In whose interests are the Belarusian authorities legalizing nationalism?
As is known, the joint Russian-Belarusian exercises Zapad-2017 began against the background of aggressive anti-Russian propaganda spread by the Western media, aimed at discrediting both Russian foreign policy and relations between Moscow and Minsk. In particular, myths about the possible invasion of a hundred-thousandth contingent of Russian troops, the subsequent occupation of Belarus and the creation of a springboard on its territory for the attack of Russia on Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania, and other nonsense have been actively replicated by Western politicians, journalists and "experts."
It makes no sense to retell all these crazy stuffings and cheap agitation in detail, since it has long been obvious to all that this is a pre-planned action to strengthen the US and NATO positions in Eastern Europe and further militarize the region under the pretext of fighting the mythical “Russian aggression”. It was all the more surprising to observe how the so-called “independent” Belarusian media and “think tanks” took direct part in this “informational carousel”.
And, it would seem, where is the Belarusian Foreign Ministry?
And despite the fact that all this hype around military exercises completely fits into the logic of the “multi-vector policy” pursued by the Belarusian foreign policy department. And the “Belarusians abroad” from the same Ukraine, from Poland and Lithuania, who often act as those “analysts” screaming about threats to Belarusian sovereignty coming from “Great Russian chauvinism and imperial ambitions”, play a significant role in this. The Kremlin.
So, at the third meeting of the Consultative Council on Foreign Affairs of Belarus at the Foreign Ministry of Belarus, which took place on September 8, Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said that further strengthening cooperation with the foreign diaspora is in fact a new priority of Belarusian foreign policy. "We all want to see Belarus independent, respected in the world and prosperous," local media quoted the words of Makei.
Earlier, in July, Minsk hosted the Seventh Congress of the Belarusians of the world. All in all, only during 2016-2017 years, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus organized on the instructions of President Alexander Lukashenko hundreds of similar events with the active participation of delegations from Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania.
Of course, at first glance there is nothing wrong with the fact that Minsk recalled the Belarusian diaspora and attended to the expansion of contacts with Belarusians abroad, if not for the fact that foreign delegations were almost entirely composed of representatives of nationalist organizations.
How did that happen? The answer to this question lies in the policy of “soft Belarusianization” pursued by the Belarusian leadership in recent years, which is a kind of ideological opposition to the Russian world. Essentially, this is, nothing more or less, a whole state ideology aimed at the formation of Belarusian national identity and identity, distinct from Russian culture, stories and language. The basis of this ideology is the thesis that the Belarusian statehood is allegedly part of the historical and cultural heritage of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Commonwealth. And, therefore, on the linguistic, ethnic and mental level, Belarus is closer to Western civilization than to Russia.
And if before Euromaidan in Ukraine, the Belarusian opposition of the nationalist sense, which includes a motley company of Litvinists, BNR fans and followers of Ales Zmagar, were considered marginalized from abroad, then from 2014, the process of legalization of the ideas of Belarusian nationalism and their active implementation into the state ideology.
Observed with the support of local authorities, the process of rethinking the role of national culture, reviving traditions and popularizing the Belarusian language as the basis for national identity fully meets the interests not only of the country's leadership, but of the US and the EU. However, it’s not because the West cares so much about the sovereignty and independence of Belarus, but because there they want to distance Belarusians from Russia as much as possible, as it has already happened to the population of Ukraine. The lion’s share of international conferences and round tables with the participation of representatives from Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania, which are regularly held in Minsk in the presence of numerous European NGOs, and often with financial support from American and German funds, is devoted to these topics. Such events are widely covered by the same “independent” media.
All this is happening before the eyes of local authorities, who, however, prefer not to notice the activity of foreign organizations in this direction, obviously believing that their actions in this case are in the public interest, creating favorable conditions for the development of a dialogue with the US and the EU. How do these campaigns end, we can see in the example of the same Ukraine.
However, it’s impossible to implement the “Kiev scenario” for the forceful seizure of power in Minsk, but to promote the spread of Russophobic attitudes in the society on the basis of Belarusian nationalism, opposing itself to everything Russian, is quite achievable. And we can already observe the first consequences of the policy of the formation of the Belarusian national identity today, using the example of the same hysteria around the joint exercises “West-2017”, which is observed not only in the NATO countries, but also within a small, but rather noisy part of the Belarusian society.
It should be understood that in the short and even medium term, the Belarusianization process will only partly contribute to strengthening the power of Alexander Lukashenko as a guarantor of independence and sovereignty. However, taking into account the obvious pro-Western list in the ideology of Belarusian nationalism, in the long run these processes can get out of control and lead to a sharp increase in the number of supporters of European integration opposing the union with Russia.
Using the example of neighboring countries, we can see that the delegation of even part of state sovereignty to Euro-Atlantic structures within the EU and NATO, in fact, means the introduction of external governance and the loss of independence in domestic and foreign policy. Protecting state sovereignty, transferring it into the wrong hands, will always mean betrayal of one’s own people. In this regard, the Belarusian leadership should always remember that flirting with nationalists, although helping to achieve short-term goals, ultimately always leads to big and small tragedies.
Evsey Vasiliev, Deputy General Director, Strategic Communications Bureau
- Evsei Vasilyev
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