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21 Jan

Kiryl Kascian (Belarus)
Belarusian Review, 02.06.2014

Man who helped to really understand Belarus

That much of grey fog
was released on our past,
And you’ll find
without deceit
neither fairy tale,
nor fact.
Hienadź Buraŭkin 

Hienad? Bura?kin

Thus far, much has been written about Hienadź Buraŭkin by those who knew him closely. I don’t belong to them, yet I was fortunate enough to know this man personally.  We became acquainted in April 2013 in Vilnia during a Conference of Belarusians of the Baltic region and diaspora; it also coincided with the anniversary of the chairman of the Association of Belarusian Culture in Lithuania, Chviedar Niuńka. Thereafter I was twice in Buraŭkin’s Minsk apartment, recording interviews with him. These discussions lasted several hours each, and embraced various matters; however, regardless of the topics, I was facing a Man and Citizen with a vast amount of wisdom and dignity.  Such a captivating personality, made me want to listen and interrogate him again and again.

However, for me personally Hienadź Buraŭkin is not only a wonderful poet; he is also a man who through his words helped to really understand Belarus, and simultaneously broke clichés and stereotypes about our country, about reasons for our independence and foundations of our identity. After reading a considerable number of foreign analysts and commentators (as well as certain Belarusian ones), dealing with Belarus-related topics, one cannot help noticing that these stereotypes are numerous. For instance, it is argued that Belarusians are denationalized, having a heavily Russified nation with an undefined identity. Their country supposedly gained its independence by “accident” and the situation in Belarus on the eve of independence was not due to Moscow’s concentrated efforts to root out the national Belarusian element, but due to the readiness of Belarusian elites to accept the role of a testing ground for Russification under the guise of Soviet internationalism.

Buraŭkin explained the situation of Belarusian political and intellectual elites, as he had  personal insight and wonderful knowledge of this system from the inside. He also fortified his relations with clear examples of concrete personal activity, beginning with the highest leadership of the then Belarusian SSR – Kiryl Mazuraŭ, Piotr Mašeraŭ, and Cichan Kisialioŭ.

His narratives reflected the entire reality of that time. It was neither white, nor black, but multi-colored and multi-leveled. Through his narratives, Buraŭkin painted portraits of persons responsible for making important decisions, and also showed both rules of the game, and limits of what Belarusian elites were allowed to achieve. Each example only reinforced these images and provided understanding of the multi-faceted nature of these processes that took place in Soviet Belarus. Buraŭkin was capable to accessibly explain the entire mechanism of this or that process, starting with its causes and ending with its consequences. This is why Buraŭkin’s narratives about political and social processes in the late BSSR were destroying those numerous linear stereotypes and clichés, written by various analysts and commentators in their works and publications on Belarus.

Hienadź Buraŭkin left behind numerous memoirs concerning Belarus when it was a part of the USSR, the subsequent declaration of independence and made the first steps of independent diplomacy. His political talent, as Alena Makoŭskaja underscored, “contributed to maintaining trust; and Belarusians of the Diaspora discovered for themselves also another, non-Soviet, national Belarusian Belarus.” Buraŭkin himself considered these points of reference as one of his best diplomatic achievements. However, at the same time, as accurately observed by Uladzimir Niakliajeŭ, Hienadź Buraŭkin was a man with not only poetic but also with a political thinking and it pained him to feel unneeded as a state figure. Indeed, he could have done much for Belarus on any, most responsible post.

That wisdom and accuracy in Buraŭkin’s assessments of events in Belarusian history, of which he was a contemporary and co-creator, requires the most attentive attitude to his creative legacy on part of all those who really want to understand Belarus, as it is in an objective reality.

Originally published: http://thepointjournal.com/output/index.php?art_id=308&spr_change=eng