Category Archives: Артыкулы

The BNR Rada as the oldest Belarusian democratic advocacy group

The BNR Rada in exile has several important practical functions as a legal safeguard of the first democratic Belarusian statehood, as a representation of Belarus in the Free World and as an association of politically active Belarusian communities in different countries. Below we are publishing answers to several questions that the BNR Rada has received from the public.

1. How did you manage to keep the uninterrupted tradition of statehood intact for so many years?

The tradition of the Belarusian Democratic Republic was preserved through years of effort and work of the Belarusian diaspora. Hundreds of concerned and politically active people, even in exile, remained faithful to Belarus and spent their energy, time and money on Belarusian activism. The constitutional regulations of the BNR Rada, adopted in 1917-1918, allowed for the co-optation of new members. This allowed the Rada to refresh its membership over the subsequent decades.

BNR Rada has traditionally relied on the organizations of the Belarusian diaspora in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Belarusian communities in the Czech Republic and Poland also play a significant role. Separate members of the Rada also live in other countries.

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Sportspressen.dk: Government-in-exile compares European Games in Belarus with Olympic Games in Nazi Germany

Belarus’ 100-year-old exiled government, which still fights to return democracy to “the last dictatorship of Europe”, takes stand against President Alexander Lukashenka’s exploitation of the European Games as a political event.

The media coverage of international sporting events is often colored by the fact that publications have spent a fortune buying TV rights to the events and sent journalists and photographers to cover them.

This year’s biggest Olympic sports event in Europe – the European Games in Minsk, which the state-owned Danish public service media company DR has purchased the broadcasting rights to – is no exception.

Last week’s Danish media coverage of the European games in Belarus, which is called “Europe’s last dictatorship”, has largely been influenced by the Danish reporters’ focus on the Danish athletes’ sporting ups and downs during the games.

On the other hand, criticism of the authoritarian host nation, which for 25 years has been ridden hard by president Alexander Lukashenka, a former Soviet military officer, has been absent in the media just as democracy is absent in Belarus, as Lukashenka’s critics believe.

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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

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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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

Towards Legal Settlement of Communist Crimes: Belarusian Perspective

A presentation by Deputy Secretary for Foreign Affairs Mikałaj Pačkajeŭ in the European Parliament in 2012.

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Address to Conference “Belarus – our new neighbour” in Czech Senate (20.3.2004)

Honorable Senators, Dear Friends,

I would like to express my deep gratitude to the organizers of this event, dedicated to the European future of Belarus.

Blessed with an excellent geopolitical situation, at the crossroads of Europe, Belarus has not had a chance as yet to benefit from this advantage. On the contrary, it has made our country one of the most coveted, and thus vulnerable places in Europe. Innumerable wars have been fought by strangers on our land, our people have been decimated over and over again. And for a long time, we had no friends to defend our cause. We were the best kept secret in Europe.

The Soviet system has left our long suffering, Chernobyl stricken people, with one single concern – their physical survival. The instinct of survival has evolved in Belarus to a degree unknown to many nations. Thanks to their survival skills, the Belarusian people continue to exist, but are hesitant to assert themselves in the face of the challenges they endure in daily life, and the dangers they face under a government that violently discourages freedom of speech. This may be why the development of democratic values in Belarus, though present, seems at times stalled.

However, our young generations admire Western values and long to become part of this so much admired European family of nations. And Belarusian intelligentsia, who has always looked to the West, is ready to defend their European heritage. Historically, Belarus is much connected to Prague itself. I would like to mention Dr. Francisak   Skaryna, who printed the first Belarusian Bible in Prague, and returned to your lovely land to spend here the last years of his life. More recently, the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic has been active for 23 years in this hospitable city. And I would like to add our highly revered Vasil Bykau, with whom I spent our National Day one year ago here in Prague.

Dear Friends, it is on behalf of our youth and of our freedom fighters that I have come to ask – again – for your help. Every young Belarusian should have the possibility to study without being brainwashed, and without being forced to become a member of Lukashenka’s youth organization.

Freedom and democracy are concepts that are learned, nurtured and fostered. As such, they require exposure, free thinking, and the subsequent conviction to generate change. Every Belarusian should learn firsthand about the concept of freedom. Our young people need opportunities to study abroad, our decision makers need Western experience in the fields of economy, education, health and ecology, our freedom fighters need help to inform our people about such basic things as human rights…

The Lukashenka-driven and cultivated isolation of Belarus threatens to extinguish the hope for a different future. The members of the European Union will, perhaps unknowingly, contribute to this isolation by closing the borders between Belarus and the European Union.

The future of Belarus is not to be half way between Europe and Russia as some misled politicians think. It is not a no-mans land nor a consolation price in political negotiation. Belarus is a nation whose geography, history and identity define its place – and whose potential as a contributor to the future of Europe rests in the political decisions of our time.

If I were allowed to make one single request today – it would be to ask you to become participants in the defense of an old European nation by ensuring that Europe remains open to Belarus.

Ottawa, March 15, 2004

Ivonka Survilla
The President of the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic