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Independence Day meeting

2 July 2020

Belarusians have been going towards their own independence for over 1,000 years. Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko made the statement during a solemn assembly held on 2 July ahead of Independence Day.

The head of state stressed that Independence Day is the key state holiday. It has become a symbol of the freedom of the Belarusian nation, which defeated death in the most dreadful war in the history of mankind.

“Yes, Belarusians have been going towards their own independence for over 1,000 years. It was a path of struggle nearly at all times starting with ancient history. A struggle with the severe climate to achieve a good harvest, a struggle with conquerors for the land, a struggle with oppressors for freedom, a struggle with invaders for faith, culture, and traditions,” the Belarusian leader noted.

But the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 became a war of survival, a war to define the existence of the nation, a war for the Belarusians’ place in history, for the place of the young Soviet republic on the world map, the head of state stressed.

“The years of occupation vividly and brutally demonstrated the true sense of such notions as safety, freedom, sovereignty, and independence. These values could have been lost forever but they were regained the day our capital city of Minsk was liberated,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “It’s been nearly four generations of Belarusians since then. But the memory of the heroes who gave us the future lives on in our hearts. The memory is full of pain but there is even more pride in it. It contains the recognition of the fact that all of us, modern Belarusians, have the gene of the winners.”

“The fact that in 1945 the Belarusian nation defended its independence with a weapon in hand is a strong argument against any interference in the country’s affairs. But today it is not enough to carry the historical banner of our ancestors’ Victory proudly and pass it on to our children. The time has come to defend the honor of the victors’ banner. When we see how descendants of the nations saved from Nazi slavery and genocide demolish monuments to Soviet soldiers and start hailing Nazis as heroes, we understand, that the war has not ended,” the head of state stressed.

According to him, the war continues in the cultural, information, political and economic areas. “It has turned into a shooting war in the neighboring country – our sister nation," the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that some time in the past the former republics of the USSR experienced social disruption. “We cannot ignore this historical experience. Neither can we ignore this historical reality," the head of state said. “Understanding that our ancestors were great people gives each new generation a sense of self-sufficiency and pride for their origin, makes the nation strong and independent,” the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “This is why we are going to view any attempts to discredit the generation of winners as a challenge to the sovereignty stemming from the Belarusian nation.”

In his words, one should understand that descendants and adepts of the ideas of those, who stood on the other side of the frontline, will not abandon attempts to rewrite the history of World War Two or cast it into oblivion. “We have no right to allow it. We cannot allow it in the name of the memory of those, who gave their lives for the freedom of the Belarusian land, for our present and for the future of our children and grandchildren,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

The President quoted some data. The historiography of the Great Patriotic War contains references to over 260 death camps, over 140 punitive operations in Belarus’ territory, over three years of intolerable suffering the Belarusians had to endure when the country was occupied. The memory is immortalized in more than 8,000 monuments, documentary films and archives, it lives in the grassroots initiative Belarus Remembers.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted: “Today it is important to not only preserve but publish all the archives. It is a package of counterarguments that will help future generations of Belarusians preserve the historic legacy of their country.”

Addressing war veterans, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that the peace they had restored is preserved in Belarus as the greatest treasure in life. “It is our sacred duty to preserve and pass on the peaceful, safe, and independent country of Belarus to the future generations in the name of your great deeds. Despite various woes of the present world I can assure you that we will preserve this peaceful and independent country,” the Belarusian leader concluded.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said: “Today Belarus is being split apart. The East is afraid of losing us. I am not trying to hide it. And I understand our Russian brothers. After all, we don’t want to flee anywhere. We just want to be treated humanely in our common home where we lived and live as brothers. It is the only requirement. We will earn the rest on our own.”

Belarus does not want to be spurred by the West, the President stressed. “The French distinguished themselves recently. But they should not be the ones to talk about it when there are still ‘yellow vest’ protesters in their streets. A dreadful competitive fight is in progress. We, Belarusians, should survive this fight and do it in a pretty way. We should not create problems for ourselves. By the end of the year we will get to the development track we’ve always followed,” the head of state is convinced.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted: “If only we act according to the forced scenarios and follow those, who are controlled by foreign puppet masters, we will no longer be Belarusians. The Belarusians, who were always winners in the end at the most difficult times. The Belarusians, who have always treated accomplishments of their predecessors with great respect. The Belarusians, who have always relied on original traditions in cultural, scientific, industrial, political, and public life of the country.”

The head of state believes that this continuity had made Belarusians an independent nation, a self-sufficient and self-directing nation in matters of choosing its own fate. “Today, as never before, we must hold on to our past, present, and most importantly future. We must preserve the country’s sovereignty and independence,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

In his words, time has presented a new challenge before the Belarusian nation – a challenge that tests the durability of many countries and unions as well as friendly and economic relations between countries. “The world is about to enter a new age. The history is about to be separated into before and after. Every person that can think starts to wonder what place Belarus will take in the geopolitical space in the near future. We will not have wonder who we are, but where we are, where our place is. Our place is here and we must defend it whatever the cost. It belongs not so much to us as to our children,” the head of state said.

The President pointed out that a fierce fight is in progress in the world today: a fight for territories, resources, target markets, historical legacy, and spheres of influence. “For the first time in the history of independence we feel the press of unprecedented information pressure. People’s security and the sovereignty of the state are at stake. I say it directly and without double meaning: we are going to determine the fate of our country in one month,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stated.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that a presidential election will take place in Belarus in one month, the nation will have to make up its mind not only about the next head of state but about the future of the country. “You and I have lived together for a quarter of a century as well as we could. We’ve been building our Belarus as well as we could. We’ve created and raised our youth, who are unfortunately a mixed bunch but it has always been like that. There is no need to take offense at young people. If they differ from our expectations, then it means it is our failure,” the President said. “The older generation, the middle generation, those, who work hard, most of the people correctly evaluate the situation in the country. As I meet with smart people, people that think, hard-working people, I feel some growing pity directed at me: Lukashenko is ours, he has been with us… They are trying to calm me down about some things. Let me tell you the key thing: I’ve done my share of work, I am fed up with the presidential fate. I am taking part in this presidential election campaign not because I am hanging onto my seat with fingers that have gone blue. I’ve dedicated the best years of my life to the development of this country just like many of you have. We’ve been building it as well as we could. It turned out we did it on par with others. The most important thing is that we’ve avoided wars, we live in a safe and calm country where every person, who has a kid, can go outside at any time of day and night without worrying. People from other countries – our Russian and Ukrainian brothers – envy us. And yet we live and fail to understand how we’ve earned it. You and I made it together.”

“You should grab your head, as people say, think, and resolve one problem. Lukashenkos come and go. There will be others. But life in this patch of land has to go on. This is why abandon all emotions. Emotions are no good today. They play your emotions and mine, using so-called new technologies, the Internet, and the rest. We should demonstrate that we are Belarusians and know the intricacies of the Internet well. We should decently go through this period of time while you should make up your mind with whom you will live from now on and how you are going to build your sovereign country for your kids,” Aleksandr Lukashenko concluded.

The President noted that the Soviet times gave Belarusians an opportunity to build a legitimate state – a republic with all national symbols: a Belarusian flag, a coat of arms, and an anthem. “Our generation has had the privilege of realizing the absolute right to state sovereignty and independence. Fortunately, it happened calmly, with no blood or shocks. We did it by having chosen the path of continuity of political, cultural and social traditions – our own path rather than the historical path imposed by external forces,” said the head of state. "The path that many, as you can see, do not like today. But this is our way, we chose it. And we will follow it, no matter the costs," the head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that sovereignty and independence are the most precious things any nation has. “They come at a cost. If we want to be sovereign and independent, we have to go for it, calmly, without shocks, without going into conflicts with neighbors, distant or close. We do not need it. We are peaceful people and want to live peacefully. We want to live by our wits, our work. We do not need what does not belong to us, but we are not going to give up our own,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

He recalled that at the national referendums in the 1990s, the Belarusian people supported the language equality and the date of Independence Day, having opted for a strong power capable of ensuring security and stability of the state. “Strangely enough, I have recently heard more and more criticism of this form of government in our country. I would like to remind you – and inform the youth who do not know this – that it was not me who monopolized the power, taking upon myself too heavy a burden. At that time, we were but a bleeding stump of a large, great state – the Soviet Union. No money, no flour to make bread, strikes at every turn. So I offered options, I did not do that backstage and I did not have any power at the time. When you supported me at the referendum, you placed this burden on me. I am carrying it the best I can,” the head of state said.

According to him, many post-Soviet countries envy Belarusians who walked through the formative years calmly and peacefully. “Some are itching: they want to turn everything upside down, to bring about reforms. But I would like to warn you, that these reforms will help some to line up their pockets while you will be walking from town and villages towards our Hero City of Minsk to roll out your grievances. Look at the USA – an extremely rich country. Look at Western Europe – why are they making a fuss? Look what is happening there: due to the recent events and the pandemic, 60 millions of people in the USA lost their jobs, that sparked food riots. We are not the USA, we do not print dollars. We are not even Russia that has an abundance of fossil fuels, gold, and metals. We have only our hands, brains, and common sense. For that we need the global economy to continue to function. If it collapses, we will also collapse, because we are an export-oriented country, we buy most raw materials and resources abroad,” the President noted.

“Remembering the heroes of the war, we always hail their courage and willingness to give up their lives for the Motherland. We understand that the ordeals of the Great Patriotic War awakened unprecedented forces in people. But these forces were raised by the centuries-old history of unfree life of our distant ancestors,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He noted that the independence of the Belarusian state has its roots in ancient times, in the mists of time: in the aspirations of the Principality of Polotsk for political and economic independence, in the progressive medieval laws on the Belarusian land, in scientific and spiritual works, in the political successes of compatriots – outstanding  representatives of different historical eras.

But it so happened that for almost a thousand years the right to express the popular will on the Belarusian land belonged exclusively to the crowned persons. “It was only in the 20th century that people found a fateful answer to the eternal question ‘Who goes there?’ In the harsh conditions of the three revolutions, the First World War and the Civil War, the Belarusian people took to the historical stage - wise and hardy, true protectors and guardians of the Motherland. These people were de facto masters of their land, because during all wars and battles (which were many) they selflessly stood up for their Motherland and always knew who the enemy was. Even without political independence, living for centuries in the conditions of cultural, confessional and political expansion, the people managed to preserve their ethnic identity and traditions,” the President stressed.

The head of state noted that this is what independence is about – inner freedom that lives in the heart. According to him, it helps people to keep in touch with their ancestors, their native land, to preserve their national identity, faith and language. “The Belarusian people always chose the historical path with their heart and thus proved that they deserved the sovereign right to decide their own destiny,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

The President noted that today Belarusians are building an independent country on the international political arena. “The country is modern and unique, a blend of Western and Eastern European cultures. These are our common historical heritage,” he noted. “The fact that during the years of independence we have managed to preserve the harmony of different traditions and languages in the society, learned to accept and appreciate the achievements of different historical epochs, to respect each other's confessional choices speaks about the national and political maturity of our people. We are ready to finally build our independent country,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko added that the country's centuries-old history predetermined the spiritual closeness of Belarusians with the sister nation, the multifaceted nature of foreign economic and foreign policies. “We are not only the historical but also the modern center of Europe. For a quarter of a century we have grown into a culturally and spiritually united, independent Belarusian nation,” the President said.

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© 2020, The Press Service of the President of the Republic of Belarus