Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Even if Russia Annexes Belarus, Belarusians Won’t Become Russians, Aleksiyevich Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 20 – On the 25th anniversary of Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s first election as president, Belarusian Nobelist Svetlana Aleksiyevich tells Russian interviewer Zoya Svetova that at that time no one, even in his or her worst nightmare, could imagine that Lukashenka would be in power for so long or act as he has.

            Lukashenka, she says, remains completely Soviet in his thinking with only this difference: “he loves property and money.”  Like many Belarusians and Russians, he has never accepted capitalism or democracy or understood that simply closing up prison camps is not enough to make people free (mbk-news.appspot.com/sences/svetlana-aleksievich/).

            It takes far more than that as Germany’s experience has shown. The German government has worked hard to extirpate the attitudes that gave rise to Hitlerism but even there many of those attitudes continue to exist. No similar effort has been made in Belarus or in Russia either, the celebrated Belarusian writer continues.

            Asked about the possibility that Belarus will be absorbed by Putin’s Russia, Aleksiyevich says that in her view, “Belarus is a separate country. The last decade or so has made that obvious despite Lukashenka’s policies and his pro-Russian position. Now, he has been trying to use this national factor and to allow a soft nationalization,” although the Russian language is everywhere.

            “But people and young people in particular, are Belarusian. The countryside always has been Belarusian.”

            Lukashenka will hardly want to give up being president to become an oblast leader, she says, but adds that “we don’t know how dependent he is on the Kremlin.” And thus, he may have no choice but to go along. Nonetheless and regardless of what he does, “the people will not become Russian.”

            Asked what the people might do in that event, Aleksiyevich says “the most horrible outcome would be if young people went into the woods – and this is a possible variant,” one that would mark the beginning of “a civil war. But young people often talk about this. And I personally very much fear blood will flow.”

            No leaders are eternal despite what they believe, the writer continues. “Chingiz Khan left the scene and Putin and Lukashenka will as well.”  What the Belarusian and Russian people need to do is to change themselves and their countries so that such people will not arise again, just as one can’t imagine them now in France or Sweden.

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