Belarus' True Symbols
Belarus is the country that has the State Symbols and the National Symbols.
English language has an expression 'national symbols' that commonly means a national flag and national emblem. However, in Belarus it is different. There are the State Symbols currently used as the official symbols of Belarus and the National Symbols. The latter ones have been persecuted for years, they were made almost illegal by falsified referendum in 1995, the display of these symbols is not welcome by the authorities.
Today, on the day when the National Flag of Belarus was torn on the roof of the Presidential Residence in 1995, Nasha Niva decided to remind about the dramatic story of Belarus’ true symbols.
Coat of arms Pahonia [what may be translated as ‘chaser’] — a horseman on a white horse with a sword depicted on red field — has been known in Belarus since ancient times.
It started to be used as the Emblem of Grand Duchy of Lithuania by the Grand Duke Vicien at the end of the XIII century.
Why was it was a chaser and not anything else?
This symbol is deeply rooted in the life of common people of those times. In case of a sudden enemies’ attack, when kids were kidnapped and valuable things stolen, every single man able to hold a sword saddled a horse and chased the robbers to release the captives.
During the Grand Duke Jahajla's rule the Lorraine cross appeared on the coat of arms as the heritage of Hungarian kings: Jahajla was married to a Polish queen of a Hungarian origin.
Furthermore, priests used to consider Pahonia the depiction of St. Jury, the patron saint of Belarus.
The depiction of Pahonia was widely used in Grand Duchy of Lithuania, starting from its Statute to the flags of the army.
Pahonia remained the Symbol of Belarusian territories even after the division of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Symbol of Russian Empire in Belarus was also enriched with Pahonia.
Kastus Kalinouski had Pahonia on his signet.
Pahonia becomes the National Emblem of The Belarusian People’s Republic in 1918. It became the symbol of resistance in 1980’s and the National Emblem of the Republic of Belarus in 1991.
Belarusians have always liked the combination of white and red colours. White & red are the most frequently used colours of Belarusian traditional ornamental pattern.
The painting "Battle of Orsha" that dates back to XVI century depicts the pikes of Grand Duchy of Lithuania with the red St. Jury’s Cross on a white background.
One can see white and red stripes on the flags of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth's kings.
However, the present standard of the White-Red-White Flag appeared in 1917 and was created by Klaudzij Duzh-Duzheuski.
This flag was displayed in St.-Petersburg in spring of 1917 for the first time and rapidly became beloved Belarus’ Symbol.
At the First All-Belarusian Congress on December 5, 1917 it was already recognized the National Symbol of Belarus and then officially became the National Flag of Belarusian People’s Republic.
However, the White-Red-White Flag was banned during the Soviet time. One could lose a job or even a life for using it. It received a new meaning of blood that was shed for the homeland.
Red-Green Flag Made made by Stalinists
Stalin ordered to make the national symbols of the USSR Republics in the end of 1940’s, prioritizing the UN members.
The Byelorussian SSR Flag project was based on the USSR Flag. However, to make it more unique a traditional Belarusian ornament called "Rising Sun" was used.
The Byelorussian SSR National Emblem was adopted earlier — in 1927 However, it strongly resembles the USSR National Emblem.
It had inscriptions in Belarusian, Russian, Polish and Yiddish. The polish and Yiddish inscriptions were removed soon after.
Back to the USSR
The current Flag and National Emblem of Belarus are almost the same as the Soviet ones, only the communist slogans were removed.
Aliaksandr Lukashenka adopted Russification policy to receive political and financial support from Russia in 1995.
As an addition to this, Aliaksandr Lukashenka initiated a referendum to give Russian language the official status and to change the National Symbols. His offer was based on complaints from several groups of people, especially WWII unions. They asserted that White-Red-White flag was offensive for them as it was used by Nazi policeman and thus cannot remain the National Flag.
Juryj Azaronak — a film director — shot a film called "The Children of Lies" that showed Pahonia and the White-Red-White Flag usage by Nazis.
The referendum was held on May 14, 1995.
Multiple facts of falsifications of every stage of the referendum were collected. As a matter of fact, the referendum initiation was not lawful and did not correspond with the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus as, according to the Constitution, the matters of national and historic peculiarities cannot be decided through referendum as they do not belong to the present generation.
However, on May 16, before its results became operative, the Head of the Presidential Property Management Department Ivan Ciciankou demonstratively torn the National white-red-white flag and put a current the Red-Green one instead. This moment was taped.
However, the persecuted symbols are still being used by many people eager to show that they did not forget the history, who do not give up the national identity. They are used by people who consider themselves Belarusians.