A Life for Belarus

The Fall and Postmortal Rise of the USSR
$35.00/ €33.95/ £28.95
Publication date: 
450 pages February

This memoir of the first president of an independent Belarus (1991-1994) tells about the revival of independent Belarus, the difficulties in establishing a democracy and a market economy, a hardened Soviet mentality, and the political immaturity of the intelligentsia and obduracy of the old nomenklatura.

Stanislau Shushkevich, born in 1934, narrates his path from a son of an “enemy of the people” to a doctorate in physics, and then to be the first head of independent Belarus. A series of entertaining essays discuss some major events as well as some minor ones that are barely known. The book describes Shushkevich’s role in hosting the Belavezha Accords, which brought about the end of the Soviet Union, and explores the motivation behind the decision for the de jure dissolution of the empire at a time when the major world leaders were categorically against the division of the USSR into independent states. The author draws particular attention to the role of the Baltic States in the late perestroika period. He also addresses the political passivity of the Soviet intelligentsia and the reasons for the revival of the Soviet Union in Russia and Belarus.

Shushkevich, who lived in Minsk till his death in May 2022, also provides valuable insights into contemporary Belarus, including an assessment of Lukashenka’s controversial role in recent events.

Author’s Introduction

Chapter 1: My Folks, Myself, and Our Elite
Chapter 2: Batskaushchyna
Chapter 3: Academy, Plant, and University
Chapter 4: The Institute Was Good, but the University Was Better
Chapter 5: Chernobyl
Chapter 6: To Moscow, to the Halls of Power
Chapter 7: The Road to Viskuli
Chapter 8: Enter the Lesser Actors
Chapter 9: A Thumbs Down for Kebich, or “I Wish I’d Known Who My Drinking Buddy Was”
Chapter 10: At Viskuli, in the Belavezha Reserve, December 7 – 8, 1991
Chapter 11: Belarus and the United States
Chapter 12: The Intelligentsia and Politics
Chapter 13: Universities, Colleges, Degrees, and Lectures
Chapter 14: My Wider World
Chapter 15: A Pathological Condition
Chapter 16: The DAU Movie Studio—International in Status, Russian at Heart
Chapter 17: The Passing Years, the Far and Near
Chapter 18: Postscript