The Byelorussians of Eastern Poland under Soviet Occupation, 1939–1941
On the eve of 17 September 1939 the Byelorussian lands were divided into two more or less equal parts by a border established at the Treaty of Riga. Byelorussians themselves faced an unhappy situation. In the west their political-nationalist movement was practically moribund after years of stormy development during which ‘Hromada’ had expanded into a mass organisation. In the east, Stalinist terror had posed a genuine threat to the biological existence of the Byelorussian nation. Zenon Pozniak, who found the site of mass murders at Kuropaty not far from Minsk and wrote a well-known article about it,1 has stated that during the greatest period of Stalinist terror over half a million people of the region perished and the overwhelming majority were Byelorussians, that is, every ninth inhabitant of this small Soviet republic. What amounts almost to genocide was intended to physically destroy the nationally-aware part of the nation and reduce the rest to grey, silent statistics in the Stalinist experiment of creating a totalitarian system. The formally independent Soviet Byelorussian republic in the east only existed as a part of the powerful system of political demagogy created by the regime. In fact, the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic was no different from the average district of the Russian Federation or the Soviet Ukraine.
KeywordsOccupied Territory Polish Authority Soviet Authority Grand Duchy Soviet Occupation
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