Posted: 01.02.2023 14:48:00

Who are we, where are we from, and where are we going?

What stages did the Belarusian statehood develop from?

The Council of the Republic of the National Assembly together with the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, the Academy of Public Administration under the aegis of the President, the National Centre of Legislation and Legal Research, with the participation of the leadership of the President Administration, the Council of Ministers, the Information, Culture, Education, Sports and Tourism Ministries, educational institutions, public associations and media, representatives of the Prosecutor General’s Office, the House of Representatives of the National Assembly and the Belarusian Orthodox Church held a visiting seminar, which examined the important historical accents of the formation of the Belarusian statehood from its inception to the present stage in detail.

Moment of truth

Opening the seminar, Chairwoman of the Council of the Republic Natalya Kochanova noted the special symbolism of the fact that the event is being held at a time when the Year of Historical Memory actually passed the baton to the Year of Peace and Creation, “Summing up the results of the past year, we absolutely clearly see the tasks facing the authorities at all levels, our society and country for this year. This can rightfully be considered another moment of truth in the history of Belarusian statehood. Of course, the search for answers to such fateful questions as: ‘Who are we?’, ‘Where are we from?’ and ‘Where are we going?’ — contributed to all those activities that were carried out within the framework of the Republican plan for holding the Year of Historical Memory.”
The spokesperson drew attention to the fact that Polotsk, the cradle of the Belarusian statehood, was one of the three key centres of Ancient Rus’ on a par with Novgorod and Kievan and has always been independent, 
“Therefore, no one has the right to reproach us, Belarusians, for allegedly not having the right to our own independent and sovereign state. Our own, Belarusian path is truly unique and can serve as an example for many other countries and peoples.”
“The Head of State wisely established that we must not only survive, but develop properly and move forward. Our country must be competitive and successful, and this is possible only in an equal, partnership dialogue with states that share our basic values,” Natalya Kochanova emphasised.

During the meeting, scientists gave answers to a number of fundamental questions

Why is Polotsk land synonymous with Polotsk Rus’?
Of all the ancient Russian principalities on the Belarusian territory, the Polotsk land had bright features of isolation and originality of historical development, said Denis Duk, Rector of the Mogilev State University named after A. A. Kuleshov, 
“The humanistic worldview of Euphrosyne of Polotsk and Kirill of Turov contributed to the formation of the Belarusian ethnos and nation and largely determined the civilisational choice of the Belarusian people. The basis of the state ideology of the Polotsk and Turov lands was the immutable truth of Christian morality. The historical heritage of the ancient Polochans in the projection today reminds us of the common East Slavic root of the three fraternal peoples — Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians — and of the common Christian fonts of the Dnieper River, Volkhov River and Western Dvina River.”

What is the place of Belarus in the world?
Throughout the history of Belarus, the West has not recognised our country’s ability to make independent choices. Sergei Kalinin, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law of the Belarusian State University, recalled that today Belarus exists in times of global crisis of the modern world system, 
“In fact, within the framework of this crisis, the core is trying to transfer its problems to the rest of the world, including us. This is either our future sovereign existence in the interests of our people, or disappearing from the map and turning into a zone of trophy economy and wild hunting. Being a peace-loving state that has constitutionally secured the renunciation of military aggression from its territory against other states (part two of Article 18 of the Constitution), and striving to act as a donor of regional and world stability, Belarus is forced to pursue an active policy in the field of ensuring its own security in a broad sense in the interests of its own people and its own territory, which prevents it from acquiring colonial status.”

Why are they trying to destroy our historical memory?
History is the most powerful means of mobilising a sense of the collective identity of the people, which can equally act as an instrument of both creation and division. Rector of the Academy of Public Administration under the aegis of the President Vyacheslav Danilovich is convinced of this, 
“That is why our ill-wishers in the collective West are so eager to destroy our historical memory. On the one hand, morality is undermined, which, according to their plan, should be levelled, and on the other hand, historical facts and events are distorted and falsified. In particular, a lot of dirt is poured out on the Soviet period of our history. In order to prevent distortions and falsifications of our historical memory, we must evaluate facts, events and personalities objectively, but from the point of view of our Belarusian people.”

What have Belarusians managed to preserve through centuries?
The spirituality of the nation and the challenges of modernity became the subject of a bright and heartfelt speech by His Grace Archbishop Theodosius, Honorary Rector of the Parish of the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God ‘Unexpected Joy’ in Novopolotsk, 
“Each century of the historical life of our nation has marked itself with the publication of a handwritten Gospel. This went on from century to century, until the great Skaryna published the printed Gospel and the Bible. And we must think: from every century of our history, from every region, we have a message from our ancestors. The people loved the Gospel, respected the Word of God and its commandments. Thanks to this, our culture, faith, religion and language have been preserved. And we are not talking about this unfounded — there are historical facts. A recent example: the feat of the pilots, who managed with incredible efforts to direct the fall of an uncontrolled aircraft onto a wasteland. Another example — a teenage boy, risking his life, takes his younger brother out of a burning house. Thanks to Aleksandr Grigorievich for paying great attention to this boy personally. The Gospel says: there is no greater love, if one lays down his life for his friends.” 

Belarusian know-how: how to resist external threats?
The Chairman of the Board of the Republican Znanie (Knowledge) Belarusian Society Vadim Gigin clearly and structuredly described the formation and development of the Belarusian statehood during the period of independence of the country,
“From 2020, a new period of Belarusian statehood begins, which continues at the present time. But this does not mean that the number of challenges has decreased, some have even worsened. First of all, this concerns the fact that military operations are being conducted south of our borders. The second is an attempt to institutionalise anti-state forces abroad with the support of foreign states, the creation of illegal armed formations near the territory of Belarus, the aggressive plans and statements made by a number of foreign politicians, and the continued sanctions pressure. These factors will persist in the near future — until there is an agreement between the main geopolitical players opposing each other. However, the experience of the development of statehood shows that it is the internal potential, the strengthening of internal political forces and civil society that is the key to stability in the face of any external factors and threats.”

A resolution was adopted following the results of the visiting seminar ‘The Republic of Belarus: From the origins to the present (historical path of state building)’. Its text can be found on the website.

By Svetlana Isaenok, Maksim Osipov, Yulia Demeshko
Photos by Aleksandr Kulevsky