Vitali Silitski. In Memoriam (2011)

On June 11, 2011 the first academic director of BISS Vital Silicki died after hard illness, before the age of 39.

Vital made a great contribution to the development of Belarusian political science thought. His name is associated with many concepts that explain the current situation in Belarus. Among others, preemptive authoritarianismterritory of freedom, and postponed freedom. His personal charisma, ability to unite talented and hardworking people around him, his real Belarusian nature and, definitely, titanic efficiency and lust for permanent search for new ideas created a new, simultaneously national and understandable in the West analytical style. Therefore, many real friends of Vital, as in Belarus, his home country, so in the West are remembering with special warmth their meetings with him, joint work, trips, and just sincere personal talks.


Jean-Eric Holzaphel, Charge d`affaires a.i. of the EU Delegation to Belarus

We have lost a friend and a great professional. Vital is now somewhere else but his legacy remains and will continue to inspire us. I am speaking of this very special combination of commitment, professionalism and openness which even made opposing parties consider his analysis and vision. I enjoyed the numerous meetings which we had together, especially on the occasion of BISS events. I won't forget that we were together in the Square on 19 December and that he ensured my safety when the crackdown started. This is Vital; committed and supportive, a great friend and a great Belarusian.

Matt Rojansky, Russia and Eurasia Programme, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

I only had the privilege to know Vitali briefly, but in that time, when he was already sick (even if he did not know it) I benefited greatly from his wisdom, as did all those of us who are careful watchers of Belarus, and who care about the future of its people. But I benefited also from Vitali's great humanity. In an irony of fat e— ironia sudby--it was during his own last months that Vitali came to see me when I was sick in the hospital in Minsk. We talked work, a little, but mostly simply sat and reflected on our shared humanity, and our shared vulnerability. It was an unexpected moment of light and of enlightenment for me in an otherwise very dark time. Vitali taught me something about Belarus, of course, but unexpectedly also about myself. We are all human, we are each vulnerable, and we owe it to Vitali to care for his country's future as he did.

Balazs Jarabik, FRIDE, Associate Fellow

Vitali was born a few days ahead of me; thus perhaps I can claim that one of the biggest thinkers of our Central and Eastern European generation is gone. I met Vitali ten years ago and since I have had the privilege of enjoying a vibrant working relationship and compassionate friendship. To the surprise of many he moved back to Minsk to assume the responsibility of building up the Belarus Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS), interrupting - as many thought that time – a developing international academic carrier. However, he devoted his life to Belarus, this was his destiny. He subsequently became one of the most noted experts on authoritarianism and democracy. Given the dedication demonstrated by Vitali and his colleagues, I am sure that his heritage in his main project - BISS - will serve to move Belarus forward.

Jeff Lovitt, PASOS (Policy Association for an Open Society)

At a time when civil society is facing continuing restrictions in Belarus, and three opposition presidential candidates have been given long prison sentences after the presidential elections of December 2010, Vitali's memory should serve to remind us of the many positive voices for freedom and a democratic future in Belarus.

I am convinced that those of us who knew him in Belarus, throughout Europe and the US, and everyone who cares about Belarus, will join together in our efforts to realise Vitali's own wish for which he worked so long - to "light the candle of freedom" in Belarus.

Sabine Fischer, European Union Institute for Security Studies, Paris

He devoted his life to study Belarus; he made out of the country an internationally recognised case study and leaving a promising international academic carrier he moved back to change things at home. Vitali Silitski’s death leaves a gaping hole in the Belarusian and European civil society and expert community. Educated both in an Eastern and Western context he, like few others, was familiar with Belarusian, European and American culture and thinking. Sometimes I felt his main mission was that of a tireless messenger between these – due to the sad Belarusian isolation – separate worlds. This endeavour was sustained by Vitali’s humanity and conviction of democracy as the only appropriate model of development for his country, which he loved and never failed. What made Vitali unique was his ability and willingness to find compromises where others adopted radical positions. The EU and Belarus have lost an important mediator in one of the darkest periods of their mutual relationship. I will always remember our discussions and joint work, Vitali’s knowledge and eagerness for intellectual exchange, but also his openness, humanity and warmth. My thoughts are with his loved ones and friends. We will all miss him greatly, and we need to do our best to carry on his mission and his ideas.

Pirkka Tapiola, Strategic Planning Division, European External Action Service

I was deeply saddened by the news of Vitali Silitski's passing away, and angry over the unfairness of a man in his prime having to go. So much would have been left for him to do. I will miss him. All those who knew Vitali will always remember him for his  bubbling personality and great sense of humour. He was full of life. At the same time, he was an extremely sharp прониц and cool-headed analyst, seeing not just black and white in developments in his country, but carefully discerning all possible shades of grey which lay in between extremes. He did not assign blame, but looked for solutions. Vitali was passionate about helping Belarus onto the right path, about searching for the right policies to move things forward. He never let this passion cloud his judgment. It is now for those Vitali left behind to build on the legacy of joy of life and intellectual integrity he left behind.

Sergej Michalič, independent expert, Slovakia

Vitali will be missed as an extraordinarily personality and a great believer in mission he has been promoting; I can imagine how you, his friends and colleagues, will miss him; and how much the whole country will miss him...

Vitali will be missed for all of us who are fortunate to have gotten to know him, and to have been able at least somehow to work with him. It has been a great privilege, and I will never forget him.

Mike de Villiers, Director, IREX Europe

We all here at IREX Europe want to express our deep felt condolences for the loss of Vitali. We understand how difficult it must be for you all and you have our best wishes and if we can help in any way do let us know. Our condolences too go to Vitali’s family and loved ones.

Margarita M. Balmaceda, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki

I will miss Vitali's voice, his sense of humor, his presence, his keen mind. And all he has contributed to the development of political science and civil society in Belarus. His writings and the concepts he develop also through BISS research projects have been very important for my understanding of Belarus and of transition more generally. No serious scholar working on these issues can ignore this important work. Concepts such as the "social contract" and the BISS book on the topic changed the whole paradigm of serious research on Belarus. Vitali represented the best Belarus can offer, and hope for its future in the hands of a new generation. His absence will be sorely felt in many ways as the many gifts he brought to those of us who had the privilege of working with him.

Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum

He was a true friend of a democratic Belarus, and of Wider Europe as a whole. He will be much missed, for his lively spirit, his passion for improving European politics, his determination to keep making progress even when the steps seemed terribly small, and the joy that he brought to discussions of even the most contentious issues.

We will miss him greatly, and the candle of freedom in Belarus will be kept shining bright in his memory.

Charlie Szrom

Vitali was a great intellect and a great man...a good friend to someone who had just come to Washington, DC.  I still remember his vivacious approach to life and overall joy of living.

Wawrzyniec  Konarski, Poland

I am very sorry to hear Vitali Silitski has passed away. I had a honour to moderate a panel He took part in it. The vitality and determination he demonstrated in His activities were unbeatable and very valuable.

Joanna Fomina, Open Europe Team

We were very sorry to hear about Vitali. Some of us knew him personally, others have heard about him a lot. It is a great loss for the whole European civil society.

Wolfgang Templin, Director of Heinrich Böll Foundation, Poland

Vitali and the Institute that he was the head of was our good partner for years. Apart from his professional features, we knew Vitali as a vivacious, sincere and honest person and a reliable friend. The news of his passing away has echoed with grief in our hearts, in which Vitali will remain forever.

Olga Stuzhinskaya, Office for a Democratic Belarus, Brussels

Farewell to a Dear Friend

Vitali has passed away after suffering for months in fighting with a terminal disease that kept progressing and left him no chance of recovery. He was an outstanding political analyst, an ambitious leader of his pet project – the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS), and the author of many books and articles. For me he was first of all a close friend, who I talked to on Skype every day, who was among the very first people I called every time I arrived in Minsk. We met almost every day, both to discuss work and talk about everything...

Uladzimir Niaklajeŭ, Tell the Truth Campaign

Silitski Changed Our Idea of Politics

Death chooses the best ones. Vitali Silitski was just on the threshold of the prime time for everyone engaged in political science. The Fates gave Vitali very little time, in which he, nevertheless, was able to do very much. His emergence on the Belarusian intellectual scene changed our idea of what politics should be like. I hope that the ideas and projects initiated by Vitali Silitski will be further developed up to the standard set by this smart, strong and courageous personality.

Editorial Team of Nashe Mnenie Website

Vitali Silitski Dead

On June 11, 2011 Vitali Silitski, Director of the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS) and political analyst, passed away at the age of thirty eight after suffering from a terminal disease.

Vitali’s fields of study were economic reform policies, democratization in post-Soviet states, electoral revolutions and preemptive authoritarianism, the EU policies towards the post-Soviet countries, Belarus – Russia and Belarus – EU relations. In 2007 he became the Director of the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies.

May Vitali rest in peace

Naša Niva

Political Analyst Vitali Silitski Dead

Vitali Silitski was the Director of the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS), a brilliant political analyst with an excellent education and world renown. He was the voice of independent Belarus, which was heard at the highest-level forums.

Even when he was seriously ill, he continued working non-stop.

As a citizen of Belarus, he was totally committed to his country and the Belarusian cause.


Darja Katkoŭskaja: Vitali Silitski’s Death Is a Huge Loss for Belarus

Belarus has suffered a huge loss. As Valer Bułhakaŭ said at Vitali’s wake, we are at the moment still unable to realize how big this loss is. This understanding will come to us later. Vitali was part of a lot of spheres of our lives, and many of us have lost not only a scholar, researcher and analyst but also a good friend.