Marek Figura, Łukasz Staśkiewicz. The Alhierd Monument in Viciebsk as an Element of the Politics of Memory.
The politics of memory is a fairly important element for maintaining the national identity and shaping historical consciousness. It manifests itself, among others, in relation to issues concerning monuments. In Belarus, the occurring changes in the perception of this aspect by central and local authorities as well as the society have been observed in recent years. More and more often, a discussion about the heritage of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and its role in the formation of the Belarusian statehood is carried out. The issues related to the monuments of people coming from the period of the GDL constitute one of the elements of the politics of memory in Belarus. They evoke extreme opinions among the society – both the approving and categorically opposing ones.
In the centre of this dispute, there was, among others, Alhierd, the grand duke of Lithuania. When in 2010, the idea of creating a monument of the duke occurred in Viciebsk, the conflict between supporters (mainly young people and some representatives of science) and opponents (Russian minority) started. Initially, it was limited only to a consultation at the local level, but then on the monument opponents’ initiative, it was moved to the level of the central national administration. Among the arguments supporting the idea, those related to historical aspects, inter alia, the Duke Alhierd’s contribution to the GDL development, and the ruler’s personal relationship with Viciebsk, occurred most frequently. On the other hand, the opponents paid attention to the possibility of deterioration of Belarusian and Russian relations and criticism of the Orthodox Church. There were also the ideas of erecting a monument of Alexander Nevsky, but the municipal authorities did not refer to it positively at that time. However, it changed shortly after creating the monument representing duke Alhierd in the centre of Viciebsk. The dispute over the monuments in Belarus was also observed in other countries, including Poland, Russia, and Lithuania. However, a different point of view on the occurred events was presented in each of them.