in South Africa, so that the truth of the history--rather than another, brutal, Soviet-style purge and bloodshed--can occur.)

  • Provide education in multi-party democracy and the rights and responsibilites of voting in one. (Having the right to vote without providing information and education in its use is doomed to cynicism and failure concerning democracy.)

  • End the current Cold War policies, including permit the Belarusian diaspora to be involved with and interact with Belarusians in the Republic of Belarus. The diaspora has much to offer. (Keeping Belarusians throughout the world away from the Belarusians within Belarus is just another part of the totalitarian control of the current regime.)

  • Reinstitute a constitution that includes balance of power, rule of law, etc. Then there may be a chance against the corruption and looting of Belarus' resources. In addition to allowing the people of Belarus to live in dignity and honor their history and culture, certainly then international investment will occur in Belarus, and the poverty, poor health, etc., will eventually be a thing of the past. . . .

  • Do not interfere with health-oriented relief organizations for the Chornobyl victims; this is not an issue for propaganda. (There is quite a lot of speculation that the Lukashenka regime has interfered with and tried to extort huge sums and misappropriate the medical supplies from these organizations, and then has informed Belarusians no other countries want to help them. With no open records as to the finances of the regime, we may never know the true nature of the crimes--including those that occurred during the time of the Soviet Union.)

  • Be on friendly terms with the Russian Federation--as with all the neighboring and world community of nations--as an equal, independent nation (but do not sell Belarus' autonomy for material and political power for the oligarchy of the Lukashenka regime).

  • Release all political prisoners, and stop interfering with political parties, trade unions, making people disappear, having the police beat up people, etc. Find out who is funding the Belarusian regime, who is receiving the money, and what they are doing with it.

  • Honor the veterans of World War II, but recognize the war for what it was: secondarily, a civil war within Belarus; but primarily, a manipulation and destruction by foreign powers (including Poland and Germany but overwhelmingly Russia) for their own goals and post-war positioning. To keep referring to the "Great Patriotic War" as though it were something pure and noble brings dishonor upon Belarus.

After the preceding has been implemented and allowed to mature over a period of years, then we can start thinking of Belarus as having a chance to join the international community of nations in the future--but not until this happens!

* See The Belarusian Constitution, Section II, Article 33:

"Everyone is guaranteed freedom of thoughts and beliefs and their free expression. No one shall be forced to express one's beliefs or to deny them. No monopolization of the mass media by the State, public associations or individual citizens and no censorship shall be permitted."

* Канстытуцыя Рэспублікі Беларусь, Раздзел II, Артыкул 33

«Кожнаму гарантуецца свабода поглядаў, перакананняў і іх свабоднае выказванне.

Ніхто не можа быць прымушаны да выказвання сваіх перакананняў або адмовы ад іх.

Манапалізацыя сродкаў масавай інфармацыі дзяржавай, грамадскімі аб'яднаннямі або асобнымі грамадзянамі, а таксама цэнзура не дапускаюцца.»

I would also like to stop and take a moment to remember those who share my postive feelings for Belarus, including
  • Eugen-Jan ("Homan") Dubovik, a fellow Belarusian-American who shared his knowledge and love for Belarus on the Internet during its early Web version days and died in January, 2000.
  • Uladzimir Katkouski   (aka rydel123; rydel #23; br23), a young man, recently married, who died in May, 2007 - after remaining in a coma for approximately one year after a horrible traffic accident in Prague, Czech Republic. His enthusiasm for Belarusian language and culture, especially through the Internet, will also be missed. See his work on the Web site and elsewhere (including Radio Svaboda, (Uladzimir Katkouski entry at) the Belarusian Wikipedia, etc.)

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Original content and overall form ©1996-2009 by Peter Kasaty : All Rights Reserved. Last Updated:   2009/11/04
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