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Struggle over Identity

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Nelly Bekus

Part V. Struggle over Identity

Chapter 19. Belarusian History: The Alternative and Official Historical Narrations

Texte intégral

  • 1 Eric Hobsbawm, “Ethnicity and Nationalism in Europe Today,” in Mapping the Nation, ed. G. Balakris (...)

1In an 1882 lecture titled “What Is a Nation” Ernest Renan said: “Forgetting history, or even getting history wrong, is an essential factor in the formation of a nation.” This popular phrase communicates the fundamental truths about history: its significance for a nation (“Nations without a past are contradictions in terms,” writes Eric Hobsbawm)1 and its instrumental character.

  • 2 Hobsbawm, “Ethnicity and Nationalism in Europe Today,” 255.
  • 3 Smith, Myths and Memories of the Nation, 9.

2Both of these aspects have become conventional wisdom for students of nationalism. Modernists emphasize that history and culture are essential parts of the fabric of popular visions through which the elite must forge their strategies. As Hobsbawm writes, “Historians are to nationalism what poppy-growers in Pakistan are to heroin addicts: we supply the essential raw material for the market.”2 From the ethnocultural perspective too, what gives a nationalism its power are the myths, memories, traditions, and symbols of ethnic heritage and “the ways in which a popular living past had been […] rediscovered and reinterpreted by modern nationalist intelligentsia.”3 The only, although extremely meaningful, difference between the two approaches mentioned above is in treating tradition as “invented” in modernist view, and as “rediscovered and reinterpreted” in ethnoculturalist one. The development of Belarusian historiography between 1990–2008 and the process of shaping of Belarusian tradition show how difficult it can be to determine the boundary between an “invention” and a “reinterpretation” of the tradition.

3As a result of several political transformations that have taken place in Belarus after the collapse of the ideological machinery of the Soviet state, there have appeared two parallel schools of Belarusian history. To one of them belong works of historians written from the standpoint of state ideology. Their narrative supports truths and values of the official concept of Belarusianness. To the other belong works of the authors who represent an alternative view of Belarus’s history and who provide the historical argumentation for the alternative Belarusianness. To this school we can add earlier studies that were forbidden in the Soviet time, because they contradicted Soviet interpretation of Belarusian history.

4One of the most important distinctions between these two concepts of Belarusian history is in the sphere of geopolitics. These two histories assess the landmarks of Belarusian past in different ways with relation to Eastern or Western influences present in Belarusian lands. The official historical school describes the activity of the Russian power on Belarusian lands as positively affecting the development of the Belarusian people; Orthodoxy is declared here “a Belarusian religion.” Affiliation to state unions or federations outside Russia (the Grand Duchy of Lithuania [GDL] and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth) is considered by them as having a negative impact on Belarusian people and their lands.

5On the contrary, the alternative history emphasizes positive meaning of the periods that are bound with the GDL and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The GDL is depicted as “our country,” the Uniate Church as the Belarusian religion. Accordingly, the conquest of Belarusian lands by the Russian empire is depicted as an occupation, and the reintroduction of Orthodoxy on Belarusian lands is considered forcible.

6In order to compare how the same developments in the past are employed to form different versions of the Belarusian tradition, several examples of interpretations of the most significant topics and events of the Belarusian past in the official and alternative history are described below. They include the epoch of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish– Lithuanian Commonwealth formation, the impact of the Russian empire, and the formation of the Belaruskaia Narodnaia Respublika (BNR, Belarusian People’s Republic). General “histories of Belarus” intended for broad readership and textbooks for higher learning institutions were used as a source. The study is focused not so much on detailed descriptions of the past by historians as on those fragments of their works where they make generalizations and conclusions, offering a generalized view of Belarusian history. It is precisely these conclusions that reflect a certain evaluation of the Belarusian past events and set up values for Belarusian national idea.

7The definition of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Belarusians’ role in its emergence and development, as well as the significance of this experience for the Belarusian people, relations within the state and interrelations with the neighbors—all of these topics are subject to contradictory interpretations by the two schools of Belarusian history. As far as acknowledging the significant role played by the GDL in the history of Belarusians, opinions of both the official and the alternative historians more or less converge. However, the two significantly differ concerning the degree of the GDL’s supposed “Belarusianness.”

  • 4 Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations, Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999, 280, 284.

8Timothy Snyder writes in his comparative study of nationalism that current Belarusian nationalism’s failure to address the historical legacy of GDL has become one of the major reasons for Belarusian national failure: “Modern Lithuanian and Polish nationalists have shown us that national ideologies have succeeded insofar as they transformed the Grand Duchy legacies. […] Modern Belarusian nationalism, if it arrives, will probably involve a mythical notion of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. This old idea will have to be reconstructed to account for the Orthodox religion and Soviet historical memory of the majority of Belarusian population.”4

9This reproach is hardly justified, as the alternative Belarusianness is built entirely on references to that legacy. The alternative historiography emphasizes the dominance of Belarusianness in that period and the epoch of the GDL is considered the Golden Age of Belarusian history.

  • 5 Uladzimir Arlou and Genadz Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918 (Vilnius: Nas (...)
  • 6 The first Grand Duke of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
  • 7 Usievalad Ihnatouski, Karotki narys gistoryi Belarusi (Minsk: Belarus’, 1991), 73.

10In Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918 (Ten Centuries of Belarusian History), Arlou and Saganovich call the GDL “our state,” and present its tradition as part of the historical tradition of Belarus’s statehood. The rise of the GDL is seen as a result of mutual movement of several peoples. “Unification of weak separate lands into one strong state was in the interest of both the Baltic population and the East European one, as from the East they were attacked by Tatar-Mongolians, and from the West Ger man knights were beginning their pressure. There had been a long tradition of close ties between Lithuanians and Krivichi. That is why the creation of a united state occurred naturally and without much ado.”5 Mindauh6 had built a state that from the outset was not just Lithuanian, but Lithuano-Belarusian. He was well aware that he could not count on Lithuanians only in his state-building because the Lithuanian tribe was not large enough, and had no cultural might. It was important to attract the Polatsk citizenry to the task of state-building as they were the only source of armed forces and an organizational and cultural tradition required by the new state. It should be stressed that the Polatsk Principality certainly supported the new state with its customs, management, and culture.7

  • 8 Mikola Ermalovich, Pa sliadakh adnago mifa (Minsk: Navuka i tekhnika, 1991), http://asveta.belinte (...)
  • 9 Ermalovich, Pa sliadakh adnago mifa.
  • 10 Ihnatouski, Karotki narys gistoryi Belarusi, 81.

11Mikola Ermalovich devoted his work Pa sliadakh adnago mifa (Tracing one Myth) to the task of “the estimation” of the degree of “Belarusianness” of the GDL. From his research he draws the conclusion that “the creation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was first of all the result of economic, political and ethno-cultural convergence and unification of Belarusian lands,”8 that is why “this historical process was in the interest of Belarusian feudal lords, [a fact which] characterizes this state as a primarily Belarusian one.”9 Ihnatouski emphasizes that the relations within the Duchy were peaceful and harmonic, which does not conform to the concept of the GDL widely spread in the Soviet time—that Belarusian lands had been conquered by Lithuanians. He writes that “the Lithuanian and Belarusian state was built by way of agreement rather than by way of pressure and war.”10

12In all these narratives one can discern the idea of the GDL as largely Belarusian state, as a political unit where the Belarusian culture and language were the basis of the state. Some enthusiastic researchers go even further when they call the GDL a purely Belarusian state. Mikola Ermalovich’s book published in 2007 is titled Belaruskaia dziarzhava Vialikaie Kniastva Litouskaie (The Belarusian State, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania). Viktor Veras, the author of an unpublished manuscript U istokov istaricheskoi pravdy (At the Origins of the Historical Truth) writes: “The ethnos that emerged in the middle of the eleventh century is called Belarusian now and the state by this ethnos could not have been Belaruso-Lithuanian, as Belarusian researchers put it; or Lithuano-Belarusian, according to the Lithuanian researchers; or a Lithuano-Russian, as Russian scientists say, because contemporary Belarusians and Litvins of the GDL are the same ethnos.”11

  • 12 I. I. Kovkel and E. S. Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni (Minsk (...)
  • 13 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 36.
  • 14 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 37.

13The official histories categorically disagree with such interpretations. Thus, the textbook on Belarusian history published in 2005 is very reserved in its estimation of Belarusians’ presence in the GDL: “the GDL was initially formed as a Lithuanian state and later transformed into a polyethnic Lithuanian–Belarusian–Ukrainian–Russian state.”12 At the same time, the authors admit the political significance of this state for the development of the Belarusian people: “The main role in the formation of the Belarusian ethnos and the emergence of Belarus was played by the political unification of Belarusian lands within the single state, the GDL.”13 They also admit the role of the GDL in the formation of the Belarusian language which, according to them, “was transformed out of the common Slavonic Old-Russian language. What promoted its rapid dissemination and consolidation on the whole ethnic territory of Belarus was the fact that it was the official state language of the GDL, which incorporated the Belarusian lands.”14

  • 15 Ya. Martsul, Ya. Novik, Gistoria Belarusi u dzviukh chastkah, Chastka 1 (Minsk: Vyshe ishaia shkol (...)

14The authors of another official textbook Gistoria Belarusi (History of Belarus) disagree with the researchers who call the GDL a Belaruso-Lithuanian or Lithuano-Belarusian state. They insist on the established version of the Soviet historiography: “The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was not created by just forebears of contemporary Belarusians and Lithuanians, that is why it is neither Belaruso-Lithuanian, nor Lithuano-Belarusian state, as it is stated in some modern publications. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania is a political state of four basic peoples—Belarusian, Russian, Ukrainian and Lithuanian, where Slavs occupied about 11/12 of the territory and comprised about 80 percent of the country’s population. That is why, in our opinion, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania can be called a Lithuano-Russian or Russo-Lithuanian state, as it had been stated in the pre-revolutionary Russian and Soviet historiography.”15

  • 16 Valiantsin Hrytskevich in his book Gistoria i mify describes the fight with the ideas of alternati (...)

15Remarkably, in the 1940s–50s the GDL was typically depicted in Soviet history textbooks as a result of Lithuanian aggression on Belarusian (East European) lands. In the 1970s this concept was replaced by a picture of a more neutral unification, although publications on the GDL history as a Lithuano-Belarusian or Belaruso-Lithuanian state remained banned until perestroika.16 Among these banned publications were Ihnatouski’s 1920s works and Mikola Ermalovich’s alternative history of Belarus written in the 1960s (although both were only published in the 1990s). Soviet historiography actively supported the idea that Belarusians obtained their first national state in the form of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR) as a result of the October revolution. The idea of the GDL as a Belaruso-Lithuanian or Lithuano-Belarusian state could have been a negation of the exclusive “gift” of national statehood to Belarusians granted by Bolsheviks. It is instructive to observe the transformation of the official Belarusian history after the attainment of independence. On the one hand, in the official history after 1991 there was a shift toward recognition of the historical “separateness” of Belarusians. As compared with the Soviet historiography, new post-Soviet histories acknowledge a more independent status of Belarusians in history, and the Belarusian own tradition of statehood is not negated. On the other hand, the official “Russo-Belarusian brotherhood” remains to be actively cultivated by means of the relevant interpretations of history; hence, one can easily notice predominantly Russia-oriented evaluations of events.

16Authors of the alternative Belarusian history stress the difference between the political systems of the GDL and the Moscow state. From this one can discern the idea that there is a Belarusian political tradition, which largely differs from that of Russia. The autocratic totalitarianism of Moscow Principality is opposed by autonomy and self-governance observed within the GDL. In this tradition, one can clearly see the historical proximity of Belarusians to the Western civilization and visible distance from the Eastern neighbor—Moscow Principality.

17Arlou and Saganovich write:

  • 17 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 52–53.

The obvious disproportion of the military potentials of the Moscow state and the Great Duchy of Lithuania was to a great extent stipulated by the difference of their internal systems. Our state was developing in the direction of strengthening constitutionalism and autonomy. Since the sixteenth century, the ruler [the Great Prince—] dispensed different privileges, granted personal and proprietary liberties to senior gentry, thus making himself dependent on them. By the end of the fifteenth century, the monarch’s power in the GDL was officially restricted by the Veche [council], and in the sixteenth century, by the gentry’s Soim [parliament]. During coronation the monarch had to take an oath to his subjects that he would not breach their rights and liberties. His decrees could be legitimized only after their adoption by the entire Soim. For centuries, old principalities, lands, and liberties, that preserved certain autonomy and a degree of separation, existed within the GDL.
The Moscow state developed in a different direction. In the fifteenth century it had a distinctly despotic character. The tsar’s power here was in no way restricted. When incorporating new lands, Moscow deprived them of all rights, leveled off local peculiarities, and submitted them to central administration.”17

  • 18 Ihnatouski, Karotki narys gistoryi Belarusi, 107.
  • 19 Siamion Padokshin, “Kashtounastsi i idealy belaruskaga adradzhennia,” Belarusika Albaruthenica 13 (...)
  • 20 Siamion Padokshin, “Belarus’: fragmenty gistoryi svabody,” Fragmenty, nos. 1–2 (2000): 284.

18Ihnatouski, too, wrote about the difference between political structures of the two states: “While in the Moscow state there developed a despotism never met before in the Russian lands, the Lithuano-Belarusian state further developed the political tradition of the Polatsk Principality, on whose basis the prince’s power was restricted by the Veche.”18 Padokshin develops this idea and writes about differences in Belarusian and Russian mentality: “the basis of the political mentality of the GDL as well as the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was constitutional monarchy restricted by law and representative institutions, while the basis of the Russian political system was the idea of unlimited autocratic power.”19 The GDL, which he calls an integrated Belaruso-Ukraino-Lithuanian state, “was created mainly by means of agreements, consensus, on the one hand, between ethnic groups and confessions, and, on the other hand, between the Great Prince’s and, later, the King’s power and those of feudal citizenry.”20

19In these descriptions one can see not just different historical paths of Belarus and Russia in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The tradition of Russian statehood, the specific “Russian way,” and complicated relations with Western values in the contemporary political perspective, unconditionally involve in its orbit the Belarusian people as an eternal “junior brother” of the great Russian people. Acceptance of the GDL as a Belaruso-Lithuanian state and its distinction from the Moscow state makes it possible to “build” Belarusians into a different political tradition.

  • 21 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 86.
  • 22 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 24.

20In the alternative Belarusian history the behavior of the Eastern neighbor, Russia—from the time of Moscow Principality to later Czarist Russia—is depicted as aggressive and interventionist. The official Belarusian history prefers to avoid such negative description in relation to brotherly Russia. As a result, the same events are presented differently in the two histories. Arlou and Saganovich write about the war between the GDL and Moscow Principality: “At the end of 1512 Moscow started a new war for the ‘primordial Russian lands’—Belarus and Ukraine, which had never been under Moscow governance.”21 Conversely, Kovkel and Iarmusik picture the beginning of the war in an entirely neutral way, as a bilateral mutual process: “In the early sixteenth century the GDL and the Moscow state opened military actions against each other.”22

  • 23 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 108.

21Accordingly, there are different interpretations of the union of the GDL with the Polish Crown and the creation of the Commonwealth. For alternative historians, the union of the GDL and Poland was forced by the threat from the Moscow state. The official history is inclined to depict this event as a consequence of “the Polish expansion,” never mentioning the Moscow threat. Arlou and Saganovich write: “If the entire sixteenth century the GDL had to take care of defense, the neighboring Moscow state focused its efforts in the military direction, and first of all against its western neighbor […] The military and economic potential of Moscow already greatly exceeded the mobilization possibilities of Vilnius. Our state lacked strength to defend itself against the invasion. Again there emerged the old issue of the union with Poland.”23

  • 24 Martsul and Novik, Gistoria Belarusi u dzviukh chastkah, Chastka 1, 170.
  • 25 Martsul and Novik, Gistoria Belarusi u dzviukh chastkah, Chastka 1, 170.
  • 26 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 108.

22The authors of the Gistoria Belarusi (History of Belarus) describe the Commonwealth creation in an emphatically sad manner: “1569 opened a new, tragic page in Belarusian history. At that time on the political map of Europe an independent and powerful medieval state, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, had disappeared, and a new one, the Commonwealth, that is, republic, emerged. This historical act took place as a result of Lublin Union, which proclaimed the incorporation of the Duchy into Poland and the creation of the Commonwealth.”24 The impression is made that the GDL was deceptively seized by the Polish kingdom: “How did it happen that without a single shot, without struggle a whole state had disappeared, having turned into a Polish province of its own free will?”25 ask the authors with pathos. However, they do not mention the fact that this step had been taken in order to be saved from Moscow’s aggression. Alter native history provides the answer: “Unification with the Crown made it possible to liberate Polatsk, to drive the occupational Moscow troops out of Belarus, to improve the economy.”26

  • 27 Ihnatouski, Karotki narys gistoryi Belarusi, 96.
  • 28 Ihnatouski, Karotki narys gistoryi Belarusi, 96.
  • 29 Ihnatouski, Karotki narys gistoryi Belarusi, 112.

23Moscow’s aggressive behavior and the loss of Belarusian lands during the wars with the Lithuano-Belarusian state are also depicted by Ihnatouski. “Such towns as Polatsk, Mstislau, Mahileu, Vorsha, Rohachou, Gomel, Vitebsk, Smalensk, and others had been ruined several times. We even do not take into account the enormous number of villages, small settlements that had been ruined during that struggle. Everything built by the efforts of popular masses for centuries was ruined at the times of imperialist struggle.”27 Ihnatouski concludes with sad irony: “The imperialist idea of Moscow lords that Belarus was their ‘patrimony’ cost Belarusian people dearly.”28 In Ihnatouski’s opinion, the Commonwealth was, albeit forced by external circumstances, a voluntary union of the GDL with Poland. “In search of escape from Moscow’s pressure, Litva and Belarus had to rely on Poland’s support.”29

  • 30 P. G. Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi (Minsk: Vysheishaia shkola, 2004), 137.

24The official history describing the same events emphasizes that the GDL was subordinated to Poland and influenced by it, which is why this period of development of the Belarusian people is viewed in a negative light. The union with Poland signified an alienation of Belarusianness. “On the basis of the Lublin Union, the GDL and Poland began their common political life. Since that time the independent diplomatic and military history of the Great Duchy of Lithuania no longer existed. As a part of the unified Commonwealth it had to defend alien interests. In particular, conflicts and wars with Russia were conducted mainly on the basis of Polish interests.”30

  • 31 Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi, 190.

25At the same time, for the official history “the Russian origin” of Belarusians is one of the fundamental premises of Belarusianness, and from this standpoint the epoch of the Commonwealth is when “Russianness” of Belarusians was under the threat of oblivion. Some sources present “Russianness” actually as the major feature of Belarusians. “The government of the Commonwealth as a state was least of all concerned with the development of Belarusians as a self-contained people that had to maintain the knowledge of its common Russian origin […] With every decade of their existence within the Commonwealth, the majority of Belarusians grew more and more aware that for their further historical development they had to return to the true source of their statehood, to their East Slavonic roots […] to the common Russian political and state values.”31

  • 32 Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi, 175.
  • 33 Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi, 175.
  • 34 Ihnatouski, Karotki narys gistoryi Belarusi, 109–10.
  • 35 Ihnatouski, Karotki narys gistoryi Belarusi, 110.

26The same predetermination is seen in the description of the confessional situation in the Commonwealth. The official history unconditionally ascribed Belarusians to Orthodoxy. The agreement on the creation of the Church Union signed in Brest in 1596 and the establishment of the Greek Catholic Church, let alone Catholicism, are viewed as negative phenomena in Belarus’s development. “A real misfortune for the Belarusian people was the gradual penetration into their midst of Catholicism and the formation of biconfessionalism.”32 In reality the negativism of Catholicism and the Church Union consisted in the fact that they were conducive to an estrangement of Belarusians from Moscow state. “The Orthodox faith brought together Belarus and its strong Eastern neighbor in the cultural and spiritual aspects. Moreover, Belarus was subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate in church hierarchy, which caused natural disapproval in Poland.”33 According to Ihnatouski, this caused disapproval in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania itself. He writes about attempts to remove the Orthodox Church of the Grand Duchy from the power of the Moscow metropolitan see and to elect metropolitan of Lithuania and Belarus in the early fifteenth century. “An independent political state demanded also independence in church relations.”34 Only by the end of the sixteenth century, together with the establishment of the Moscow patriarchate, “the Orthodox Church of Lithuania and Belarus was put into hierarchic subordination to Moscow. As a counterbalance, in 1596 in the Lithuano-Belarusian state there emerged and shaped Church Union with papacy.”35

  • 36 Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi, 181.
  • 37 Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi, 180.
  • 38 V. K. Bandarchyk et al., Etnagrafia Belarusau (Minsk: Navuka I Tekhnika, 1985), 101.
  • 39 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 50.

27Overall, historians who maintain the official stance consider the creation of the Uniate Church to be an instrument of further Polonization of Belarusians in the Commonwealth, which in their view had an “obvious” negative impact. “The adoption of the Church Union had complicated the social and political situation in Belarus. It facilitated a more active penetration of the Polish religious and cultural influence, which eventually led to a decline of the Belarusian language culture and, consequently, of the national development.”36 Chigrinov acknowledges the peaceful character of the process of the Uniate Church setup. The establishment of the Uniate Church “proved to be a unique religious and cultural-national event in Belarusian history. The introduction of the Uniate Church did not cause a radical break of the religious people’s traditions and customs that could have been sensitive to the religious state of the believers.”37 Other authors draw a picture of active resistance: “The Union caused disappointment and protest among the majority of the Orthodox Eastern European, manifested in anti-catholic and Polish movements.”38 They emphasize the violent character of the Uniate Church introduction and its “Polish tint.” “With the adoption of the Union, Orthodox Churches became forcibly turned into Uniate ones. […] Together with the Catholic Church, the Uniate one had also become a major landowner and exploiter of the working masses. The people understood the true purposes of the Union and rose to fight it. Due to the resistance, the implementation of the Union lingered on for decades.”39

  • 40 Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi, 189.
  • 41 Martsul and Novik, Gistoria Belarusi u dzviukh chastkah, Chastka 1, 258.

28The Uniate Church had positive influences as well, for instance, in the development of the Belarusian language, which cannot be refuted even by supporters of the official paradigm. Chigrinov notes, “the creation of the Uniate Greek Catholic Church allowed to maintain the Orthodox rites that were an indivisible part of the Belarusians’ cultural life and, which is especially important, to develop the native language, as the liturgy was conducted not only in the Church Slavonic language, but also in Belarusian.”40 However, the official attitude toward the Church Union remains negative: “This Church was a means of Catholization of the population on the national basis, and not a national church as a symbol of the state’s sovereignty.”41

  • 42 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 186.
  • 43 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 186.
  • 44 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 187.
  • 45 Bandarchyk, Chakvin et al., 147.

29This negative evaluation of the Church Union is contradicted by a different interpretation of the same period in the alternative history. Arlou and Saganovich write about the Uniate Church as a lost possibility of the national religion of Belarusians. The reversion of Belarusians to the bosom of the Orthodox Church, which began after the Commonwealth division and the establishment of the Russian rule on Belarusian lands, was a forcible act aimed to erase Belarusian original nature. “The Russian autocracy did not recognize Belarusians as a separate people while the Uniate Church with its vernacular language used in education and sermons insisted on the opposite ideas. Meanwhile in Belarus in the late eighteenth century every three out of four residents were Uniates, while the share of the Orthodox believers was just 6.5 percent. Under Catherine II, 1.5 million of our ancestors had been converted from the dangerous Uniate Church into the safe Russian Orthodoxy.”42 The violent elimination of the Uniate religion had long-term implications for Belarusians: “Colonizers had deprived Belarus of the religion that can be rightfully considered a popular national one (this is how it was called by Kastus Kalinouski, Maksim Bagdanovich and a number of other activists of the national revival), they consolidated the division of Belarusians into Catholic and Orthodox believers. This is one of the main reasons for the weak national unification of Belarusians, which caused us so much trouble in the ensuing century.”43 Indeed, the Uniate Church, according to Arlou and Saganovich, had become a “holder” of the Belarusian cultural values and focused the spirit of the national cultural development. “Together with the violent conversion of our forefathers into the ‘true’ faith, a great stratum of Belarusian culture was being eliminated—czarist helpmates in church attire were burning Uniate sculptures, sawing Greek Catholic crucifixes, throwing icons out of churches. Many books were set on fire, and not only religious literature, Orthodox fanatics burned all olden Belarusian publications.”44 These authors believe that the elimination of the Uniate Church was actually aimed at a complete Russification of Belarusians. At the same time, the authors of the official concept of the Belarusian past claim rights to the opposite, that “the Union abolition was objectively conducive to consolidation of the Belarusian ethnos.”45

  • 46 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 109.

30The evaluation of the Belarusians’ development in the Commonwealth epoch is also varied. Arlou and Saganovich write that “this period was exceptionally favorable for the economic development of the country. Initially, it was displayed in the rapid growth of new towns and settlements (on the territory of contemporary Belarus they amounted to 48 prior to the sixteenth century, while by the mid-seventeenth century the number was 462), emerging of new artisan trades and shops, and expanding markets. The given period was probably the time of the highest economic development of medieval Belarus.”46

  • 47 Kovkel and Yarmisik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 63.

31The official history describes the Commonwealth period in terms of sublimed Belarusians’ commitment to Russia. Within the new state relations with the western neighbors—Poles—threatened Belarusians, while their salvation was in the East. “The attempts of Polish feudal lords to break the Russo-Belarusian economic and cultural ties failed. The attraction of the Belarusian people toward Russia, on the contrary, was strengthening.”47 Hence the general conclusion concerning this period of Belarusian history:

  • 48 Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi, 189.

32“The Lublin Union had a negative impact for Belarusians not only in the political aspect, but also in the cultural one.”48

  • 49 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 160.

33The Commonwealth division and the annexation of Belarusian lands by the Russian empire cause differences in the official and the alternative histories. Different descriptions are given of the political setup of the state, including the level of its economic development and its influence on Belarusian territories. Arlou and Saganovich write: “For all its problems, on the eve of its peril the Commonwealth was a noblemen’s republic, where capitalism had been rapidly developing. Meanwhile in Russia absolute feudal monarchy had reached its top power with its medieval laws, or, to be more exact, lawlessness.”49

  • 50 Martsul and Novik, Gistoria Belarusi u dzviukh chastkah, Chastka 1, 303.
  • 51 Martsul and Novik, Gistoria Belarusi u dzviukh chastkah, Chastka 1, 261.

34On the contrary, for the official history Russia was a more progressive state: “The reunification with Russia urged a rapid process of capitalist development in Belarus, included it in the all-Russian market […] all the economic reforms conducted by the Russian authorities in western regions had a more profound socioeconomic significance: they were aimed at raising their economic development to the all-Russian level.”50 What for Arlou and Saganovich is a positive aspect of the Commonwealth—lack of absolute authoritarian power, in the official textbook is treated as one of the reasons for its ruin. Some conclusions concerning the political system of the Commonwealth in the textbook on Belarusian history include ideologically transparent commentary by the authors on the debates about the Belarusian political present. “The over 200-year-old history of the Commonwealth is an instructive lesson for the progeny: unrestricted democracy together with the elected monarchy is the worst form of state management, which usually leads to a split of the ruling class into political factions, brings about such immoral phenomena as bribery, corruption, loss of responsibility for the destiny of Motherland, egotism, and individualism. Another danger for the state is a division of the society along ethnical and ideological lines, which leads to civil wars. The above-mentioned features weaken the state from the inside and make it an easy prey to its neighbors.”51

35In fact different interpretations of Belarus’s history serve purposeful orientation of the Belarusian political tradition—to the East or to the West. Accordingly, the alternative history portraying Belarus as part of Europe depicts its forced occupation and decline of Belarusian lands under the authority of the Russian crown. The official history views this epoch and the changes it had brought about in the positive light.

  • 52 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 111.

36Arlou and Saganovich write: “In 1793 […] (Russia, Austria and Prussia) carried out the division, distributing among themselves the remains of the Commonwealth and eliminating it as a state. At the same time the Grand Duchy of Lithuania ceased to exist, too. The whole territory of Belarus became a part of the Russian empire. Thus started a new epoch of Belarusian history—one hundred and twenty years of a stateless people’s existence in a foreign totalitarian state.”52 The accentuation is clear—a foreign state had annexed and subordinated Belarus. The consequences of the aggressive activities of the Russian empire are also described by Arlou and Saganovich in terms of a destructive occupation of Belarusian lands.

37According to Akinchyts, the process of Belarus’s deidentification with its past began from the moment of the Belarusian lands annexation by the Russian empire. “The national apathy that had embraced our society in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries resulted in its loss of the name and, simultaneously, of its history. Since the mid-nineteenth century, the inhabitants of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania acquired the name of Belarusians, while the name ‘Litva’ began to be used for the Baltic country Zhamoyt. The ensuing confusion still prevents Belarusians to answer the question ‘Who are we?’ and find their place in history.”53 Against this back ground, the estimations of the Belarusian annexation by official historians look overly optimistic. They proceed from the premise that “the joining of Belarus to Russia on the whole had progressive significance. There began a rapid development of the economy and culture, while religious and national oppression was reduced. It was facilitated by the czarist government’s policy aimed at the consolidation of its influence on the acquired lands.”54

  • 55 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 80.
  • 56 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 80.
  • 57 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 80.

38Because the official historians profess a Marxist approach to history, they divide the country into that of the oppressing and the oppressed classes. From this standpoint, “the situation of the ruling classes on Belarusian territories after they were annexed by Russia did not actually change. The ruling classes maintained their rights and privileges completely. Just the anarchy of the gentry and the self-will of magnates was liquidated.”55 They, however, note positive changes in the economic development: “When in December 1773 the Senate abolished the custom duties on the export of agricultural production and timber to Russia and abroad, it helped to revive agriculture, to improve its marketability, to better develop industry and trade.”56 Official historians also report about a new wave of cultural development of Belarusians. “The successful development of economy and political changes were conducive to the cultural revival. The number of schools, libraries increased, the local population displayed a greater interest for Russian culture, science, the social and political life of the country.”57

  • 58 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 81.

39Kovkel and Iarmusik provide a list of achievements in this respect. “A scientific study of Belarus was begun. In February 1773, the Russian Academy of Sciences took a decision to send two expeditions to the eastern region of Belarus […] The expeditions collected a large mass of materials on the natural conditions of Belarus, its mineral resources, historical monuments, the life and customs of the population. Since the late 1770s a general land surveying was carried out in Belarus, during which an extensive material had been collected on the statistics and economy of Belarus. Many materials had been published.”58

  • 59 Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi, 191.
  • 60 Martsul and Novik, Gistoria Belarusi u dzviukh chastkah, Chastka 1, 303.

40Chigrinov is also convinced in the positive effect of the Russian possession of Belarusian lands. “In the spiritual and cultural sphere one of the basic problems for the Orthodox Belarusian population was being solved, which was related to the purposeful, active, sometimes forced dissemination of Catholicism and Polonization. These phenomena came to an end [with the Russian takeover]. Historically, the joining of Belarus to Russia at the end of the nineteenth century was a progressive phenomenon, which prevented the threat of denationalization of the Belarusian people.”59 Another official text book, Gistoria Belarusi, claims that “the incorporation of Belarus into the Russian empire was conducive to consolidation of the Belarusian people, to their increased self-awareness as a special ethnic community.”60

  • 61 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 187.
  • 62 Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi, 192.

41It is noteworthy that the “threat of denationalization” is mentioned in both the official and the alternative histories. However, in the two cases different denationalizations are described. The official history speaks about the threat of denationalization on the part of Poland, which is opposed by the threat of Russification and denationalization on the part of Russia in the alternative history. Arlou and Saganovich write: “Orthodoxy was as signed the main role in Russification and denationalization of Belarusians. In 1840 (when the relevant czarist decree banned the use of the name ‘Belarus’ in official papers) there appeared prohibition to preach in Belarusian in the Church liturgy.”61 Chigrinov, on the contrary, states that the Russian authorities were the first to name Belarus “Belarus:” “In 1772 Byelorussian general-governorship was set up, with the center in Mogilev, at first, and later in Vitebsk. Actually, it was the first state administrative formation whose title was identical to its basic ethnos.”62 Without doubting this nominative gift of the Russian authorities to Belarusians, one nevertheless has to take into account the fact reported by Arlou and Saganovich: in 1840 the Russian authorities decreed a ban on the official use of the name Belarus and renamed these lands into a northwestern province of the Russian empire. And Belarusians were now officially referred to as western Russians. This action was accompanied by the deprivation of Belarusian towns of Magdeburg law and closing of the Vilnius University (1832).

42Another subject of opposite interpretations is the setup of the Belarusian People’s Republic. Soviet historiography, as a rule, does not mention the event. It was not until the early 1990s, in post-Soviet Belarus, that a reference appeared to the BPR as the first independent Belarusian state. Today the fact of the BPR’s existence is not ignored and the majority of official textbooks on Belarusian history contain references to the BPR.

  • 63 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 326.
  • 64 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 326.
  • 65 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 327.
  • 66 Martsul and Novik, Gistorya Belarusi u dzviukh chastkah, Chastka 2, 60.

43Kovkel and Iarmusik state that the BPR was “declared as a free and in de pendent state” by the Rada of the BPR. However, the dominant meaning of this event for authors is the fact that it “denoted a breakup of all connections with Soviet Russia.”63 They carry on: “Members of the Rada understood what the declaration of independence of Belarus meant, how strong were the ties between the Belarusian and the Russian peoples. Nevertheless they took the step.”64 The authors explain the reasoning behind it in a peculiar manner: “Actually members of the BPR Rada tried to tear Belarus away from revolutionary Russia, to show Germany their readiness to make ‘a union state’ with it in order to ban Soviet power under any conditions.”65 Such an interpretation leads to the peculiar idea that all political forces of Belarus aspired to cooperate with Germany and to overthrow the Soviet power instead of creating an independent Belarusian state. Official historians stress the fact that the BPR remained unrecognized and it had been formed on the territory occupied by Germans. Hence the conclusion: “the BPR was not a state in the proper sense.”66 The first “real” state unit of Belarusians was the BSSR.

  • 67 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 220.
  • 68 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 220.
  • 69 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 221.
  • 70 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 221.

44The alternative history sees the BPR’s declaration in a different light. It sees it as the first whole Belarusian state, created in a difficult historical period. Arlou and Saganovich write: “Russia and Germany, without asking Belarus, were dividing our land between themselves according to the peace of Brest-Litovsk signed by the Bolsheviks.”67 This situation demanded special efforts of the united political forces in order to save Belarusian wholeness. An attempt at this became the proclamation of the BPR on March 25, 1918. “The act of March 25 was a decisive protest against the division of Belarus between the Kaizerists and the Bolsheviks. The whole ethnic Belarusian community for the first time was proclaimed a sole democratic state.”68 For the alternative history, the symbolic meaning of that event is important, since it marked the beginning of Belarusian independent statehood. The aspirations of Belarusians to a national statehood had taken shape. “The independent Belarusian People’s Republic was de facto recognized by Armenia, Austria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Turkey, Ukraine, Fin land, Czechoslovakia, Estonia.”69 Apart from that, in Arlou and Saga no vich’s opinion, it was the proclamation of the BPR, that “however reluctantly, made Bolsheviks in Russia give Belarusian communists permission to create the BSSR.”70

45The pro-Russian, pro-Soviet interpretation of the developments in the Belarusian past enables us to formulate the idea of Belarusianness that does not exclude a new union with Russia; on the contrary, such a union looks as an extension of the tradition. The union in this context is not perceived by the majority of Belarusian society as a threat to independence or a loss of sovereignty. In the official interpretation of the Belarusian past the initial and indivisible bound with Russia is not only a part of the Belarusian tradition, but also a basic element of Belarusianness. Because this version of history prevailed throughout the decades of the Soviet rule it has become a reason for its “genuineness.” It is this history that has underlied the general nation-building strategy of the Soviet state and, as a result, has been internalized in the Soviet mode of Belarusianness. At the same time any “new” or previously unfamiliar interpretations of the past offered by the alternative history, immediately acquire the character of “external,” alien to the Belarusian nation, despite their open Belaruso-centrism. Nevertheless the fact that another, non-Soviet version of Belarus’s history was adopted as a legitimate and official one during the first years of Belarusian independence has left its trace. Having lost the official status and an access to institutional resources of the state, the alternative history has preserved a definite place in the symbolic cultural space. Books by “alternative historians” are published, albeit without the state’s support. They can be bought in bookstores, borrowed from libraries, found on the Internet.71 As a result, in contradiction to the Soviet time, when the official version was the only one to be obtained by the mass readership, today in the informational and cultural space of Belarus both the interpretations of Belarusian history are available, though not equally, on demand in the educational system run by the state.

  • 72 Polish sociologist Joanna Kurczewska following the ideas of Antonina Kłoskowska defines canon as a (...)
  • 73 Kurczewska, “Kanon kultury narodowej,” 49–50.

46One of the basic meanings “encoded” in historical discourses is the culture-symbolical and political context within which the idea of Belarusianness is formulated. Although for the official Belarusianness this context is related to Russia in particular or to the Slavic cultural universe in general, for the alternative Belarusianness it is Europe-orientated. The way the Belarusian post-soviet development proceeded led to a peculiar situation. Two different versions of the Belarusian history led to the creation of two different ideas about the “Belarusian tradition” and two canons of the Belarusian national culture.72 System transformation aimed at the democratization and liberalization of the Belarusian society started on the official level in 1991 and were officially discontinued after 1994. The ideas of the Belarusian national development articulated by the Belarusian nationalists were removed from the official scene, but continued to operate as the alternative project of the Belarusianness, the alternative set of symbols and values, the alternative basis for the Belarusian commonness. “National culture as a mechanism for social communication in a public sphere,” Joanna Kurczewska writes, “is determined on the one hand by national tradition, and on the other hand by actual public discourse, particularly political discourse.”73 However, as Belarusian example proves, the historical understanding of “national tradition” can become a matter of (geo)political choice. Historical discourses serve as a basis for a certain concept of Belarusianness; formulations and definition of this concept can be found in political discourses, where the national idea is articulated on the material of historical presentations of the Belarusian past.

Notes

1 Eric Hobsbawm, “Ethnicity and Nationalism in Europe Today,” in Mapping the Nation, ed. G. Balakrishnan (London: Verso, 1996), 255.

2 Hobsbawm, “Ethnicity and Nationalism in Europe Today,” 255.

3 Smith, Myths and Memories of the Nation, 9.

4 Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations, Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999, 280, 284.

5 Uladzimir Arlou and Genadz Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918 (Vilnius: Nasha Buduchynia, 1999), 48.

6 The first Grand Duke of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

7 Usievalad Ihnatouski, Karotki narys gistoryi Belarusi (Minsk: Belarus’, 1991), 73.

8 Mikola Ermalovich, Pa sliadakh adnago mifa (Minsk: Navuka i tekhnika, 1991), http://asveta.belinter.net/histermalovich.html.

9 Ermalovich, Pa sliadakh adnago mifa.

10 Ihnatouski, Karotki narys gistoryi Belarusi, 81.

11 Viktor Veras, U istokov istaricheskoi pravdy, http://veras.litvin.org/

12 I. I. Kovkel and E. S. Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni (Minsk: Aversez, 2005), 22.

13 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 36.

14 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 37.

15 Ya. Martsul, Ya. Novik, Gistoria Belarusi u dzviukh chastkah, Chastka 1 (Minsk: Vyshe ishaia shkola, 2003), 163.

16 Valiantsin Hrytskevich in his book Gistoria i mify describes the fight with the ideas of alternative ethnogenesis of Belarusians during Soviet time. He mentions for example, that the Symposium on the Belarusian ethnogenesis was banned by Soviet authorities V. Hrytskevich, Gistoria i mify (Minsk: Belfrans, 1998), 19–20.

17 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 52–53.

18 Ihnatouski, Karotki narys gistoryi Belarusi, 107.

19 Siamion Padokshin, “Kashtounastsi i idealy belaruskaga adradzhennia,” Belarusika Albaruthenica 13 (2000): 39.

20 Siamion Padokshin, “Belarus’: fragmenty gistoryi svabody,” Fragmenty, nos. 1–2 (2000): 284.

21 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 86.

22 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 24.

23 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 108.

24 Martsul and Novik, Gistoria Belarusi u dzviukh chastkah, Chastka 1, 170.

25 Martsul and Novik, Gistoria Belarusi u dzviukh chastkah, Chastka 1, 170.

26 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 108.

27 Ihnatouski, Karotki narys gistoryi Belarusi, 96.

28 Ihnatouski, Karotki narys gistoryi Belarusi, 96.

29 Ihnatouski, Karotki narys gistoryi Belarusi, 112.

30 P. G. Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi (Minsk: Vysheishaia shkola, 2004), 137.

31 Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi, 190.

32 Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi, 175.

33 Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi, 175.

34 Ihnatouski, Karotki narys gistoryi Belarusi, 109–10.

35 Ihnatouski, Karotki narys gistoryi Belarusi, 110.

36 Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi, 181.

37 Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi, 180.

38 V. K. Bandarchyk et al., Etnagrafia Belarusau (Minsk: Navuka I Tekhnika, 1985), 101.

39 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 50.

40 Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi, 189.

41 Martsul and Novik, Gistoria Belarusi u dzviukh chastkah, Chastka 1, 258.

42 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 186.

43 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 186.

44 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 187.

45 Bandarchyk, Chakvin et al., 147.

46 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 109.

47 Kovkel and Yarmisik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 63.

48 Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi, 189.

49 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 160.

50 Martsul and Novik, Gistoria Belarusi u dzviukh chastkah, Chastka 1, 303.

51 Martsul and Novik, Gistoria Belarusi u dzviukh chastkah, Chastka 1, 261.

52 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 111.

53 Akinchyts, Zalaty vek Belarusi, http://knihi.com/bel/zalaty.html

54 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 81.

55 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 80.

56 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 80.

57 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 80.

58 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 81.

59 Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi, 191.

60 Martsul and Novik, Gistoria Belarusi u dzviukh chastkah, Chastka 1, 303.

61 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 187.

62 Chigrinov, Ocherki istorii Belarusi, 192.

63 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 326.

64 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 326.

65 Kovkel and Iarmusik, Istoria Belarusi s drevneishikh vremion do nashego vremeni, 327.

66 Martsul and Novik, Gistorya Belarusi u dzviukh chastkah, Chastka 2, 60.

67 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 220.

68 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 220.

69 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 221.

70 Arlou and Saganovich, Dzesiats’ viakou belaruskai gistoryi 862–1918, 221.

71 For example, at http://knihi.com, http://www.probelarus.ru, http://kamunikat.fontel.net.

72 Polish sociologist Joanna Kurczewska following the ideas of Antonina Kłoskowska defines canon as a set of values, symbols, and myths that form the basis for commonness and political consensus. Joanna Kurczewska, “Kanon kultury narodowej,” in Kultura narodowa i polityka, ed. J. Kurczewska (Warsaw: Oficyna Naukowa, 2000), 26.

73 Kurczewska, “Kanon kultury narodowej,” 49–50.

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