Memorandum on the tender by the European Commission for broadcasts to Belarus

Memorandum by the Executive Council

of the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic

12 August 2005

The Executive Council of the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic, having considered the results of the European Commission tender whereby the contract for radio broadcasts to Belarus was granted to the Deutsche Welle Russian service:

  • recognises the need for international assistance to provide alternative sources of information for Belarusians who have been effectively isolated for a decade from unbiased information and exposed to false propaganda by the regime of A. Lukashenka;
  • welcomes the willingness of European institutions to assist  the Belarusian people in this need;
  • acknowledges the promotion of a democratic political culture based on European standards and values, and the strengthening of the sense of unity of the Belarusian nation with the family of the democratic nations of Europe, as the core principle and objective for achieving a free and democratic Belarus.

At the same time the Executive Council of the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic:

  • asserts that the issue of the Belarusian language is an indispensable condition of the country’s democratisation. In this respect, the promotion of a democratic political culture in Belarus based on European standards necessitates encouraging in the public consciousness all those aspects of the national legacy that unite Belarus with Europe. This is in contrast to the legacy of Soviet Russification in public life in Belarus and to the policy of the current regime, which, since it came to power in 1994 has, for political reasons encouraged and imposed forcible re-Russification;
  • observes that there has been no such progress in encouraging a public awareness of Belarus’s kinship with Europe except based on the national consciousness and public culture that historically developedwhile within the European context, and hence preserving a clear sense of belonging to it. By contrast, no public legacy in Belarus that it shares with the Soviet Union or the Russian empire can foster a sense of kinship with Europe. For which reason the present regime in Belarus forces upon it all the aspects of that Soviet/Russian legacy;
  • asserts with respect to the choice of language for these broadcasts, that the fact that Russian has been widely used in Belarus under foreign rule and under Lukashenka does not render it most appropriate for the stated objectives. Belarusian is equally commonly understood (as is evidenced by official census data) and retains  the status of an official language. Since specific historical-political significance is inherent for languages in Belarus, the choice of language can not be politically-neutral;
  • points out in addition that, with respect to the use of Russian for radio broadcasts sponsored by European Commission for Belarus, such double standards in the treatment of a nation’s indigenous language, in comparison with the policies applied to neighbouring countries,  are unjustified and unacceptable. For example, the Deutsche Welle has a special Ukrainian service, despite that the level of Russification in Ukraine is comparable with that in Belarus. The specified approach also contradicts the entire experience of successful democratisation in neighbouring post-Communist countries which has invariably involved discouraging Soviet legacies in all areas of public and political life and reasserting a new national European identity on the basis of national historical cultures;
  • observes  that the public response in Belarus to the said decision was protest particularly amongst the politically active sector of the public; this is widely perceived as a factor tending to perpetuate the Soviet legacy of Russification in Belarus and by implication protracting the country’s present political conditions.

The Executive Council of the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic therefore concludes that under the present conditions the project of broadcasting to Belarus not in Belarusian will not effectively contribute to attaining its objectives, since the specific political significance attached in the realities of Belarus to the Russian language critically compromises its essential purposes.

The Executive Council of the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic for the specified reasons regrets the decision of the European Commission to approve the broadcasting service for Belarus in its present linguistic parameters and calls for a most urgent review of the said decision in order to secure that the format of the broadcasting service may fully conform to the purpose of achieving a free and democratic Belarus.

( original signed by  )
Ivonka J. Survilla
President, Rada of the Belarusian
Democratic Republic in Exile