Category Archives: English

Government in Exile: Explorations of the Belarus Enigma

Presentation by Ivonka J. Survilla, President of the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic in Exile, at the Conference of the Canadian Association of Slavists (Ottawa, 24 May 2009)

If the sovereigns of my land had been as wise as the emperors of China, they probably would have built a wall along their border with the Duchy of Moscow at the very beginning of her aggressions against their territory. Instead, exhausted by the defensive wars against their Eastern neighbours, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (the medieval predecessor of today’s Belarus), formed a defensive alliance with Poland. This happened in Lublin in 1569. 440 years later, I am speaking to you of the Government of the Belarusian Democratic Republic, which has been in Exile for the past 90 years. Once more – because of the expansionist policies of our Eastern “big brother”.

This presentation explores conditions that have affected Belarus’ existence since the early 20th century. Bolshevik aggression forced a legitimate Government into exile and required its existence beyond the borders of Belarus. In order to understand the present plight of this European nation, there is a need to consider the recent experiential history of Belarus and Belarusians.

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The Case of Belarus: Presentation at the European Conscience and Communism conference, Prague, June 2008

Presentation by Ivonka Survilla, President of the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic in Exile, at the international conference European Conscience and Communism in the Senate of the Parliament of Czech Republic, Prague, 2-3 June 2008

I have the honour to be the sixth president in exile of the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic. The BNR Rada is the longest-living government in exile. It left Belarus close to 90 years ago because of the aggression and the subsequent occupation of our independent state by our communist neighbour.

Communism can be examined according to its large scale, long-term impact on the lives of individual human beings and also according to the impact on the appropriated nations, nations that do not define the political and cultural epicentre of communist power, but rather find themselves in forced subjugation. This is the reality and legacy of the communist experience, felt by many nations in modern times, evidenced by Tibet’s real-time struggle and by countries like Belarus who continue to experience the fallout of the Soviet experience.

Continue reading The Case of Belarus: Presentation at the European Conscience and Communism conference, Prague, June 2008

Першы візыт прэзыдэнта ЗША ў Беларусь | First visit of a US President to Belarus – 15.01.1994

15 студзеня 1994 г. адбыўся першы ў гісторыі афіцыйны візыт прэзыдэнта ЗША ў Беларусь.

Прэзыдэнт Біл Клінтан меў сустрэчы зь кіраўніцтвам Беларусі, выступіў у Акадэміі Навук, ушанаваў памяць пагінулых у Другой Сусьветнай Вайне і ахвяраў савецкіх рэпрэсій.

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The first official visit of the President of the United States  to Belarus took place on January 15, 1994.

President Bill Clinton had meetings with the leadership of Belarus, spoke at the Academy of Sciences of Belarus, visited the memorials to the victims of the Second World War and to the victims of Soviet Repressions.

Closure of Belsat would benefit the dictatorial regime in Belarus – statement by BNR Rada

The Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic has issued a statement regarding the situation around Belsat, the Belarusian TV channel broadcasting from Poland.

Statement by the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic concerning the situation around the TV channel Belsat

The Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic is seriously concerned by the possible threat to the existence of the TV channel Belsat.

During its existence, Belsat has become one of the most influential Belarusian publications, a bright and highly important phenomenon on the Belarusian media landscape.

Belsat is the only TV channel in the world broadcasting in Belarusian language. It is a unique platform for opinions independent from the Belarusian government as evidenced through the excellent shows and documentaries produced by Belsat journalists. Under the conditions of a dictatorial regime in Belarus, which discriminates against the Belarusian language and culture, and continues the Soviet chauvinistic policy of Russification and destruction of the Belarusian identity, Belsat plays a crucial role not only as a mass medium but also as a cultural phenomenon.

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Consecration of the Belarusian Church in London: address by President of BNR Rada

President of the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic has issued an address to the Belarusian community of the United Kingdon on the occasion of the consecration of the newly erected church of the Holy Hierarch Cyril, bishop of Turaŭ and All the Patron Saints of the Belarusian People.

“It will be an important symbol of Belarusian cultural presence in one of the world’s most important cities, and a place where Belarusians will pray to God in the language of their ancestors. This day marks an important and joyous event for all Belarusians, regardless of religion and country of residence.”

Full text of the address:

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DECLARATION OF MEMORY AND SOLIDARITY

DECLARATION OF MEMORY AND SOLIDARITY
by the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic in Exile

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Elections to the House of Representatives were not free and fair – statement by Rada BNR

Statement by the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic
On the Elections to the Chamber of Representatives
of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus
on 11 September 2016

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Former US Ambassador: Belarus Democracy Continues In Diaspora

Recent events in the Republic of Belarus demonstrate clearly that democracy is far from having been achieved in that troubled country. That fact confirms the wisdom of the caution shown by today’s heirs of the pre-Soviet, democratically based, independent Belarus They have withheld recognition of the present government. Theirs is the last government in exile of the many from Eastern and Central Europe which one-by-one returned their authority as democracy gradually was restored to most of the former Soviet empire.

This article chronicles the history of the Belarusian Democratic Republic (BNR) and its Council (Rada) from the time of its fleeing Red Army occupiers in 1920 until the present day. It discusses the Belarusian experience in comparison to those of other exiled governments, particularly that of Ukraine. Finally, it suggests that Western governments should both take cognizance of this historical democratic tradition and give the present Rada appropriate policy attention in considering relations with post-Soviet Belarus.

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The Constituent Charters of Belarus of 1918

The three Constituent Charters issued by the Rada BNR in February and March of 1918 have declared Belarus an independent democratic state. This has been the reestablishment of a sovereign Belarusian state after more than 100 years of Russian rule.


First Constituent Charter

To the people of Belarus

Our native land has found itself in a new and difficult situation. The fate of the regime that was here previously is not known. We face the possible occupation of our land by German troops.

We must take our fate into our own hands. The Belarusan people must assert their right to full self-determination, and the national minorities their right to national and personal autonomy.

The rights of nation should find realization by means of a Constituent Assembly convened on democratic principles.

However, even before convening the Constituent Assembly, all power in Belarus should belong to the peoples residing therein.

The Executive Committee of the Council (Rada) of the First All Belarusan Congress, supplemented by representatives of the revolutionary democracy of the national minorities and fulfilling the goals imposed upon it by the Congress, declares itself to be the Provisional Authority in Belarus to govern the land and to convene as soon as possible an All-Belarusan Constituent Assembly based on universal voting rights for the entire adult population without distinction of nationality, religion, or sex.

The Provisional National Authority in the land, having assumed the tasks of defending and strengthening the revolutionary achievements, will carry out these tasks through the National Secretariat of Belarus, which has been established and which, from this date on, has assumed the exercise of its responsibilities. The names of the members of the Secretariat will be published later.

The Executive Committee of the Council of the First All-Belarusan Congress
Given in Miensk, Belarus, February 21 (8), 1918.


Second Constituent Charter

To the people of Belarus

During this World War in which some powerful states have been destroyed and others liberated, Belarus has awakened to national life. After three and a half centuries of subjugation, the Belarusan nation again declares to the entire world that it is alive and will remain alive. The Great National Assembly the All-Belarusan Congress of December 5-17, 1917, concerned about the fate of Belarus, confirmed a republican government within its territory. Carrying out the will of the Congress and defending the national rights of the people, the Executive Committee of the Council (Rada) of the Congress, decrees the following concerning the political structure of Belarus and the rights and freedoms of her citizens and peoples:

  1. Belarus, within the borders of the numerical majority of the Belarusan people, is declared to be a Democratic Republic.
  2. The fundamental laws of the Belarusan Democratic Republic will be confirmed by the Constituent Assembly of Belarus, convened on the principles of a universal, equal, direct, secret, and proportional voting law without regard to sex, nationality, or religion.
  3. Until such time as the Constituent Assembly of Belarus convenes, the legislative authority in the Belarusan Deratic Republic shall belong to the Council of the All-Belarusan Congress, augmented by representatives of the national minorities of Belarus.
  4. The executive and administrative authority in the Belarusan Democratic Republic shall belong to the National Secretariat of Belarus which shall be appointed by the Council of the Congress and be responsible thereto.
  5. Within the borders of the Belarusan Democratic Republic freedom of speech, press, assembly, and the right to strike and organize unions are proclaimed; as well as unconditional freedom of conscience, and the inviolability of the individual and of residence.
  6. Within the borders of the Belarusan Democratic Republic all peoples have the right to national and personal autonomy; and equal rights for all the languages of the peoples of Belarus are proclaimed.
  7. Within the borders of the Belarusan Democratic Republic the right to private ownership of land is abolished. The land is to be given over without payment to those who till it. Forests, lakes, and natural resources are declared to be the property of the Belarusan Democratic Republic.
  8. Within the borders of the Belarusan Democratic Republic a working day of a maximum of eight hours is established.

Proclaiming all these rights and freedoms for the citizens and peoples of the Belarusan Democratic Republic, we, the Executive Committee of the Council of the Congress pledge to guard the legal order of life in the Republic, ensure the interests of all the citizens and peoples of the Republic, and preserve the rights and freedoms of the working people. We shall also apply all oui, strength to convene the Constituent Assembly of Byelorussia in the very near future.

We call on all faithful sons of the Belarusan land to assist us in our difficult and responsible labors.

The Executive Committee of the Council of the First All-Belarusan Congress
Given in Miensk, Belarus, March 9, 1918.


Third Constituent Charter

A year ago the peoples of Belarus, together with the peoples of Russia, threw off the yoke of Russian tsarism, which had oppressed Belarus most of all and, without asking the people, precipitated our land into the conflagration of war which totally destroyed Belarusan cities and villages.

Now we, the Council (Rada) of the Belarusan Democratic Republic, have’cast off from our native land the last vestige of national dependence which the Russian tsars imposed by force upon our free and independent land.

From this time on, the Belarusan Democratic Republic is proclaimed an independent and free state. The peoples of Belarus themselves, under the aegis of their Constituent Assembly, shall determine the future national relations of Belarus.

By virtue of this, all former national relations lose their force relations which made it possible for a foreign government to sign the Treaty of Brest for Belarus, thus destroying the Belarusan people by partitioning their land.

By virtue of this, the government of the Belarusan Democratic Republic will establish relations with interested parties by proposing to them a review of that part of the Treaty ol Brest which concerns Belarus and the signing of peace treaties with all belligerent states.

The Belarusan Democratic Republic should include all those lands where the Belarusan people constitute a numerical majority, namely: the Mahileu region, the Belarusan parts of the regions of Miensk, Horadnia (including the cities of Horadnia, Bielastok, and others), Vilnia, Viciebsk, Smalensk, and Charnihau, as well adjacent parts of neighboring gubernias, inhabited by Belarusans.

The Belarusan Democratic Republic confirms all those rights and freedoms of the citizens and peoples of Belarus which were proclaimed by the Constituent Charter of March 9, 1918.

Proclaiming the independence of the Belarusan Democratic Republic, its Council expresses the hope that all freedom-loving peoples will assist the Belarusan people to achieve fully their political and national ideals.

The Council (Rada) of the Belarusan Democratic Republic
Given in Miensk, Belarus, on March 25, 1918.

Selected Bibliography of works on the struggle for Belarusian Independence 1900-1921 in the Francis Skaryna Belarusian Library in London

“…We, the Council (Rada) of the Belarusian Democratic Republic, have cast off from our native land the last vestige of national dependence which the Russian tsars imposed by force upon our free and independent land. From this time on, the Belarusian Democratic Republic is proclaimed and independent and free state.”

Those are the words from the Declaration Independence made by the Council of the Belarusian Democratic Republic in Minsk on 25 March 1918. The independence did not last long owing to unfavourable political situation. All the same, from that day on Belarusians all over the world keep the 25 March as their Independence Day.

Belarus became part of the Russian Empire as a result of partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1772-95. The tsarist authorities regarded it simply as the North-Western province (Severo-zapadnyi krai) of Russia, inhabited by people speaking a kind of peasant Russian dialect. Consequently all signs of individuality were systematically eradicated, including the destruction of the Greek-Catholic (Uniate) Church to which the majority of Belarusians belonged. The opposite view was held by Poles, or rather by polonised Belarusian landed gentry, for whom Belarus was a Polish province. Despite this, Belarusian national movement began to manifest itself early in the 19th century, and gathered momentum especially after emancipation of peasants in 1861.

Continue reading Selected Bibliography of works on the struggle for Belarusian Independence 1900-1921 in the Francis Skaryna Belarusian Library in London