“Ethnic” anarchists in Belarus: Debunking the Myths
Groups that combine anti-authoritarian and nationalist ideas are nothing new. Though they are new for Belarus, where anarchists have always been anti-nationalist and viewed themselves as part of a global movement for freedom. These groups would not deserve your attention if they weren’t trying to disguise themselves as anarchists and make connections to the left-wing and anarchist movement in the West in order to get access to different resources: financial, informational etc.
What follows is a list of facts proving that one cannot be an anarchist believing that patriotism is a vital feature in the anti-state struggle. This text is an attempt to warn our comrades from possible contacts with these groups and give information about what they really are.
For now there are two groups in Belarus that call themselves ethnic anarchists – Poshug (“Flash”) and Khaurus (“Fellowship, Cahoot”). Judging by their pages in social networks (http://vk.com/psh_soc, http://vk.com/union8x9) both groups appeared in 2013.
Looks like Poshug’s adherents have their roots in a patriotic (sic!) wing of antifascist football hooligans of ‘Partyzan’, former MTZ-RIPO (http://vk.com/nasasprava). The background determined what they were fighting for – veganism, straight edge, animal liberation, ecology, anti-imperialism.
Supposedly, Khaurus was conceived by other people – at least one of them, an alleged leader is a former member of a right-wing conservative organization “Youth Front” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Front). This group is mostly busy with translating different authors (including anarchist) into Belarusian, attracting attention to special dates of Belarusian history, which they believe where liberating Belarusian people from Tsarist or Bolshevik rule.
On its web-site (that is now down) the latter group announces that its aims are:
– radical reorganisation of society on libertarian grounds – equality, liberty, fraternity
– cultural liberation and revival of Belarusian and other oppressed peoples from exploitation of authoritarian formations and reactionary influences
– transfer of libertarian principles to the international level – strengthening of a worldwide union of free humans and peoples.
They claim to be against capitalism, authoritarianism and supremacism.
Their strategy is:
– awareness-raising and informative-analytical activity in libertarian and cultural revival directions
– building grounds of social-revolutionary movement in the country
– turning the processes of cultural revival and national liberation into libertarian direction of progressive, anti-authoritarian and anti-chauvinist form and content
– synthesis of the above-mentioned activity areas into a separate ideology and front of struggle for social and national liberation.
The spectrum of political activity of both groups covers stickering, graffiti, banner drops, leafleting, and – since the beginning of liberalization – picketing and participation in some protests. Both groups are quite active online, mostly reposting each other, and have a few affiliated projects.
Nobody in the anarchist movement would ever criticize people for writing leaflets or translating Kropotkin into Belarusian (and some people actually did this), but ‘ethnic anarchists’ are much farther from anarchism than it may seem.
In August 2015 people from Poshug were charged with vandalism and property destruction for a few graffiti and paint bulbs thrown at a billboard with police advertisement.
One of their graffiti reads “Belarus Must Be Belarusian”.
Such a slogan is a classical imposing of identity. This statement is about who and what like “must be” in the form of verbal coercion. To put it mildly, that corresponds to neither any objective nor the spirit of anarchism. We believe that every person has the right to choose to which ethnicity or national identity belong to or not belong to any nationality at all, regardless of the territory they reside in. Poshug says that this slogan means only “the right of the Belarusians for self-determination” and this slogan can’t be chauvinistic as it is used alongside crossed-out swastika and hammer and sickle. This excuse doesn’t seem to be serious because you can cross-out anything, but still this slogan holds an appeal to national identity even as an alternative to the totalitarian ideologies. A nation-state as well as national isolation is neither an anarchist nor even anti-fascist alternative.
Ethno-”anarchists” maintain that their nationalism belongs to the left wing and therefore is fundamentally different from the bourgeois nationalism, against which they supposedly act. However when you look at the reality, this statement brakes into pieces, not taking in account that left wing nationalism brought the world more of the national states.
A “Graffitist” Vyacheslav Kosinerov explicitly states (http://www.svaboda.org/content/article/27511340.html) that the primary purpose of their group is the struggle for national values, not for anything else. This position is 100% identical to the bourgeois and nationalistic view, which they so diligently trying to distance from. The page of “Poshug” in social media posts articles glorifying the leaders of Belarusian anti-Bolshevik resistance, who by the way were classical bourgeois nationalists, fought for Belarusian Government and had absolutely nothing in common with anarchists.
Some time ago the main symbols of Poshug were a coat of arms “Pahonia” and the white-red-white flag. When this flag is used everywhere in Belarus, the “Poshugists” tried to deny using “The Pahonia”. But this is a lie:
Both of these symbols – “The Pahonia”  and the flag  – were the state symbols of the Republic of Belarus years ago. It is not quite clear, how can you say that you promote anarchist, anti-state ideas while standing under the flag of the state?
A brief excursion into the history is enough to know that “The Pahonia” was a sign of Grand Duke Vytenis and emblem of Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
A similar story belongs also to the emblem “Kalyumny” that ethno-”anarchists” love so much:
“Kalyumny”, also The Columns of Gediminas, was personal insignia of the Gediminas family and one of the state symbols of Great Duchy of Lithuania . Can you imagine a French anarchist using Bourbon insignia or an anarchist from the UK waving the symbol of House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha?! It is apparently out of the heads of “Poshug” that all aristocratic dynasties were and are the worst enemies of the people, and their royal commandment killed hundreds of revolutionaries in different times. These guys who like the slogan “no slaves no masters” so much also don’t care that during the uprisings against feudalism, aristocracy killed tens of thousands of peasants. And nowadays the “Poshugists” just hobnail this history and memory of those peasants using “national” -and in fact feudal – symbols.
For the last half a year though, they use a new flag – black-red-black, which is a combination of white-red-white national flag and black flag of narodniks. They think they have invented it, but actually the same flag has been used by an ultraright group Pravy Revansh (The Right Revenge) in the 90s.
During the last opposition rally called “Chernobilskiy shliah” (The Chernobyl Path) “ethnic anarchists” from Poshug appeared with the flag mentioned above and the banner “Respect nature, respect Belarus”, at the same time saying to journalists that their flag is an anarchist one.
The National-”anarchists” from “Poshug” group get along with Ukrainian nationalist group called “Autonomniy Opіr” (you can find links to their public page and reposts on the page of “Poshug” in social media). This Ukrainian group also considers themselves to be “left-nationalists” and even “anti-fascists”.
The degree of anti-fascism can be seen from the statement where their thought leader justifies anti-jew pogroms as if they are… progressive!
“The pogrom itself is neutral, not progressive nor reactionary. Everything depends on it’s reasons and background… [In] ukrainian-jewish history there were different periods. In one period pogroms were progressive and justified, in other period they were negative and unreasonable, in the third – 50/50”
Almost all anarchists in Russia and Ukraine even those who previously agreed with the “Autonomniy Opir” made a statement criticizing them and calling for no cooperation with them.
However, the “Poshugists” are not confused with such trifles. One of them, Maxim Piekarsky, is posing in a T-shirt with a nationalist sports tournament “Neskoreni”(The Unconquerable). On the wall of public of this tournament we can find the invitation to the “March of the UIA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army)” that collects not just nationalists, but Nazis from all over Ukraine. The same T-shirt has the picture of the UIA fighter who cuts throat of a German soldier. Although the UIA at a certain stage of its operations fought with the Wehrmacht, to put it mildly, it has nothing to do with either anti-fascism or especially anarchism.
At first anarchists in Belarus haven’t paid so much attention to these groups, as the ways of the movements almost never crossed. At the same time, ‘ethnic anarchists’ considered themselves part of the anarchist movement and even expressed solidarity with imprisoned anarchists. Nevertheless, already in 2014 ABC-Belarus made a statement that it won’t support groups combining anti-authoritarian and nationalist ideas (http://abc-belarus.org/?p=4901&lang=en). There was also some discussion in the movement whether it makes sense to collaborate with them: some people thought anarchists should make a contact with them and try to convert them into the movement talking out of nationalism; moreover, it was seen as a good idea by some to appeal to the right-wing and propagate to the them leftists ideas, even with a national basis. Other people argued that these groups are not comrades but rather enemies, for they blur the political horizon and make people confused about anarchism; they also reach out to part of target audience that before was reached out by anarchists. Similar groups in the Ukraine, Russia and Balkans have also caused a split in the movement on the issue of possible cooperation with them.
Over time it became known that some members of Poshug were threatening female anarchists with violence, if the latter continue criticizing them. Sexist comments are also usual occurrence among them.
https://cloud.tem.li/index.php/s/8kjhvA8uBZ5KOiZ (Vyachaslau Kasinerau: Emma, clean your pussy before the revolution…)
https://cloud.tem.li/index.php/s/s6bkWaTGpNBPbQN (Vyachaslau Kasinerau: Emma, I don’t need punks/tolerasts with dirty dicks at the barricades)
https://cloud.tem.li/index.php/s/J0QSMrh7ke5l1H4 (Vyachaslau Kasinerau: Emma, I’m telling you that if they will be dirty, it’s going to be a failure… Imagine, revolution, barricades – we are going to send women to cook soup, then have some sex, and imagine if they are dirty…)
https://cloud.tem.li/index.php/s/wmmOlExEByhCV2I (Vadzim Zharomsky: … your so-called anarchists, who claim somebody threatened them, are just mad whores…)
https://cloud.tem.li/index.php/s/wnR4z7rGPhVxWLW (Max Shytsik: Woman is a strange object – one the one hand you need it, on the other – don’t)
Then, during public threatening of activists who criticize them and quarrels followed, “Poshugists” had put some private facts about anarchist initiatives and groups on the Internet (in the comments on social media), like who of activists are participating in initiatives (including surnames), how much people are participating in them and so on, and threatened to put even more information, if people don’t stop “slandering” them. Considering the political regime and level of repressions in Belarus, it causes real danger for our activists. Later on, some of these comments were deleted by moderators, some were not, so we assume that a load of confidential info reached cops and intelligent service (KGB) who scan social media in a very careful and diligent way.
But the real schism happened when a member of Volny Khaurus decided to organize a tour of solidarity with the arrested “graffitists” in the Baltic countries, and of course they chose anarchist infrastructure for it, writing to anarchist groups and social centers. We tried to prevent the tour from happening, informing our contacts in these groups about who are the people they are asked to support. In the end the tour failed, and only Tallinn anarchists decided to host them and even made a solidarity action with the ‘graffitists’. http://vk.com/ylase12?w=wall-36593181_395
During the trial on a “graffitist” case the “Poshugists”, more precisely Zheromsky and Kosinerov cooperated with the investigation. In particular Zheromsky disclosed all information about their activity to the cops: who did and what they did, what was painted, who threw light bulbs, etc.
We think that people who are blaming each other on trial trying to avoid the prison confinement, and who cooperated with cops during investigation definitely can not be our comrades.
One of the Belarusian anarchists Mikalai Dziadok publicly criticized them on Facebook, trying to explain why anarchists have little in common with those groups. After the post he started getting private and public threats from the graffitists ‘for blasphemy’.
All these facts put together caused a general boycott of the ethnic anarchist groups by most anarchist groups, including banishment from anarchist events where the general public is allowed, like FNB, FreeMarkets and many concerts. We see it as a problem though, that the press (and the cops) still consider them part of the anarchist movement, creating even more confusion for potential newcomers.
Thus, we assume our duty is publishing these facts for non-Belarusian comrades, and it is up to you what to do if these groups would like to contact your local anarchist community.
Anarchist Black Cross – Belarus http://abc-belarus.org/
Really Free Market – Minsk http://vk.com/minskfreemarket
Anarchist collective “Volnaya Dumka” (The Free Thought) http://dumka.be
Food Not Bombs – Minsk http://vk.com/fnbminsk
Anarchist collective “Pramen” (The Ray) http://pramen.io/
This entry was posted on Thursday, June 23rd, 2016 at 4:50 pm and is filed under Anti-Fascist.