Authorities plan a crackdown on Belarus historians

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The National Academy of Sciences is likely to shut down the Institute of History, the European Radio for Belarus has learned. Unofficial sources report that several institutes that deal with liberal arts at the Academy of Sciences could be dissolved and re-united into a single Humanities Center.

The plan could envisage professional evaluation procedures to justify the sacking of up to 40 percent of the current Institute of History research staff, according to Jaugen Aniscanka, a senior research fellow at the Institute of History of the Belarus’s National Academy of Sciences.

“The rumors are likely to come true… Possibly, the Institute of History will be dissolved. It seems that they want to unite the institute with the other humanities schools, e.g. sociology, philosophy into a certain single center.

They will fire formally or automatically a half of our research staff. This [governance] system exists on its own, loose from the rest of the society. It destroys everything that attempts to resist or wants to be independent.

They could probably hire the people that would not even stand on their four legs; they would simply crawl. It means the spreading of cringing in the science. Servility was a common thing back in the Soviet times, but it is becoming even worse now,” Aniscanka told the European Radio for Belarus.

In fact, historians in Belarus have always been under pressure. In 1994, the authorities introduced a new interpretation of the Belarusian history, which maintains that our independent history dates back to the establishment of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic [in 1922].

Before 1922, it maintains, the Belarusians were suppressed by either Lithuanians or Poles… Clearly, the historians that stick to an alternative point of view become unnecessary or even dangerous.

The present management of the Institute of History has long since begun harassing the dissent, according to Jaugen Aniscanka.

“Previously, the director [of the Institute of History] was elected by the research staff in an open and transparent way. Today, we have the one that was appointed through the vertical chain of power. Being totally willful, he dismissed Sahanovic, because the latter was two days late for work.

He also fired Kananovic, who was doing a research under a scholarship in Paris and was also two days late, even after notifying about his delay from France. Andrej Kistymau was also sacked after someone had reported that he was one of those researchers who opposed to anything associated with the Soviet period,” Aniscanka said.

The emergence of a new Humanities Center instead of the Institute of History, thinks PhD (History) Mikola Kryvalcevic, will be to no good. Many scientific fields researched at the Academy of Sciences are not even represented in universities. Therefore, the upcoming changes could lead to the elimination of a number of those disciplines.

“How can a society exist without science? How can it exist without sciences like ethnography, linguistics, literature studies, archeology, history…? This society cannot be of full value.

I am confident that this reform will not improve the conditions of the humanities at the Academy of Sciences of Belarus. It will not foster the growth and development of the scientific potential in this country,” Kryvalcevic told the European Radio for Belarus.

The press office of the Belarus’s National Academy of Sciences failed to confirm the reports, giving our radio an obscure answer.

“This is being discussed as one of the options. But since there has been no formal decision yet, we are not in the position to confirm anything. As you may understand, there could be a lot of plans regarding the development of the academy. For now, no document has been signed in this regard. There have been no formal decisions made in a written form,” a press officer said.

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