Andrei Yahorau: Lukashenko recreated Soviet nation within the frames of independent Belarus

Aliaksei Yurych, EuroBelarus Information Service

“Soft Belarusization” is a reaction to the threats of the “Russian World” based on the principle “I was hit and so I fell”.

Facing the threat of the “Russian World”, the Belarusan authorities have changed the trend and now talk about the development of the national conscience, spreading of Belarusan language, and strengthening of national identity. However, all these actions are chaotic; it seems that the authorities do not understand what are they offering to the society and what is the final destination of this road.

What is “Soft Belarusization”? Why is the official Minsk trying to take the initiative of Belarusization from the democratic part of the society? Is Lukashenko’s Belarus able to become Belarusan?

Andrei Yahorau, political scientist, the Director of the Center for European Transformation answered the questions of the EuroBelarus Information Service.

— The pro-state Belarusan Republic Youth Union (BRYU) is organizing “The day of embroidery”, Belarusan language can be more often seen in state media, the Ministry of Education promises to increase the number of classes of the Belarusan language in junior school. All that can only be welcomed. However, are there any reasons to speak about the new course of the Belarusan authorities — about the “Soft Belarusization”?

— All that proves that the Belarusan authorities have changed the trend: now they are more willing to pay attention to the development of the national conscience, spreading of the Belarusan language, strengthening of national identity. However, it’s impossible to trace systemic approach in these actions and there is no certainty that the authorities clearly understand what are they offering to the society. For now it’s a combination of uncoordinated actions linked by the general idea about the need to strengthen the national identity under the threat of merge of Belarusan nation with the “Russian World”.

— By and large, we can call “Soft Belarusization” a response to the threats of the “Russian World”, can’t we?

— We can hardly call the actions of the authorities a response, rather a reaction: I was hit and so I fell. We are observing almost the same reaction, when not to act is impossible, but at the same time Belarusan authorities can’t give a thorough answer. We see the attempts to find possible answers to the questions within the frames acceptable for the Belarusan authorities and at the same time at least somewhat efficient; a certain inability to find an adequate answer to challenges.

— Giving equal rights to the Russian and Belarusan languages in junior school won’t give positive effect, which can be seen from the experience of Soviet education and the first years of independent Belarus. The referendum of 1995 clearly demonstrated what is happening with the language of the primary nation in the Russian-speaking society. What should the authorities do in order to turn the country towards Belarusization?

— The fact that the Belarusan language will be given bigger attention in junior school and the fact that its sphere of influence is expanding are not bad; however, there are critically few real actions. We should be working on Belarusans’ idea about national identity: tell about the Belarus’ history, about heroes and culture — thus, create the examples of pride for our country, some really worthy examples that can compete with global values.

The paradox is that Belarus has its own Nobel laureate, which makes it possible to build national identity in opposition to the Russian propaganda. Svetlana Alexievich, who occupies an honorary place among the world literatures and puts the Belarusan literature on the whole new level is a perfect example that the growing generation of Belarusans can be educated on. However, the Belarusan state cannot acknowledge Svetlana Alexievich, who is ideologically alien to the state. What should be done? It is in these inner contradictions that the authorities are trying to build identity with the help of poor usual Soviet time examples or with the help of the examples of Lukashenko’s rule that didn’t manage to create worth-while examples neither in literature, not in culture, not in music, theatre, or science — anywhere.

That’s why there is nowhere one can turn to for context but to the independent part of the Belarusan society, which has been working on the creation of cultural content all this time. This is the paradox.

— When the head of state can speak neither Russian nor Belarusan properly one feels ashamed for the country. Is Lukashenko’s Belarus able to become Belarusan?

— I see no problem that our President makes speech mistakes: he speaks in accordance with his education. When he has to speak Belarusan, he is able to do that. Basically, he reproduces the type of speech that is widespread in Belarus, which is not bad.

However, Lukashenko’s Belarus is unable to turn into Belarusan Belarus not because the President can’t speak properly. The regime that Lukashenko has been building during his rule is not Belarusan by nature; it discards the national identity. Lukashenko’s regime was built on the basis of the de-nationalized Soviet man; it reproduced the vain model of the society that is cleaned of national and ideological layers, where a man is only seen as a figure that is loyal to the state. Lukashenko recreated Soviet nation within the frames of independent Belarus.