Kremlin not yet interested in pro-Russian opposition in Belarus
The Ministry of Education’s initiative to teach Belarusian history and geography at high schools in Belarusian has set off alarmist reactions among those wishing to become the pro-Russian opposition in Belarus. However, pro-Russian historians, political analysts and officials still have few chances of becoming a real oppositional movement. Official Minsk is blocking such attempts, and the Kremlin as yet appears uninterested.
The Minister of Education, Mikhail Zhuraukou, stated that his ministry eventually plans to introduce the teaching of Belarusian geography and history in Belarusian. The minister spoke about gradually expanding the practice of teaching in Belarusian. It is worth mentioning that the previous minister of education, Siarhei Matskevich, held the same view. There were plans in 2012 to introduce the teaching of Belarusian history and geography in Belarusian. However, these plans were not implemented due to the lack of funds for publishing new textbooks. According to the Ministry, in 2012 18% of all pupils studied Belarusian history in Belarusian, while 56% studied geography in Belarusian in rural areas.
This piece of news caused pretendents for the role of pro-Russian opposition of Lukashenka’s regime to embark on some intense scaremongering. Their main websites are imperia.by and regnum.ru. The former website is Belarusian, the latter is Russian. The chief editor of regnum.ru, Modest Kolerov, is also the chief editor of the Russian far-right nationalist website IA REX. From 2002 to 2005, Kolerov served as a member of the Russian presidential administration, but was fired for “radicalism” in relation to neighbouring countries. Regnum published six commentaries by Belarusian authors with very typical statements: “Belarus will soon ban high-school instruction in Russian”, “the authorities have concentrated on popularising russophobic myths”, “Belarusian authorities wend the way of Ukraine-like nationalism”, “Belarus has launched the third forced wave of Belarusianisation at full throttle”, “Belarusian authorities continue their policy of de-russification”, “Belarusian authorities show their true colours by parlaying about radical nationalism”. Such statements lack evidence. Switching education to Belarusian will not happen any time soon, if at all. Currently there are just 150 high schools where Belarusian is the language of tuition, and parents prefer to choose Russian for their children.
The same authors scaremonger the Russian authorities with the soon-to-be “Ukrainisation” of Belarus both on Regnum and Imperia. They are former or incumbent state officials dealing with ideology and education, who, for many years, have attempted to become Lukashenka’s backbone of support. Lukashenka, however, has not let the pro-Russians become a real political power in Belarus. Now, the same people are trying to attract the Kremlin’s attention, but so far without success. Critical statements about Lukashenka in the Russian mainstream mass-media by mainstream Russian public persona appear only as a means of pressuring Lukashenka when there are disagreements among Russia and Belarus over cooperation.
So far, these pro-Russian voices have not found support in Russia. However, one cannot be sure that the Kremlin will continue to ignore this “helping hand” from Belarus – both as a means of pressuring Lukashenka during negotiations, and for more far-reaching goals.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.