Belarus needs to be returned back to the West

What if I ask you to guess one of the oldest European borders that haven’t changed for more than 400 years? You can offer different countries in Western Europe as an answer, and some of them might be right. But I ask you to follow me to the other part of the European continent – Eastern Europe. And specifically, you will be surprised if you dig deeper into the history of Belarusian-Russian border relations.

If you look at the physical map of the region, you can see that it takes a lot of work to get from Minsk to Moscow by land. So instead, using highways and railways to avoid multiple rivers, swamps, and extensive dense forests is best.

And these natural frontiers have existed since the beginning of the feodal states in the region. So you can easily guess that it was some protection of Europe from the Asian hordes which regularly tried to cross it.

I mostly agree with French historian Alain Besançon that the Catholic church buildings determine the borders of Europe.

Check the catholic churches in Belarus, even today. You can find out that many of them are still functional in Eastern Belarus on the border with Russia. Catholic churches in such big cities as Vitsebsk, Homiel, and Mahileu and small towns as Shkloú, Mstsislaue, Kryčau, and others are still open. And they also have been in service for their parish members for centuries. Interestingly, these settlements have always been border cities of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth later.

Thus, here we agree that the influence of Western civilization through the Catholic church, literature, and science was a part of the daily life of the people who inhabited these lands at that time. Belarusians at that time experienced Renaissance, started print books immediately after the Germans and Italians, accepted Reformation, and gathered their laws in the first proto-constitution in Europe – Statues of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (three legal codes of 1529, 1566, and 1588). Here we have to add that the nobles of that time could resolve their problems during disputes in different trials. Also, they created laws and made decisions about the functioning of the state during the Sejm – the early parliament of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. People at that time could also elect their monarchs, which was unimaginable for Moscow State.

There is no need to clarify that Russia had almost nothing similar then. The country didn’t know Gothic architecture, Renaissance, or book printing (till the late centuries when it became essential). Moreover, despotic tsars and Byzantium-like religion firmly held them from progress in the European way.

But the development of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was overturned at the end of the XVIII century – when their lands became part of the Russian Empire after the partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The Constitution of the 3rd of May of 1791 could not function anymore. The Catholic church was limited. The Ruthenian Uniate Church was forbidden on Belarusian lands, and all the parishes became Orthodoxal under the Patriarchate of Moscow. The Jewish population started to suffer numerous pogroms and limitations.

Russian Empire stopped the progress and did everything possible to deprive people of the newly acquired lands from Western influence. The politics that started at the end of the XVIII century continue till now. In Belarus, the TV became filial of the Russian propaganda machine. Honestly, it always has been, but today it became so evident that there is no chance it can say anything good about the events in Europe or the USA. According to them, all neighbors are enemies and make conspiracies against Belarus and the main ally of the Belarusian dictator – Russia.

I can demonstrate the following logic to prove that Moscow inspires all this. Belarus and Poland have been living together for more than 700 years. There were no conflicts between the states, and the Polish and Belarusians had solid cultural, religious, and personal ties. More than 150 000 Belarusians received “Karta Polaka” – an analog of the US “Green Card.” To receive it, one has to prove their connections with Polish traditions and show evidence of the Polish roots in his biography. In Belarus, 2 000 000 Catholics visit catholic churches daily and during major religious events. So, Poland is not an enemy of Belarus. But Russia considers Poland as the central menace to Russia’s existence. Even their national holiday, “Russia Day,” they celebrate on the date of the deliberation of Moscow from joint Polish-Lithuanian troops.

Belarusians tried to resist Russian occupation from the very beginning. They participated in the uprisings of Tadeusz Kościuszko (1792), Kastus Kalinouski (1863-1984), Belarusian-Russian War of November-December 1920 between the armies of the Belarusian People’s Republic and Bolshevik Russia. Russian Communists killed Belarusian intelligence during Stalin’s repressions and pursued them during the whole history of the USSR.

In 1991 Belarus became independent and started to develop relations with the West. As a result, many programs came to life. Many initiatives helped support and raise Belarusian rural areas, especially those suffering from the Chornobyl catastrophe. Even the Ford company tried to start its enterprise near Minsk. Still, it failed due to the policies of Aliaksandr Lukashenka – the dictator who decided to tie once and-forever his country to Russia. And the Ford company is not the only example.

Aliaksandr Lukashenka ruled independently and gave no freedom to people to work and express themselves freely. His autocratic way of rule left no space for Freedom and Democracy. So naturally, people tried to stand against it. Still, KGB and the police always oppressed any manifestations of self-organization, freedom, and resistance.

It was so mainly till 2020 – when Belarusians showed the dictator that they were tired of him and wanted to be the owners of their country. Many businesses and civic initiatives appeared in Belarus till that time. They developed their activities, and the only limit for them was the archaic Eastern-style despotic regime endorsed by Russia. Russia was already losing Ukraine and didn’t want to lose Belarus, giving it final Freedom and Democracy.

Like Americans at the end of the XVIII century, Belarusians no longer wanted to stay with the Empire. They wanted to go West – towards complete Independence. However, they already learned that self-organization and free entrepreneurship couldn’t survive anywhere than in frames of Democracy and the rule of strict and equal law. Belarusians also want to work for themselves and resolve the state’s problems in their own capital and through their own government.

In conclusion, the West should not expel Belarus from its orbit and leave it one by one with the Russian Empire. The country has a great history of a solid path to Democracy interrupted by the aggression of the more powerful neighbor. Many people between the rivers Dniapro and Nioman still remember that they are part of the European civilization. They remember it and hold the DNA of Europe’s cultural growth and development. Belarus is the Eastern Frontier of Europe, of all the great that we mean by this geographical name. If Belarus fails, everything is threatened between Russia and the Baltic Sea, Russia and Warsaw, and Russia and the German industrial area.

The West doesn’t need a lot to hold Belarus. It has to demonstrate its advantages and show more intentions to consider Belarusians equal members of the Europen family. Belarusians are worth it and have already sacrificed a lot to prove it.

Marlon Parker

USA – Belarus