Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Belarusians: The prevalence of heterodoxy

Orthodoxy has a double meaning in Belarus, on one hand, it may refer to the nation’s dominant religious faith, and on the other hand, it may refer to matters regarding morality and conduct. An interesting aspect when it comes to morality is the double standards that is usually applied, the so-called orthodox morality has the soul purpose of reinforcing, and giving legitimacy, to certain political ambitions. This tactics thrive on inducing the strong feelings of guilt, and of moral depravity, to those that dare to not be in favor of the points of the politic agenda.  As a result, moral orthodoxy, or translated as „healthy moral values”, is only a tool used for legitimizing political ambitions. All of the values that are praised upon are distorted from the very beginning, and are used only in those contexts in which they can reinforce the credibility of various political statements. It is hard to state that the current social landscape of Belarus was not influenced by Orthodox Christianity, when it fact, Orthodoxy played a key-role in carving the nation’s social dynamics. 

The shift from Byzantine Catholicism to Russian Orthodoxy, which occurred after the territory of present-day Belarus was annexed by the Russians, in 1772, had irreversibly changed the destiny of the Belarusian nation. A greater number of Russian Orthodox parishes on the territory of Bielorussia opened the way for the start of a long, but efficient, Russification policy.  

The Republic of Belarus is an odd case of cultural hybridization that coexists with a highly rigid political regime that has always favored conservative ideals and a strong pro-Russia sentiment. The current Belarusian legislation is deeply flawed and presents a high disregard towards protecting the rights and liberties of individual and groups that possess a minority status. Minsk praises the heterodoxy of the current legislation, often regarding it as being a core element of the Belarusian social DNA. The Belarusian government favors maintaining a hallow statist national identity, which lacks any substance whatsoever, in the detriment of an ethnic-based identity. The current paper attempts to analyze those segments of the Belarusian legislation which directly, or indirectly, regulate identity-connected issues. Questioning the legitimacy of a nation’s identity can be difficult, and highly dangerous, as it usually reopens chapters of history that some are still not comfortable with.  The idea of a mono-ethnic Belarusian nation may sound appealing to a great majority of citizens, but even so, Russian would still be preferred over Belarusian as the colloquial language. The general state of Belarusian identity has puzzled many social scholars, some of which were quick to “diagnose” Belarusians as suffering from a hallow identity syndrome, while others have applauded it as a solution for maintaining stability in a country that is prone to major security threats from its neighbors.  Belarus’ biggest challenge at the moment is that of reclaiming its ancestral cultural heritage while keeping a balanced relation with its economic and strategic allies from the region. The re-Belarusificaion of the country seems to be nothing more than an idealistic thought, taking in to consideration the fact that for many ethnic Belarusians the image of a Russian-speaking Belarusian national state doesn't seem scandalous, being rather labeled as a comfortable compromise.
Keywords: Russian-speaking, dualism, re-Belarusification, mono-ethnic, crisis  

The Republic of Belarus is probably the most intriguing of all of the ex-Soviet republics of East Europe, its stubbornness towards relaxing state control over the national economy, topped by hostility towards freedom of expression and violation of human rights, have earned it the title of a dictatorship incognito. The current paper aims at analyzing the distinctive elements that greatly contributed to the development of a national identity which is backed by the state’s ruling political, in the detriment of one that would not discredit the ancestral cultural heritage of the Belarusians. This analysis will put stress on understanding the mechanisms that stood behind the Belarusian nation-building agenda, and the aspects of the national legislation that back up the current state of cultural anomaly. Belarus is, as some would claim, one of the most opaque European states, rarely making the headlines, and when it does, the delivered information focuses almost exclusively on political affairs.

Seemingly encapsulated in a vivid, and over-glorified, dream of its Soviet past, Belarus caught the attention of the world with its shameless desire to reenact scenes and images from a past which, still to this day, remains highly controversial. In the eyes of the West, Belarus remains perceived as highly antagonistic towards the core-values of modern Europe, and having no second thoughts when it comes to playing the role of Russia’s faithful sidekick. Foreign scholars do not take a great deal of interest in analyzing, or publicly debate, the current social issues faced by Belarusians, this may be attributed to the blurry image that the nation has in the global academia. The stiffness of the Belarusian society still poses many problems when it comes to the democratization of public institutions, people still are reluctant to question the legitimacy of restrictions imposed by the ruling political class, the general state of fear being maintained through harsh sanctions against those that are labeled enemies of the regime. Belarusian history is primarily marked by foreign annexation, the country’s present-day territory being at various points in history under the rule Kiev Rus’, Lithuania, Poland, and Russia. As a result of the historical conditions in which they came in to being as a free-standing nationality, Belarusians had experienced a lot of hardships when it came to governing their own national state, which manifested itself through an extremely fragile democracy and dependency on Russia for economic and strategic stability.

Belarusian politicians seem to be extremely preoccupied with regularly delivering nationalist-moralist discourses to the general public, in which they express their disapproval of everything that has the potential of contradicting the ultra-conservative ideology that governs the nation. A firm critique of Minsk, Svetlana Alexievich had extensively wrote on impact that Soviet rule had on Belarus, and the neighboring ex-Soviet republics. According to Alexievich, Belarusians are still struggling to dissociate myth from reality, this state of confusion being maintained through aggressive political discourses which stress the benefits brought by the Soviet era. 

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