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. (May 2017)
The Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic (Belarusian: Рада Беларускай Народнай Рэспублікі, Рада БНР, Rada BNR) (Russian: Рада Белорусской Народной Республики, Рада БНР, Rada BNR) was the governing body of the Belarusian People's Republic. Since 1919, the Rada BNR has been in exile where it has preserved its existence among the Belarusian diaspora as an advocacy group promoting support to Belarusian independence and democracy in Belarus among Western policymakers. As of 2021, the Rada BNR is the oldest existing government in exile.
The Rada BNR was founded as the executive body of the First All-Belarusian Congress, held in Minsk in December 1917 with over 1800 participants from different regions of Belarus including representatives of Belarusian national organisations, regional zemstva, main Christian denominations and Belarusian Jewish political parties. The work of the Congress was violently interrupted by the Bolsheviks.
After retreat of the Bolsheviks from Minsk, the Rada (council) declared itself supreme power in Belarus. After the Bolsheviks and the Germans had signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk the Rada declared independence of Belarus as the sovereign Belarusian Democratic Republic.
As of 25 March 1918 the Rada BNR had 77 members including:
- 36 elected at the All-Belarusian Congress
- 6 representatives of the Belarusian community of Vilnius
- 15 representatives of ethnic minorities (Russian, Polish, Jewish)
- 10 representatives of local authorities
- 10 representatives of major cities
Germany did not give official recognition to Belarus and hindered the activities of the institutions of the Belarusian Democratic Republic. Nevertheless, the Rada managed to start organising its governing bodies in different parts of the country as well as working on establishing a national Belarusian army and a national education system.
The Rada established official diplomatic contacts with several states including Finland, the Ukrainian People's Republic, Czechoslovakia, the Baltic States, Turkey and others.
With the approach of Bolshevik armies to Minsk the Rada was forced to relocate to Vilnius, then to Hrodna and eventually, upon coordination with the Republic of Lithuania, to Kaunas.
In April 1919, the Polish army seized Hrodna and Vilnius. Jozef Pilsudski issued the Proclamation to the inhabitants of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania stating that the new Polish administration would grant them cultural and political autonomy. The proclamation was welcomed by the Belarusian leadership, especially considering Soviet plans for the Sovietization of Belarus. However, in later negotiations with the Belarusian leaders Pilsudski proposed to limit the Belarusian government's functions to purely cultural issues, which was rejected by the Belarusian prime minister Anton Luckievic. The government of Belarus managed to include a statement for minorities' rights in Poland in the resolutions of the Paris Peace Conference.
The government of the Belarusian Democratic Republic protested the Polish military mobilization in the area of Vilnius, the Polish elections held there, and the annexation of the Augustów area to Poland. They also appealed to the League of Nations, Great Britain, France, the United States and other countries to recognize the independence of Belarus.
In late 1920, the Belarusian government began negotiations anew with the Bolsheviks in Moscow and tried to persuade them to recognize the independence of Belarus and to release Belarusian political prisoners being held in Russian jails. The negotiations were unsuccessful.
On 11 November 1920, the Belarusian Democratic Republic signed a partnership treaty with the Republic of Lithuania to cooperate in liberating Belarusian and Lithuanian lands from Polish occupation.
After the establishment of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic (Belarusian SSR) as part of the USSR, several members of the Rada laid down their mandates in 1925 and returned to Belarus. Officially the Rada BNR never recognized the Belarusian SSR. Most of the members of the Rada who returned to Belarus, including former Prime Minister Vaclau Lastouski, were later killed in the Soviet terror in Belarus in the 1930s.
During the Second World War and the German occupation of Czechoslovakia the Rada refused to cooperate with the Nazis or recognize the collaborationist government of Belarus, the Belarusian Central Rada.
After the Second World War
The advance of the Red Army in 1945 forced the Rada of the BNR to relocate to the Western part of Germany, occupied by British and American troops.
In February 1948, the Rada passed a special manifesto, by which it declared its return to activity. In April 1948 the Rada, together with representatives of the Belarusian post-war refugees, held a conference in Osterhofen, Bavaria.
The primary activities of the Rada BNR in the West were lobbying and contacts with Western governments to ensure recognition of Belarus as a separate country. Together with other anti-Soviet organisations in the West, including governments in exile of Ukraine and the Baltic countries, the Rada protested against human rights violations in the Soviet Union. In the 1950s the Rada BNR enabled the creation of the Belarusian edition of Radio Free Europe. Members of the Rada organized support to Belarus following the Chernobyl accident of 1986.
After dissolution of the USSR
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, similar governments-in-exile of the neighboring countries (Lithuania, Poland and others) handed back their mandates to the corresponding independent governments.
Upon declaration of independence of the Republic of Belarus in 1990, interest in the Belarusian Democratic Republic has increased in Belarusian society. The Belarusian Popular Front, which was the main pro-Perestroika anti-Communist opposition party, has in many aspects appealed to the restoration of an independent Belarus as the Belarusian Democratic Republic since the late 1980s. In 1991, the Belarusian parliament adopted the state symbols of the Belarusian Democratic Republic, the Pahonia and the White-red-white flag, as state symbols of the Republic of Belarus.
In 1993, the government of the Republic of Belarus held official celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the Belarusian Democratic Republic in Minsk. Members of the Rada BNR took part in the celebrations along with the senior political leaders of the Republic of Belarus. It was stated then that the Rada was not ready to return its mandate to the Supreme Council of Belarus, which had originally been elected under Soviet rule. However, the Rada was prepared to hand its mandate to a freely elected Belarusian parliament. However, these plans were cancelled after president Alexander Lukashenko, elected in 1994, established a return to Soviet policies in regards to Belarusian language and culture.
Today the Rada BNR attempts to promote democracy and independence for Belarus using contacts and lobbyism in countries where it has its representatives: USA, Canada, The United Kingdom, Estonia and others. The President of the Rada regularly holds meetings with western policymakers and makes official statements criticizing the human rights violations and continuing Russification in Belarus. The Rada became a consolidating center for several exiled Belarusian opposition politicians.
"Freedom Day" celebration rally held by the Belarusian opposition in 2007.
Since the late 1980s, 25 March, the Independence Day of the Belarusian Democratic Republic, is widely celebrated by the Belarusian national democratic opposition as Freedom Day (Belarusian: Дзень волі). It is usually accompanied by mass opposition rallies in Minsk and by celebration events of the Belarusian diaspora organizations supporting the Belarusian government in exile.
Structure and functions
The Rada was intended to be a provisional parliament which would perform its functions till a constitutional convention of Belarus was held. The Rada BNR formed a government consisting of its members.
Today the Rada sees itself as bearer of a symbolic mandate and as a guarantor of the independence of Belarus. The goal of the Rada is to transfer its mandate to a democratically elected Parliament of Belarus under the condition that no threat to the independence of Belarus should be present.
The Rada is led by the President of the Rada BNR (Старшыня Рады БНР) and a Presidium (Executive council) consisting of 14 members.
The Rada includes several Secretariates as working groups or individual secretaries responsible for specific areas, this include among others:
- Secretariate for External Affairs
- Secretariate for Internal Affairs
- Secretariate for Information
- Secretariate for Education
The activity of the Rada BNR is regulated by the Provisional Constitution of the Belarusian People's Republic and the Statute of the Rada BNR.
Presidents of the Rada BNR
The current presidium consists of:
- Ivonka Survilla – President
- Siarhiej Navumčyk, former member of the Supreme Soviet of Belarus and the Belarusian Popular Front – 1st Vice-President
- Viačasłau Stankievič, Belarusan-American Association – Vice-President
- Mikoła Pačkajeŭ, Association of Belarusians in Great Britain, former senior activist of the Belarusian Popular Front and Malady Front – Vice-President
- Dr. Palina Prysmakova, Board Member of the Belarusian Institute of America and the Krecheuski Foundation, Assistant Professor of the School of Public Administration at Florida Atlantic University - Secretary
- Viačasłau Bortnik, former Vice-President of the Belarusan-American Association
- Aleś Čajčyc – Information Secretary
- Siarhiej Piatrovič
- Valer Dvornik – Treasurer
- Ała Kuźmickaja – Recording Secretary
- Dr. Ała Orsa Romano, president of the Orsa Romano Foundation – Secretary of Education
- Valancina Tryhubovič, Belarusan-American Association – Archivist
- Alaksandar Starykievič
- Alaksandar Kot
- Pavał Šaŭcoŭ, Association of Belarusians in Great Britain
- Siarhiej Piatkievič, Association of Belarusians in Great Britain
- Hanna Surmač, Belarusan-American Association
Awards and decorations of the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic
In 1949, the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic in exile under President Mikola Abramchyk has introduced a number of civic and military awards. There has been a number of decorations in the 1950s.
In 2016, the Rada of the BDR has announced plans to renew the decorations. In 2018, the Rada has awarded 130 Belarusian activists and politicians, as well as a number of foreigners, with a newly created medal commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Belarusian Democratic Republic.
|White, red, white
||Order of the Pahonia
|September 1, 1949
||The highest state award of the Belarusian Democratic Republic
|Brown and red
||Order of the Iron Knight
Ордэр Жалезнага Рыцара
|September 1, 1949
||A military decoration for soldiers and officers
|Brown, red, green
|September 1, 1949
||A medal for the members of the Belarusian anti-Soviet partisan movement
|Belarusian Democratic Republic 100th Jubilee Medal
Мэдаль да стагодзьдзя Беларускай Народнай Рэспублікі
|December 24, 2018
||A medal "for lifelong achievements in the fulfillment of the ideals of the Belarusian Democratic Republic, including research and the popularisation of Belarus, the strengthening of and achievement of the independence of Belarus, and the struggle for freedom and democracy in Belarus."