The New Elite in Post-Communist Eastern Europe

By Vladimir Shlapentokh; Christopher Vanderpool et al. | Go to book overview

6
Typology of the Modern Byelorussian Elite

Vladimir Snapkovskii

The social-political ideology of the former USSR did not accept or use a concept of "elite" with reference to the structure of Soviet society. Consequently, scientific analysis of the elite was not conducted. This is also the case for the social sciences in Byelarus, where the understanding of problems related to the modern Byelorussian elite remain undeveloped. Only a limited amount of data on the elite has been collected.

Most of the research on the Byelorussian elite has been collected by foreign "Byelorussologists." For example, the serious monograph An Algebra of Soviet Power by American social scientist Michael Urban was published at the end of the 1980s. Urban studied the party-state ruling clique of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic in the period following World War II.1 The mechanism for selecting the managerial staff is examined and influential party clans are identified: Vitebsk, "partisan Brest," and Gomel. The first two groups possessed political force in the 1960s and 1970s and later supervised the republic in the 1980s.

The formation of an elite group is generally a lengthy process of selecting the best representatives from a social or ethnic group. The Byelorussian national elite began to form at the beginning of the twentieth century in an epoch of national revival. Most came as the representatives of the small and average Byelorussian gentry (shlakhta) and the nobility. Those who came from these strata, along with the national intelligentsia of peasant origin, headed the Byelorussian nation liberation movement. The movement was peasant-narodnik (populist) in character. The brief period of flourishing Byelorussian national consciousness and the flourishing of the creative forces of national intelligentsia collapsed in the 1920s.

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