Unity Day: Belarus reminded Poland of the past
“Black” day of the calendar
June 7 was a real "black" day for Poland. More precisely, now there are two "black" days for the Poles. On June 17, President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko signed a decree on a new public holiday - National Unity Day. And it will be celebrated annually on September XNUMXth.
On this day in 1939, the famous "Polish campaign" of the Red Army began. The attitude of the two countries to this event is diametrically opposite. In Russia, the campaign is still called "Liberation", although both Ukraine and Belarus have been non-union republics of the USSR for thirty years.
The Poles, however, believe that the USSR committed an act of aggression against Poland, taking part in the division of the country together with Nazi Germany, taking away the so-called "Voskhodniye Kresy", that is, the territory of present-day Western Ukraine and Western Belarus. The reaction of the Polish authorities to Lukashenka's actions was appropriate.
The Polish Foreign Ministry said that he was outraged by the establishment of a new public holiday in Belarus. The Polish diplomatic office immediately noted:
In Belarus, it is believed that in September 1939, the long-awaited reunification of the Belarusian people began. As stated in the press service of the President of the Republic of Belarus, the Polish campaign
Indeed, many were waiting for the reunion. Having acquired the Eastern Kresses, the Polish authorities began to pursue a cruel national policy, restricting the rights of Belarusians to education, to participate in politics and even to religion. Orthodox churches in Belarus were closed, and the local population was persuaded to convert to Catholicism, threatening with resettlement and a ban on land ownership.
All this could not but cause resistance - a Belarusian partisan movement appeared, the experience of which was then actively used during the fascist occupation of the BSSR. Let us not forget that in the interwar period, there was also an active resettlement of Polish colonists to the "Voskhodnie Kresy" in order to securely secure these lands for themselves.
Finally, let us recall that Pilsudski's Poland wanted, together with the Third Reich, to participate in the division of the territory of the USSR. The plans were huge - already with access to the Black Sea. But the historical maps for Poland have developed differently.
The Belarusian authorities kept the Day of National Unity in their political "sleeve" for quite a long time. Pursuing a multi-vector policy, Lukashenka preferred not to quarrel with his closest neighbor. The emphasis was placed on the pragmatic development of relations, taking into account, first of all, the powerful transit flow passing through both countries.
However, since the collapse of the USSR, Poland pursued completely different goals in relations with its neighbors. First, the Polish authorities have set a goal to turn their country into a regional leader with strong influence over neighboring territories. Secondly, Poland has embarked on a course of integration into the EU and NATO, becoming a conduit for American policy in Central Europe.
In this strategy, the lot of Belarus is a buffer, preferably Russophobic, between the Russian Federation and the European Union. Poland first of all adopted the instrument of "soft power" to advance its goals in the Republic of Belarus. The arsenal includes support for certain media, cultural events and actions in the field of education.
One of the striking examples is the Belsat TV channel. He criticizes the Belarusian and Russian authorities with might and main and strongly supports Belarusian nationalism. Cultural events are various events promoting the cultural values of the Polish people.
This segment also includes the actions of the Catholic Church in Belarus. Substantial funds are allocated to support the Catholic communities. They are active and somewhere give odds to the Orthodox Church in the country.
The sphere of education is generally a special direction in the “soft power” strategy. The Polish authorities oversee many programs that allow young Belarusians to get free education at Polish universities.
Warsaw allocates money to private schools, lyceums for additional courses, where they study not only the Polish language, but also the history and culture of Poland. The country has a program named after Kastus Kalinouski, which promotes Belarusian youth to study for free in Polish universities.
A separate instrument of “soft power”, and perhaps the most effective one, is the “Pole's card”. The law on it has been in effect since 2007. According to him, the owner of this document is a representative of the Polish nation, whose affiliation is recognized by the state. Identity makes life much easier.
Thus, cardholders have the right to obtain a long-term national visa, legally work in the country without special permission, and conduct business in Poland in the same way as its citizens.
Free education is available for "gamblers" and a significant discount on travel by rail. Since 2015, they can receive financial assistance if they move to Poland: the state pays rent for repatriates.
For those wishing to receive a "Pole's card", several conditions are required. The applicant must be of the Polish family, that is, it is necessary to provide documents confirming the Polish origin of the parents, or grandmother, grandfather, two great-grandmothers or great-grandfathers. At the reception with the consul of Poland, the applicant must show proficiency in the language, knowledge of traditions and customs.
You don't have to go far for examples. My wife's son has a "Pole's card" and is studying in Warsaw at the Polytechnic University, receiving quite a decent scholarship. Moreover, he also earns additionally in his free time. The wife is from the Grodno region, her mother is a Polish woman.
The Pole's Card program is largely aimed at Belarus. The fact is that, unlike Ukraine, a significant Polish diaspora has survived in Belarus. In 1959, there were up to half a million Poles in the BSSR, according to the 2019 census in the Republic of Belarus - about 300 thousand Poles.
Over the past 13 years, more than 255 thousand people have become holders of the "Pole's card". The main recipients - more than 90% - are citizens of Ukraine and Belarus. However, are cardholders becoming full-fledged Poles? Unlikely.
The fact is that a significant part of the Poles, for example, in Belarus, are the indigenous Belarusian population. It is believed that the Poles there are mostly Belarusians, who converted to Catholicism under pressure from the state, when the Voskhodnie Kresy stayed first in the Commonwealth, and in the interwar period became part of the Polish state.
Therefore, the identity of such Poles is loose. Most Belarusians regard the "map" as a convenient tool for doing business, tourism and education. Belarusian youth are quickly incorporated into Polish society. Learning Polish is not so difficult, but getting a quality education, and even free of charge - who will refuse it. In addition, there is the prospect of becoming citizens of the European Union.
Until recently, the Belarusian authorities largely turned a blind eye to the "soft" expansion of their neighbor. But after the presidential elections in August 2020, everything changed. Poland refused to recognize Lukashenka's victory and supported the opposition. Warsaw gave shelter to some of the protest leaders and began coordinating the speeches of Batka's opponents.
In particular, the popular Telegram channel Nechta, to which the notorious Roman Protasevich is related, has settled in the capital of Poland. Poland lobbied for the introduction of sanctions against Belarus and offered to create a fund to help Belarusian protesters.
An outrageous incident occurred at the end of February in Brest. The private institution "Polish School", which teaches local residents the Polish language and prepares them to receive the "Pole's card", held a concert in honor of the "damned soldiers". The attitude towards them in Belarus is unequivocal.
"Damned soldiers" are the remnants of the Home Army, which were engaged in armed confrontation between Soviet power in Poland and Western Belarus since the end of World War II. The "accursed" partisans fought almost until the early 1960s, but they were noted not only by the opposition of the local administration, but also by the ethnic cleansing of Belarusians in eastern Poland.
One of the detachments led by Romuald Rice, nicknamed "Brown", especially distinguished himself with atrocities. They captured the population of several Belarusian villages and started checking it for “Catholicism”. The Orthodox were immediately killed. The criminals executed several dozen Belarusians.
In 1946, Rice was caught and executed, his actions identified as genocide. But in 1995, a Polish court acquitted Bury, ruling that he acted “in urgent need».
In Poland, the National Day of the "Cursed Soldiers" is celebrated annually on March 1. So, in Brest on February 28, the consul of Poland Jerzy Timofeyuk took part in the aforementioned concert at the "Polish School". The Belarusian authorities acted decisively - the consul was expelled from the republic, and a criminal case was opened against the school director Anna Panisheva for glorification of war criminals.
And even after this action, Lukashenka waited, leaving the Day of National Unity in the political "sleeve". But after Roman Protasevich landed in Minsk and received some additional information, Alexander Grigorievich nevertheless made a decision - there will be a new public holiday in Belarus.
Thus, Warsaw is clearly shown that the era of "soft" expansion in the Republic of Belarus is over. And the topic of "Voshodnye kreses" is closed - the Belarusians in 1939 were reunited, which they were definitely striving for. The new holiday will become an important ideological point for the Lukashenka regime.
However, will Poland refuse to continue pressure on Belarus? Most probably not. A powerful mechanism has been created that no one is going to fold. Moreover, in Warsaw they believe that Lukashenka's time is running out, and completely different people should come to replace him. And they, no doubt, will cancel all objectionable holidays and other "reference points" of the hostile regime.
However, the fact is that the Polish authorities are demonstratively ignoring the right of Belarus to its sovereignty. And the Belarusian authorities will not be able to avoid this problem in the future, otherwise there will be no more talk about the country's independence.
- Sergey Osipov
- in-poland.com, rech-pospolita.ru, infourok.ru, polituserforum.ru
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