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Nationalists in Belarus feel more and more impunity

Alexander Goroshenya. Photo from his personal account in a social network

Passions still run high in Belarus after local businessman Alexander Goroshenya was harshly criticized by the liberal-nationalistic public for his Facebook post about Belarusian nationalist poet Grigory Borodulin. Talking to EADaily, Goroshenya said he was surprised to see that his year-old private post in social media attracted unhealthy attention of Belarusian opposition mass media just now.

The businessman explained that he was bewildered with the fact that the poet whose poems are taught at school is a member of the Belarusian People’s Front (BPF) nationalist party. Goroshenya said he has nothing against the person or work. Later, the businessman said, he looked into the biography of the poet and found out that he was wrong to criticize him. Eventually, he left another post with personal apologies to Borodulin’s family.

BPF is a nationalistic party whose leaders, as Goroshenya said, advocate for a format of Belarusian identity that meets their personal interests. “They claim that Belarusians are not Slavs, but Lithuanians whose brilliant state project – the Great Duchy of Lithuania was destroyed by barbarian-Moskals (a pejorative term for Russians in the Ukrainian language). They proceed from the premise that in the East of the Republic of Belarus there are enemies and the incumbent authorities in the RB is a regime of ‘domestic occupation’,” the businessman explained. Besides, he said, BPF comes out for depriving the Russian language of its status of the second state language, as well as for integrating into Europe and joining NATO.

The Belarusian businessman said he apologized to Borodulin’s relatives in Belgium and sent a message of apologies through Facebook to Borodulin’s daughter. Eventually, Goroshenya said, he found a common language with them.

Nevertheless, the Belarusian mass media wiped a scandal out of the businessman’s post and launched a hate campaign against him. Things came to such a point that even the Belarusian State University where the businessman used to deliver lectures having nothing in common with literature or poetry refused to cooperate with him.

The businessman is sure that the story with his post reflects the unhealthy, painful attitude of the Belarusian public to the personal opinion of a private.

Goroshenya said his post was for friends only, but someone made it public and almost all the local media grasped it as if it were a very interesting issue to cover. “Both the media coverage and the public response to it were unhealthy,” the businessman said. “For instance, I told a journalist that I think it necessary to replace the subject literature with the subject history of literature or to teach it optionally, since I think it useless to force children to read, for instance, Tolstoy or Dostoyesky. Meantime, mass media reported that I am against teaching Belarusian literature at school,” Goroshenya said.

This scandal did not end with a hate campaign in media. The businessman and the colleagues that supported him received threats of bodily harm and criminal proceedings among others for some mystical anti-state activity. “My friends in social media received messages saying that they are under cloud and ‘paramilitaries’ will settle accounts with them at the earliest opportunity,” Alexander Goroshenya said.

It should be noted that the businessman’s nationalist opponents behave as if they are confident in their immunity. Considering that some Belarusian nationalists are fighting or fought on the side of Ukrainian raiders in Donbass, those who receive such threats and the security services must not ignore them.

“You were noticed in company with certain Alexander Goroshenya. Besides, we have seen some of your public statements on Facebook that fall under the article of the Criminal and Administrative Codes of the Republic of Belarus related to the national security, casting doubt on the legitimate existence of Belarus as a country and insulting the national dignity of the its citizens. In reference with the abovementioned, we warn you once and forever that anti-Belarusian statements and anti-Belarusian propaganda in favor of other countries and peoples is inadmissible. We remind that in condition of the regime of the internal self-occupation in Belarus, you may face non-judicial persecution by paramilitary groups of citizens-patriots of Belarus in case of repeating such actions.” The people who supported Alexander Goroshenya received this and other similar warnings.

It is not known yet how this story will end, but nationalists do not want to stop. “A few days ago, an investigator called me up to hand over the statement by a member of the BPF to his colleagues. Today, another one called me and invited to a conversation to find out if I was engaged in ‘stirring up’ anti-Belarusian propaganda,” Goroshenya said.

The problem is that nationalists in Belarus have used to achieve their goals. Being minority in Belarus, they have a network of mass media and probably supporters in the government. They used against undesirable persons such tested methods as false reports, alleged public hysteria and pressure on the authorities.

EADaily presented a similar story earlier this year. Then, pseudo-civic society of Belarus slammed a teacher of physics Yekaterina Kasho for “daring” to support Novorossiya in social media and condemn Kiev’s punitive operation in Donbass. At the height of that campaign, the “pro-Russian blogger-separatist” as some local mass media called the teacher, left “for personal reason.”

There have been many cases when officials were led by the nose by nationalists. Let us remember the scandalous story when the poem “To the Slanderers of Russia” was removed from the statue for Alexander Pushkin immediately after it was erected in Mogilevo. Naturally, it happened after a campaign in a number of oppositional pro-Western media. There was another, quite telling incident with Timofei Kalachev, a player of the Belarusian national football team, who said in an interview that he would like to see Russia and Belarus as a united country. After that statement, Kalachev did not participate in the match. In addition, mass media report more and more cases of deliberate damaging of cars with Russian symbols (flags, St. George ribbons) and even attacks on the people suspected to be loyal to Russia. Belarusian and Russian political analysts have repeatedly said that the country’s leadership yields to the media hysteria of nationalists. Experts say such dangerous tendency may give the nationalists free hand and the country may step on the “Ukrainian bloody path.”

Further developments around statements by Alexander Goroshenya will show if the country’s leadership is ready to stop these tendencies, or it will yield to the pro-Western nationalist opposition that feels impunity and will use the public and political field against its rivals.

So far, Gennady Davydko, the Belteleradiocompany Chairman, is the only high-ranking official to support Goroshenya. However, he did it quite indistinctly. Davydko just gently reprimanded the initiators of the hate campaign giving them a free hand in their further actions. Besides, nationalist activists may try to influence the investigators who will be studying the claims against Alexander Goroshenya.

By Kristina Melnikova

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