Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Window on Eurasia: No Belarusian Party is Pro-Russian, Moscow Analyst Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, March 3 – Not a single political party in Belarus regardless of whether it supports President Alyaksandr Lukashenka can be described as pro-Russian, an indication of what the political elite in that country feels and what it assumes will attract the support of the Belarusian people, according to a Moscow commentator.
Instead, Aleksandr Avrukevich writes on the Russian Unity portal, “the most active political parties and their leaders [in Belarus] have quite clearly shown that the chief goal of their foreign policy if they come to power is joining the European Union, escaping Russia’s sphere of influence, and the reduction of the role of the Russian language.”
In fact, he continues, “the only [in his view, positive] thing that certain of the opposition political parties would seek would be cooperation with Russia in the sphere of international trade,” hardly support for Slavic unity Russians would like to see (
According to Avrukevich, there are approximately 15 political parties in Belarus. Most are very small, with “no more than 1500 members,” and they divide between those that support the Lukashenka government, those who oppose it and hope to see him replaced by one of their own leaders, and those who might be called his loyal opposition..
Because Lukashenka dominates the political system, neither the government nor the opposition parties play a great role at least at present. But that does not mean that their programs should be ignored because those provide important clues on what the leaders of these groups believe and think other Belarusians want.
“Party ideologues,” he points out, “formulate political projects and ideas which reflect the views found among the politically active part of the population of the country” and they “actively promote their views and plans to the voters by means of both the print and electronic mass media.”
Because of this not unimportant aspect of such programs, Avrukevich argues it is extremely instructive to examine what these Belarusian party documents say about Russia and the Russian language. The results of doing so, he suggests and some of his readers, who have posted comments on that site, are anything but encouraging to Russians.
At present, Avrukevich says, there are six opposition parties: the Party of the Belarusian National Front, the Conservative Christian Party –BNF, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hromada), the Belarusian Social Democratic Hromada, the Belarusian Party of the Left, and the Unified Civic Party.
Avrukevich examines the program of each and then offers this summation: “The majority of the opposition parties either calls for weakening political ties with Russia by joining the European Union and the formation of a political and economic union with the Baltic states, Poland and Ukraine on the basis of the commonality of their interests and cultural closeness.”
“Or,” he continues, these parties, “stress the utility of cooperation with Russia as along as independence is preserved.” Some of them call for stripping Russian of its status as a state language in Belarus, and “they give priority to the Belarusian language as the symbol of Belarusian nationality.”
The parties in the middle, those who occupy a position between those groups totally opposed to Lukashenka and the pro-government parties include the Liberal Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party of Popular Accord, and the Belarusian Party of the Greens, although the latter has little to say about foreign policy.
The two other parties in this category call for “balancing” the eastern and western directions of Minsk’s foreign policy, increasing cooperation with the European Union, the OSCE and with other European integration processes. While they do not talk about the status of Russian, they do call for “state stimulus of the development of the Belarusian language.”
The pro-government parties include the Belarusian Agrarian Party, the Republic Party of Labor and Justice, the Belarusian Patriotic Party, the Communist Party, the Belarusian Social-Sports Party and the Republican Party. Not surprisingly, they say less than the others about foreign policy, Avrukevich says, but what they do say is important.
In general, they support integration of the former Soviet space “not so much via reunification with Russia” as by means of “projects for the restoration of the USSR,” something so unlikely and “utopian” that it is clearly not intended to be taken entirely seriously by anyone in Belarus and their silence on the status of Russian is deafening, Avrukevich implies.
Obviously, as a Russian nationalist himself, the Moscow analyst is not pleased by any of this. Neither are some of his readers. Among those commenting already was someone who identified himself as “Patriot” and said that Avrukevich’s findings show that Moscow is already “losing Belarus just as it has practically lost Ukraine.”
And another reader, “Vlad,” said that these party programs show that “if the local [Belarusian] democrats come to power after Lukashenka, then Belarus will go down the Ukrainian path: the people will divide on the basis of language and relations with Russia, and the economy will be radically privatized and so on.”

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