Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Belarus Will Soon Be Liberated

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Belarus Will Soon Be Liberated

Article excerpt

Stanislau Shushkevich, a nuclear physicist by training, is currently the chairman of the Hramada party. He was chairman of the Supreme Soviet and head of state of Belarus, from 1991 to 1994. During this time, he presided over the summit attended by leaders of the three Slavic Soviet republics in early December 1991 at the Belovezhsky Forest. This summit brought about the decision to dissolve the USSR. As the leader of an independent Belarus, Shushkevich oversaw the transfer of the nuclear weapons in Belarusian territory to Russia, the construction of basic institutions of state, and economic and political reforms--despite inheriting a legislature overwhelmingly dominated by the communist nomenklatura. Since the reestablishment of a dictatorship that followed his fall from power in 1994, Shushkevich has become active in opposition politics and dissidence and has attempted to unify the democratic opposition to the Alyaksandr Lukashenka regime. In November 2003, Shushkevich was in Washington, D.C. and Toronto to participate in two panels organized by the American Enterprise Institute and the University of Toronto, respectively, in honor of ten years of Demokratizatsiya. In this interview, Shushkevich speaks about possible paths to liberation, the unifying of the opposition, Russia's meddling, the West's indifference, and possible reform models for a free Belarus. He also reminisces about the summit at the Belovezhsky Forest, meetings at Novo-Ogarevo, and teaching Russian to Lee Harvey Oswald in Minsk. This interview was conducted in Toronto on November 22, 2003, and translated by Demokratizatsiya founder Fredo Arias-King.

Demokratizatsiya: Today, Belarus has the unique position of being the only open dictatorship in Europe. But after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, of Vladimir Meciar, of Franjo Tudjman's regime and other despots, how do you think that Belarus will free itself for a second time?

Shushkevich: It is quite difficult to predict these events. I would like to say, there is one thing also that differentiates Belarus from these cases. That is the amount of time it has spent under Moscow's influence. But in the opinion of the international community and in the foreign policy of Russia, Belarus is in a special situation. The thing is, and this was mentioned in our panel yesterday, it is obvious that Belarus is located in a zone controlled by Russia, and all the summons, all the pleas--lately I am getting acquainted with that term--are answered with basically, "Yes, it's a dictatorship. Yes it's awful." But there is really no activity by the international community to limit Russian meddling in Belarus.... Many Russian politicians condemn the dictatorship in Belarus, [and especially] President [Boris] Yeltsin, who would give strong remarks about [President] Lukashenka, but then follow a policy of practically supporting this person. Some structures make a shy effort to explain their previous activity as an attempt to reform Belarus, with the help of the strong hand of the political will of Lukashenka, then force him to allow in democracy. This is the naive explanation that I heard the other day in the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy of Sergei Karaganov.

I think that for the educated people of Russia, the educated politicians of Russia, it has become clear that keeping Lukashenka is not a good idea. To predict what is the next step is sufficiently hard. He expelled from his inner circle those who were capable of logical thought [and] were capable of historical facts, and left the opposite types, who then took over him. And that type of company is only capable of awful things. In the meantime, leading politicians disappeared without a trace. It is clear that this was the doing of the hand of the regime, because it is not possible that other criminal structures carry this out in Belarus. But what will be next? Hard to say. The regime constantly exists in a state of agony. Today it enjoys significantly less support than the united opposition. …

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