Monday, April 3, 2017

Lukashenka’s Plans to ‘Denationalize’ Kuropaty Mass Grave Site Likely to Provoke a Nationalist Explosion

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 3 – Alyaksandr Lukashenka has just made his own situation worse. His regime has decided to play down the uniquely Belarusian tragedy of the Kuropaty mass graves, whose discovery by Zyanon Paznyak in 1988 helped power the national movement there, by erecting a monument “for all the innocent victims of the 20th century.”

            “In such a generalized and abstract way, the authorities plan to call the memorial which is to be established in Kuropaty as a result of a competition which the culture ministry declared,” Belsat reports. There will be no mention of Stalin, the chekists, or the tens of thousands of Belarusians interred there (

            According to Vatslav Oreshko, a member of the Experts in Defense of Kuropaty organization which has been working to defend the site against encroachment by a business center, says that what Minsk is doing is “not an attempt to resolve the problem in a civilized way by meeting society half-way.”

            Instead, Oreshko says, Lukashenka now is doing exactly what his Soviet predecessors did 30 years ago, seeking to trivialize and de-nationalize the site by folding it into something broader and less meaningful to the Belarusian people. Yury Belenky of the Belarusian Popular Front called for volunteers to block the erection of the official moment, now scheduled for April 26.

            According to Belsat, the direction that Lukashenka is going on Kuropaty was signaled by the recent comments of Pavel Yakubovich and even more Lukashenka’s own declaration that “Some say that the fascists shot people [at Kuropaty]. My opinion is what’s the difference who shot whom?”

            “Do we not know or do we not want to know?” the news agency report asks.  “Up to the present day,” it continues, “not only the name of the Stalinist executioners who killed innocent people in their thousands but also the names of their victims: the Belarusian powers that be as before continue to conceal the truth about Kuropaty by not opening the archives.”

            Oreshko says that what Lukashenka is doing in this case is more than a little strange.  “It is difficult to think that this can be a state which with one hand disperses demonstrates and puts behind bars the defenders of Kuropaty and with the other intends to conduct a competition [for a monument] at Kuropaty.”

            Belsat journalist Vitaly Babin suggests that this paradox is in fact even deeper: “the authorities, in trying to remove Kuropaty from the political sphere have themselves made this issue a political one.”

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