What is going to happen when the presidency of Aliaksandar Lukashenka finally comes to an end? Can you build a nation based on the values, common with another nation? Are there institutions in Belarus, which could serve as the basis for the future development of the civil society in the country? These are some of the questions asked by Yury Drakahrust, host of “Prague Accent”, the analytical talk show of the Belarusian service of the Radio Free Europe.
Yury Drakahrust invited 3 interesting and very different people to take part in the conversation. One of them is Piotra Sadouski, is former ambassador of Belarus to Germany. He belongs to the political elite, which came to power in the early days of Belarusian independence in the beginning of the 90’s, and was gradually pushed away by the emerging authoritarian regime of Aliaksandar Lukashenka. Sviatlana Aleksijevich is one of the most famous Belarusian contemporary writers. She became famous for confronting such problems as Chernobyl catastrophe and the Soviet-Afghan war in her books. However, she prefers to associate herself with the universal culture rather to be the Belarusian-only-writer. Paval Yakubovich is the editor-in-chief of the largest state-owned daily newspaper “Belarus Segodnya”. The newspaper is the major mouthpiece of the official propaganda in Belarus. The very fact that Paval Yakubovich does take part in the talk show of the regime-critical radio station is noteworthy. Nor less interesting are his answers.
Sviatlana Aleksijevich: “I am traveling a lot in Russia and in Belarus. There is a border between the countries, but on the both sides of the authorities are soviet in their nature, the people are soviet, all attributes of the thinking are soviet. This works on the Belarusian as well as on the Russian side of the border. In Russia there’s just different intellectual potential and different money. All this is still hidden by oil dollars there; here in Belarus – by the kolkhoz slyness. There will be no Belarusian state. What kind of ideology is that: “let’s make our people eat and drink full”. Excuse me, but this is not an animal farm”.
“Lukashenka learns fast, he is what Arnold Toynbee called “the political animal”. We were all defeated. He paralyzed the people by his intuition, he imposed the lower level of consumption on them. The nation was humiliated to the vulgar level of consumption. This is something, which the whole world believes to be a road to nowhere. But here in Belarus it is still called progress”.
Paval Yakubovich: “Our whole country, the leftists, the rightists, orthodox, catholics, were being forced to their knees by the iron fist of Gazprom in December. The pressure was very pragmatic: either surrender your industry to our investors, or we cut off the gas supply. Thank God, the answer was the firm and cool fortitude. However, both the problem of gas, and the wider issue of the historic choice remain unsolved.
“Aliaksandar Lukashenka managed to preserve the Republic of Belarus, and this is his main accomplishment. He preserved the country’s human and spiritual potential, which will be a basis for the future – also for the civil society, and for the feeling of Belarusians being Belarusians, and seeing Moscow as the capital of a very friendly country, but not more than that. Just like Warshaw. The feeling of us being a part of Europe. But we have to live through this period we have now“ .
„I think some good idea grows ripe in Belarus, although I don’t like the sound of the name „national idea“. You especially feel this among the youth, which is absolutely sure that Minsk is the capital of their country, and Moscow, like Warshaw, are the capitals of the neighbouring coutnries, that we are a part of Europe, things like that“.
„Sviatlana, a major writer, voiced something we all are worried about – the hard times are coming. Preparing to meet these times, we need to consolidate. And, the fact, that we do have this consolidation, is the major accomplishment of Lukashenka and of his time, despite the extravagant propaganda, the clumsiness of writers and music composers, absence of the nationwide discussions. I see the need in such discussions, by the way... The main thing is that the new nation is being born“.
Piotra Sadouski: “I don’t know a nation, where the civil society would be built without a national idea. True, it came out of fashion now. It is often said that the national idea was over in the 20th century. But we are the nation, which construction is still under way. And our president is the mirror of it. He is successful, because he reflects the electorate. But, obviously, one should have gone further than that already”.
“I think, after the president steps back, there will be a breakup of the Soviet Union in miniature. Nothing horrible will happen”.
“We will simply return back to the year 1990-1991 and will feel sorry for the time we’ve wasted. But our sorrow and the blossoming orchard or the debris we will live in will depend only upon the speed with which the new business will be able to develop – not just the large business, but also the small business in smaller towns and villages”.
Please, note that these are only assorted quotations. The general context of the conversation is important to understand them - the full text can be found here and here (in Belarusian only).