Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Business, Civil Society Promoting Belarusianization Even When State Isn’t, Mozheyko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 27 – Businesses interested in profits and civil society institutions that see language as key to the future of their country are promoting Belarusianization even when the government, fearful of offending Moscow is not, and that ranking – business, civil society, and only then the state works to the country’s advantage, Vadim Mozheyko says.

            That is because, the specialist on culture at Minsk’s Liberal Club argues, because that means Belarusianization is gradually building strength and cannot be easily stopped by the government. Were the regime more involved, that alone might offend some and limit progress (udf.by/news/kultura/158590-ekspert-ostanovit-belorusizaciyu-uzhe-budet-slozhno.html).

            Mozheyko says that “the state in  the best case stands in third place after civil society and business in promoting the growth in popularity of the Belarusian language,” although in recent years, it has in some cases promoted it and in others “not interfered” with business or civil society.

            While it would be wrong to speak of Belarusianization as an accomplished fact, the use of the national language in Belarus has “become fashionable or even a trend in certain portions of society.”  Business has played a major role: Over the last seven years, the number of Belarusian language brands have increased more than 150 percent and the number of Belarusian advertisements by more than 300 percent.

            A major reason that business has played this role is that it “thinks not about how to relate to Belarusianization but rather about how to work with it. And if it sees that Belarusian language communication, the use of the language and the advancement of Belarusian culture really works, then it accepts this and uses it in its business activity.”

            And that is the case even though many in the intellectual elites who have promoted Belarusian culture “continue to deny or to be afraid to recognize that this soft Belarusianization already has happened.” They note that there aren’t enough real Belarusian language teachers to transform the educational system.

            Within the Lukashenka regime, there are many people who would like to support Belarusianization but remain frightened by what they assume would be the reaction of Moscow.  That is why there is no reason to expect the state to pursue a consistent language policy anytime in the near future.
            But paradoxically, the fact that the state “is not playing first chair in popularizing Belarusian” has its positive side:  Many intellectuals would be suspicious of what the current government is doing if it pushed Belarusian anytime soon and would assume that Minsk would just as quickly change course if it felt it had to, thus undermining any effort.

            So for the time being, Mozheyko says, “the initiative lies on the shoulders” of business and civil society. But that means that even the Belarusian government will find it ever more difficult to stop, whatever fears it may have about Moscow’s possible response. 

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