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BELARUSIAN POLES GET THEIR NEWSPAPER FROM POLAND. An issue of the Polish-language "Glos znad Niemna" weekly printed in Poland has recently begun to be distributed among the Polish minority in Belarus, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reported on 14 July. In a bid to put the Union of Poland in Belarus (SPB) under tighter control, the Belarusian authorities annulled the election of a new SPB leadership, prevented the SPB from printing "Glos znad Niemna" in Belarus, and issued several bogus issues of the weekly (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," 22 June 2005). Several Polish-minority journalists were fined earlier this month over their protest against the takeover of "Glos znad Niemna" by the authorities (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2005). "I think the special operation [of the authorities] to publish the fake 'Glos znad Niemna' has ended in a fiasco," Polish-minority journalist Andrzej Poczobut told RFE/RL. Poczobut added that people in Poland have set up a fund to collect money to help Polish-minority journalists in Belarus pay their fines and publish "Glos znad Niemna" outside official control. JM
TRANSDNIESTRIAN LEADER BACKS UKRAINE'S SETTLEMENT PLAN. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko met with Igor Smirnov, leader of Moldova's breakaway region of Transdniester, in Ukraine on 14 July, Interfax-Ukraine, UNIAN, and ITAR-TASS reported, citing Ukrainian presidential sources. Yushchenko and Smirnov agreed to coordinate their activities toward implementing the plan to settle the Transdniester conflict that was proposed by Yushchenko in April (see "RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report," 6 and 15 June 2005). Yushchenko's plan, in particular, calls for holding democratic elections in Transdniester under international monitoring. Both politicians also agreed to invite representatives of the EU and the United States to take part in negotiations between Chisinau and Tiraspol, which have so far been brokered by Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Yushchenko and Smirnov also decided to set up a working group to formulate criteria for democratizing Transdniester and ensure a transparent electoral process there. Moreover, the sides reportedly consented to the possibility of EU monitoring of the Transdniester stretch of the Ukrainian-Moldovan border. JM
UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT URGES GOVERNMENT, PARLIAMENT TO MAKE PEACE. President Yushchenko on 14 July called on Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko and Verkhovna Rada speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn to reach mutual understanding for the sake of political stability in the country, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 14 July. Yushchenko was referring to acrimonious statements that the two have exchanged following last week's tumultuous votes on a package of bills needed by Ukraine to join the World Trade Organization (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 2005). "We've lived through an uneasy six months, and obviously the government and the parliament have became tired of one another. A time out is needed to have some rest," Yushchenko said, adding the two sides should stop commenting on each other. JM
TRANSDNIESTER INVITES INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS FOR LEGISLATIVE ELECTIONS. The Supreme Soviet of the unrecognized Transdniester Moldovan Republic has issued a statement inviting observers from Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE to monitor the parliamentary elections that are due in the separatist region this fall, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 July. The elections are reportedly to be held under a plan proposed by Ukraine earlier this year to settle the Transdniester conflict (see item in Ukraine section). The statement simultaneously condemned the Moldovan parliament's intention to pass a law on the status of Transdniester within the Republic of Moldova. A draft bill on such a status was discussed in Chisinau earlier this week (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 2005). "Such an initiative outside the framework of negotiations and without comprehensive discussion can destabilize the situation," the statement reads. The Transdniestrian legislature also slammed Chisinau's idea of holding the Transdniestrian elections under Moldovan legislation, saying that such a situation would deprive "hundreds of thousands" of Transdniestrian residents who do not have Moldovan citizenship of their right to vote. JM
RADIO FREE EUROPE/RADIO LIBERTY, PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
A Survey of Developments in Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova by the Regional Specialists of RFE/RL's Newsline Team
FILM ABOUT PARTISANS GOES AGAINST OFFICIAL GRAIN. The 40th international film festival in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, in early July showed a rare bird in the world of cinema: a Belarusian feature film. The film, which bears the double title "Occupation -- Mystery Plays," failed to win a prize at the festival, but its 33-year-old director, Andrey Kudzinenka, did not appear to have been particularly upset by that fact.
The film had already been shown at festivals in Russia, the Netherlands, Israel, Germany, Estonia, Ukraine, and quite recently in Poland, where it won an award. Kudzinenka told RFE/RL that he did not expect any recognition in Karlovy Vary two years after his film was released.
Kudzinenka's 90-minute film is actually a collection of three separate novellas -- the "mystery plays" of the title -- named in their successive order as "Adam and Eve," "Mother," and "Father." The novellas depict western Belarus under the Nazi occupation in 1942 but -- like medieval "mystery plays" that were based on Biblical stories -- they are not without deeper, "Biblical" undertones.
Kudzinenka shot the film with a digital camera and subsequently copied it to celluloid. He says he is unable to estimate the total budget of the film, which was supported by a grant from the Netherlands, but its production costs were surely below $50,000.
"Adam and Eve" shows a Belarusian youth named Adam being recruited for the anti-Nazi guerillas by a Russian partisan. The Russian simultaneously gives Adam his first combat assignment -- to execute a fellow villager who defected from the guerillas to live a peaceful, even if physically exhausting life with his mistress Eve, a nymphomaniac Pole. Unable to resist Eve's lascivious charms, Adam obtains his first sexual experience and kills the Russian, while the fellow villager hangs himself in fear of the partisans' revenge. Adam stays with Eve, forgetting the partisans' cause.
This frivolous story alone could be anathema to Belarusian censors, as the guerilla war against the Nazi invaders in World War II has become an officially consecrated myth in Belarus. According to official sources, some 350,000 people took to Belarus's forests to fight the Nazis.
In official Belarusian postwar historiography, the Soviet guerillas were portrayed as an ideologically driven nationwide resistance movement against the Nazi occupation and for the return of the much-coveted Soviet Union. No erotic frolics, even in the context of the most unambiguous sacrifice for the liberation cause, were allowed in films about partisans made by the state filmmaker Belarusfilm, which was dubbed "Partisanfilm" in the Soviet era for its huge output of war pictures.
Kudzinenka's second novella appears to be even more controversial than the first. A child living with a mute mother is run over by two Germans on a motorcycle and dies. Partisans kill one German and wound the other but fail to find him. The Belarusian mother treats the wounded Nazi, feeding him with milk from her own breast. After the Nazi is back on his feet, he leaves for his unit while the mother goes apparently insane out of grief and burns herself in her house.
Initially, Kudzinenka's film obtained an official go-ahead for distribution in Belarus. But the authorities changed their decision after the movie was qualified to be shown at an international film festival in Moscow last year. It was the first time that a Belarusian movie was presented at that forum. Kudzinenka believes that the authorities were envious that his film was made by an independent filmmaker, not by Belarusfilm. Moreover, Kudzinenka says the authorities were worried that his film would seriously undermine the official Belarusian mythology about the Soviet partisans.
However, he is in two minds about the ban on his film in Belarus. "[The authorities] revoked the [distribution] license -- on one hand, they did a very bad thing, because we made the film primarily for Belarusians, who are the only people capable of spotting all the subtleties in it," Kudzinenka said. "But on the other, they [simultaneously] made publicity for the film."
In the third novella, a small boy longs for his father who left their village before the war, when it was in Poland, for the Soviet Union and never returned. The boy's mother lives with a Belarusian policemen, that is, with a Nazi collaborator. A partisan turns up claiming to be the boy's father and exploits the boy's affection for him to facilitate his comrades' way into the boy's house in order to kill the collaborator.
Another partisan, with ostensibly Asiatic features, slits the throats of the policeman and the boy's mother, only to be subsequently knifed to death by his comrade-in-arms, a Belarusian who boasts that his great-grandfather participated in an anti-Russian uprising in the 19th century. "My great-grandfather did not fight [the Russians] so that some Turks could slit the throats of our women," the Belarusian says after the slaughter ends.
Kudzinenka says he was given a peculiarly worded official explanation of the ban on his film in Belarus. "They wrote verbatim the following: 'The film does not correspond to the real truth, it can insult the sensitivities of war veterans and make a bad influence on the education of the rising generation.' It is a sort of Soviet formulation, but the most interesting thing in it is the expression 'real truth,'" he said.
It is difficult to figure out what "real-truth" elements are missing from Kudzinenka's film from an official viewpoint, but one aspect of the film seems to be in stark contrast to all partisan movies produced by Belarusfilm. There is no ideology in Kudzinenka's three stories. His heroes choose to join or abandon the warring sides, be it Soviets or Germans, not for ideological reasons but to pursue purely private goals and impulses. In this they seem to be closer to real life, even if simultaneously further away from the "real truth" of the official myth.
The Belarusian weekly "Nasha Niva" hailed the release of "Occupation -- Mystery Plays" as the birth of independent, de-Sovietized Belarusian cinema. The film, a rarity in Belarus because of its independent production and demythologizing bite, is even rarer because of its original use of the Belarusian language. Prior to Kudzinenka's movie, virtually all feature films in Belarus were made in Russian and only sporadically dubbed into Belarusian. (Jan Maksymiuk)
TRANSDNIESTER HEAD SHOWS INTEREST IN KYIV'S SETTLEMENT PLAN. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko met in Ukraine on 14 July with Igor Smirnov, leader of Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region. According to the Ukrainian president's official website, Smirnov agreed to cooperate with Kyiv in implementing the plan that Yushchenko proposed in April aimed at settling the Transdniester conflict, which has been simmering between Chisinau and Tiraspol since a war between the two sides in 1992.
The Yushchenko plan sets its main objective as the peaceful and democratic reintegration of Moldova within the borders of the Moldovan SSR as of 1 January 1990.
The entire territory would fall under the constitutional system of the Republic of Moldova, but the separatist region of Transdniester would be granted "special status."
Chisinau seems unlikely to embrace such a plan wholeheartedly.
Moldovan Parliamentary Deputy Speaker Iurie Rosca suggested as much when he commented on the Transdniester conflict settlement for RFE/RL's Romanian Service earlier this week: "The Moldovan authorities do not want to negotiate with the criminals from Tiraspol because they represent the 'tools' of the Russian Federation in the region. Therefore, it's not rational for us to negotiate with the 'tools' but with the ones who 'handle' the tools -- meaning, with the administration of the Russian Federation. The Republic of Moldova wants to discuss this with its partners from Moscow even if this dialogue is a difficult one. To continue unfruitful discussions with Smirnov's separatists is also counterproductive and ridiculous for us. And I hope that that's something that will be understood more clearly also in other capitals of the world, not only in Moscow."
The plan's 18-month time frame proposes the Moldovan parliament pass by August a law defining Transdniester's status as an autonomous entity within Moldova.
It also calls for democratic elections to the Transdniester legislature under international monitoring by November, and for the clear division of authority between the central and autonomous government bodies.
The plan gives Tiraspol the right to participate in any foreign policy decisions by Chisinau that affect Transdniester's interests. The plan also stipulates Transdniester has the right to secede if Moldova joins another state or ceases to be a subject of international law.
This last provision appears to address the fear of Transdniestrians that Moldova may reunite with Romania at some time in the future.
The Moldovan parliament in June overwhelmingly endorsed the Yushchenko plan, but it added one important condition: that Russia withdraw its military contingent from Transdniester by 2006.
Russian currently has some 500 servicemen in the so-called security zone along the Dniester River separating Transdniester from the rest of Moldova.
Chisinau's apparent eagerness to resolve the Transdniestrian issue without Tiraspol, on the other hand, may not work with Moscow, which wants the separatist region to be treated as an equal partner in the negotiations.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said recently that the Transdniester settlement is possible only if both sides participate in the negotiations. He slammed Chisinau for its reluctance to speak with Tiraspol:
"The impression is that the Moldovan authorities are trying to do everything possible and impossible not only to block the Transdniester settlement -- they boycott every attempt to resume the negotiation process -- but also to damage Russian-Moldovan relations even more," Lavrov said.
Tiraspol was initially hostile to the Yushchenko plan, reportedly fearing that its hidden purpose was to replace Russian troops in the region with NATO forces. But Smirnov's apparent consent to the plan more recently represents a significant step forward.
Yushchenko and Smirnov also agreed to invite representatives of the European Union and the United States to take part in negotiations between Chisinau and Tiraspol, which has so far been brokered by Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Both politicians also decided to set up a working group to formulate criteria for democratizing Transdniester and ensure a transparent electoral process there.
However, the Yushchenko-Smirnov agreement might be not enough to ensure that Chisinau and Tiraspol start talking about practical steps to implement the plan.
A Moldovan delegation to a session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE in Washington on 1-5 July staged a walkout to protest an adopted resolution on the Transdniester-conflict settlement.
The delegation reportedly demanded that the Tiraspol administration be referred to in the resolution as "separatist" and "criminal."
Ukraine's prominent role in brokering a deal between Chisinau and Tiraspol is obviously a consequence of Kyiv's vigorous pro-European policies that followed the 2004 Orange Revolution and the installation of Yushchenko as president.
But Kyiv is also keenly interested in the fate of some 200,000 Ukrainians who live in Transdniester. Yushchenko's website reported that he and Smirnov, apart from political issues, also discussed the supply of Ukrainian textbooks to Ukrainian-language schools in Transdniester and quotas for students from Transdniester at Ukrainian universities. (Jan Maksymiuk, with contributions from RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service.)
"RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova Report" is prepared by Jan Maksymiuk on the basis of a variety of sources including reporting by "RFE/RL Newsline" and RFE/RL's broadcast services. It is distributed every Tuesday.