On October 30 1988 thousands of Minsk dwellers headed by the Belarusian People’s Front was held in the wooden area Kurapaty.
The authorities of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic sent police and internal troops against peacefully marching citizens who wanted to mark the Remembrance Day Dzyady in the wooden area. Tear gas Cheryomukha was used to disband the rally.
Mikola Kryvaltsevich, Candidate of Science (History), was a participant of the memorable rally. Together with the BPF leader Zyanon Paznyak and archeologist Aleh Jou he held the first excavation in Kurapaty.
Mikola Kryvaltsevich called the rally in 1988 an important political event, as people had the courage to express their thoughts openly and defend their civil interests.
As said by the historian, the open protest was imminent in the first half of the 1980ies.
“When in 1984 I was serving in the Soviet Army, we often discussed political prospects with my comrades-in-arms. The talks had been primarily caused by the events in Poland. We received odd bits of information about anti-Communist resistance in that country, and mass protests of the Poles. All these events indicated imminent changes in the Western part of the Socialist camp, and brought tensions in the life of the Belarusian society,” Mikola Kryvaltsevich said in the interview to BelaPAN.
As said by him, inside Belarus the protest was surging up because many citizens wanted to defend their national interests: native language, traditions, history and culture.
“A new generation of citizens has grown on the foundation of ideals of the Belarusian national revival. They didn’t have fear and had a developed sense of dignity. Creation of a number of the so-called unofficial youth organisations was a confirmation of that. And the opening of Kurapary tragedy which was actively discussed by people, intensified anti-Communistic sentiment in the society,” the scientist noted.
According to Mikola Kryvaltsevich, in the end of the 1980ies Belarus was the leader in protest moods at the territory of the USSR. “The events which have taken place 20 year ago say that the Belarusian society has a huge protest potential,” the historian says.
At a special press-conference participants told how the mass anti-Communist rally took place 20 year ago.
The leader of the Belarusian Popular Front party Lyavon Barshcheuski, who was the participant of the rally Dzyady 1988, believes that those events had great importance not only for Belarus, but for the entire world.
"20 years ago during Dzyady well-known historical events took place. They became well-known all over the world, and it made us to treat this day in a special way. Moreover Dzyady in 1988 played an important role in formation of the Belarusian people's Front. That is why we view this celebration of Dzyady in this aspect too,” the BPF leader said.
People's poet of Belarus Henadz Buraukin is sure that the meeting in Kurapaty 20 years ago laid the foundation of the Belarusian Revival.
"In 1988 I was in Ukraine, but I remember what was after that. When I returned to Minsk, this event was discussed and debated actively. Now, I can say with certainty that it was a real important event in the history of Belarus. If it hadn't been for this event, there wouldn't have been many things in the society, there would have been no this enthusiasm, which caused Revival in 1990ies. In my view, it will be right to remind the people about true events. Moreover, we have witnesses and documental proofs. I think recollection of this event is very important for moral feelings of our society,” Henadz Buraukin believes.
As said by him, during the events in Minsk in 1988 famous people of Belarus courageously resisted the pressure of the Soviet power. For instance, Belarusian poet Pimen Panchanka refused to sign a false resolution of a commission created by the Council of Ministers, which stated there had been no Stalin's repressions in Kurapaty.
“In 1988, after Dzyady, the Council of Ministers formed a commission, which said there had been no Stalin's repressions there. Panchanka refused to sign this false resolution. He wrote on a newspaper, he brought there with him, words of Belarusian poet Kolas: "We were given Constitution, doors were opened for us, but we were guarded to prison and are being tortured there." He viewed the situation in this way. I also remember our night emotional talks with Heorhy Tarazevich, chairman of the Supreme Council of the BSSR. He probable wanted to deal in the situation and preserve morality, but was broken by security officials, who falsified the facts.
By the way, these falsifications were revealed after the security officials said tear gas Cheryomukha hadn't been used against people who had come to celebrate Dzyady. When we tell about those events, may people wil understand that our officials haven't invented anything. They do the same things, that were known long ago," Henadz Buraukin said.
Belarusian writer and historian Uladzimir Arlou reminded how the Belarusian cleric sent a letter to Mikhail Gorbachev protesting against crackdown of a peaceful action on Dzyady.
"We have many remembrances and it will be pleasant for us to share them with journalists. I can tell about Tarazevich, who saved me from exile to Polatsk, because after my speech at a rally on Dzyady, militia officers began to draw up reports against me for living in Minsk without registration. They warned that intentional avoidance of registration may cause deportation back to Polatsk or throwing in prison. When a writers' session gathered in the House of Writers, Tarazevich came to persuade us not to send a telegram to Gorbachev demanding to investigate the dispersal of the meeting, and I spoke directly to him and asked to defend me. He said: "Comrade Arlou, believe me, militia lieutenant Salnik won't visit you from tomorrow." It happened - comrade Salnik didn't visit me any more. However, Tarazevich didn't known that the telegram had been sent to Gorbachev before the session. We had no other choice but to sent it," Uladzimir Arlou told.
Famous Belarusian artist Ales Marachkin told how his wife, son and he were detained by militia on October 30, 1988.
"Dzyady is a holy day for Belarus. I think that Dzyady stands in a line with the holidays, celebrated by the real Belarusian. Dzyady is bright and martyr day that will strengthen our nation. What concerns recollections, of course, there was a rise then. I remember that arrest. They were first mass arrests that I met. The most interesting that my son Ihar and I were detained. When we sit in a bus among the militiamen, my wife asked: "And me? Why did you forgot me?" and she joined us. Reports were drawn up against us, there were many people in a militia station. I remember how they were breaking arms of artist Mikola Kupava... I remember that when I was in the bus, it was full of soldiers from Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. I think now what happened to these people, they probable remember how they used cheryomukha gas against us. Their peoples set on the way of independence, and who knows what happened to these soldiers, on which side of the barricade they were. I want to believe that they were on their side," Ales Marachkin said.
At the meeting. BPF leader Zyanon Paznyak and well-known writer and historian Uladzimir Arlou
Zyanon Paznyak’s speech
Mirashnichenka Street, not far form Kurapaty
Detention of the participants of the rally
Thousands of policemen sent against protesters
Speech by Uladzimir Arlou
Photo by Radio Svaboda