Documenting nationalist antisemitism
The history journal remembers bitter fights over Belarussian territories after WWI and recalls nationalist icons.
Eurozine review 2/2020
Culture & Démocratie Special issue 2019
New Eastern Europe 1–2/2020
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Based on material from an archive in Moscow, Uladzmir Lyachouski presents the memoirs of two officers who served in Balakhovich’s unit on the side of Poland during its war with the Soviet Union. After peace talks began in August 1920, the army moved to southern Belarus, where it pushed back the Bolsheviks. From there Balakhovich attempted to bring the Polesia region, including the towns of Turau and Mozyr, under its control and to resurrect the Belarusian Republic that had collapsed in 1918.
The memoirs are valuable not just because of their descriptions of everyday life and the role of the ‘Belarusian idea’, but also for their description of the antisemitic violence that Balakhovich’s men incited against the Jewish population. ‘The systematic pogroms turned the army into a band of outlaws’, writes Pavel Aleinikau. ‘The majority of officers and soldiers were against violence, but for the Synki (Balakhovich’s loyal followers) the pogroms were the real goal of the war.’ The memoirs allow for the controversial and mythical figure of Balakhovich to be clearly understood for the first time.
German historian Babette Quinkert writes on German propaganda and psychological warfare in Belarus between 1941 and 1944. A central role is taken by festivities such as Mayday, which the Nazis orchestrated in order to impose their political goals on the Belarusian population. This only deepened nationalist yearning for an independent Belarus, something clearly illustrated in the accompanying images of posters bearing slogans such as Zhyvie Belarus! (Long live Belarus!)
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Published 13 February 2020
Original in English
First published by Eurozine
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