On March 11 the conference “Imagining Belarus” opened in Minsk.
- This is an attempt to understand the time that we live in, the space that is built at the intersection of the future, fantasy, and imaginary, - Tatsiana Vadalazhskaja, methodologist, candidate of sociological sciences, and coordinator of the Flying University outlined the gist of the conference.
The theme of the conference, which was held by the Flying University together with the Centre for European Transformation, emerged from the current understanding of the state of the Belarusian society, which proved to be in a situation of loss of reference points, which could set the motivational picture of the future. The "EuroBelarus" Information Service learned about utopias, projects, dreams, and other forms of thinking.
How to use each day
On the first day the event was divided into several sections. One of them, an anthropological perspective, was presented in the reports of the philosopher and methodologist Uladzimir Matskevich and philosopher, Bible scholar, theologian, and Academic Director of the Belarusian Collegium Iryna Dubianetskaja.
- When the world is changing, Belarus is changing, too. But depending on the ratio of these changes, we use what changes and what remains from the past differently. In the times of the "cold war" the world was divided in the following way: the first world –free and democratic countries, the second – the developing countries, and the third – the countries that have supposedly been watching the relationship of the first and second world from the outside. This model is outdated, but I'd still consider the world as composed of three worlds: the one that produces changes, easily perceives and uses them; one that is in a state of constant modernization; and the one that doesn’t want to change at all, - Uladzimir Matskevich said.
According to him, each country can define itself in one of the three worlds.
- If we look at the ideology of the Belarusian state and what we are offered on the part of the authorities is the third world in itself, - the philosopher and methodologist says.
At the same time, the boundaries between these worlds don’t coincide with the state borders. According to Matskevich, for the person to have relation to innovation, the person shouldn’t necessarily be a citizen of the first-world countries:
- People who try out innovations on themselves do not need new things for the sake of new or for the sake of fashion, but rather for testing their feasibility, usefulness, etc. Innovations are easier introduced where there were no older devices. Therefore, you will sooner find newest architectural achievements in Singapore, Dubai than in London or Paris.
Thus, Uladzimir Matskevich believes that there are some people in Belarus who have long ago lost interest in politics and government. Not because they don’t have enough skills, but because they understand the limitations of this state. The representatives of the above-mentioned third-world countries are not interested in state and political issues either. The burden of the social and political life lies on the Belarusians who live in a second world.
- They would like to have involvement with the advanced scientific and technologic achievements, but something prevents them from doing so.
According to the methodologist, each person can spend a certain time of his or her life in an innovative first world, no matter where (s)he lives. Nobody can prevent the best representatives of culture and art to go on tour to Minsk or prevent the "Free Theatre" from performing at the most famous venues in the world.
- Everything depends on how we organize our time, how we distribute it to the essential (one that used to be called work in the past) and free.
Self-determination in the three worlds is happening every day: this is where we go to, what we do, how we use free time. Uladzimir Matskevich tried to illustrate this in the form of hourly stay in a particular place (at work, at the store, theater, etc.). Thus, we can touch the future every day (if we see it and we are developing) or spend the whole day in the past.
- I don’t see that Belarusians want free time, - Uladzimir Matskevich summed up.
50 years for Belarus and 10 millions of Muslims
According to Irina Dubianetskaja, we understand a phenomenon only when it has already taken place. Therefore, she started her contemplations on the future of Belarus with the distant past - the ancient Middle East and Mesopotamia.
But soon the discussion reached the point where the philosopher tried to see what does the space of time of 50 years mean for Belarus. Irina Dubianetskaja took 1817 as a starting point for the countdown. The struggle for the dismembered Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth had already been over, the last hope to get it from the clutches of the Russian Empire failed during the Napoleon's 1812 campaign. A new stage of self-understanding started, which was born with the rise of the Philomath Society in the Imperial University of Vilnius. Over the next 50 years, up to 1867-th, two uprisings happened, which resulted in the prohibition of the country’s name, of the dominant Uniate Church (the basis of the national identity), of printing in the Belarusian language. This again required a new identity and a new understanding of Belarusians in the world – which, practically, meant an almost new country. And if we move back from 1867 for another 50 years to 1917, we will again end up in a different country. This year breaks all political, national, and cultural ideas and settings. 1967 is quite close to us; however, back then it was impossible to imagine what would be happening in 2017 because it is a different state and a different world. The next 2017 Irina Dubianetskaja described as the year of the 500th anniversary of the Belarusian Bible and printing, and it is unknown what happens out of it.
- The future can be seen from the past and the present, but it isn’t worth forecasting it, since in any case it's a surprise, - says the doctor of sacred theology.
In her opinion, in the Belarusian context the new identity formation directly depends on the situation that the person turned out to be in, but it follows from what has happened and is happening now. Irina Dubianetskaja has no doubt that the Belarusian identity will still be formed.
- If you ask a Belarusian mufti how many Muslims are there in Belarus, he will answer without hesitation: "10 million with all the rest of Belarusans." Healthy identity is when the Belarusians will feel like 10 millions of Muslims, Orthodox, Uniate Catholics, and Jews. Each tradition that feels native and related to this land should develop into something bigger. It is about appropriating the past for the sake of the sensible future and a sense of responsibility for everything that happened.