5 June 2020, Friday, 22:06
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How Can Lustration Happen Without Restitution?

How Can Lustration Happen Without Restitution?
Iryna Khalip

People have less money, but the number of officials' palaces is increasing.

Sometimes the information feed has good news to read. For example, the other day I read: former head of BT TV channel Ryhor Kisel lends a house in Drazdy for six and a half thousand dollars. Journalists call him and he says, "Stay away from my private life". Isn't it great?

The man worked hard for the state: lied, threw dirt at his own citizens, aired movies about the opposition; he broke into sweat. But now he's retired, and like any other Belarusian pensioner he can enjoy life. This is the perfect image of a social state. Only the people's enemies claim that it's impossible to live on a pension. Maybe it's true, but only who prevents you, greedy pants, from lending your houses to increase your pension? What, you haven't saved up for a cottage? It's your fault - apparently, you didn't work hard. Officials with their state salary - not the highest one - were able to ensure a decent life for themselves even after the retirement. What was your excuse? Just don't talk about conscience, it's just a tale for the poor.

Jokes aside, the Kisel story makes me wonder. We often discuss future lustration. The power will change and all the executioners and kleptocrats of the Lukashenka regime will be blacklisted and will never approach the state control panel again. Of course, all this will be adopted at the legislative level by a freely elected parliament. But in our situation, lustration is just a palliative. Of course, someone will be tried and jailed for many years. But the history shows that there are few of them in the end, at least remember Nuremberg. The rest are simply expelled from the ruling bodies and they are just kicked out at best.

But they, not even hundreds of them anymore, live a lush life of rich pensioners. And what is the sense of lustration for them? They will be glad to see it! Because they can't work, anyway. They do not need to do anything - to siphon off the budget, to collect tribute, to extort bribes, to draw up fake papers. But now they will be able to lend their palaces and live happily ever after - on the Cote d'Azur, at least on the Mediterranean islands, because even the list of visa sanctions has long been canceled by good-hearted Europeans. Actually, the new government will only legalize their luxurious undeserved retirement.

And it turns out that the lustration means nothing. But if it comes along with restitution, it's a completely different story. In the Baltic States, after gaining independence, the authorities began to return houses to their rightful owners confiscated by the Bolsheviks for district and city committees. It was fair.

In our case, all these officials' palaces are new, they have no previous owners. But they were built on lands that the local usurper decided to declare his personal property and began to hand out as gifts for loyalty. These palaces were built on money taken away from people in a hundred "relatively honest ways". And, you see, they are still being built. Belarusians have less money (small towns have few jobs with the salary of 200 rubles), but the number of palaces of officials, police and prosecutors is increasing around Minsk. And it's natural: money, as well as energy, subject to the law of preservation and transformation. And if people's money is taken away from them - both openly and secretly, then the amount of it is growing among officials. These are laws of physics.

It turns out that the Belarusian people are the rightful owner of all this disgusting but expensive rubbish. All this should be returned to them by the new legal power. What should we do to these awful palaces is the back-burner issue. Should a museum complex in Drazdy be opened and tourists visit it? Something like a museum of Lukashism - like communism museums in Eastern Europe, left as a warning. Leave everything there as it is and hold excursions, so that every tourist could see how officials lived in a poor country, where even an unemployed is knocked off the money: here's a golden toilet of Yermoshyna, and this is Sheiman's bed, and that marble gazebo with rhinestones over there was built by Jakubovich and Davydzka to meet there in the evenings, and he you can see Miasnikovich, for example, wearing medals and riding a horse on this portrait in oils.

Or we can do without museums and excursions, just to give all these buildings to large families, orphanages or kindergartens. Or in general, to raze them to the ground and build a huge hospital in Drazdy, where post-operative patients do not have to crawl along the corridor to the one toilet in the whole department. However, it does not matter; it will be decided by people when they regain their right to vote. And the major thing is that lustration comes along with restitution here.

And I sympathize with potential tenants of Kisel's house: he didn't even remove his own portraits. Just imagine: someone rents the house, comes home in the evening, and see Kisel on the wall. One can easily have an apoplectic shock.

Iryna Khalip, especially for Charter97.org