19 January 2018, Friday, 8:56

Stanislau Shushkevich: “I didn't miss two main opportunities in my life”


The presentation of the book “My Life, the Collapse and Revival of the USSR” by Stanislau Shushkevich will be held in Moscow on December 19.

The presentation will take place at President Hotel belonging to the Department of Affairs of the President of Russia on 24 Bolshaya Yakimanka Street at 4:30 p.m. The book was published with the help of Boris Yeltsin Foundation.

The first head of independent Belarus marks his 78th birthday on December 15. Stanislau Shushkevich talks to charter97.org.

Mr Shushkevich, you wrote only monographs and scientific researches before. Why did you decide to write a book about your life?

Initially, I was going write a guide for the youth. But I then recalled that neither I, when I was young, nor young people of today like being taught. They want to live without lectures and istructions. I then decided to give some examples from my life and show some photographs. I took a lot of photos in my life. I'd like to show how we lived, what we wanted, what mistakes we made. I'd like the youth not to repeat these mistakes.

Joining the European Union was a logical and easy step for many democratic countries of Europe. To join the EU Belarusians have to struggle for democracy in the literal meaning of the word, go to jails, suffer, go through tortures and humiliations. We are fighting for freedom and the possibility to join the EU.

You are talking about the progressive part of Belarusian society that understands the modern meaning of democracy and state-building. They are really suffering for their views. But another type of mentality rules in Belarus (I will write about it too). Belarusians didn't understand for a long time that they lived in a colony, their administration is not their creation, but the colonial regime imposed by Russia. They got used to chiefs: it was Joseph Stalin, the Russian tsar before him and others. By the way, there are some people among the youth who follow this path. They don't quite understand that a more progressive society can be built. They are happy they don't have a war and live better then we lived after the war. We have no proper education. We just have the barbarian ideology of Lukashenka enforced on people. In other words, our society is ill and needs to be cured. Building democracy is better in a healthy society. We don't have treatment now. Our society is being driven deeper into the disease.

What does the book focus on? Is it about your life? Or do you analyse the ways of the formation of the Belarusian nation?

My book is a sort of pictures at the exhibition: what we had and what we have in result. I hate lectures, I don't perceive them. That's why I just say: look how we lived, what we wanted, how we acted and what we did. For example, I had a fragment “Confession of a Soviet person”. I feel shame now that I was not a dissident, for example. I am ashamed that I thought one thing, but did another thing like the majority did.

Mr Shushkevich, you didn't need to be a dissident. You did the most important thing – you dissolved the Soviet Union.

I just didn't miss the opportunity to do this. I didn't have this intention in the beginning, but when it turned out it may occur, I caught at the chance.

I didn't miss two opportunities in my life: to withdraw nuclear weapons from the territory of Belarus and state de jure that the Soviet Union no longer exists. As I understand now, one need to be a rather brave person to dare sign it. I was the first to say I would sign it.  

Many people in Belarus say we would live in an absolutely different country if Stanislau Shushkevich had been the first president.

We shouldn't use the subjunctive mood in relation to history. Much depends on personality. If it is personality of Hitler, Mussolini or Stalin, it brings great sufferings and injustice. Of course, I like other personalities, who are not so easy and clear, but people have less suffering and less injustice. I have a completely different outlook on life and different priorities.

It means you have everything ahead of you. But what does Lukashenka has ahead of him?

You know, for such a small country like Belarus it is possible to stick to such a rich 150-million country like Russia, which cannot mobilise its government officials to work for the benefit of people people and where oligarchs in fact make officials work for their benefit. It is possible for Belarus to deceive Russia for a rather long time. Lukashenka hopes it will last all his life. But everything ends sooner or later.

Modern media allow raising the level of political and general literacy. Use this opportunity, dear citizens. Analyse what has happened and what is happening now. My book may be useful for use to some degree.

P.S. Unfortunately, you can buy Stanislau Shushkevich's book only in Moscow so far, in particular at ROSSPEN bookstore (3 proezd Maryinoi Roshchi, 40, str. 1. Maryina Roshcha Metro Station).