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Piotr Kuzniatsou: There is no big tension between Ukrainians and Russians in Homel

15.07.2014  |  Society   |  Aliaksei Jurych, EuroBelarus,  
Piotr Kuzniatsou: There is no big tension between Ukrainians and Russians in Homel

Though negative attitude against Ukrainians is growing, the two peoples still consider themselves to be brotherly nations pushed against each other by the authorities, which have their self-interests.

Slavonic Unity 2014 festival, which is symbolizing fraternity of Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia this year was relocated from Homel region to Bryansk for the first time. Information war, which accompanies Russia-Ukraine conflict, is in full swing, and they say that all's fair in love and war.

Can it be that the organizers of the festival don’t feel safe in Homel region? How did attitude of Homel citizens change in the situation of the armed confrontation? Does it mean that the new cold war might start in Homel region?

These questions EuroBelarus Information Service asked Piotr Kuzniatsou, the founder of Homel Democratic Forum.

- Homel region is neighboring Ukraine’s Chernigov and Russia’s Bryansk. Can you recognize the arrival of the new cold war at the border of the three states, which were so proud of their “Slavonic fraternity” at some point?

- It depends.

Belarus is a small country, and its regions are closely connected. The arrival of the new cold war can be recognized at the mental level.

However, conflict is also perceived at a practical level: Ukrainian TV-channels, which were available before Russia-Ukraine conflict, are now unavailable. They are obviously turned off in the frames of the information war launched by Russia against Ukraine.

On the whole, I don’t see much difference in the attitude towards Russia-Ukraine conflict of Homel citizens and all the other Belarusans.

- It is the first time this year that Slavonic Unity 2013 festival was relocated from the border of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine to Bryansk. Are these the consequences of the Russian aggression?

- Of course, though it is impossible to trace the line of reasoning for this decision. Usually people who take part in festivals are very far from politics. It would be easy to understand if the location of the festival was situated at the place of the conflict or hostilities were taking place somewhere nearby; but it is not true. Crimean festivals do the same and change their location.

I think that the relocation of Slavonic Unity 2014 festival is a symbolic gesture of its organizers.

- According to the latest population census as of 2009, there are 111 thousand Russians and 31 thousand Ukrainians who live at Homel region. How do the two people who are now at war with each other get along?

- Homel region is a mixture of various nationalities; you will hardly find a hundred per cent Belarusian, Ukrainian or Russian there. The above-mentioned figures rather reflect the number of those people who identify themselves as this or that nation.

There is no real tension between Ukrainians and Russians in Homel region at least because there are no big communities; national minorities are atomized and can’t influence the life of the region that much. Thus, there are no reasons and conditions for tension to appear.

Of course, certain tension can be felt, but it doesn’t extend to open confrontation.

- How did the attitude of Homel citizens towards their neighbors, i.e. Ukrainians and Russians changed? Did any large-scale shifts in public opinion take place after the start of Russian aggression against Ukraine?

- Homel citizens have but good attitude to the representatives of all nations. However, information war gives its results: increasingly more negative statements are voiced against Ukrainians. But people still think of themselves as of brotherly nations, pushed against each other by the authorities, which have their self-interests. This opinion is most popular among Homel citizens.

Perhaps, the only difference between our region and other regions is that many more Homel natives are directly participating in Ukrainian conflict. A lot of Ukrainians live in the region, and Ukraine’s influence is felt there. For all the time of the conflict about 40-50 Homel natives took active part in Ukraine’s activities in some way. We can also draw this conclusion judging by publications in Belarusan and Ukrainian media. 

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