Reading the articles about the re-burial of rebels (1863-1864) in Vilnja on November 22, 2019, and directly observing the event anyone could be note without glasses the presence of many Belarusians with white-red-white flags during the ceremony. Naturally, the emotionally all Belarusians who got there (and those who were not able to come) were filled with emotion over the edge. Indeed, the figure of K. Kalinouski and facts, both real and created myths, work for the benefit of the Belarusian national idea.
Demonstration of Belarusian presence in this event, without that from Lithuanian or Polish sides (not visible externally but only externally), was obviously recorded. The ceremony made it clear the importance of event organized by Lithuanian and Polish governments to co-memorate the heroes fighting for the Commonwealth freedom, and from the other side, it indicated that the Belarusian nation is only born politically. It is born in that sense as national-democratic forces want to see it.
Lacking a political freedom at home, the demonstration of the Belarusian presence in Vilnja was important for Belarusians, firstly, to lift the spirit and the belief that the road to true freedom can be attained, and secondly, for Europe, which could see that the Belarusians are and were part of Europe itself (at the end of the XVI century, 77% of the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were Belarusian lands).
It is not the fault of the Belarusian people that officials dissociate themselves from K.Kalinouski figure. Belarusian government does it with only one main reason – the vision of the head of the state is directed to the Soviet past, and to the history, which he studied and which he strongly believes. It is the fact that all the events in the country today depends on one person, no one doubts.
Indeed, in what way Mr. Lukashenko, a historian by education, may abandon the dogma that Kalinouski is Polish, Catholic, and urged Muscovites to drive? The whole 2019, there are secret negotiations and trading for in-depth integration of Belarus and Russia. It is soon expected the negotiations with two alternately successors, Putin and Medvedev, but here K. Kalinouski? Go to Vilnja? But what about oil? But what about gas? Milk, cheese, bacon …? Favorable dues on oil? A trade is not for a joke. National pride and sovereignty are sold for oil and gas?!
On the other hand, a nationalist bogey is used to tease the east “bear”. Deputy Prime Minister, I. Petryshkevich, who was yet sent to Vilnja for the funeral of the rebels declared that K. Kalinouski’ name can’t be used for political purposes; and at the same time, on December 7, 8 and 20, unauthorized demonstrations, organized by P. Sevjarynets were not stopped by officials and people were allowed to walk through the main streets of the city. It was not by chance – in Sochi, and St. Petersburg, Mr. Lukashenko still traded with Putin.
This pernicious for the country tactics is used by Lukashenka since long time. He sells the national future of Belarus for the stability of his power and, if necessary, he profiteth in its relations with Russia national forces which relentlessly cursing and suppressed by him and his assistants. Concessions to all national are very small and quite slow. The same I. Petryshkevich said in Vilnja, “… that the Kalinouski activities were linked to escalate the Belarusian national and cultural movement into the struggle for Belarusian statehood in the form of democracy”.
A similar example can be given in regard to T. Kascjushka. In 1997, when I was in Kosava, I read the text on a small monument, where in Russian was written: “In the house that stood on this spot, T. Kascjushka was born in 1746 – a prominent Polish politician ” (emphasis mine). Now on this place, T. Kascjushka state house-museum with farm buildings and a well was built with the assistance of the state. A large boulder was put in place with the following inscription in Belarusian (to some extent it characterizes the forced change of attitude of the state to the national heroes):
“1746.04.02-1817.15.10. Here, in Merachoushchyna, Andrew Thaddeus Bonaventure Kascjushka was born, the great son of the Belarusian land, who later became a national hero of Poland, the United States, and an honorary citizen of France. Grateful descendants.”
In 2018, a monument of T. Kascjushka was put in place at the expense of the Belarusians themselves.
Thus, it turns out that conscious Belarusians yet recall and honour K. Kalinouski not at home but in the ancient capital of the GDL, common historical heritage for Belarusians, Lithuanians, and Polish people. Belarusian authorities modestly, and perhaps even false, but made a step on the road to Kalinouski. And we can say about all Belarusians as well that they are on the half-road (or perhaps less) to its national self-identification, an identification “to be called as people “, as writes I. Khadarenka in her article in this issue.
Belarusians are now closer to Moscow than to Berlin and Warsaw on the way to the national identity! How is it difficult to see that Belarusians again are creeping quietly and tolerant into the eastern empire. Would it be possible to see that with an appropriate state national politics? Even in the case if we assume that Russia is not the enemy for us, what it is for Ukraine, our co-member of civilization. Have we a chance for a tolerant, neutral position in Europe?
Of course, the best outcome would be if the official elite made a reasonable, balanced decision of unconditional independence and national construction of a neutral state. However, you can count on very theoretically yet. As announced recently by the Russian minister, the negotiations between Belarus and Russia are actually about creating a new model of the state – “one economy, two states”. This is something completely new in the history of mankind.
A nation-state can’t be a part of the second nation-state. It is rather reminiscent of the colonial relationship, where a word “colony” is increasingly relevant to Belarus. The country under the corrupt leadership of the First President is now facing to be in the swamp. As opposite example, the people of Bougainville Island with a population of less than 180,000 in this month voted for independence from Papua New Guinea. These are the different trends. However, what chances are? Someone may be in agreement with the ideas of new movement “Fresh wind” initiated by U. Mackjevich, the main objective of which is the convening of the “national assembly” of Belarus. What else? Belarus has a few individual brightest leaders (M. Statkevich, D.Dashkevich, P.Sevjarynets), However, there are a very insufficient number of people behind them. To join the other national-democratic organizations in the greater force is no enough will yet. After signing of Vilnja agreement, under the auspices of the BDR (2012), nothing significant has happened to consolidate the Belarusian forces. The next call, without a specific project couldn’t result in some positive outcome (now someone with pride can only say that I was a subscriber of that agreement). This call was similar to the Communist Party calls on holidays, such as “catch up and overtake.” Maybe a little hard, but it’s true. Politically, such appeals have fit to a situation, but “a negativity” of most of them is in that they were not communicated to the people. There are many other similar calls, like “is about regime to collapse” or “only a few is remained”. Do not fool ourselves. The vast majority of people are listening to a promoter of Eurasian ideas Solovjov on the central Russian channels, watch Russian movies and listening to Russian pop music.
Quite opposite, Belarusian independent media are not coordinated so far. A very positive recent development is the union of bloggers who were finally able to connect in the writing of general statements about the threat of harmful integration of Belarus with Russia. The other positive moment (for a long time) was the union of the leaders from various Belarusian organizations in preparation for demonstration against integration with Russia in Minsk on December 20, 2019. A small national elite, in a ghetto conditions at home, is involved in ideological disputes, who is the more Christian, and if gay parades are necessary in the country? Feasibility (political or other) is ahead of democratic principles. A striking example of a hot debate is in the PEN-center. However, the violation of principles of democracy is markedly observed in the Belarusian diaspora. So, is this a national feature – act individually, no one to listen to, etc.? Perhaps this is the reason for the lack of results in attempts to consolidate.
So where is a solution? Revolution? It is unlikely that our people will sustain it. No matter how annoying to talk about it, the major changes in the life of Belarusian people occurred only with the external political circumstances (for example, the collapse of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union and the creation of the BNR \ BSSR and the Republic of Belarus, respectively). But subsequent events have always suggested that such changes are unstable and short-lived. People must mature. So again, as before, it is a necessity for all the existing movements and parties to work together in the enlightenment of the Belarusian people.
We have still to walk and walk to Kalinouski!