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September 17. National Unity Day in Belarus. Expert comments

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National Unity Day is celebrated in Belarus on September 17, when the USSR invaded Poland. The date is intended to commemorate the “unification of the lands of Eastern and Western Belarus”. – From the point of view of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, it is an ideal choice in a political sense – says analyst Arciom Szrajbman.

The Soviet Union attacked the eastern territories of Poland on September 17, 1939 under the provisions of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Germany, which had hit Poland from the west seventeen days earlier. The territories east of the Bug River were then incorporated into the Belarusian and Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republics (BSSR and USSR).


Soviet historiography argued that on September 17, 1939, the Red Army began “liberating the territories of eastern Belarus and Ukraine”. In Belarus, to this day, official historiography describes these events as the annexation of the lands of western Belarus to the BSSR.

Lukashenka signed the decree on the introduction of a new public holiday in June. “This day (September 17, 1939) became an act of historical justice for the Belarusian nation – separated against its will in 1921 under the Peace of Riga – and it was forever fixed in the national historical tradition” – stated then in a communiqué quoted by BiełTA agency.

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Inconvenient dates

Alyaksandr Lukashenka cannot recognize the date of the proclamation of the Belarusian People’s Republic in 1918 as the day of unity. The collapse of the USSR is also not the best date, taking into account the fact that he is a man of Soviet origin, analyst Arciom Szrajbman said in an interview with PAP and added. – September 17, 1939, from his point of view, is an ideal choice in a political sense, because it allows at the same time to praise the Soviet military act and show that he does not care what Poland thinks about it.

– Since today Poland is presented as the enemy and Russia is a friend, there are no factors that would stop it. By 2020, pro-government, pro-Soviet commentators wanted this date to be celebrated at the state level. Lukashenka did not do it, perhaps because he wanted to maintain some correct relations with Poland, and now there are no brakes – Arciom Szrajbman emphasized.

State media coverage

Official media and pro-government social networks cite September 17 as the date of reunification, also calling it the end of the “Belarusian occupation”. In their publications, they recall the discrimination against the Belarusian population during the Second Polish Republic and the enthusiastic welcome of the Soviet troops in 1939. The annexation of today’s western Belarus to the Second Polish Republic under the Peace of Riga is presented as a historic injustice, and on September 17, 1939 – as “the reunification of the lands of Eastern and Western Belarus”.

“(Before 1939) Polish nationalists planned to assimilate Belarusians within several decades, but history wanted otherwise. The defeat of Poland in the fall of 1939 enabled the USSR to unify Belarusian lands, and allowed Belarusians to avoid the tragic fate of the divided nation” – reads one of the materials in Belarus media.

Lukashenka signed a decree to introduce a new public holiday, the Day of National Unity, in Junepresident.gov.by

ONT television in the material of one of the leading state journalists Ihar Tura goes even further. According to this report, both in 1939 and in 2020, Poland is alive with “imperial ambitions to restore the Republic of Poland”.

The author draws a parallel between World War II, when “Belarusian villages were very often frightened by the Belarusians” and in 2020 – when the Union of Poles in Belarus was to deal with “underground subversive activities”. Two of its leaders, Andżelika Borys and Andrzej Poczobut, are in custody on charges of “fueling national hatred”.

Tur, referring to the Belarusian Investigative Committee, argues that the Union of Poles in Belarus participated in “fueling the mood of protest, especially in the western regions of Belarus”.

Main photo source: president.gov.by

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