Ales Bialiatski: 30 years ago Kurapaty collapse of the USSR in Belarus, but we used to believe in the irreversibility

In contrast to the national memorial to victims of Stalinist repressions in the Belarusian Kurapaty during these years there was “Stalin Line”, the obligatory point of tourist routes, but a moral victory and a symbol of national unity three decades experiencing the strength — the circular building, Cristobal will happen.

Kurapaty is the forest tract on the border of Minsk — a bomb on the whole Belarus (and after the harsh crackdown of mass protests and the whole of the USSR) in 1988, when the article Eugene shmygaleva T. and Zenon Pozniak “Kurapaty: the road of death” was published in the newspaper “Literatura I Mastatstva” (“Literature and art”). Preface — authorship of writer Vasil Bykov.

Before the information that under the capital pits are killed by NKVD, thousands of people (30,000 according to the Prosecutor until more than 250,000 according to some historians), the Byelorussian SSR was known as the most serene Soviet Republic. Although the authorities paid attention even at the youth informal organizations involved in the promotion of the Belarusian language, national culture and traditions. After the opening of places of mass executions, the situation changes dramatically. 19 Jun 1988 — the first mass procession to the burial site, many thousands March on 30 October 1988, the internal troops were dispersed with the use of special equipment that made Kurapaty Union is already famous and has turned into a symbol of the struggle against communism in Belarus.

“The Soviet Union collapsed in Belarus in 1989 when thousands March and rally on Dzyady (remembrance day of the dead), the authorities did not dare to touch. We were United in the Holy place” — the words of one of the guests unique anniversary photo exhibition, which was prepared by human rights center “Viasna” and the Center for civil society studies. Unique — because the negatives of the past in 2012, photographer Vladimir Sapogova was saved by a miracle — archives lone photographer was thrown in the dump.

“Independence fell just like Belarusians, as many people say. The fight started in the 80-ies. And Kurapaty brought us all together in this,” — said the head of “Viasna”, Vice-President of the International Federation for human rights, former political prisoner Ales Bialiatski. In 1988 Ales, being one of the founders of the informal Association of young writers “locals”, applied for by the police dispersed the procession, he was arrested.

In an interview with RFI Ales Bialiatski talks about why the changes seemed to be irreversible, those were not new in Belarus.

Ales Bialiatski: everything In life happens. The story of us “ride”, you might say, on these bumps. In the late ‘ 80s, especially in the early 90s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it seemed that the situation has changed. By the way, many of the activists of informal youth organizations went to the literature, in business, policy, few did, because they thought that the situation is resolved and we permanently stand in the way of democratic changes. But in fact things didn’t work out.

This is clearly grasped in his novel “Time second hand” Svetlana Aleksievich — I think we lived the same life, and the majority of society events were perceived a little differently, not as we do. Maybe they sat silent, the apartments all discussed it — it was not openly seen. Well, in the end, when, in 1994 everything was decided on (first presidential) elections, it was found that the majority of has slightly different views than we do — and there were people-a populist who was able to intercept this power.

Here in Ukraine, it all went a bit differently, although the situation there was about the same as ours. Also a very big Sovietization of the country. But the Ukrainian presidency was, shall we say, more accurate — compared to our first, now we do that and last for 25 years. I got grappled by the hands and feet, so to speak, for the power and let it go is not going.

But at the time — 1988-89 years — we still knew that going global changes, what really is falling apart the Soviet Union because we had already formed popular fronts in the Baltic States, in Ukraine — Rukh, we — the Belarusian popular Front in Lithuania — sąjūdis. And we just saw that we have such a democratic international was formed, which has a lot to achieve. We studied each other then. We went to Ukraine and Lithuania, came to us also by our colleagues from the democratic movements.

RFI: In Russia then, too, all encouraging neighbors…

Moscow seethed — and for us it was very important. The centre of evil was in the Kremlin always there were very big changes. Of course, we saw Belarus as an independent, democratic country, and while the program offices of Belarus, the creation of the state was already formed. For the first time did a youth organization in 1987 — the programme then went in samizdat, on the basis of this program was established program that involved the formation of independent and democratic Belarusian state is 1988. Therefore, 1989 was a defining, was in two important theme for us is Chernobyl, Kurapaty. Chernobyl way then was huge, which gathered tens of thousands of people and forced the authorities still deal with Chernobyl problems, and these action on Dzyady in 1989, which finally defined this place as a national memorial.

The Belarusian authorities failed, although there have been attempts to create some kind of new ideology that would consolidate society. Why not use Kurapaty? Instead, the constant allusions to German mark for the depreciation of the value of the memorial, detention, road construction, demolition of the crosses this spring, tractors and cordon — so worried about the state’s veneration of the Belarusians of this place?

Because the criminals — and in our case it is the children and grandchildren of criminals who stand firmly on the basis of a criminal ideology — always try to cover your tracks. And no wonder the Nazis had retreated, tried to dig up graves, burn the bodies of the dead. So did the Stalinist regime. By the way, some of the graves in Kurapaty were also excavated. The human remains were somewhere removed.

This is before the arrival of the German troops in 1941?

No, after the war, in 50-60 years, probably. And some of the pits were full. It is seen that is simply not enough resources and energy, thought about it no one will know. That’s why Zyanon Paznyak, one of those who voiced the truth about Kurapaty, in the 70s hid the knowledge about Kurapaty — he was afraid that this place will be destroyed. I have come a restructuring, it became clear that it is possible to Express to do it, and he did. The existence of this place was certainly a shock — not only for us but for the authorities, who realized that it was just the nail in the coffin of the Communist system. Here is the place that you cannot hide. And so all these attacks on Kurapaty, of course, actually have ideological significance.

The man who says that Stalin was not all bad that when it was good and Lukashenka several times spoke about it, for it is a reminder of the Stalinist purges — it’s always a reminder that your ideology is also built on something wrong. Therefore, there is this confrontation. But today somehow to cover up the truth about Kurapaty, to hide the truth is almost impossible. Another thing is that, of course, the government is doing everything to let people know about this place as possible, and as much as possible, for example, about the Stalin line. It is fortified near Minsk, which did not work in fact, during the war, but, nevertheless, the name “Stalin Line”, and there is a bust of Stalin, made all sorts of role-playing, tens of thousands of children there are brought on the tour is in all the tour routes, but about Kurapaty in General a complete silence from the authorities.

Ales Bialiatski doubt that the government will accept the people’s memorial. Although recently the government has set the words of Alexander Lukashenko, “a modest monument to the dead, something there to make such a soul, without great cost, to immortalize this place.”

Ales Bialiatski: “what was done, is probably the most that can be expected. The official sign is mounted is made, but following the steps on the “domestication” of this place has led to the fact that dozens of crosses were torn out and destroyed, is, of course, the vandalism of public vandalism. And there is no public opinion was not taken into account. There is some strange action. On the one hand, a memorial sign installed — reluctantly they eventually put in 25 years. At the same time there are clear steps towards the leveling of importance of Kurapaty for the Belarusian people and the Belarusian history”.

About the anniversary of the March on autumn Dziady is too early to say for 30 years in the Belarusian democratic opposition, many delimited. Meanwhile, this Wednesday in Belarus was another anniversary — July 10, 1994 in the second round of the first presidential election won by Alexander Lukashenko. Then won four more times — in 2001, 2006, 2010 and 2015.
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