The British Ambassador delivered a public speech on the national identity within the frames of the “Flying University” project “Urbi et Orbi”.
No less than two hundred people came to “TUT.BY” Gallery in Minsk to listen to Bruce Bucknell, the Ambassador of Great Britain to Belarus – the diplomat, who is leaving Belarus in January, has won sympathies of many Belarusans with his constant interest and participation in numerous public and cultural events of our country.
Bruce Bucknell confessed that he is really intrigued by the definition of “national identity” and things that form it and influence it. He suggested Belarusans to study the research by Benedict Anderson and AnthonyD. Smith carried out in the 80s, in which they claim that not only language and geographical community define the nation, but also collective consciousness, identification of an individual with the community, and perception of oneself as of a community.
But for all that, Bruce Bucknell agrees with the opinion that has recently become widespread – now multiculturalism is being tested. The term itself has started changing its definition recently, also because of the threat that comes from radical Islamists.
In due time Great Britain adopted a law on racial equality, which, as it turned out, entailed a number of problems that have revealed themselves later. Thus, religious schools of Muslim communities were created as an addition to the comprehensive secondary schools to be fully replaced afterwards. The replacement led to the creation of national ghettos rather than integration of Muslims into the society. In result, “three out of four suicide bombers, who organized an attack in London tube are the natives of Great Britain”. “How can people, who were born in Great Britain, attack their fellow citizens? Do they really belong?” – the ambassador asked himself.
According to Bucknell, with the education that should be focused on fundamental British values, it is also important to inculcate in migrants “ideas of democracy, rule of law, individual freedoms, mutual understanding, and tolerance to those of different confession”.
With all that, as Bruce Bucknell noted while answering one of the questions, “identity and self-consciousness are the terms that are more suitable for the professorate of universities; in fact, it is work, cost of accommodation, and so on that are important for common people in Europe”. As to the processes that affect his own country, such as movements for Scotland’s secession, “as a representative of Her Majesty, I prefer one important principle: choice of people. If the majority of the Scots want to be an independent country, I will support Scotland’s independence”, - the diplomat said.
The ambassador calls the situation with migrants difficult and complicated, though “in Great Britain we have a tradition – to accept refugees”. “However, the density of population in our country is almost 8 times more than, for example, in Belarus; it’s all very hard for us. But there is also another factor, - Europe, Belarus, and Russia are aging – all demographic data samples demonstrate that, whereas in the Muslim world the picture is absolutely different. We just face it; we can’t escape it, because in order to retain today’s standard of living, we merely need manpower. We can’t do nothing about it”, - Bucknell said.
“The question is how to regulate this phenomenon and how to handle it”, - noted the ambassador. According to him, we can’t handle it with the help of limitations, but only with the help of assimilation and integration.
Answering the question as to how Bruce Bucknell himself defines British identity, he said that these are “tee, weather, and lawn”. “We live on an island (…). And, of course, we didn’t see all horrors and didn’t go through the World War II to the extent that you did, even though we took part in it. Our whole story was like this – we have been a little bit detached all the time. So, if we compare it with your situation, it’s good that you have good relations with your neighbors, since you are in the middle of the continent, while we are on an island”, - Bruce Bucknell said.
Someone asked a question about the “Russian World”. “Vladimir Vladimirovich has one definition, Sviatlana Alexievich – a different idea as to what “Russian World” means. (…) “Russian World” is not a mere abstract idea; it is an ideology now. And if it threatens you, this is a really serious problem. And if you think that you are stronger when you speak Belarusian, this may be the solution,” – the diplomat assumes.
“Keep Belarus a home for Belarusans, who live in Russia”. “I know a lot of successful Belarusans, who do not live in this country. You have to attract them; you have to keep them coming back. Thirdly, and this one you won’t like: be nice to the Russians. They’re going through what we went through – a post-imperial “We-are-important” syndrome. You have to stay nice, stay patient; but remind them – just because they live in a big city, just because they have oil and gas, just because their language may be Russian doesn’t mean that they’re special. So, be nice with them, be patient, and gently and happily take their money”, - Bruce Bucknell advises.