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Date: 2016
Abstract: Focusing on three contemporary grassroots initiatives of preserving Jewish heritage and commemorating Jews in Belarus, namely, the Jewish Museum in Minsk, Ada Raǐchonak’s private museum of regional heritage in Hermanovichi, and the initiative of erecting the monument of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda in Hlybokae, the present article discusses how local efforts to commemorate Jews and preserve Jewish heritage tap into the culture of political dissent, Belarus’s international relations, and the larger project of redefining the Belarusian national identity. Looking at the way these memorial interventions frame Jewish legacy within a Belarusian national narrative, the article concentrates in particular on the institution of the public historian and the small, informal social networks used to operate under a repressive regime. Incorporating the multicultural legacy of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth into the canon of Belarusian national heritage and recognizing the contribution of ethnic minorities to the cultural landscape of Belarus, new memory projects devoted to Jewish history in Belarus mark a caesura in the country’s engagement with its ethnic Others and are also highly political. While the effort of filling in the gaps in national historiography and celebrating the cultural diversity of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania overlaps in significant ways with the agenda of the anti-Lukashenka opposition, Jewish heritage in Belarus also resonates with the state authorities, who seek to instrumentalize it for their own vision of national unity.
Date: 2013