Monday, December 10, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Shushkevich Says the CIS has Become ‘A Commonwealth of Dictators’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 10 – Stainslav Shushkevich, the Belarusian president who was one of the three republic leaders who signed the Beloveshchaya Pushcha accords that ended the Soviet Union, says that its successor, the Commonwealth of Independent States tragically has become “a commonwealth of dictators.”

            In his memoirs, “My Life, the Destruction and Return of the USSR, which were recently published in Moscow, Shushkevich said that when he and his colleagues signed the death certificate of the USSR, he and they had high hopes for the future of their peoples and of democracy in the region (

            On the one hand, he notes, those accords meant that Russia “for the first time since 1794 ‘officially recognized the independence of Belarus, its colony on the border.” And on the other, it appeared to have created “a different configuration” in the region, one that would no longer be dominated by Russia.

            But “after the end of Boris Yeltsin’s presidency,” Shushkevich continues, “Russia began to return to itself all its old command positions through the use of the support of the authoritarian rulers” in almost all of the 11 other members of the CIS.

            As Shushkevich writes, “the collapse of the USSR as a geopolitical reality took place in fact in August 1991” at the time of the failed coup. But even the leaders of the three republics which took part in the Beloveshchaya meeting were “afraid to say so directly to anyone.”  And they drew courage from a somewhat unusual source.

            Shushkevich says that as a result, he has “always loved Soviet philosophers because the proposal to formulate the main points of the Beloveshchaya agreement came from Gennady Burbulis, a philosopher by education.”  And it was because of his arguments that the three presidents declared that “the USSR as a geopolitical reality and subject of international law had ceased to exist.”

            Unfortunately, the Belarusian leader says, the hopes of 1991 have not been realized.  “At present, the CIS has been converted into a community of dictators. Among the former republics of the Soviet Union, there is hope only in three – Georgia, Moldova and so far Ukraine – that democracy will soon rule the scene.”

            In Ukraine, despite everything, Shushkevich continues, “power has been transferred from one person to another after elections” and “there the people control the process of elections and the elections are more or less democratic.” As far as the other states are concern, there “dictators rule.”

            “In the first instance,” that is true in Belarus, he concludes. “And now it is more logical to consider that the CIS has been transformed into a community of dictatorships,” a return in some ways to “what existed in the Soviet Union.” That country was a dictatorship, a dictatorship of the party and a dictatorship of the first person.”

            Thus, Shushkevich says with regret given all the hopes he and others had more than twenty years ago, “the Soviet orders are in fact returning from the top down.”


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