The State Policy in the Sphere of History: Problems and Prospects of Preserving the Historical Truth and Memory national research to practice conference brought together more than 300 participants in Minsk
The President of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko, sent greetings to the participants of the State Policy in the Sphere of History: Problems and Prospects of Preserving the Historical Truth and Memory national research to practice conference.
“We are Belarusians, a nation with a rich history that spans centuries. We are proud of our past, of the great accomplishments and of the trials that our forefathers have gone through with dignity. We remember in what complicated conditions the value foundation of the Belarusian statehood was created. Today on its basis we continue national development and strengthen the sovereignty of Belarus,” the message reads.
During the discussion, it was emphasised that history can equally act as an instrument of integration and creation, as well as the division of society in the era of hybrid wars and tough information confrontation. Therefore, an objective understanding of past experience, a clear objective assessment of events and the role of individuals in the history of the Belarusian state are urgently needed in order to prevent the spread of destructive ideas that could undermine the country in the future. The conference was opened by Head of the Belarus President Administration Igor Sergeyenko, making a report on the main directions of development and improvement of state historical policy in Belarus.
Time itself has prompted us towards a deeper understanding of our history, Igor Sergeyenko emphasised, “One can single out a lot of both outstanding and tragic events, reformat them and weaponise them. This is what is happening today.”
According to Head of the President Administration, the history of Belarus is carefully studied abroad. It is being rewritten in the interests of the policies of other states: they deliberately distort historical facts and create myths that are aggressively imposed on our society, including with the aim of discrediting our heroic past,
“The most obvious example is Khatyn and other similar tragedies, when they strenuously tried to convince us that it was the partisan resistance that caused the atrocities of the Nazis. Heroes are turned into villains that caused people’s misfortunes. These fabricated narratives sincerely outrage and insult us, Belarusians, the people who suffered the worst from Hitler’s aggression. And this is just one of hundreds of examples of manipulation of the historical past. The problem is that all this information is in the public domain.
People see, read and discuss it and, worst of all, begin to have doubts. They are zombified; losing faith in official sources of information in many respects. We must give answers to many difficult questions of our history – truthful answers, without political fraud.”
Igor Sergeyenko emphasised that history has been and will be a tool of internal and external struggle for power, “This happens in all countries of the world. But we must always be ready to repel all information attacks with arguments. Moreover, the time has come for offensive tactics. Anyone who considers it possible to delve into our history, to interpret our past according to their own patterns, should understand that similar approaches can be applied to them.”
Head of the President Administration identified five priority areas for the implementation of state policy in the field of history.
First — to popularise the concept of the history of Belarusian statehood
“Attention should be focused on firmly opposing attempts to distort the objective picture of the past: military patriotic education in educational institutions and popularisation of military history, improving the management of dissertation research in the humanities, defining the pantheon of national heroes who made a significant contribution to the development of Belarusian statehood,” Igor Sergeyenko explained.
Second — the promotion of national traditions and holidays, original culture based on the everyday experience of the Belarusian people
“It is necessary to pay attention to the so-called cultural import substitution, the development of modern forms of introducing Belarusians to the rich heritage of their ancestors and implementation in all spheres of life,” Head of the President Administration noted.
He also drew attention to the need to continue work on organising permanent museum exhibitions and temporary exhibitions, and called for this to be done on an ongoing basis.
Third — improving information support for historical policy
Igor Sergeyenko emphasised the need to intensify work on developing accessible forms of popularising history among the population using modern means of communication, “The first steps in this direction have been taken. But it is necessary not only to speak to young people in a digital language they understand, but also to raise them to a higher scientific level. So far we have nothing special to say in this direction. We need more opportunities for visual campaigning on the streets of cities and towns in order to promote historical dates and famous personalities who contributed to the development of the country. I mean including outdoor advertising. This is the field of activity of local authorities, executive committees of all levels. The Academy of Sciences should help with the content side of this part of the work.” Fourth — harnessing the potential of public associations
According to Igor Sergeyenko, the national public association Belarusian Society Knowledge, the Military Scientific Society, the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus, Belaya Rus, the Belarusian Republican Youth Union and others should be more actively involved in promoting the historical agenda, including in the regions.
Fifth — strengthening the Belarusian model on the outer circuit
It’s about involving foreign institutions of the Republic of Belarus, representatives of our country in international integration structures, as well as constructive organisations of the Belarusian diaspora abroad in the information work, Head of the President Administration explained.
Aleksei Stuk, Deputy Prosecutor General, emphasised that every day prosecutors, investigators, experts, representatives of the Defence Ministry, historians and archivists, as part of the work of the investigative group of the General Prosecutor’s Office, establish new facts of crimes of Nazi criminals and their accomplices. Moreover, the scale of the tragedy is much greater than previously assumed, and the mass extermination of people was put on stream from the first days of the occupation, Deputy Prosecutor General noted, “The leaders of the Third Reich declared that one of the goals of the war against the Soviet Union was to reduce the Slavic population by 30 million people.”
The policy of Hitler’s Germany towards Soviet citizens differed significantly from the behaviour in other European countries. Citizens of the Soviet Union were immediately declared subhumans, subject to any punitive measures. It has been established that during the years of Nazi occupation, at least 3 million civilians and prisoners of war were killed on the territory of Belarus, more than 380 thousand people were driven into German slavery, many of whom died from unbearable conditions. The abduction of children for forced labour was also widespread. Children were often used as donors. Over 200 cities were destroyed, including such large ones as Minsk, Gomel, Vitebsk, and thousands of villages were burned. In July 1941, Heinrich Himmler held a meeting in Baranovichi, at which it was decided to conduct a large-scale operation to ‘cleanse’ the Brest Region from the so-called hostile elements. Shootings and gallows, gas chambers and burning, starvation and the spread of disease were used. This was supposed to instil fear and suppress attempts to resist the occupation regime.
Director of the Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences Nikolai Myslivets, presented the results of a new public opinion study. The responses received indicate that modern Belarusians are united by the desire to live not only in stability and prosperity, but also in a separate and independent country. The top 3 symbols that were indicated by the largest number of respondents in 2023: state symbols of Belarus — 68.3 percent of respondents, folk symbols (stork, bison, cornflower) — 46.1 percent, cultural heritage objects — 40.7 percent.
The vast majority of the country’s residents share the ideological meaning inherent, in particular, in such holidays as Victory Day (more than 90 percent), Independence Day of the Republic of Belarus (84.1 percent), Constitution Day of the Republic of Belarus (73.6 percent), People’s Unity Day (71.5 percent) and others.