Dr. Chodakiewicz reviews book on Belarusian nationalism

by Marek Jan Chodakiewicz  |  February 3, 2014  |  ARTICLES

Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, review of Jerzy Grzybowski, Pogoń między Orłem Białym, Swastyką i Czerwoną Gwiazdą: Białoruski ruch niepodległościowy w latach 1939-1956 [The Chase between the White Eagle, the Swastika, and the Red Star: The Belarusian pro-independence movement in 1939 - 1956] (Warsaw: Bel Studio, 2011), in Slavonic and East European Review, 92, 1, January 2014: 177-180.

The subject of Belarus-not to mention the topic of Belarusian nationalism-has received little scholarly attention and even less media publicity. If the Intermarium nation is mentioned at all, it is usually associated with its president, "the last dictator in Europe," Aleksandr Lukashenka. However, although the post-Soviet republic may be ruled by a one-time KGB officer with nostalgia for the Bolshevik system, Belarus also has a nationalist movement that is pro-independence and pro-Western.

In the January 2014 issue of the Slavonic and East European Review (SEER), Dr. Marek Chodakiewicz reviewed Jerzy Grzybowski's history of the Belarusian nationalist movement. The extremely well-researched Polish-language study (published in 2011) focuses on the years 1939 - 1956, a crucial-and nightmarish-period in the modern history of the Intermarium region, spanning the time from the German-Soviet invasion and partition of Poland (and the Sovietization of former Northeastern Poland, now Western Belarus), through the Nazi-Bolshevik total war in White Ruthenia, to the postwar Soviet reoccupation.

Dr. Chodakiewicz points out that an analysis of Belarusian nationalism may be applicable to many parts of the world in the present, and no doubt in the future as well:

"The monograph is essentially about nationalists without a nation. More precisely, there were very highly motivated nationalist activists, but there were only ethnographic denizens of Belarus, usually peasants, most of them devoid of any modern national consciousness. Instead, they usually identified with a locality (calling themselves tutejsi - people from here), and a religion (usually Christian Orthodoxy, but also the Uniate rite and, to a lesser extent, Roman Catholicism). The nationalists largely operated in a vacuum. Thus, they concluded that they needed an independent state to‘make peasants into Belorusians,' to paraphrase Eugene Weber. Belorusian nationalists rejected the notion that nationalism is culture and, thus, it needs no state, as proved conclusively by 123 years of triumphant experience and the endurance of the partitioned Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Belarusian nationalists, alas, consciously rejected the legacy of the multi-national republic in favour of integral ethno-nationalism."

A PDF version of the entire review may be accessed here: Download file Slavonic and East European Review, January 2014 Slav