Belarusian National Republic
The Belarusian National Republic (Belarusian Belarusky National Respubl_ka), BNR — the political education proclaimed on March 25, 1918 the 3rd Authorized Diploma of Rada Vsebelorussky of the Congress (1872 delegates) in difficult and uncertain conditions of the German occupation and flight of representatives of Bolsheviks from Minsk. Existed during World War I (1918) in the territory of Belarus, and after it — in emigration. Historians argue on whether it is possible to call BNR the state or it was only attempt of creation of the state.
Declaration of BNR was the first experience of creation in the Belarusian ethnic territory of the state on an ethnic sign. Occupation by the German empire in the conditions of World War I of considerable part of the Belarusian ethnic territory created prerequisites to the fact that this political step of group of the Belarusian activists became attempt of an institutionalization of the Belarusian ethnos in the form of independent of the Russian state. Annually on March 25 in Belarus the holiday — the Day of Volya devoted to declaration of BNR on March 25, 1918 is informally celebrated.
In July, 1917 the Provisional government in Russia began open war with Councils. "Diarchy" stopped, Bolsheviks went underground. As a result of October revolution on October 25 (on November 7), 1917 power was seized by Bolsheviks. The Regional executive committee of the Western area and front (Obliskomzap) became the supreme body of the Soviet power in Belarus.
At the same time, since July, 1917 in Belarus the Belarusian national forces which at the initiative of the Belarusian socialist bulk carried out the II congress of the Belarusian national organizations and made the decision to try to obtain an autonomy of Belarus as a part of democratic republican Russia became more active. At congress the Central Rada which after October, 1917 was transformed to the Great Belarusian Rada (GBR) was created. VBR did not recognize the power of Obliskomzap who considered as exclusively front body, and supported free transfer of the earth to peasants. In December, 1917 by order of Obliskomzap Vsebelorussky congress was dispersed.
Meanwhile, some part of the population of the Belarusian lands did not wish an autonomy from Russia that figures of the national movement explained with "darkness", "bad manners" and "unreasonableness" of the Belarusian people.
On December 9, 1917 between the Soviet Russia and Germany peace talks began. As the representative of the Soviet Russia Lev Trotsky was not ready to agree to the German huge territorial requirements, the German command began (on February 18, 1918) approach. Germans quickly approached Gomel and Minsk. In these circumstances Obliskomzap and Council of People's Commissars of the Western area hasty ran to Smolensk.
On February 21, 1918 the Executive committee of Vsebelorussky congress addressed the people of Belarus with the Authorized diploma in which it declared itself the temporary power in the territory of Belarus. Before opening of the Vsebelorussky constituent assembly of function of the new power were assigned to the National secretariat created by Executive committee which head was one of leaders of the Belarusian Socialist Bulk (BSB) I. Voronko.
On March 3, 1918 between the Soviet Russia and Germany the Brest peace on which the lands lying to the West from the line Dvinsk — Pruzhana, belonging before Russia, were transferred to Germany and Austro-Hungary which were authorized to decide future of these lands was made. It led to growth in the Belarusian national movement of aspirations to independence.
On March 9, 1918 the Executive committee accepted the second Authorized diploma in which declared Belarus the National Republic — BNR. The executive committee was renamed into Rada of BNR which Presidium was headed by the representative of BSG Ivan Sereda, Semyon Kryvets was appointed the secretary of Presidium. Rada of BNR was proclaimed legislature before convocation of the Constituent assembly.
Declaration on March 25, 1918 at 8 in the morning in the building of Country land bank on Serpukhovskoy Street (nowadays — Volodarsk, 9), in Minsk, Rada Belorusskoy of the National Republic accepted the Third Authorized diploma in which independence of the Republic was declared:
By official language it was declared Belarusian, and the capital — Minsk. The territory of BNR according to the Authorized diploma included the Mogilev province and parts Minsk, Grodno (including Bialystok), Vilensky, Vitebsk, Smolensk provinces, that is territories which most of the population was made by Belarusians (except Smolensk).
BNR did not gain the international recognition. In some sources it is claimed that independence of BNR was recognized by Armenia, Austria, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Turkey, Ukraine, Finland, Czechoslovakia, Estonia, the Soviet Russia, however it is not documented. Foreign representations (missions) of BNR worked in various states, but they had no official diplomatic status.
National Secretariat of the Belarusian National Republic. From left to right: A. Burbis, I. Sereda, I. Voronko, V. Zakharko sit; there are A. Smolich, P. Krechevsky, K. Ezavitov, A. Ovsyanik, L. Zayats.
Cooperation of BNR with the Ukrainian National Republic was the closest. Between BNR and UNR there was an exchange of consulates, in Kiev the Belarusian chamber of commerce was open. UNR provided to BNR financial aid. However BNR did not gain official recognition neither from the Central Rada of UNR, nor from Skoropadsky's getmanat. Also there was unresolved a question of frontier because of the controversial status of Polesia.
BNR had no main signs of the state: it did not possess sovereignty over the territory (occupied by Germans), constitutions, enforcement machinery, monopoly for taxation and application of violence. There were no local authorities, judicial system. In this regard it is quite often noted that BNR did not manage to become the real state for the short period of the existence. At the same time in BNR there was an institute of nationality, a State Seal and symbolics, an education system, stamps were published. Borders of territories to which it was supposed to extend sovereignty of BNR were declared, attempts of creation of armed forces were made. BNR which declared independence of Belarus is glad, it was chosen at the First Vsebelorussky congress in which 1872 delegates — representatives various political currents and social groups from all ethnographic territory of the country took part that allows to speak about existence of legitimate authority and national will. Nevertheless, it is noted that the idea of creation of the independent state on the basis of ethnic sovereignty did not get support of all population of the Belarusian lands.
Bolsheviks declared that creation of BNR — attempt of bourgeois and landowner circles to tear off Belarus from Russia. BNR and Germany as creation of the republic contradicted the Brest world did not recognize. However the German administration did not interfere with activity of Rada which sent to the Kaiser the telegram where thanked him for liberation of Belarus and asked for help in strengthening of its state independence in the union with the German empire. This telegram caused an acute political crisis in BNR as not all members of Rada of BNR supported so dense cooperation with Germany.
After World War I
After defeat of Germany in World War I and signing of the peace agreement under which Germany was obliged to disengage troops from occupied territories the Soviet government denounced the Brest world and directed troops to the freed territories. On December 10, 1918 the German troops left Minsk, in a type of approach of the Soviet troops, members of Rada of BNR in the second half of December, 1918 moved in even remaining under the German control of Grodno. On January 1, 1919 in Smolensk the Soviet Socialist Republic of Byelorussia was proclaimed, on January 8, 1919 the government of SSRB moved from Smolensk to Minsk which was already occupied without fight of Bolsheviks by Red Army by then. To the middle of February, 1919. The Soviet power was established almost in all territory of modern Belarus (except Grodno which, after withdrawal of the German troops, passed on April 10, 1919 under the Polish control).
Figures of Rada returned to Minsk in August — September, 1919 during the Soviet-Polish war after the Army Polish entered the city. When in September to Minsk there arrived Józef Pilsudsky, it was welcomed by all Belarusian parties, except Bolsheviks. But subsequently in the Belarusian national circles negative attitude to the Polish leaders began to develop. In December, 1919 there was a split of Rada of BNR on the Verkhovna Rada and National Rada. The Verkhovna Rada under the leadership of Anton Lutskevich was guided by cooperation with the Polish authorities and looked for forms of implementation of the Belarusian statehood on the basis of federation with Poland. Lutskevich considered that in the union with Poland Belarusians can not only keep the sovereignty, but also buy lands in the east, up to Smolensk. However the Polish government ignored proposals of the Belarusian politicians. In turn National Rada under the leadership of Václav Lastovsky protested against "colonizer policy" of Poland and the allies considered the Baltic republics. Both are glad to BNR entered fierce competition among themselves, proving the exclusive right to representation of Belarus on the international scene. After withdrawal of Poles from Minsk in July, 1920 the Verkhovna Rada of BNR moved to Poland. Most of supporters of National Rada moved to Kaunas.
In October, 1920 the Polish general Lyutsian Zheligovsky lifted mutiny against Vilno's transfer to Lithuania, occupied the city and beat out Lithuanians from there. The league of the Nations refused to recognize Zheligovsky's actions lawful. It was supposed that the status of Vilenshchina will be defined during plebiscite. After that the government of Lithuania began to look for supports among the Belarusian population of disputed territories, and the confidential contract between Lastovsky's government and Lithuanian Tariboy on mutual recognition and cooperation was signed on November 11, 1920. Lithuanians promised to provide financial aid to the government of BNR and the national Belarusian organizations of Vilenshchina and Grodnenshchina. National Rada of BNR promised Lithuania support of the Belarusian population during plebiscite and agreed to use by the government of Lithuania of the Belarusian military formations. Also the agreement was reached that ethnically Belarusian territories of Vilenshchina and Grodnenshchina will receive the status of an autonomy and will be in structure of the Lithuanian state on the basis of federation. In the contract nothing was told about East Belarus. Later the member of Rada of BNR Alexander Tsvikevich remembered: "The Lithuanian government decided to use us for fight against Poland for Vilno, and we decided to use "the Lithuanian base" for fight for independence of Belarus".
At the same time the Polish government in fight for Vilno used the "polonofilsky" Verkhovna Rada of BNR which by that moment already practically stopped the activity. Her letter in which it was said that "the Belarusian population does not divide a wish of Kaunas" was argument of the Polish delegation at the Polish-Lithuanian negotiations in Brussels in April, 1921. However as a result negotiations were ineffectual, the League of the Nations appeared not to resolve the conflict in forces, and plebiscite did not take place. On March 24, 1922 the Polish Sejm ratified the decision on admission of Vilenshchina in structure of Poland. After that the Lithuanian leaders lost interest in cooperation with Rada of BNR and refused to finance its activity. In November, 1923 members of the government of BNR left Kaunas and moved to Prague.
In November-December, 1920 the Belarusian Social Revolutionaries headed the Slutsk revolt under slogans of restoration of BNR though Rada of BNR had no relation to it.
Figures of BNR repeatedly tried to draw attention of world community to "the Belarusian question" at various post-war conferences, however these attempts were unsuccessful. The leading powers of the world did not consider even the possibility of granting an autonomy to Belarusians. At the Parisian conference the French diplomats frankly declared to Anton Lutskevich: "If you had though a plot of land where you would be owners, the issue of the international recognition of independence would be resolved positively and you would be given the help".
Symbols of BNR and chairmen of Rada of BNR
The white red white flag and the coat of arms "Pursuit" were symbols of BNR. There was also an anthem of the Belarusian National Republic.
Since January 5 1919 Rada and the government of BNR are in exile.
Chairmen of Rada were:
Ivan Sereda (Belarusian Jan Serada) (1918 — 1919)
Pyotr Krechevsky (Belarusian Pyotra Kreche¸sk і) (1919 — 1928)
Vasily Zakharka (Belarusian Vas_l Zakharka) (1928 — 1943)
Nikolay Abramchik (Belarusian M_kola Abramchyk) (1944 — 1970)
Vinzent Zhuk-Grischkewitsch (Belarusian V_ntsent Zhuk-Gryshkev_ch) (1970 — 1982)
Iosif Sazhich (Belarusian Yazep Sazhych) (1982 — 1997)
Ivonka Survilla (Belarusian _vonka of Surv_l) (since 1997)
Activity of Rada of BNR in emigration
1924 was marked by the fact that governing bodies of the government of SSRB, RSFSR and the USSR made the decision on return of part of its territories to Belarus. These events strengthened the pro-Soviet moods in the Western Belarus and among emigrants. At the Second Belarusian conference in Berlin in October, 1925 some members of Rada of BNR led by Alexander Tsvikevich delegated the powers to the government of BSSR and recognized Minsk as the only cultural and political center by which the Belarusian movement abroad has to be guided. Other part of governing bodies of BNR condemned this act as "treachery of independence of Belarus" and continued the activity in Prague.
Activity of the Belarusian emigration was stirred up with coming to power in Germany of national socialists. The third president of BNR Vasily Zakharka in 1939 wrote the detailed report on political, economic and cultural situation of Belarus, and also addressed with the memorandum Hitler with support assurances. During war Zakharka remained in Prague, and before death in 1943 delegated powers to Nikolay Abramchik who edited the Ranitsa newspaper propagandizing cooperation of Belarusians with Germans in Berlin at this time. Activity of Rada was resumed by Abramchik and his colleagues in 1947.
After World War II by the competitor of "the government of BNR in exile" the Belarusian central was glad, created by R. Ostrovsky in 1943 and continuing to exist in emigration. Unlike BTsR almost entirely consisting of active collaborators "the government of BNR" included as the former collaborators (e.g., I. Ermachenko, I. Sazhich, B. Rogulya), and those who were at war against Hitlerite Germany (V. Zhuk-Grishkevich).
It is known of post-war cooperation of Rada of BNR with CIA. During detention in 1953 of the CIA agent Ivan Filistovich abandoned in Belarus, at it the certificate of the representative of "government" of BNR signed by Abramchik was revealed. The former federal prosecutor of the USA John Loftus in the book "Belarusian Secret" claims that the Belarusian war criminals were enlisted by the American intelligence agencies and are taken secretly out to the USA in circumvention of the American laws for the follow-up anti-Soviet activity.
By the beginning of the 90th years Rada of BNR with the residence in New York consisted approximately of 200 people from around the world including from Belarus, but the majority of them lived in the USA. According to the charter the president or the chairman of Rada is "the highest representative of Rada of BNR and the Belarusian people" whom Rada elects for 6-year term.
Emigration did not recognize BSSR and its border. One of possible ways of return of the Belarusian lands which were a part of RSFSR (Smolensk, parts of Bryansk and Pskov regions), emigration considered the inevitable military conflict between the USSR and the West as a result of which the communistic system will be destroyed. In appeals to the western powers and the UN Rada of BNR asked to create the commission of the UN on investigation of "a colonial policy of the Soviet Union in Belarus", including "false representation" of interests of Belarus in the UN delegation of BSSR.
After declaration of independence of Belarus Rada of BNR carefully apprehended changes in the country, without having stated the official relation to the Declaration on the state sovereignty and adoption of new state symbolics though she fought for such succession of events in emigration. Unlike governments in exile of Ukraine, the countries of Baltic, Poland which recognized the new governments in the Post-Soviet and post-socialist countries and delegated them the powers Belarus remains the only country of Eastern Europe having the "government in exile".