… The taxi driver, a young man of about thirty, who drove me from Bolshaya Ordynka to Yakimanka, turned out to be talkative. He said that he was Belarusian, because of all these migrants he did not have time to leave for Warsaw, where he had recently worked as a taxi driver, and now he makes money in Moscow. And when I, in turn, opened my heart and said that my grandfather Leonid was born near Grodno in Lida and was baptized there in the St. Michael’s Monastery, I became a dear to my Belarusian interlocutor.
True, when I told him that, nevertheless, in Warsaw, unlike Moscow, he will always be a stranger, that in principle it is impossible for the Poles to become their own, if you do not have Polish blood, he became wary, and in response, with some with tension he said to me: “You do not know! We are Lithuanian Belarusians. We are actually closer to Lithuanians than Russians. ” And then he gave me a whole lecture on the origin and characteristics of the Belarusian nation.
“Our ancestors came to Lithuania a thousand years ago, dissolved among them, and therefore our life, the clothes of our peasants have always been closer to Lithuanian than to Russian. Compare the village near Smolensk with the village near Mogilev, where I live, and you will understand what I mean. ” The tension dissipated, and he said to me almost with a smile: “But at the same time, we, Belarusians, unlike today’s Ukrainians, treat Russia well, we respect you. True, none of us any longer wants to unite with Russia, does not want to turn into a Russian province.
If we are to unite with someone, then it is better with Lithuania. Then we would return to our home. ” the clothes of our peasants have always been closer to the Lithuanian than to the Russian. Compare the village near Smolensk with the village near Mogilev, where I live, and you will understand what I mean.
” The tension dissipated, and he said to me almost with a smile: “But at the same time, we, Belarusians, unlike today’s Ukrainians, treat Russia well, we respect you. True, none of us any longer wants to unite with Russia, does not want to turn into a Russian province. If we are to unite with someone, then it is better with Lithuania. Then we would return to our home. ” the clothes of our peasants have always been closer to the Lithuanian than to the Russian.
Compare the village near Smolensk with the village near Mogilev, where I live, and you will understand what I mean. ” The tension dissipated, and he said to me almost with a smile: “But at the same time, we, Belarusians, unlike today’s Ukrainians, treat Russia well, we respect you. True, none of us any longer wants to unite with Russia, does not want to turn into a Russian province. If we are to unite with someone, then it is better with Lithuania. Then we would return to our home. ” does not want to turn into a Russian province.
If we are to unite with someone, then it is better with Lithuania. Then we would return to our home.
” does not want to turn into a Russian province. If we are to unite with someone, then it is better with Lithuania. Then we would return to our home. “
This is how a young Belarusian taxi driver suddenly turned into a professor-historian and for 20 minutes read me a lecture on the history of the origin of the Belarusian nation. Of course, he didn’t tell me anything new. In March 1997, when I, as a member of the committee on the creation of the Union State, arrived in Minsk together with Yevgeny Primakov and Konstantin Zatulin to discuss the final project for the creation of the Union State,
the editor-in-chief of the local historical magazine told me everything that I had heard from the taxi driver. Belarusian. True, he also told me that the Belarusian slaves were categorically against joining the Russian Empire as a result of the third partition of Poland, and even during the reign of Catherine II they organized several uprisings.
And he also said that Belarusians, unlike Little Russians, Ukrainians, did not have their own Bohdan Khmelnitsky, there were no supporters of joining among the people. This historian then explained to me that if for us the “Russians” are inhabitants of the Muscovite kingdom, then among the ancient Belarusians, like among the ancient Ukrainians, the “Russians” are the heirs of Kievan Rus. In their minds “Rus” was not associated with either the Muscovy or the Russian Empire.
Then, in March 1997, when I arrived in Belarus, in the evenings I spent time with my former graduate student Valery Tsepkalo. As the head of the campaign headquarters of Alexander Lukashenko, during the 1995 presidential elections, he turned into a big politician, and some members of Lukashenko’s team came to his apartment. From them
I learned that in fact Lukashenko’s team and he himself were glad that instead of a real union state on the initiative of Boris Yeltsin, a pretend union state was created, there was no real unification of the former RSFSR with the former BSSR.
As I then learned, the Belarusian elite was against unification with the Russian Federation for a number of reasons. They were critical of the 1996 Moscow loans-for-shares auctions, which transferred Russia’s national wealth to several oligarchs. They didn’t want to be with Russia, which waged a war in the North Caucasus and, in particular, in Chechnya. And most importantly, they did not want to lose the national state of Belarusians, which existed for only a few months in 1918.
Why did I remember all this? It turns out that the moods of isolation of Belarus from Russia, characteristic of Alexander Lukashenko’s entourage at the end of the 1990s, have become the moods of the new young Belarus. Then, in 1997, as I know for sure, two-thirds of Belarusians seriously wanted unification with Russia.
But neither the elite of Belarus nor the entourage of Boris Yeltsin wanted this. Yeltsin’s team and he himself were afraid that if there were general presidential elections on the territory of Russia, united with Belarus, the people would choose not him, but the then very popular Lukashenko, who was then very popular in Russia. And now we are witnessing that with all the good attitude of Belarusians towards us, they do not want to become a part of the Russian state, there is actually nothing seriously attractive for them in modern Russia. The forecasts of many Belarusian political scientists came true,
When Lukashenka organized a banquet on the occasion of the signing of the Union Treaty, I happened to be at the table at which the Lithuanian delegation headed by the Lithuanian Ambassador to Minsk was sitting. And, naturally, I was surprised at the presence of the Lithuanians at this celebration of Russian-Belarusian friendship and asked: “How did you get here?” One of the members of the Lithuanian government, sitting next to me, answered me with a smile: “Dear Alexander, we are not guests, we are here on our land, and
we are learning from the experience of unification with Belarus. If someday Belarus changes its mind and decides to return home to Lithuania, then we will use your experience of writing a union treaty. “
Unfortunately, it says a lot about the fact that our politicians, and especially those who dream of the revival of the Russian empire, of the revival of the Russian state within the borders of the USSR, do not have the slightest idea of what actually was what they call “The Russian world”. Moreover, knowledge of how the unification of the first Moscow kingdom with Little Russia of Bogdan Khmelnitsky, and then of the Russian empire of Catherine II with Belarus arose, is necessary now, when we are studying the reasons for the collapse of the USSR.
After all, if there really was a unity of the Russian world, then the Little Russians and Belarusians would not have left Russia in 1918, they would not have left in 1991.
But the paradox is that in modern Russia, in order to become a popular politician, to prove your true patriotism, you must call for the impossible, you must frankly ignore both the history of your country and the moods of your supposedly former brothers – Ukrainians, and now Belarusians. It is probably no coincidence that an experienced politician Vladislav Surkov wrote his article “Where Has Chaos Gone? Unpacking Stability “,
which asserts that Russia will never be Russia if it is not an empire and does not constantly expand its territory. Today one cannot become a Duma deputy without claiming that “my personal attachment to empires and the Russian empire is the heart of my worldview, the source of my constant reflections on the fate of Russia.”
And the worst thing is that after all this madness with the project of secession of Novorossia from present-day Ukraine, After the deaths of thousands of participants in the so-called “anti-terrorist operation in Donbass” and the deaths of the so-called “former miners and tractor drivers of Donbass”, there are calls to do what was not possible in 2014 and to complete the project of Ukraine’s joining Russia by force. I mean the speeches of Alexander Prokhanov at Echo of Moscow.
To be honest, I would not have remembered all this confession of a Belarusian taxi driver, about his love for the West, if, a few days later, I had not heard the fiery calls of the head of the Izborsk club to Putin to complete the work of uniting the Russian world. I understand perfectly well that, despite the fact that Putin sometimes receives Alexander Prokhanov, he will never dare to use his recommendations in his policy towards Ukraine. After all, even if young Belarus, which did not live in the USSR,
I agree with those who say that, undoubtedly, Ukraine is not ready to confront Russia in earnest. But it is obvious that the revival of the Russian world by force and the unification of the disunited Ukraine with Russia will revive for us the UPA, a new rebel army. It took Stalin over 15 years to actually conquer Western Ukraine. And how to eliminate the massive anti-Russian sentiments of the overwhelming part of the Ukrainian population if we start to implement the projects of Alexander Prokhanov? By the way, I don’t understand whether the undoubtedly wise and experienced Vladislav Surkov, who says that in the name of saving Russia we must expand our territories, is aware of it?
Indeed, for us, in fact, it is much more important to stop the collapse of the USSR that began in 1991 and turn today’s multinational Russia into a single state with common values and a common future. Thank God, thanks to Putin, separatism in the North Caucasus has died out and does not pose a great danger to us. And what will happen if we suddenly obey the ideologists of Russian imperialism and add the separatism of the “Russian world” that has been attached to us to the faded separatism in the North Caucasus ?!
In my opinion, it would be a big mistake to engage in the revival of the Russian world and annex Belarus, which began to look for its roots in Ancient Lithuania and which is already looking to the West and does not want to become part of Russia. Of course, my Belarusian taxi driver will not become a Ukrainian Yarosh and will not create a Belarusian Right Center.
Although there are no guarantees that this would be impossible in the event of Belarus joining Russia. But still, even latent separatism, even latent dissatisfaction with the already new, non-Soviet Belarus, with the loss of its national state, will cause enormous damage to the stability of the new Russia reborn from the ashes. It seems to me that it is better for us to preserve the present Belarus, which carries some other special national statehood and at the same time is a strategic military ally of Russia.
And I think that the accession of Belarus to Russia will not cause any delight among the overwhelming majority of the population of the Russian Federation. The present Belarus, which is an ally and which is still at a distance from us, in my opinion, is closer to the Russian people than Belarus, which will become part of the united Russian world. I advise our current patriots who dream of reviving the Russian empire to listen to what the Belarusian taxi driver told me.
Alexander TSIPKO, Chief Researcher, Institute of Economics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Philosophy