Ryszard Radzik. Between Sovietness and a National Vision: Two Interpretations of Belarusian History.

Belarusian historiography comprises two basic streams: post-Soviet and national. Both of them – although, importantly, to a different degree – tend to look at the events of the past from the perspective of ideologies adopted today, even though developed much earlier. Their myth-making potential can be attributed to the weakness of Belarusian historical science before the Soviet era and the destruction of its pre-1930s modest beginnings during the Stalinist period. Belarusian historiography was unable to develop practically until the turn of the 1980s. A few years of democratisation in the first half of the 1990s was too short a period to build historical sciences based on reliable specialists and modern methodology.

To this day, Belarusian historical thought remains under the impact of the Soviet historical school, which under the Soviet Union – curiously for a state officially following class ideology – bore a distinct trace of Russian chauvinism in relation to Belarus. Under the influence of President Lukashenka’s policy, a stream strongly supporting not so much national (cultural) as political distinctness of Belarus from Russia in terms of statehood emerged even among its followers. The national stream, in turn, includes nonconformists, once Romantics, who also create new myths. The small elites of the national historical school – making frequent references to the history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which they consider their own – are treated as political opposition and repressed by the authorities. In their case, we can clearly see the process of adopting the approaches of Western historiography. However, some proponents of this stream pursue what can be seen as the post-Soviet vision à rebours. Thus it is their views rather than methodology that make them different, especially that some of them are not historians by education or acquired knowledge. This, however, certainly does not mean that Belarus does not have historians who treat their profession seriously.