NAME OF MASHEROV – IDEOLOGICAL CHALLENGE FOR BELARUSIAN AUTHORITIES
A member of the bureau of the Minsk city committee of the Belarussian party of the Left “Fair World” Pavel KATORZHEVSKY once again returned to the topic he had already raised – the issue of the discrepancy of the “image” of one of the most famous and perhaps most popular Belarusian leaders of the Soviet period Peter Mironovich MASHEROV – with ideological attitudes and ambitions of the current Belarusian authorities; returned, so to speak, in the light of newly discovered circumstances.
February 6, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Pyotr Mironovich MASHEROV, one of the leaders of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic, first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Belarus from 1965 to 1980. In connection with this significant date, the Minsk city organization of our party of the Belarusian Left Party “Fair World” appealed to the Minsk City Council of Deputies, the state enterprise “Minsk Metro” and the Minsk City Executive Committee with a proposal to give its name to the Minsk metro. Not considering it necessary to retell the entire biography of Pyotr Mironovich in detail, I would still like to mention a few facts that speak as well as possible about the need to perpetuate the memory of this outstanding statesman and party leader of Soviet Belarus.
A whole era in the life of post-war Belarus, which he headed from 1965 to 1980, is associated with the name of Masherov. For 15 years, under his leadership, the BSSR has achieved outstanding success in industrial, technical, scientific and cultural development. National income has tripled during this time, the volume of industrial production has quadrupled, enterprises have appeared, without which it is now impossible to imagine modern Belarus. In addition, one of the undeniable achievements of the Masherov period in the history of the Belarusian capital was the construction of the Minsk metro. Thanks to the authority and perseverance of P.M. MASHEROV, despite the opposition of the State Planning Commission of the USSR, a decision was made to begin its construction, and in the spring of 1977 the object was given the status of the most important construction site in the country.
To name the Minsk Metro by the name of Pyotr Mironovich, the construction process of which Masherov, until his very tragic death, personally controlled the least that could be done to perpetuate the memory of this man who made a huge contribution to the development of Belarus. But the Minsk authorities decided otherwise.
On April 18, the Minsk city organization of the Belarusian Left Party “Fair World” received a response from the Main Department of Ideological Work, Culture and Youth Affairs of the Minsk City Executive Committee, which stated that there was no need to name the metro P.M. Masherov in view of the fact that there are supposedly enough objects in Minsk named after Masherov or in some other way perpetuating his name. We also thought of mentioning in the answer the transferred “Masherov Avenue”, which could not be called cynicism on the part of officials from the Minsk City Executive Committee.
The deputy chairman of the Minsk city organization of the “Fair World” party, Alexander OPARIN, commented on this situation exhaustively:
“There is a joke with the prospectus: explain why there was such an urgent need to rename the prospectus of his name first into Pobediteley-avenue shortly before the 25th anniversary of the death of Pyotr Mironovich, and then begin to“ stick together ”the new Masherov avenue urgently and from not the most central streets? Offending at the same time the memory of the underground activist Drozd and Ivan Varvasheni who died in Trostenza, who organized the fight against the Nazi invaders in the Minsk region?
In general, in fact, the city authorities refused to consider our proposal on the merits, turning this over to officials from the Department of Culture and Ideological Work, who, in turn, simply got off with a “formal reply” instead of public discussion, including with citizens.”
A similar position was expressed by BelaPAN and party leader Sergei KALYAKIN in a comment to the agency:
“Today Masherov Avenue is not a prospectus,” he said in particular. Prospect is a straight street, and now they are called a number of streets and alleys. This is a mockery of Masherov’s memory. ”
The Minsk Metro also expectedly sent an unsubscribe to our appeal, saying that with all the supposed respect for Masherov, such issues are not within the competence of the Minsk Metro State Enterprise. But that’s not the point.
It would seem that the name of Piotr MASHEROV fits perfectly with the ideological guidelines of the Belarusian authorities, so why not make a beautiful gesture for the centenary? It seems like the state symbols of the Republic of Belarus are stylized as the state symbols of the BSSR, and a person who calls himself the “president” often releases respectful reverence towards the Soviet past. But the city authorities did not meet with the initiative to assign the name of Masherov to the metro.
There are several explanations for this.
The first is the banal personal jealousy of the current leader of Belarus towards Masherov, which is quite likely to be seen in places (however, we will not go into conspiracy theories yet, since it is not possible to confirm this version with reliable sources).
Masherov is inconvenient, if only because he was the bearer of a well-defined communist ideology, and the current government can’t decide its own guidelines for more than 20 years and, of course, cannot oppose anything to the formed ideology, the bearer and exponent of which was Masherov. Nostalgic for the Soviet past, the current government takes from it only the most sterile and de-ideologized, relating more to form than to essence. One thing is clear that the ideas of social justice of the current government as a natural satellite of the Earth on foot. In addition, not only Masherov, but everything connected with his name, that is, all the achievements of the Masherov era, is inconvenient to the current leadership of Belarus.
“The current government was not even close to him: neither in terms of development, nor in the rate of increase in people’s well-being,” the same Sergey KALYAKIN said in the same comment to BelaPAN.
Confirmation that even after his death Masherov could compete with the incumbent Belarusian president can serve as a sociological survey of residents of Belarus conducted in the spring of 2012 by the IISEPS Sociological Institute. He showed that Masherov was still out of competition and he had no equal among current and past politicians in Belarus. He also showed that Masherov’s high authority is noted not only among the older generation and those who personally remember him, but among young people.
Realizing this, Alexander LUKASHENKO, who is the personification and voice of the entire bureaucratic vertical, does not idealize the Masher era, but sometimes manages to scold. For example, here is what Alexander Grigoryevich said in an interview with Grigory IOFFE, professor at the University of Redford, USA (the interview was included in Ioffe’s book “Overestimating Lukashenko: Belarus in the cultural and geopolitical context”):
“Language is sacred. And we have everything in order to calmly (if necessary – 20 years), to put the Belarusian language on a par with Russian. All other questions – to Masherov. It’s not me, understand? Not me. “I got a country where in Russian, and sometimes in some kind of“ trasianka ”they spoke more than in Belarusian.”
But accusations of Masherov in Russification are rather shaky. They are usually justified by reference to a decrease in the share of print media in the Belarusian language and the closure of Belarusian schools. However, if we take absolute numbers (and not shares), says political analyst Sergei BOGDAN, it is clear that the number of printed materials in the native language has grown significantly during Masherov’s leadership. As can be seen from the table below, the only exception was a slight decrease in the circulation of books in the late 1970s.
The apotheosis of the war with Masherov’s memory on the part of the authorities was an attempt at all costs to prevent the participation of Natalya MASHEROVA (daughter of Pyotr Mironovich) in the 2001 presidential election. In any case, the Central Election Commission tried to make the nomination of Masherova technically impossible. Technical inaccuracies were made already at one of the very first stages of the procedure for issuing certificates to signature collectors: in 144 “letters” written to the Masherov initiative group for collecting signatures, which consisted of 2182 people, they simply entered the wrong names. To everything else, the CEC, without due scrupulousness, reacted to indicating the number of the initiative group: despite the fact that the associates of Masherova were officially assigned the number 18, the half of the certificates was 22nd.
Another statement by incumbent President Lukashenko generally seemed to border on hysteria:
“You remember, after the presidential election I went to this family, I always supported it. He did a lot for the election of this person to parliament. And then a stab in the back. What, she does not understand that she will not become president? Understands. Probably, after all, at this stage a woman will not be elected. This is very hard work. Despite the fact that under our presidential powers, this is the commander in chief of the armed forces. Doesn’t she understand that she plays into the hands of this untied opposition? Understands. So why do this? I do not attack, understand. It is just personal. Yes, I am offended by such people. The time will come, I will name many and I will tell many people. ”
Indeed, it is simply impermissible luxury and a “stab in the back” to use one’s constitutional rights to elect and be elected. And, most likely, it’s just a fear of an alternative, or rather, a fear even of the shadow of such an alternative, because it is quite clear that Natalya MASHEROVA is not her father, and she has only relatives and a surname with him.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the initiative to name P.M. MASHEROV to the Minsk subway was rejected by officials. But in response to the refusal, our party began collecting signatures for this initiative, including on the Internet. We will also consider other opportunities to advance our initiative.
In any case, the metro will bear the name Masherov sooner or later. Because the people’s memory, which is sometimes not favorable to everyone, cannot be rewritten.