Saturday, January 21, 2023

Russian-Belarusian Union State Can’t Expand to Include Other Former Soviet Republics, Dyukov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 17 – Belarus is “a unique and unfortunately an unreproducible” case among the former Soviet republics and that is why it can form a union state with Russia but no other one and certainly not Ukraine can, according to Aleksandr Dyukov, a historian at Moscow’s State University for the Humanities.

            He draws that conclusion on the basis of his attempt to answer the question: “Why did the Belarusian Soviet project unlike its Ukrainian counterpart not turn into the Anti-Russia?” While many will find Dyukov’s argument tendentious and even wrong, it undoubtedly reflects the thinking of many in Moscow (

            And the fact that he concludes no other former union republic is going to follow Belarus in joining the union state does as well, even though many in the Kremlin at least publicly reject such a contention and appear to believe that they can in fact restore something like the former Soviet Union with more than just Russia and Belarus as component parts.

            In Dyukov’s telling, “the Belarusian party elites of the post-war BSSR unlike those in the post-war Ukrainian SSR had experienced Nazi occupation, Nazi genocide and partisan war and therefore rejected local ethno-nationalism far more radically.” If Ukrainian officials sometimes sought to integrate anti-Moscow nationalists, Belarusian ones did not.

            As a result, he continues, “the basis of nation building in modern Belarus” was not like that in Ukraine where the principle always was ‘remember stranger, Ukrainians are the rulers here’ but rather the principle that “’Belarusians are residents of Belarus regardless of ethnic origin,’” based on the model of “a single Soviet people.”

            To be sure, Belarusian ethno-nationalists have existed and still exist. But they couldn’t hold on in the 1990s and they didn’t defeat the regime in the 2020s. They are sufficiently numerous to produce occasional rebellions but they can’t win them, and so Belarus can form a union state with Russia but Ukraine and the others can’t. They don’t have the same past.

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