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After 30 years Belarus hasn’t yet made sense of Chernobyl

18.04.2016  |  Society
After 30 years Belarus hasn’t yet made sense of Chernobyl

Minsk hosted an international scientific conference dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

In the course of the event the meaning of the disaster, its physical, historical, cultural, and social consequences were discussed. The conference gathered the participants from Japan, Ukraine, Poland, and Germany, which proves that the issue of nuclear power engineering is given much more attention abroad than in Belarus.

- We have no understanding as to what transformation took place in the society after the disaster. One of the largest migration flows, new relations, and a new loss in the country happened. So far, our investigations are very fragmentary; we lack some sociological understanding of this problem, - Tatsiana Vadalazhskaja, the coordinator of the Flying University, shared her opinion with the "EuroBelarus" Information Service.

To recognize and give new meaning to what’s happened, we need to develop science, especially sociology and political science, Tatsiana Vadalazhskaja believes. Oral history can give an impetus for this.

The memory of the Belarusian people preserves the Chernobyl disaster rather as a personal tragedy, says Aliaksandr Smalianchuk, the scientific director of the Belarusian Oral History Archive, professor at the Institute of Slavic Studies, Warsaw.

- It includes very hard conversations about family tragedy, relatives, people who haven’t yet gone through this trauma to the end.

According to the historian, Chernobyl zone should be given more attention.

- The fact that recently all the privileges and social benefits were removed, the so-called "liquidation of liquidators" has been launched, is absolutely inhumane. These are the people who took the first blow and were the hostages of the Soviet policy at that time, while now they are just left as a waste material.

Thanks to the propaganda, many Chernobyl liquidators are now seen as dependents. This topic was studied by Mikalai Mialiuk, who spoke about the roots of Chernobyl myth – social dependency. This phenomenon isn’t exclusively typical for Belarus; however, it has its peculiarity in our country, since Belarus is the only country where this notion is included in the legislation and can be applied to many categories of citizens, from the beneficiaries to the unemployed.

When back in 1995 some social benefits for liquidators were removed, on the one hand, it was presented as a painful, but temporary necessity, on the other - as an attempt to fight the "pseudo- liquidators".

Gradually the Chernobyl problem started being presented as an exaggerated one; in the first place, the health effects of the disaster were questioned. This method was used in Belarus in the 2000s. Although at first the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) refused to recognize the Soviet estimate of the scale of the disaster and in 1993 the IMF recommended Belarus to reconsider the assessment of health consequences. The key role in popularization of the definition of “dependency” played the World Bank, Mikalai Mialiuk says.

In addition to reducing the number of those who get social aid, the victim shaming started to be used.

The researcher believes that in the situation of the economic crisis and tightening of monetary policy the use of the stereotype of social dependency will only become more widespread, including its use against the population of the most affected areas of Chernobyl.

Aliaksei Kryvalap, candidate of culturology believes that over 30 years the perception of the Chernobyl disaster took the path "from the drama class to an amusing journey". In recent years, the problem of Chernobyl is becoming more entertaining and works as a successful advertising. For example, tours to the Chernobyl zone and computer games on the subject are offered to consumers.

PhD in Sociology Andrei Kamarouski is convinced that Chernobyl disaster is not only historical, but also a cultural phenomenon. People, who were forced to leave the contaminated areas, lost their longstanding relations and had to establish new contacts.

The researcher from Kiev, Ph.D. Svetlana Mahouskaya, also raised the problem of cultural trauma. In her speech, she cited the study of the catastrophe in flooded and contaminated villages in Ukraine. While the resettlers from the flooded areas were able to move the graves of their ancestors to new places, Chernobyl resettlers couldn’t even take the most basic things, not to mention the graves. According to the researcher, even the narrative of the first and the second differs; the stories of the Chernobyl resettlers consist of short sentences and complete uncertainty of what will happen next.

Svetlana Mahouskaya also noticed that the exhibits that remain in the area present a huge cultural layer that is dying, which is an immeasurable loss for Ukraine. But in Belarus no one has assessed the scale of such losses, no research on this topic was conducted, apart from the works dedicated to the folklore of the Chernobyl area. Otherwise this layer remains unexplored, and is, perhaps, already lost, as one should have explored it twenty years ago.

The daughter of the writer Ales Adamovich, Natalia Adamovich attended the conference.

- This is not only a duty to be there, but also memory. I attend all Chernobyl Paths; my father attended the first and second Paths. I gathered all that relates to records of Ales Adamovich on atom in one book. In the 1980s he began to study this subject, he understood the danger, although he was a writer, not a physicist.

Natalia finds it terrible that a new nuclear power plant is being constructed in Belarus in the last more or less clean place near lake Narach.

- I believe that this is just politics, - the daughter of the writer is convinced.

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