Union or occupation: the historical nature of Russia-Belarus relations

As practice shows, Putin’s war of conquest against Ukraine increasingly stops

Yet, even so, he still has a true ally – the Belarusian dictator Lukashenko. The nature of this devotion lies not only in all the negative personal qualities of the potato king, but also in some of his official obligations to the “king”. We are talking about the so-called Russian-Belarusian “Union State”, which is in fact a mini-model of the revival of the Soviet Union under the auspices of Moscow. Taking advantage of political uncertainty in Belarus’s circles of power in the first decade after the collapse of the USSR, the Muscovites set up a convenient springboard to promote the ideas of the “Russian world” in Eastern Europe. What kind of transnational cooperation is this in which one state effectively absorbs the sovereignty and independence of another? How is this possible in modern historical realities, when the principle of respect for state independence seems to be above all in the current system of international relations?

Back in 1997, a process was announced for the creation of a “union state of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus”. However, the conclusion of a transnational agreement on this issue was not, in fact, the signing of a bilateral international treaty in the modern sense, but a medieval personal union between Yeltsin and Lukashenko. It is worth noting that they were formally called presidents, but the true nature of their power resembled that of feudal monarchs: they are not governors elected by the people (this was only by name), but merely representatives of the most important tribes of their countries. Moreover, although Yeltsin and Lukashenko said they were signing the treaty “guided by the will of the peoples of Russia and Belarus to unite and build on the community of their historical destinies, caring for the vital interests of their citizens”, no facts of the will of the citizens of one country or another regarding the signing of such an agreement, such as a referendum or a popular petition, were not recorded. By the way, this pattern of behavior was not at all new to the Russians. Thus, for example, in 1945, the Soviet-Czechoslovak Treaty for the Transcarpathian Ukraine was signed, and its population did not participate in the decision on its fate. However, the propaganda publicly announced the “reunification of the people into a single state” – they say, “the primordial dream of the Ukrainian people” has finally come true. In the same way, in 1997, an incident occurred with the Belarusians, which is reflected in the well-known majestic saying: “They married me without me”.

If we follow the text of the document, then as the primary goal of creating a “union state” it says “to ensure the peaceful and democratic development of the brotherly peoples of the participating states, to strengthen friendship, to increase prosperity and the standard of living.” It is highly doubtful that a common war against a peaceful state, which poses no threat to any country in the world, and even more so the numerous losses of personnel and military equipment during its conduct, have contributed to its achievement. It is unlikely that a manifestation of “friendship” would be the use of the territory of a sovereign state to develop military equipment on its territory for the purpose of carrying out offensive actions against another sovereign state. After all, these events, which are exactly reminiscent of the beginning of World War II, took place on February 24 of this year. Thus, if in 1939 the Nazi troops used the territory of Poland as a springboard for a further attack in Europe, then in 2022, from Belarus, Putin’s army brought the war to Ukraine. The problem is: in what country are the Nazis actually located and where would de-Nazification really be necessary? For the whole civilized world, including the conscious part of the population of Belarus, the answer is obvious. Which, unfortunately, is not the case with the vast majority of Russians.

The formation of a “trade union state” also carries a purely ideological weight. The fact is that, using the example of Belarus, the Kremlin clique is trying to demonstrate the supposed “benefit” of friendship with Russia for those countries whose rulers agree to “sacrifice” part of their sovereignty in its favor. This is nothing but a modified communist propaganda of the “world revolution” in the example of a single country. In this interpretation, this idea was reinforced in the North Korean ideology of “Juche”, which emerged as a symbiosis of communism and local religious movements. Soviet historiography of the 1950s and 1960s – the period of construction of the mythical “united Soviet people” – actively exploited such ideas. Thus, for example, describing the so-called “reunification” of the Ukrainian and Russian peoples in 1654, historians note that the decision of Ukrainian Hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky to form an alliance with Moscow is said to have been influenced by the Georgian ruler Teimuraz. had already taken an oath of allegiance to the tsar a century earlier and, as they say, “did not regret it”. It is no coincidence that Lukashenko’s anti-popular rhetoric has recently been heard saying that Putin “offers Ukraine to become the same as Belarus.” Thus, he actually recognized that history repeats itself in the most direct way.

Back in the 19th century, the well-known historian, chairman of the Kiev Archaeological Commission, M. Yuzefovich, argued that totalitarianism represented the Russian Empire not as a separate state, but as a “special part of the world.” This dissertation is not about helping the “brotherly peoples”, but about the imaginary greatness, reinforced by the oppression of other countries. The “special path” of the Russian state is a critique of the European path, but not its competitive alternative, it is a path to isolation and the creation of its own ephemeral world, where you can love and love your own pride. There are no partners to achieve these goals, there are only opponents and everyone should be excluded as much as possible. Every ally, whether it was the Ottoman Empire, Persia or Japan, sooner or later immediately fell into the category of an enemy and underwent the harshest expansion, accompanied by plenty of accusations for all possible sins. The term “politics of logic” is also known – a set of measures to instill in the conquered peoples the need for a favorable attitude towards the Russian authorities as a guarantee of a comfortable and happy life.

Surely the same is happening to the Belarusians for more than 20 years with the fault and painful desire of the “potato king”? They will not have and can not have any other fate than the complete submission of the Kremlin regime, unless the course of history is reversed immediately. The Russian infection, like the Colorado potato beetle in potato fields, spreads instantly to the most inaccessible places, from where it is very difficult, almost impossible, to eliminate later. Belarusians with a national conscience can only take history books and, if they do not use them for their intended purpose, then eradicate the reptile beetles with their help before it is too late.

SBU National Academy

* The opinion of the author of the publication may not coincide with the position of the agency

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