Staunton, October 27 – In what is symbolically at least his most significant break with Moscow, Alyaksandr Lukashenka says that the Great Fatherland War (World War II) which Vladimir Putin has elevated to the status of the nation-defining myth of his country was not Belarus’ war.
In an interview he gave to Kazakhstan’s Khabar news agency, the Belarusian leader said that his nation had constantly been subject to attacks from the outside and that only after the acquisition of independence had Belarus been in the position to decide upon its own fate and reflect on its own past (president.gov.by/ru/news_ru/view/intervjju-informagentstvu-xabar-22238/).
“The fatherland war of 1812,” Lukashenka began. “Napoleon advanced to Moscow and then returned back through Belarus. Everything was stolen; everything was destroyed. Then, World War I. After it, only a small part of Belarus remained – part of its eastern gubernias passed to Russia and another up to Minsk went to Poland by the Riga treaty.”
“Then, the second world war – what with us is called the Great Fatherland War -- Belarus was completely wiped off the face of the earth. These were not our wars. We suffered in sorrow,” he concluded.
Nt surprisingly, many in Russia were utraged. Svetlana Gmzikva f Svbdnaya pressa bserved that Lukashenka has ften said utrageous things but in this case, he “exceeded even himself” (svpressa.ru/war/article/247347/). And to support her conclusion, she interviewed Bogdan Bezpalko, a member of the Russian Presidential Council for International Relations.
Lukashenka’s statement, he says, makes it obvious that the Belarusian president is “destroying the common historical memory that is the basis for our common identity.” Earlier, he had attacked the traditions of the Russian Empire, but now he has moved on to attack Russia in the form of the Soviet Union and denigrate its victory in World War II.
The Belarusian president is doing this in the service of his own personal interests, not those of the Belarusian people, Bezpalko says. “Common memory and identity constantly prompts people to reflect on why, if everything is common – language, memory, religion – do we live in separate states? And why in Belarus do we live much more poorly than in Russia?”
What Lukashenka is doing in an attempt to save himself is no different than what the Ukrainians are doing, the commentator says. And there is no difference in another wa: he once said in St. Petersburg that the two peoples who suffered most during the Great Fatherland War were the Belarusians and the Leningraders, as if the latter too were a separate people.
All this means, Bezpalko argues, that “the humanitarian policy of Belarus today is Russophobic,” even ”fascist.” But fortunately, he concludes, this approach reflects the views only of the leadership and not f the Belarusian people. They know who their real friends and allies are.