chapter  6
Development of Belarusian National Identity and Its Influence on Belarus's Foreign Policy Orientation
Pages 21

Fonn breeds content. No matter how unassertive Belarusian national consciousness and how insecure Belarusian statehood, both are gaining ground as time goes on and the seminal acts of sovereignty and independence are solidified by legislation. It is true that many of the laws passed remain ineffective and do not change reality much; nevertheless they create a formal base that is being used by the more radical elements to change, if not the order of things, at least the mentality of the wider public. This is a slow, generational change, but it is clearly occurring. Events and developmental tendencies in Belarus during the past two to three years furnish much evidence to support the observation by Ronald Suny that "nationality as well as nationalism, like other social and cultural fonnations, is the product of real historical conjunctures, in which ethnic communities, activist intelligentsias, and political imperatives have worked together to create a new level of national coherence, consolidation, and consciousness.'" The very concept of the Belarusian nation has been fonnally shifted from an earlier ethnocultural emotional plane to a more rational politico-civil one. Here is the new fonnula for a multi ethnic Belarusian state: "Citizens of the Belarusian SSR of all nationalities constitute the Belarusian people," announces the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Belarus (Article 2). This modernization

of the concept has been designed to shift the allegiance and loyalty of a multiethnic society to a more lofty ideal of a political structure with equal rights for citizens of all ethnic groups. To be sure, there are still tensions based on culture and religion, especially around the age-old equation in the popular mind of "Russianness" and Orthodoxy on the one hand, and "Polishness" and Catholicism on the other. With the rising linguistic assertiveness of the Belarusian intelligentsia and the resistance of both church hierarchies, Orthodox and Catholic, to assigning a larger role to the Belarusian language in religious life, the issue has been loudly debated in the public sphere. However, as far as legislation goes, all ethnic minorities of the republic have been treated with careful equanimity.