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A hero of his and our time

On 22 November, the remains of the participants of 1863-1864 uprising, including Kastus Kalinouski, are being reburied in Vilnius. This event was preceded by a rather significant information campaign, which caused a resonance in Belarusian society. Analysts of the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies tried to give their vision of the reasons for the discussion.

Numerous print and electronic encyclopedias say that Wincenty Konstanty (Kastuś) Kalinouski is a Belarusian revolutionary democrat, publicist, leader of the 1863-1864 uprising in Belarus and Lithuania, one of the publishers of the first Belarusian newspaper Muzyckaja Prauda (Commoner's Truth), known under the pseudonym "Yaska-Gaspadar z-pad Vilny".

After his arrest in January 1864, while in the Vilna prison, he wrote and managed to hand over his famous letters of will, published in 1867, and after that became widely known as "Letters from under the gallows". The ideological principles of K. Kalinouski were subsequently developed in their work by the classics of Belarusian literature F. Bogushevich, J. Kupala, J. Kolas.

In the 1920s-1930s, Kalinouski's name and ideas inspired the national liberation struggle of the people of Western Belarus. During the Great Patriotic War, Soviet partisan brigades and detachments bearing his name fought against the Nazi invaders on Belarusian land.

K. Kalinouski mark a place for oneself in the Soviet history books as one of the founders of revolutionary democracy, who advocated the joint struggle of the peoples of the Russian Empire against social and national oppression. Today, there are streets named after him in many cities.

Why was the image of K. Kalinouski a unifying basis for Belarusians in the second half of the 19th century, throughout the entire 20th century, but began to turn into an object of heated discussions beyond the scope of a scientific dispute in the new millennium?

We believe that when interpreting the historical events related to Kalinouski and his ideological legacy, many participants in the discussion forgot or did not want to take into account that although Kalinouski was certainly a famous son of the Belarusian land, he was a man of a completely different historical era. His political views, ideas, terminology and phraseology, which he used, cannot be mechanically transferred from the middle of the 19th century to the beginning of the 21st century and taken literally by modern society.

Kalinouski's reflections on the Belarusian people and its future were dictated by the specific situation that had developed by the beginning of the uprising of 1863-1864. However, as noted in the second volume of the "History of Belarusian Statehood" published in 2019, K. Kalinouski was able to lay the foundations of the national idea of Belarusians, which received their further development in the second half of the 19th - early 20th centuries.

Moreover, Kalinouski's political will was reflected in the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, adopted by the Belarusian people on the basis of the principle of inviolability of the foundations of the people's power. K. Kalinouski's vision of the future of Belarusians is logically linked with the main directions along which Belarus is developing today as a unitary democratic social rule of law.

What needs to be done in the future to rectify the situation? It seems that we need objective interpretations based on a detailed study of all the nuances associated with the life, activities and ideological heritage of this historical personality. A modern, comprehensive analysis of the existing historiography of the issues is required. Additionally, new scientific research should be carried out related to both K. Kalinouski himself and the historical events of which he was a participant or a contemporary. Today there is a need for the preparation and publication of thematic collections of archival documents, dissertation research and monographs. Discussions about the role and significance of Kastus Kalinouski for Belarusian and world history should be held primarily on scientific platforms. Unweighed, let alone purposeful politicization of insufficiently researched pages of Belarusian history, is a way to nowhere.

It is necessary to generally exclude modern interpretation of past events for the sake of political conjuncture and profit. Problems, including those related to history, should definitely not only be discussed by scientists, but also unite the nation. This is the key to the successful implementation of Belarusian historical policy, and, consequently, the strengthening of the national-state identity of Belarusians.

As for Kalinouski's reburial, it is worth pointing out that he has earned not only peace, but also respect. Attempts of political gambling on his name must be stopped. It is necessary to delve into the scientific study of this historical personality and the era associated with K. Kalinouski.