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Lukashenko destroys national institutions

Pavel Latushka, deputy Head of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus, Head of the National Anti-Crisis Management, ambassador

Is this a dream? No, it really is. It was difficult, impossible for me to imagine it. But almost all heads of the national institutions of Belarus, which are connected with culture, were fired. Destruction and devastation are the main approaches of Lukashenko's regime. Lukashenko is destroying the national institutions of the country. Starting from 2020, the regime is massively cleansing civil society organizations, charities, and political parties. National institutions have also become the object of the policy of devastation. The process of destruction starts from the top: in recent years, the leadership of most of the country's institutions with "national" status has been changed on various grounds.

The management of such important organizations for Belarusian culture as the National Historical Museum, the National Art Museum, National Historical and Cultural Museum-Reserve "Niasvizh", National Polotsk Historical and Cultural Museum-Reserve, National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre, Yakub Kolas National Academic Drama Theatre, National Historical Archive of Belarus in Minsk, Zhinovich National Academic People's Orchestra, Titovich National Academic People's Choir, Yanka Kupala National Academic Theatre and others changed. Various reasons, various grounds, differently we can treat the already former leaders. But the fact remains. The only one left is the general director of the Maxim Gorky National Academic Drama Theatre, known as the "Russian Theatre", who agreed to cooperate with the regime. But for me, as a former Minister of Culture, this is not surprising. 

The National Library of Belarus also went through a change of leadership last year. And in this context the importance of this national institution should be understood. The National Library is not only a platform for literature lovers, but also a place of special importance for researchers and scientists, for the preservation of the country's literary heritage. This is proved by the volume of the library's collection, which contains over 14 million units of materials, including rare works of Belarusian culture and literary art, manuscripts, works of Belarusian authors. This cradle of national hagiography, a place of special importance for the development of Belarusian literature, among others, is headed by a representative of the "Russian world", a supporter of Western-Russian views, propagandist Vadzim Ghigin.

The appointment of Ghigin to the position of the general director of the library even caused a diplomatic scandal. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its displeasure at the appointment of a person who "voiced anti-Semitic statements" and "contributed to the destruction of Jewish memory".

The general director of the library is an anti-Belarusian person. Ghigin named as his favorite historical character the person who had a direct relation to the destruction of the Belarusian liberation movement.

V. Ghigin’s quotation: I have always been impressed by the Vilno governor-general Mikhail Nikolayevich Muraviov, who suppressed the uprising of 1863. But I have studied his biography well. He was an amazing man, administrator, leader, who can be a role model for any statesman.

The policy of suppression of Muraviov, who in Belarusian historiography received the telling nickname Muraviov the Hangman, ruined the lives of many Belarusians - and this character is admired by the director of the Belarusian national institution. More than 120 participants of the uprising of 1863 were shot, more than 900 were exiled to penal servitude, 12.5 thousand were exiled under the supervision of the police.

And what were the first steps of a person with such "historical idols" in the post of the director of the main library of the country? Corresponding. Having taken office, Ghigin continued to actively promote anti-Belarusian views. One of the propagandist's first wars was launched against Uladzimir Karatkevich - the famous star classic of Belarusian literature. Along with his literary contribution, Karatkevich drew the attention of Belarusians to the richness of the history of Belarus, he taught us back in the 70s and early 80s. And why "taught"? He continues to do it, in spite of all kinds of Ghigins. But this year will be the 40th anniversary of Uladzimir Karatkevich's death, however, the classicist, who wrote about Belarus long before Lukashenko came to power, still became today's enemy of the regime. And in this matter, the so-called director of the National Library has just manifested himself. In autumn 2023, the work "Spikes under your sickle", which Karatkevich wrote in 1965, was excluded from the school curriculum. As Ghigin himself later stated, the work was excluded from the school programme on his own initiative. Once again. The work of the Belarusian classic was excluded from the school programme on the initiative of the director of the main national Belarusian library.

What decisions in the position of the director of the National Library of Belarus will be made by a person who opposes Belarusian literature? Who fights against the Belarusan classics, while he himself adheres to pro-Russian positions? This question is rhetorical and does not require an answer.

Since 2020, the leadership of the National Historical Archive of Belarus in Minsk has changed twice. Last August, the archive was headed by Mikhail Glushakov, who had previously worked in the KGB for a long time. What were the first decisions of the director? A day later, mass detentions took place in the archive, which affected at least seven employees. And this is a testament to the attitude of the so-called KGB director towards the archive staff, historians, researchers and archivists. Instead of motivation to continue work - repressions, instead of implementation of research projects - imprisonments.

In this line one can draw attention to the anti-Belarusian reorientation of many national institutions. The newly appointed management of the Yanka Kupala National Academic Theatre also became active: now the Belarusian theater, which for more than 100 years staged plays in the national language, which even in Soviet times was named after the Belarusian classic Yanka Kupala, is being russified. In September, on the stage of the Kupala Theatre only one performance was staged in Belarusian and as many as 15 - in Russian. And the troupe of Free Kupalaucy, who left in disagreement with the violence in the streets in 2020, are now recognised as "extremists". And that's like recognising Yanka Kupala himself as an extremist. This is how Belarusian national institutions are changing under Lukashenko. This person is afraid of everything Belarusian, it is he who is a traitor and occupant. And every day new facts of his treason against the country appear. And the main figure that testifies to it: today more than 140 people connected with culture are political prisoners in prisons of the regime.

It is worth remembering that in early 2022 there was a leaked document, which claimed about Russia's plans to acquire Belarus by 2030. Among the medium-term plans, the leaked document noted the increase of political influence on the Belarusian elites and the creation of pro-Russian actors. We cannot say whether it was a fake or not, but everything Lukashenko is doing today corresponds to the logic of this document.

The Lukashenko regime's policy of russification, de-Belarusisation and destruction of national institutions also corresponds to this. Civil society in Belarus is being destroyed, the Belarusian national community is being annihilated, and pro-Russian characters are taking its place. Today, pro-Russian non-state organizations are created in Belarus, pro-Russian activists are mobilized, and through the unification of the pseudo-party system they are integrated into the political field of Belarus from Russia. The political council of Lukashenko's "Belaya Rus" today includes... the same Ghigin, a fan of Muraviov the Hangman.

Searching for threats to national security is a favorite hobby of the dictator and his special services. But if the regime is so fond of looking for threats to national security everywhere, maybe it should look for them inside the system? After all, it is precisely such people who throw a serious challenge to Belarusian culture, Belarusian history and statehood, Belarus as an independent country. It is such appointments of the leadership of national institutions that create preconditions for anti-Belarusian reorientation. And it is in this that lies the threat to Belarusian statehood, which Lukashenko himself artificially creates. It is clear that the leadership of national institutions is not the elite of culture, maybe not the whole culture and not the whole elite of culture, but nevertheless they set the policy of activity of the organizations, they are engaged in the strategy of work of national institutions. And the question arises: what to do?

And I am sure, I am convinced that the Belarusian culture cannot be defeated. The eastern neighbors tried for centuries to destroy the Belarusian language and culture, to subordinate Belarusians to themselves, but Belarusians still publish Belarusian books, study the Belarusian language, perform Belarusian-language plays. In preserving our national self-identity in the conditions of the destructive activity of the regime, self-education, preservation of traditions of one's family and national, all-Belarusian traditions are of special importance. That is why this year has been declared the Year of Traditions by the Office of National Revival of the United Transitional Cabinet. It is especially important to instill the ideals of Belarusianism in the next generation, our children and grandchildren. After all, it is our culture that makes us Belarusians, it is our language that is the foundation of our national identity and statehood. And I also believe in the workers of Belarusian culture, who work in the centers of culture, in districts, in villages, in libraries. I believe in Belarusian artists and actors, who, despite all the terrible things that happen to our national Belarusian culture, will be able to preserve it on our native Belarusian land in order to pass it on to new generations of Belarusians. And Lukashenko and his accomplices are the main threat for all Belarusians. And it is important to understand that without liquidation of this regime we will not be able to save the most valuable thing that is important for an honest person and citizen - our culture.

It is also critically necessary for us to create national centers abroad, which will allow us to preserve Belarusian culture, to continue its development, to create conditions for the future return to Belarus - history, culture, art, literature, music and other branches of the national heritage.

I believe that Belarus will live, and with it Belarusian culture and our language will live.

Zhyvie Belarus!


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