Belarusian society split over 1917 October revolution

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April 22, 2016 18:40

Nearly a thousand people took part in the rally to celebrate the October Revolution on November 7th held near Lenin’s Monument on Independence Square in Minsk by the Communist Party of Belarus.

November 7th (anniversary of the Great October Revolution, 1917) is a public holiday in Belarus since it legitimizes the current model of state. Belarusians are either neutral or nostalgic regarding the October Revolution. The opposition regards October Revolution as a negative chapter in Belarus’ development.

Unlike in the USSR, November 7th celebrations in today’s Belarus have a slightly different semantic meaning. They are closely integrated into the existing ideological paradigm which states that the Republic of Belarus gained its statehood as a result of the 1917 events. Despite the rejection of communist ideals, President Lukashenko still retains his image as being the torch-holder of Soviet traditions. Ever since his first years in the office, this image of Lukashenko has been supported not only in Belarus, but also in Russia.

The holiday is quite popular among the older generation which was raised in the Soviet Era. However for the younger generation the events of November 7th, 1917 have already lost their original meaning. For instance, the pro-governmental Liberal Democratic Party has proposed to rename October Revolution Day into the Day of Accord and Reconciliation, as has been done in Russia.

Among the politically active citizens there is no unity in relation to the November 7th celebrations. Different attitudes exist even among supporters and mainly relate to their attitude towards the Belarusian authorities. Three different groups laid wreaths at the Lenin Monument in Minks. About 200 members of Belarus’ Communist Party took part in the official celebrations. Later, representatives of the Fair World opposition Leftist Party (which before 2009 was called the Belarus’ Party of Communists) also laid flowers at the Lenin Monument. Orthodox communists - representatives of the ‘For democracy, social progress and justice’ opposition party (advocating for the Soviet Union revival) also held their celebrations near the Monument.

Unlike in previous years, the November 7th celebrations did not lead to harsh confrontations between supporters of the communist legacy and their opponents. For instance, in 2011 Young Front representatives threw eggs and stones at Lenin Monument and at protesters - Communist Party members. This year, opposition parties and movements have limited their activity to appealing to the authorities to rename the Lenin Street in Minsk, and to laying flowers on the graves of the victims of the communist regime.

November 7th celebrations continue to be used by the Belarusian authorities as an ideological justification for the Belarusian statehood. Despite the rejection of communist ideals, Belarusian society is not ready for full ‘de-communization’ of public consciousness.

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Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries entangle in confrontation spiral
October 02, 2017 11:57
Фото: RFRM

Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.

The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.

Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.

For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.

Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.

The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.

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