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By E. Korosteleva

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Extra resources for Contemporary Belarus: Between Democracy and Dictatorship

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Subsequently, accounts of the Masherau years have varied. Some portray him as a virtual oppositionist struggling against the party leadership in Moscow, whereas others see him as an orthodox communist, who rarely wavered from the party line. These analyses are significant in an assessment of the state of national consciousness at the time of independence and thus we will examine them both briefly. The portrayal of Masherau as an oppositionist, who advanced Belarus’s interests over those of the USSR as a whole, owes much to one of his biographers, Slavamir Antanovich.

Though it was considered necessary to outlaw the Communist Party, which dominated the Supreme Soviet, its members still remained in place and held about 85 per cent of the seats in the legislature. Only with the decision to elect a president, as mandated by the constitution of 1994 did the political situation change dramatically in Belarus. Remarkably, the period of great changes did not foster the widespread disillusionment with the period of Soviet rule manifested elsewhere (Ukraine, for example) because the national movement lacked both the numbers and sufficient time to exert a significant influence on public perceptions.

See S. Karpekhova, Izvestiia, 26 March 1998, p. 6. Many of Bykau’s views on Belarusian democracy and independence are collected in Iu. Zaloska, Dyialohi z Vasiliom Bykavym (Minsk: Mastatskaia litaratura, 1995). On Bykau’s literary work, see A. McMillin, Belarusian Literature in the 1950s and 1960s: Release and Renewal (Cologne: Böhlau, 1999), pp. 205–30. N. Galko, Nezavisimaia gazeta, 23 February 2000, p. 5. Ibid. Those who did attend apparently demanded the immediate dismissal of the government official in charge of literature, Deputy Prime Minister Uladzimir Zamiatalin.

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