The term "historical politics" became widespread in Belarus in the 2010s after it became commonly used in Eastern European states, including the neighboring countries of the Republic of Belarus. However, as an objective phenomenon, the Belarusian historical policy received a powerful impetus for development following the results of the republican referendums of 1995 and 1996, when Belarusian citizens supported the principled approaches of the President of the Republic of Belarus to state symbols, state languages, as well as the celebration of Independence Day in connection with one of the landmark dates in the history of the Great Patriotic War – the day of liberation of the Belarusian capital from the Nazi occupiers - July 3, 1944.
Our people have a glorious centuries-old history
For the first time, the most concentrated and logical basic principles and directions of state historical policy were formulated in the lecture "Historical Choice of the Republic of Belarus" by Alexander Lukashenko on March 14, 2003 before the students of Belarusian State University. The main message of the Head of State was that Belarus is a young state by historical standards, but the Belarusian people have a glorious centuries–old history.
The President highlighted and characterized the most important milestones of the Belarusian history. "It is an unshakable historical fact that the core of the consolidation of the Belarusian nationality, its ethnic homeland were the principalities of Polotsk and Turov, which, along with other East Slavic principalities, were part of the Old Russian state – Kievan Rus."
Alexander Lukashenko warned against idealizing the historical period of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which was "not the Belarusian state proper, but Lithuania in symbiosis with the Russian lands subject to it." At the same time, the Head of State drew attention to the fact that the Grand Duchy of Lithuania "became a kind of Slavic outpost resisting threats from outside," primarily from the Crusaders and Mongol-Tatars. The President critically assessed the consequences of the Kreva (1385) and Lublin (1569) acts, which marked the beginning and completion of the legal registration of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania takeover by Poland.
The inclusion of the East Slavic lands into the Russian Empire, according to Alexander Lukashenko, has opened up new opportunities for the development of the Belarusian ethnic group. "The progressive significance consisted in the fact that the gentry anarchy was eliminated, the bloody showdowns between the gentry, from which the common people suffered first of all." In addition, the Head of State noted that the entry of Belarusian lands into Russia contributed to the economic specialization of Belarus within the framework of the All-Russian market, the rise of its agriculture and industry, as well as the process of national revival.
Alexander Lukashenko expressed the opinion that the Belarusian state has existed since January 1, 1919, since the formation of the Belarusian SSR. "It was the BSSR that fulfilled the state, political, cultural role of uniting the Belarusian nation. It was during this period of time that we, together with the Russian people, defeated fascism."
Honesty and dignity of Belarusians
An equally important part of the speech of the Head of State was the assessment of the events of the Great Patriotic War and its role not only in the fate of the Belarusian people, but also of humanity. In particular, Alexander Lukashenko raised the issues of responsibility for the outbreak of war and sacrifice: "... fascists started this war. They went to it. ... today we have smarties who say: no, the Soviet Union is the same aggressor as Germany. And today they say that the Soviet Union unleashed this war. And it was not the Soviet people who saved humanity, not the Belarusians, who buried 3.5–4 million of their people after the war, but the United States of America, Great Britain…
This is how gradually, quietly, our values and our heritage are being taken away from us. Today, we were made aggressors in that war and, it turns out, we did not save humanity. That's the danger. Scary to think if we lose our dignity. And dignity is these good facts that have been in the history of our people. As I have already said, we have put millions of people on the altar of victory in this war. And the most honest people, if we mention it, in this war were the Belarusian people... Therefore, we must not lose these advantages".
In fact, in his lecture, the President gave a periodization of the history of the Belarusian statehood, and also described the most important periods of its formation and development.
In the presidential narrative of assessing the historical past, the theme of the Great Patriotic War is of paramount importance. Traditionally, it is heard in the speeches of the Head of State dedicated to Victory Day, the Day of National Remembrance of the Victims of the Great Patriotic War and Genocide, Independence Day, annual messages to the Belarusian people and parliament, speeches at All-Belarusian People's Assemblies.
The presidential narrative of historical politics is characterized not only by an appeal to the established objective facts and interpretations of the events of the Great Patriotic War and World War II, but also by the development of successful ideologies that are in tune with the demands of modernity. For example, at the suggestion of the President, the definition of "Belarusian resistance" organically entered and consolidated the information circulation, giving further development and new interpretations in the Republic of Belarus to the theme of the national struggle against fascism.
The term was first used on May 9, 2019. The "Belarusian Resistance" is the mass heroism shown by the residents of Belarus on the military fronts, in the rear, in the partisan movement, the underground and the anti–fascist European Resistance movement, and thereby made a significant contribution to the overall victory over the enemy.
The formation of the ideology of the "Belarusian resistance" has become one of the examples of the successful implementation of the state historical policy on forecasting and preventing possible threats to national security in the information sphere. Such a step largely forestalled the negative consequences for the historical memory of Belarusians from purposeful attempts to launch provocative constructs of glorification of the "anti-communist resistance movement" that operated during the Second World War and in the post-war period in Eastern Europe, including on the territory of Belarus.
The development of the ideology of the Belarusian resistance (partisan and underground movement) was a successful move to intercept the anti-Belarusian information agenda. Such a step contributed to the "recoding" of the concept of "Belarusian resistance" as an anti–Soviet underground into a new semantic construct - an anti-fascist partisan and underground movement.
Year of Historical Memory
Within the framework of the events of the past thematic Year of Historical Memory, for the first time in the years of independence in the Republic of Belarus, the concepts of "history" and "politics" were considered in interrelation and interdependence. At the level of the country's leadership, with the involvement of leading Russian historians, issues related to strategic directions for the further development of the state historical policy were actually systematically discussed for the first time.
This made it possible to identify and record the most important periods in the history of the emergence, formation and development of the Belarusian statehood. To give an objective historical and political assessment of all stages of the national-state construction of Belarus.
Within the framework of the meeting with the Head of State on the implementation of historical policy (06.01.2022), the speech of the President of the Republic of Belarus at the solemn meeting on the occasion of the Independence Day of Belarus (02.07.2022), an open lesson ”Historical memory is the road to the future” (01.09.2022), speeches of the President of the Republic of Belarus at the Patriotic Forum ”This is OUR history!” (17.09.2022), during the meetings of the Republican Council for Historical Policy and other events, the most important stages in the history of the formation, formation and development of the Belarusian statehood were highlighted:
- the period of the Polotsk and Turov principalities;
- the era of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania;
- soviet period;
- a special and most significant period from the point of view of rooting in the national historical memory is the history of the Great Patriotic War.
In fact, the presidential concepts designated by the Head of State back in 2003 were developed and consolidated.
The Year of Peace and Creation
With the end of the Year of Historical Memory, the topic of the history of Belarus has not left the agenda of the Head of State. In the President's Message to the Belarusian people and the National Assembly the Head of State voiced the need for a tougher stance on the preservation of historical truth.
It was about the modern assessment of the most important stages in the history of the formation, formation and development of the Belarusian statehood. The thesis was again voiced that the origins of the national state belong to the periods of the Polotsk and Turov principalities associated with the heritage of Ancient Russia and based on the traditions of Orthodox Christianity and democracy. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was also Russian, which did not reject the traditions of the Eastern Slavs.
At the same time, there were also warnings not to get carried away with the "romanticization" of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania periods and especially the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It is necessary to approach the assessment of their historical heritage objectively and critically, taking into account the national concept of the history of Belarus. The Head of State also once again emphasized that the Great Patriotic War was a special and most significant period from the point of view of rooting in the national historical memory.
The main conclusion from the designated thematic part of the Address is that today the state historical policy is a strategy for Belarus to preserve its sovereignty and independence in the context of the global redistribution of spheres of influence in the world and one of the factors of ensuring national security. The Year of Peace and Creation logically continues and develops the theme of the Year of Historical Memory.
It is safe to say that the presidential narrative occupies a special place in the process of formation and further development of the state historical policy of Belarus, being its catalyst. At the same time, the approaches and messages of the Head of State are based on the scientific achievements of the Belarusian historical science and do not hinder the scientific search for new facts and objective interpretations of the events of the centuries-old history of the Belarusian statehood.