Institutional Historical Memory and History in Post-Soviet Belarus

In: Journal of Belarusian Studies
Alena Marková Charles University

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Belarusian institutional historical memory (as defined by Richard Ned Lebow) and the interpretation of Belarusian national history have experienced radical shifts in the past several decades. The first shift (1990–1994) was characterized by radical rejection of the interpretational and methodological patterns of the Soviet period, resulting in the creation of a new concept of Belarusian national history and historical narrative.

The second shift in the existing historical narrative and institutional memory followed rapidly. It came with the transformation from a parliamentary republic into a parliamentary-presidential (1994) and then presidential republic (1996). The second wave demonstrated a clear shift towards a methodological, theoretical approach and terminological framework typical of the historiography of the Soviet period. These changes were in response to the growing demands for ideological control of institutionalized historical research supported by the government in the same decade.

One of the characteristic features of recent Belarusian state-sponsored historiography (Lyč, Chigrinov, Marcuĺ, Novik and others) is the linking of post-Soviet national initiatives to Nazi occupation and collaboration in World War II. Another typical feature is simplifying historical explanations and often using undisguised pejorative terminology.

The last shift in institutional historical memory also resulted in further re-interpretations of many symbolic centres and milestones of Belarusian history (for example, the period of the first years of post-Soviet independence, the introduction of new national symbols (Pahonia coat of arms and white-red-white flag) and the interwar nationality policy of Belarusization of the 1920s.)

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