“Sovietization” of Western Belorussia: A Comparative Study of Assimilation and Integration Policies

Nikita А. Markelov – Third Secretary, Embassy of Russia to Poland, Poland, 00-761 Warsaw, Belwederska str., 49. E-mail: nmarkelov@mid.ru.
 
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DOI 10.24833/2071-8160-2017-6-57-64-74 (Read the article in PDF)

The topicality of the article is determined by many contemporary ethnic conflicts in different parts and regions of the world, including the conflict in Ukraine. The article’s study base is formed by modern Russian, Byelorussian and Polish, researches and historical sources. One of the main features of the emerging ethnic conflict in the Polish-Byelorussian borderland in the first half of the XX century, which had significantly influenced its development was the rivalry between two different cultural centers “west-oriented” Warsaw and Moscow as part of a greater “Russian World”. The article confronts two ideologically motivated policies towards Western Byelorussian lands: assimilation and integration. Both of them according to their background (nation-oriented assimilation and concentrated on the pattern of social and economical ties and relations – integration) somehow neglected very specific local identity. Specific character of the process was emphasized by lasting for many decades Byelorussian nation shaping, which ran under several different regimes: Russian Empire, II Polish Republic and Soviet state. As a result, such an ambiguity led to the development of a stronger local identity immune to the stronger oppression in the concerned period. The Tensions between Polish and Byelorussian regional communities escalated during the period 1939–1941, when integration processes in Western Byelorussia were taking place. In some aspects of interaction e.g. in the area of administration they even resulted in outright confrontation. The main reason for was caused by the fact that by the majority of the Polish population their national statehood was regarded, despite all the disadvantages of its realization during the II Polish Republic, as a significant value. Local polish community could not understand the reluctance of ethnic minorities to defend the old regime, that would discriminate them. Soviet authorities acted as a buffer, taking responsibility for the negative manifestations of the new ethnic policies and transformation processes.

Key words: borderland, Byelorussian-Polish relations, ethnic conflict, Sovietization, identity, XX century, Western Byelorussia, Poland.

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