On November 7, post-Soviet Belarus has celebrated the 101st anniversary of the October Revolution. But are Belarusians really fond of the event which many scholars regard as a ground zero for several decades of Communist repression?
In the capital, members of Belarusian Republican Youth Union, representatives of state-run trade unions and the Party of Communists, came to lay flowers to the monument to Vladimir Lenin, because ‘he managed to create such a great state’.
“101 years ago the Belarusian proletariat and the proletariat of the Russian Empire united against bourgeois society in the fight for their rights,” a young participant told Belsat when asked about the history of the feast.
But power did not remain in the hands of the people long. In 1918, the Bolsheviks issued the decree ‘On Red Terror’ that authorised political repression. When their power was strengthened, repression actions against various social groups became extensive.
“And what is your assessment of the activity of the leader who killed about 50 mln people?” our journalist asked the participants in the official rally.
The answers were: “Oh, really? You don’t say so! You are lying! He destroyed only 3-4 mln, and they were traitors who were trying to crush Russia!”
They do not believe that only in Minsk there are at least eight places where Soviet secret police (NKVD) carried out mass executions. According to various estimations, 30,000 – 250,000 persons might have been killed in Kurapaty at the order of Josef Stalin.
But there were also different opinions. The people who showed up at another pro-October rally condemn Stalin’s crimes, but praise the activity of Lenin.
“After all, Lenin was the head of the state that was at war! And when some people unleashed ‘White’ Terror in the summer of 1918, Red Terror just came as a response,” Syarhei Vaznyak, the leader of the Leftist Party Fair World, said when the Belsat reporter stressed that Lenin did sign shooting orders too.
Attempting to keep up with the times, the adherents of the Leninist ideology urge Belarusians to demand social rights and guarantees from the authorities, but it seems that Belarusians hardly give credence to them – there were few people who voluntarily showed up at the event.
Interestingly, there is no understanding not only among critics and supporters of the so-called Great October Revolution: on their festive day, Vitsebsk Communists were a hair breadth’s away from a fight at the monument to their leader figuring out which of them were true Leninists and which of them were traitors.
Belarus is the only post-Soviet country where November, 7 is a public holiday. It is a working day even in Russia, from which the revolution spilt over to us. Why? Perhaps the answer is in president Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s sentiment. According to him, October Revolution Day ‘celebrates peace and human rights’. A few days ago, he stressed that the Belarusian authorities did not consider those events coup, but revolution.
“Certain people are now saying in Russia are trying to erase and rewrite everything. That is why, perhaps, we made a wise decision some time ago to leave this holiday and do not throw stones at history,” state-run news agency BelTA quotes him.