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“The Ugly Duckling of Post-Soviet Transformation”? Or the “Terra incognita for the world” – as Svetlana Alexievich wrote about her country? Belarus is often perceived unfavourably, and sometimes even unfairly. Meanwhile, our neighbours’ country is much more than the last remaining old-style European dictatorship. It is a country where the thirst for freedom is as strong as anywhere else in Europe. A country that still searches for and defines its own roots but does not reject them. Belarus is much closer to us than it seems. At the same time, no other neighbour do we know so poorly. Therefore, instead of being afraid of Belarus, it is better to discover and understand it, with the help of Belarusian authors, supported by voices from Poland, England and… Japan.
Hienadź Sahanović and Hieronim Grala explain the struggle of Belarus with its own history. Nelly Bekus explains the pillars on which today’s democratic uprising rests and how the opposition tries to redefine the Belarusian identity. Ziemowit Szczerek shows how order and cleanliness translated into a sense of superiority in relation to Ukrainians and Russians in Belarus. Irina Sołomatina looks at the female face of the protests, as well as their historical associations, i.e. the participation of women in the patriotic war.Maria Dawydczyk talks about the relations between Belarus and the European Union, questioning the “monolith” called Eastern Europe. Valiantsin Akudovich addresses the “non-memory” of Chernobyl. Owen Hatherley brings out the fascinating diversity of Belarusian architecture in the 20th century. Anna Łazar shows what Belarus has brought to global art and what kind of art is popular there today. Tokimasa Sekiguchi explains a Japanese fascination with the Neman river and the Sviciaz’ Lake.
Herito also interviewed Ivan Łysiuk, who told Przemysław Witkowski about Belarusian neopaganism, and Stsiapan Stureika, who, in conversation with Michał Wiśniewski, discussed layers of Belarusian heritage.