Thursday, November 17, 2016

'Professional Belarusians' in Smolensk Want City to Be Part of Belarus, Russian Paper Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 17 – A Russian media outlet has expressed concern about the efforts of what it calls “professional Belarusians” in Smolensk to promote “the Belarusianization” of that city, one currently near the western border of the Russian Federation that was part of the Belarus before World War II.

            But this latest comment appears to represent both an effort to settle political scores within the Russian Federation and one intended to lay the groundwork for new charges against Minsk for promoting Belarusian influence inside Russia in places even Alyaksandr Lukashenka has said are properly Belarusian to justify a possible Russian military move against his country.
            Two days ago, “Smolenskaya Stena” published an article with the defensive title “Smolensk is Ours!” about what it said was the increasing “fashion for Belarusianization” there and the role of a former official in promoting it ( and
            The Smolensk paper said that “an extremely unusual public organization has been registered in Smolensk – the local Belarusian National Cultural Autonomy of the City of Smolensk.”  Its head is Sergey Krivko, who was vice governor of the oblast until he resigned in December 2011.
            “Smolenskaya Stena” expressed surprise at how Krivko could be linked to Belarus or the Belarusian nation, given that he was born in Kustanay Oblast of the then Kazakh SSR. But as Charter 97 points out, there is nothing odd about that background: many Belarusians were deported there by Stalin in 1940 and again at the end of World War II.
            The paper warns that “today there are many forces in [Russia] and beyond its borders for whom it is profitable to talk loudly about Belarusian identity and to show everyone that Belarusians and Russians are different peoples and have nothing in common. That scenario was already developed in Ukraine.”
            It continues that Krivko and his autonomists were first active a few years ago but failed to garner local support.  “However,” the paper says, “immediately after this followed a powerful information campaign sponsored as they say by Western countries which propagandized the idea about ‘Belarusian Smolensk.’”
            That campaign has reared its head again and its chief notion, that “Smolensk is an immemorial Belarusian city and must be included within Belarus,” is something that all Russians in Smolensk must ensure is defeated, the paper concludes.

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