Belarusian Nation-Building in Times of War and Revolution

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Publication date: 
November, 288 pages
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The proclamation of Belarusian independence on March 25, 1918, and the rival establishment of the Soviet Belarusian state on January 1, 1919, created two distinct and mutually exclusive national myths, which continue to define contemporary Belarusian society. This book examines the processes that resulted in this dual resolution in the context of World War I and the subsequent Russian Revolutions.

Based on original archival material, Lizaveta Kasmach scrutinizes the development of competing concepts of Belarusian nationhood in the context of rivaling national aspirations and imperial policies. The analysis convincingly demonstrates the divisions within the nationalist movement, both politically between the moderates and socialists, and geographically between German-occupied territory with Vilna as a center versus Russian-controlled territory around Minsk. Besides the case study of Belarusian nation-building efforts, the book is a contribution to the study of the First World War in East Central Europe, approaching the war and its aftermath as a mobilizational moment in the region.



Notes on transliteration, translation, and calendars

List of abbreviations

Chapter 1. The First World War on Belarusian Territories
Chapter 2. Belarusians, Lithuanians, and Poles in the Lands of Ober Ost (1915 – 1917)
Chapter 3. “Common” Homeland of the Grand Duchy: National Politics in Ober Ost
Chapter 4. The Political Organization of the Belarusian Movement in Non-Occupied Territories in 1917
Chapter 5. The First All-Belarusian Congress
Chapter 6. Belarusian Statehood in the Making: BDR and Soviet Belarus
Concluding Remarks



"By analyzing in a very nuanced way the geographical and political divisions within the Belarussian nationalist movement during World War I and the following revolutions, as well as describing the transition from a national project based on the idea of autonomy to the project of Belarusian independence, this book not only reassesses the significance of this period for the longer-term construction of Belarusian statehood and nationalism, but also shows how the history of Belarus differed from that of the neighboring cases of Lithuania and Ukraine. In so doing, Kasmach makes an original, well-documented, and long-awaited contribution to the history of Belarus as a nation in the making while also contributing to the wider scholarship on World War I as a “decolonizing war” or moment of nationalist mobilization."
"In this pathbreaking and essential study, Lizaveta Kasmach highlights the Belarusian national awakening during World War I and the Revolution of 1917. She explores the nation-building efforts of the Belarusian national elites and the evolution of their thinking in national terms. She demonstrates how the first two states—the Belarusian National Republic (BDR), formed under German military control, and the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR)—paved the way, despite severe impediments, for the independent state formed in 1991. Their legacies reached their zenith in the wide uprising of 2020 against the Lukashenka dictatorship. This failed but the goals remain in place as Belarusians seek their rightful place in the world."
"Belarusian Nation-Building in Times of War and Revolution convincingly demonstrates a variety of factors that affected the formation of the Belarusian national idea, including the role of the Belarusian activists, their complex relationships with the Polish and the Lithuanian counterparts, the impact of the German occupational policies as well as the Russian imperial and later the Bolshevik governments’ attitude towards the Belarusian national awakening. Moreover, the book provides an original contribution to the underresearched area of World War I from the perspective of non-dominant actors, portraying the struggles of the Belarusian national activists as “small actors” who sought to acquire agency in making decisions about their nation’s future development."