31 May 2020, Sunday, 10:47
Sim Sim, Charter 97!

Animal Farm

Animal Farm
Iryna Khalip

Historical memory sets a man apart from an animal.

We have long been accustomed to comparing the situation in Belarus with George Orwell's novel "1984". Big Brother, double-think, "freedom is slavery" sound really similar. However, not only we, but all inhabitants of totalitarian states who can still read books compare their native countries with Oceania from Orwell's book. Such regimes resemle of identical twins, it's not a surprise. But lately the native state is more like 'Animal Farm', not '1984' written by the same author.

This book, if anyone has forgotten, is about pigs in power on a farm and they expel people from there. Or rather, pigs claim that all animals have come to power and those with four legs are equal. But over time, pigs turn the rest into slaves and seize the lord's house, drink his whiskey, use the whip, and arrange demonstrative executions. Does it remind you of anything? Yes, of course, that's what I'm talking about.

Yesterday's demolition of crosses in Kurapaty is the climax of animal farm. And the bottom of the human decay. It's not even about crosses (there could be rocks, or paper boats, or fishing nets, whatever). It's about memory. Historical memory sets a man apart from an animal. Respect and grief for strangers, fascination with deeds hidden in the centuries. And the desire to pay tribute to ashes, to lay a flower on the burial place of those whom you do not know, to remove garbage from a grave. The one who does this is human. And the one who does not feel like it, I'm sorry, is a pig.

By the way, those Orwell pigs were very clever: they eradicated the memory of the past gradually and knowingly. These are the primitive ones, they use only the riot police and forestries. However, these ones are also a bit inventive. By destroying Kurapaty, they open a memorial in Trostenets. Because it's profitable in every respect to trade in killed Jews. Austria, for example, gave money for the monument to its dead in Trostenets and sent Chancellor Kurtz to its opening. The opening means a one-on-one meeting and a support.

Remember what Kurtz said just a week ago in Minsk: "I feel comfortable in your country. And it's very important for me that Austria, as a part of the European Union, can build good long-term relations with your country. It seems to me that you have found a very positive and right path of rapprochement with the European Union without breaking your partnership relations with Russia". You see, that's a good deal. But not only Jews of Austria, but of Germany and Czechoslovakia were taken to Trostenets. By the way, Germany also allocated money for the memorial, and the president arrived at the official opening. It was a great place for trading.

There is no match for victims of Stalin's executioners, one can't get a penny for them. This is our story, no world wars involved. It would be a different matter if all these tens of thousands had names and rich heirs somewhere in America: then numerous descendants would come bringing in their cash flows. But these dead are poor Soviet citizens, and in most cases even nameless. It's the product of poor quality.

Moreover, the image of these crosses awakens intrusive memories that Kurapaty was the initial stage of resistance to the Soviet system, when it was still the Soviet system; the march there, to the place of burial became the first unauthorized mass protest action in Belarus, and, finally, the very fact of Kurapaty's existence awakens hatred in every normal person to executioners. So this place shouldn't exist at all. It's necessary to destroy memory, soul, mind, past, future. And then people will believe that these pigs should control them.

By the way, Orwell's pigs began to trade successfully with their neighbors after a few harvests, although they initially did not recognize Animal Farm and demanded to return it to its owners. They even took numerous tough steps to put these pigs on heels. But then they realized benefits of mutual trade and good neighborhood and even began to visit the pigs. To sit at the same table. Make toasts. For example, Mr. Calmington raised a toast to the Animal Farm and expressed his satisfaction about the end of years of mutual mistrust and misunderstanding. Farmers used to have wrong opinions. It was believed that the farm owned and operated by pigs was not entirely normal. But now all doubts are dispelled. It turned out that interests of pigs and people did not clash with each other.

Mr. Calmington's toast is eternal. Paraphrases of it have been voiced by many European officials and diplomats in recent years. The words of Austrian Chancellor Kurtz are just a loose version of the toast. Like a recent interview given by the British Ambassador Fiona Gibbs to the Vecherny Brest newspaper: "I talked to colleagues who worked here 5-10 years ago. And I think Belarus is moving in the right direction in terms of reforms and democratization..." One can keep recalling names and quotes, but is it worth it? Everything is clear. Mr. Kalmington is a generalized character.

But the pig is not.

Iryna Khalip, especially for Charter97.org