By Paul Goble
A Russian commentator who insists that Belarus and the Belarusian language do not exist despite efforts by Poles, Trotskyites, and Russophobes to promote them says that at present Belarus is “leaving the Russian world on the sly” by promoting pre-school instruction in Belarusian “ by hook or by crook.”
In terms that recall some of the worst and most ignorant memes of Soviet propaganda, Alla Bron says that this tactic is part of Minsk’s effort to try to “overcome the irredentist attitudes of Belarusians, the absolute majority of whom want to reunite with their big Motherland, Russia” (regnum.ru/news/polit/2196715.html).
According to Bron, only three groups of people in Belarus speak Belarusian: broadcasters, instructors in Belarusian language, and the Russophobic opposition. “The first two do so only at work, and the third only when people are watching. When ‘the Moskali’ aren’t listening, they speak Russian.”
“In certain regions of Belarus,” the Regnum commentator continues, “there exist at the village level particular Belarusian dialects which the Russophobes consider a language. But Belarusian dialects vary from one region to another, and they in no way come together to form a separate language.”
According to her, “by their lexical content, the Belarusian dialects do not have any relationship to the literary Belarusian language overfilled with Polonisms that was created in the 1920s and 1930s under the leadership of the Trotskyites who later were cleansed from power by Stalin.”
Bron says that “the very idea of a separate Belarusian nation appeared [only] at the end of the 19th century” when Poland was interested in promoting a halfway house between Russians and Poles and when the earlier religious halfway house, Uniatism, was declaring in importance in the region.
She insists that before 1917, “the idea of a new nation existed only in narrow circles of the Russophobic intelligentsia. After the Polish-Soivet war, Western Belarus and Western Ukraine became part of restored Poland.” But in the eastern portions of Belarus and Ukraine, apologists of the new ‘nations’ found protection from the Trotskyites who wanted to divide and destroy the Russian nation as too ‘conservative.’”
Given that these “’Belarusianizers’” cooperated with the Germans during World War II, Stalin “destroyed them and stopped Belarusianization. But after the collapse of the USSR,” those who took book in Minsk “began again their black work” against Russia, Bron argues.
“Many suggest that Lukashenka began active Belarusianization approximately three years ago after the Maidan in Ukraine. But this is not the case,” Bron says. In fact, “Belarusianization began immediately after the formation of a separate Belarusian state.” That is “absolutely logical,” she says.
According to her, “any system acts like a living organism and struggles against any threats to its existence. For the Belarusian state, such a threat is that the Belarusians are not a national group but only a local identity within the Russian people. In a national state, it is unthinkable not to have nation building.”
Lukashenka initially froze this out of the hope that he could take power in Moscow and later because he needed Russian money to survive. But Belarusianization was taking place even then. It only became more intense and more obvious in the last three years, however many people in Russia “refuse to believe this.”
Minsk’s policies, Bron says, have created what she calls “an idiotic formula” in which Belarusians say that Russian is a foreign language and Belarusian is a native one even though they do not want to study it because it leads nowhere. Consequently, the most Russophobic of the Belarusians are promoting the study of Belarusian in pre-school institutions.
Parents should move their children out of such institutions, Bron says. Otherwise, there is a risk that their children will never learn Russian well or will speak it with an accent and always be viewed as somehow marginal and second-rate. Belarusian, she suggests, isn’t a real language and isn’t going to survive.
“In the era of the Internet, old and really existing languages are disappearing one after the other. Even many European languages several decades from now will cease to exist,” she says. “What then can one say about the prospects of those that have come into existence only recently?”
Bron concludes: “The Belarusian language is needed only for those for whom it was thought up in the first place, for the gradual transformation of Russians into Poles. If you are a Russophobe,” she says, “study Polish now,” not Belarusian. There really is no need for this “intermediate step.”