Ideological shift in Belarus due to national security concerns
Lukashenka regards ideological sustainability of society and state institutions as the key factor in ensuring national security. As Russia has ‘privatised’ the Soviet history, Belarus is prompted to anchor in her own cultural and historical heritage, regardless of its essentially anti-Soviet nature.
Some time ago, President Lukashenka talked about the importance of the national history as an ideological basis for Belarus’ independence. He emphasized Belarus’ difference from the neighbouring Ukraine and Russia. Moreover, some government officials, including the KGB leadership, supported the need to recognize the crimes of the Soviet regime in Belarus.
In the past 22 years, the Belarusian regime relied on the Soviet ideological formula. Currently, however, Russia has monopolized the Soviet ideological legacy, which has largely merged with the Russian imperial myths, claiming that Belarus is an integral part of the "Russian World". In the given circumstances, Belarus’ further reliance on Soviet ideology becomes dangerous, as it supports the chauvinistic idea of Belarus being the ‘Historical Russia’ and would justify her annexation to modern Russia.
Power officials are the most ideologically indoctrinated part of society, especially the officer corps. That said, further promotion of the ideology, which denies historical subjectivity and statehood of Belarus among the security forces, poses a direct threat to the national security. The Belarusian authorities have no other option, but to phase out the Soviet ideological heritage from the national historical and cultural tradition, the written part of which dates back more than a 1000 years.
While attempting to root in the public consciousness the historical difference between Belarus and Russia, the Belarusian authorities are likely to base on the facts from the Belarusian history, which are at odds with the Russian historical myths. In particular, these include independent formation of the Belarusian state without reference to the Kievan Rus, which is regarded as Russia’s ancestor in the Kremlin; and the Communist repressions in Belarus in opposition to the neo-Soviet apologetics, which has gripped Russian society. In addition, Belarus may gradually expand education opportunities in the Belarusian language. However, due to the slowness of the Belarusian state machine, one should not expect rapid and radical changes in the humanitarian and ideological sphere.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.