Belarusian society split over 1917 October revolution

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April 22, 2016 18:40

Nearly a thousand people took part in the rally to celebrate the October Revolution on November 7th held near Lenin’s Monument on Independence Square in Minsk by the Communist Party of Belarus.

November 7th (anniversary of the Great October Revolution, 1917) is a public holiday in Belarus since it legitimizes the current model of state. Belarusians are either neutral or nostalgic regarding the October Revolution. The opposition regards October Revolution as a negative chapter in Belarus’ development.

Unlike in the USSR, November 7th celebrations in today’s Belarus have a slightly different semantic meaning. They are closely integrated into the existing ideological paradigm which states that the Republic of Belarus gained its statehood as a result of the 1917 events. Despite the rejection of communist ideals, President Lukashenko still retains his image as being the torch-holder of Soviet traditions. Ever since his first years in the office, this image of Lukashenko has been supported not only in Belarus, but also in Russia.

The holiday is quite popular among the older generation which was raised in the Soviet Era. However for the younger generation the events of November 7th, 1917 have already lost their original meaning. For instance, the pro-governmental Liberal Democratic Party has proposed to rename October Revolution Day into the Day of Accord and Reconciliation, as has been done in Russia.

Among the politically active citizens there is no unity in relation to the November 7th celebrations. Different attitudes exist even among supporters and mainly relate to their attitude towards the Belarusian authorities. Three different groups laid wreaths at the Lenin Monument in Minks. About 200 members of Belarus’ Communist Party took part in the official celebrations. Later, representatives of the Fair World opposition Leftist Party (which before 2009 was called the Belarus’ Party of Communists) also laid flowers at the Lenin Monument. Orthodox communists - representatives of the ‘For democracy, social progress and justice’ opposition party (advocating for the Soviet Union revival) also held their celebrations near the Monument.

Unlike in previous years, the November 7th celebrations did not lead to harsh confrontations between supporters of the communist legacy and their opponents. For instance, in 2011 Young Front representatives threw eggs and stones at Lenin Monument and at protesters - Communist Party members. This year, opposition parties and movements have limited their activity to appealing to the authorities to rename the Lenin Street in Minsk, and to laying flowers on the graves of the victims of the communist regime.

November 7th celebrations continue to be used by the Belarusian authorities as an ideological justification for the Belarusian statehood. Despite the rejection of communist ideals, Belarusian society is not ready for full ‘de-communization’ of public consciousness.

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President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.

The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.

The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.

The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.