Belarusian Statehood. Pride for the country unites
Statehood is the most important value and testifies to the nation’s ability to develop independently — the President of Belarus is convinced of this, and this point of view has found a warm resonance in the hearts of Belarusians. Belarusian statehood has its own history and foundations. As well as unique and unshakable symbols, institutions and traditions. The Belarusian Statehood project of The MT tells about the main ones.
On September 17th, Belarus celebrates the Day of People’s Unity — a public holiday established by Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus dated June 7th, 2021, No. 206. Declaring September 17th as a holiday was an act of historical justice in relation to the Belarusian people, divided against their will in 1921 under the terms of the enslaving Treaty of Riga. This day is already firmly entrenched in the national historical tradition. The unity of the divided people restored in 1939 allowed Belarus, together with other republics of the Soviet Union, to endure during the Great Patriotic War, take an honourable place in the international community, and become one of the co-founders of the United Nations. Today, the Belarusian people are united in choosing a strategic course for the development of a strong, sovereign and prosperous country. The establishment of the Day of People’s Unity on September 17th emphasises the continuity of generations, the inviolability and self-sufficiency of the Belarusian nation and statehood.
The President of Belarus,
“During its thousand-year journey to self-determination the Belarusian nation worthily overcame multiple attempts to deprive the people of its historical prospects, cultural and spiritual distinctiveness. The date September 17th,1939, is a symbol of historical formalisation of the Belarusian nation and of the sincere eagerness of Belarusians, who were separated against their will, to live in their own home as one family.
After acquiring a holistic and unique image of a cosy and hospitable country in the centre of Europe, the reunited Belarus became a place of strength for millions of citizens, who honourably endured complex twists of the 20th century and now stand guard over the sovereignty and independence of the native land.”
From People’s Unity Day greetings to fellow Belarusians on September 17th, 2022
A people divided into parts
The peace treaty that ended the Soviet-Polish war and was signed on March 18th, 1921, in Riga without the participation of the Belarusian side, led to the fact that the ethnic Belarusian lands, the Belarusian people were artificially divided into parts for almost two decades. This section dealt a serious blow to the processes of national-cultural and political construction of Belarus, made the ‘Belarusian question’ one of the main fields of tension in Polish-Soviet relations in subsequent years.
The western regions of Belarus (about 100 thousand square kilometres with a population of over 3 million people) became part of the Polish state for two decades. In these territories, the right of Belarusians to self-determination was not realised, and they had to endure various forms of discrimination — social, national, religious and economic.
On the lands of Western Belarus, which the Poles disparagingly called Kresy Wschodnie — Eastern Borderlands, a purposeful cruel policy of exploiting the local population, plundering natural resources, exporting and destroying cultural and material values was carried out. Western Belarus was used by Poland as a source of raw materials and cheap labour.
Despite all the large-scale repressive measures that were taken by the Polish authorities for two decades against the local residents of Western Belarus, they did not succeed in destroying the national identity of the Belarusians, breaking the foundations of the spiritual connection of the Belarusian people, artificially divided by the border.
On September 1st, 1939, World War II began with the German attack on Poland. The first weeks of the war were marked by the rapid advance of German troops across Poland, the flight of the Polish government from the country, and the virtual liquidation of Polish statehood.
In this situation, the USSR declared that it ‘takes under its protection the life and property of the Ukrainian and Belarusian population of the eastern regions of Poland’. On September 17th, the Red Army crossed the Soviet-Polish border. Archival documents eloquently record the enthusiastic mood of local residents, who happily greeted the Red Army soldiers as liberators with flowers, bread and salt. Belarusian poet Maksim Tank, a witness of those September events, later said that ‘no resumes, reports, later evidence of historians can convey the enthusiasm and joy with which the working people of Western Belarus met the news of reunification’.
Encounter of the Red Army in the Grodno Region. September 1939.
A unique layer of visual sources on the history of the Reunification are photographic documents, which are mainly stored in the Belarusian State Archive of Film and Photo Documents. The photographs and newsreels depict episodes related to the entry of the Red Army units into the territory of Western Belarus and their meeting with local residents, agrarian reforms, elections to the People’s Assembly of Western Belarus, etc.
Archival documents clearly show that the reunification of the Western Belarusian lands with the BSSR in the autumn of 1939 was an act of historical justice. The national holiday — the Day of People’s Unity — serves as an objective reminder of the self-sufficiency of the Belarusian nation and the inviolability of the Belarusian statehood, symbolises the continuity of all generations of the Belarusian people, creates a sense of involvement of every citizen in the fate of the country and strengthens the cohesion of society on the path to building a strong, sovereign and prosperous Belarus!
17 Facets of Unity
The socio-political marathon called 17 Facets of Unity, initiated by the Belarusian Party Belaya Rus and dedicated to the Day of People’s Unity, started on September 6th in the city of Dzerzhinsk, took place in 17 cities of Belarus, visiting every region of the country.
In the Brest Region this season, the marathon was hosted by Kamenets, Luninets, Ivatsevichi, in Vitebsk Region — Orsha and Glubokoe, in Gomel Region — Kalinkovichi, Buda-Koshelevo and Svetlogorsk, in Grodno Region — Dyatlovo, Ivye, Volkovysk, in Mogilev Region — Shklov, Gorki, Bykhov, in Minsk — Zhodino, Vileyka and Dzerzhinsk.
“Cities will change every year, and in this way we will be able to cover all the regional centres of each region in order to discuss the most pressing topics of concern to our society. They will concern the ideology of the Belarusian statehood, the tasks of the country’s political parties in the development of the state and civil society, challenges and threats to political stability and sovereignty, achievements of sovereign Belarus and others. There are many topics on today’s agenda,” said Oleg Romanov, Chairman of the Belarusian party Belaya Rus.
The speakers of the marathon were activists of the Belaya Rus party and the public organisation of the same name, and everyone could take part in the marathon, regardless of the public association.
The socio-political marathon 17 Facets of Unity will end tomorrow, September 15th, and the result will be the publication of a booklet that will summarize materials on the speakers’ speeches and the most popular issues.
Interconnection between past, present and future
Aleksei Avdonin, an analyst with the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Research (BISR), “Our sovereignty, independence and the interconnection of history, present and future now define three holidays. These are May 9th, July 3rd and September 17th, when in 1939 the unification of Western Belarus and the BSSR took place after the first was liberated from the so-called White Poles. From 1921 to 1939, the destruction of the Belarusians as a nation, the destruction of the economy, any political manifestations, the closure of Belarusian schools, while the BSSR was developing, took place on that territory.
Our sovereignty is the result of a long process of Belarusian struggle. We must now value it to the utmost, pass it on to the younger generation, understand that in modern conditions, when the collective West is oriented towards escalation in our Eastern European region, all this can ultimately lead to undermining the sovereignty and independence of our republic. Sovereignty can be undermined in different ways. We see how this process took place in 2020, when the political technologies of the velvet revolutions were used. Now — after the failure of the Velvet Revolution — the orientation is towards a military escalation, the creation of a pre-war situation. And in this case, the task of both the state itself and our partners within the CSTO and the Union State is to prevent under any circumstances the implementation of such malicious plans of the collective West on our territory and a repetition of the events of the early 20th century.”