Struggle over Identity: The Official and the Alternative "Belarusianness"

Struggle over Identity: The Official and the Alternative "Belarusianness"

Struggle over Identity: The Official and the Alternative "Belarusianness"

Struggle over Identity: The Official and the Alternative "Belarusianness"

Excerpt

In his essay Nasha Zdrada (“Our Betrayal”), the Belarusian writer Pyatro Vasyuchenka writes about the strange phenomenon of “betrayal” in the existence of the Belarusian people:

An elderly lady asks me:
“Pyatro, why were there so many traitors among your Belarusians
during the war?”
A young lady says categorically about Vasil Bykau:
“He has left […] betrayed us.”
Mr. Khazbulatov, after the suppression of the August 1991 putsch
states with dismay:
“Belarus has betrayed us.”
I know what to tell these ladies and gentlemen. […] I can say that
[…] we have betrayed Bykau, Bykau has not betrayed us.”

During the past fifteen years in Belarus, a situation has emerged in which one part of society has the impression that the other part has betrayed it, while this other part considers the first part as traitors. Both consider themselves true Belarusians, both are certain that the other has betrayed Belarus and the Belarusian idea. In a way, both have reason for their positions. Supporters of the current Belarusian authorities, indeed, “betray” the proponents of opposition ideas of Belarusian development. At the same time, one can see definite truth in the fact that those who fight for “European” Belarus “betray” the official notion of the Belarusian nation. Simultaneously, however, each party remains faithful to itself and to the idea of the Belarusian nation that has shaped their self-perception: their Belarusian identity.

According to the results of opinion polls carried out by the Independent Institute of Socioeconomic and Political Studies (IISEPS), during

1 Pyatro Vasyuchenka, “Nasha zdrada” Fragmenty, nos.1–2 (2000): 208.

2 “Okonchatelnye itogi prezidetskikh vyborov,” Arkhiv analitiki Independent Institute of
Socioeconomic and Political Studies
(IISEPS), April 2006, www.iiseps.org/4-06-7.html.

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