In the east of Belarus like in other territories of the country, pro-Russian sentiments are high enough despite the current policy of Belarusization, political analyst Kirill Averyanov-Minsky, a legal and political expert, told EADaily.
“The eastern regions of the present-day Belarus – Mogylievsk, Gomelsk and Vitebsk – were part of the RSFSR in early 1920s. At that moment, Belarus SSR included just several districts of the Minsk region. The Western Belarus was part of the Second Rzeczpospolita after the Peace of Riga. In early 1920s, the Minsk communists began demanding that Vitebschyna, Gomelschyna, and Mogilevshyna – the territories of the present-day regions - are united to the Belarus SSR. Meantime, the residents of these regions did not want to unite with the Belarus SSR because of the forced Belarusization there – people were forced to learn the Belarusian language and non-Russian identity. All this was very strange to the residents of those regions and they were simply begging Moscow to leave them as part of the RSFSR,” Averyanov-Minsky said.
He recalled that in 1924, Vitebsk and Mogilev with the nearby territories were united to the Belarus SSR. “However, the leadership of the Soviet Belarus did not stop there. They began demanding that Gomel is united with the Belarus SSR too, though it was still part of RSFSR at that moment. They insisted on it, though the residents of Gomel launched signature campaigns for remaining as part of RSFSR. However, the leadership of the Soviet Union again went on concessions and gave Gomel to the Belarus SSR in 1926,” the expert said.
In the regions reunited with the Belarus SSR, like in the entire territory of the Republic, the authorities were waging a policy of Belarusization, he said. “In fact, people were forced ideas, according to which the Belarusian language that they did not understand was their native language. They were told that they are not Russians. Meantime, the residents of Belarus still had pre-revolutionary ideas that they were part of the Russian people. Eventually, these eastern regions of the present-day Belarus were integrated into the Belarusian national project through forced Belarusization,” the expert explained.
He said that despite the current policy of Belarusization in the east of the country and in other territories too, “pro-Russian sentiments and ideas that Belarusian along with Great Russians and Little Russians are a single Russian people.”