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Detonator of the World War I in the national movements of Belarus, Poland and Lithuania

04.06.2014  |  Society   |  Alena Barel, EuroBelarus,  
Detonator of the World War I in the national movements of Belarus, Poland and Lithuania photo by EuroBelarus Information Service

A hundred years ago the World War I started. What do Belarusans know about it? Which processes did it awake? Can the rising of the Belarusan statehood be the result of the World War I?

The public discussion “The World War I, the formation of nations and emergence of Central and East European States” took place on May 31 in Minsk. Institute of Political Studies “Political Sphere” and Flying University organized the event. The conference was held within the framework of the Third International Conference “Wars in Political and Cultural Tradition of Belarus and Countries of East-Central Europe”.

The discussion welcomed both Belarusan and foreign scientists – Dr. Rimantas Miknys from the Lithuanian Institute of History and Dr. Joanna Gierowska-Kałłaur from the Institute of History, Polish Academy of Sciences.

The discussion was moderated by Ales Pashkevich, PhD, editor-in-chief of “Arche” magazine.

One common thing that the participants of the conference shared was that they all study civil and political processes at the territory of Belarus in its broad meaning, i.e. as from the beginning of the 20th century. The participants were to discuss Belarusan, Lithuanian and polish national movements and how World War I changed the lives of the local nations and affected their future historical development.

Ales Smalianchuk, PhD, Institute of Slavonic studies, Polish Academy of Sciences, who studies the history of Krajowcy movement, explained what impact World War I had for Belarus and which processes it awoke:

- Real possibility of Russia’s defeat, i.e. possibility to get out of Russia’s influence, inspired and strengthened Belarusan national movements. The idea of Krajowcy movement was Belarus’ attempt to protect national unity. Thus, World War I really changed a lot both in the understanding of Belarusan movements and in the understanding of Krajowcy movement. It started the search for new variants of possible historical development in these lands; different nations used the variants differently.

Uladzimir Liachouski, PhD from Belarusian State University also commented on the problem:

- The history of the World War I is hardly studied in our country due to a number of reasons. First of all, Russian empire was ruined at that time and the Bolsheviks came to power. It is clear that they got the power because of the war, not some social disturbances, which we were unable to discuss openly in Soviet historiography. Secondly, the events if the World War I were overshadowed by the World War II, which became an ideological object for strengthening of the Soviet regime.

The World War I has greatly quickened ethnic and political processes in the Eastern Europe.

After the war ended, small Belarusan political elite faced a question what to do next. Belarus was divided into two parts, and only the group which was situated in Vilnius and headed by Lastouski, Lutskevich has a possibility for free expression of their political will.

After the monarchy collapsed, Belarusan national movement got a chance to be institutionalized, and All-Belarusian Congress became such an institution. Unlike Lithuania and Poland, full-scale political elite with the right sector, left sector and centre wasn’t formed in Belarus; at that time Belarusian movement was radical left. There were not enough organizers, and the programme of the All-Belarusian Congress presupposed independence only as a part of Russian Federation; nobody was talking about political independence then.

This idea came in Vilnius, and Lutskevich brothers initialed it, which resulted in the announcement of the Belarusian People’s Republic (BNR) as early as March 25, 2018. Though we can’t say that BPR was a full-scale state; it was an idea of the political structures connected with Rada BNR. Basically, without the army and court system there was no state, and international acknowledgment was needed for the idea of BNR. Unfortunately, BNR was only acknowledged by Lithuania in 1921.

After the crush of empires in result of the World War I national states were formed; and they were unstable. One more result of this war is the temptation to resolve all problems with the use of force. And this unstable Versailles System led to the World War II. 

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