International Mother Tongue Day: Vitali Silitski about Belarusian Language

In his note "25+1 facts about me" Vitali Silitski confided: "When I was 10, I hated everything said in Belarusian. When I was 20, I hated everything said in Russian".

Topic of Belarusian language and identity always had a place in Vitali Silitski's work. Below you may see fragments from some his interviews and articles.

From article“Русіфікацыя + каланіялізм = грамадзянская нацыя?” [Russification + Сolonialism = Civic Nation] for ARCHE magazine:

Language is a key factor in nation building under conditions when secondary nation building characteristics cannot be a foundation. We are talking here not so much about the thesis that "without language there is no nation", as about to create the sense of "unity and identity" Belarus needs own unique language pact that secures principles of existence and usage of languages (practically working and legally protected bilingualism, by the way, may be the same factor of creating the feeling of national identity as monolingualism based on unique language).

From interview to Еuroradio:

- The attitude of youth towards Belarusian language has worsened recently. And it is worse as in average within society - more young people see Belarusian language as some attribute of show off. However, as they study Belarusian language in schools they can use it better than the rest of society. But this group has the lowest desire to speak Belarusian.

This is the situation, when the same environment may give the highest persentage of enthusiastic activists, but the average level in the same time is the lowest. And these activists are breaking out as a sign of protest against grey mass. It happens.

Our research shows that it is not necessary that Belarusian language is the language of opposition, the language of Western Belarus, and the language of youth, as it often seems. Maybe it is a language of the opposition, but unnecessarily the language of oppositionally thinking people. Maybe the language of Western Belarus, but not the language of those parts of Hrodna region that are heavily russified or polonised. Maybe the language of youth, but sooner the language of a narrow circle of devoted activists that of a mainstream youth majority.

Euroradio: Is it possible to read Karatkevich in Russian? If yes, is a lot lost?

- Practically yes, it is possible to read. But I would not advice exactly him to read in Russian. It is the same as in first marriage night to go to bed with a rubber doll. Maybe it is satisfaction, but what quality? That is my personal attitude to Karatkevich work.

Also just a translation of famous detective novel in Belarusian language will not work - it will be still read in Russian. It must be unique and interesting product [...]

Very often people do not understand that it might be interesting in Belarusian until they read interesting detective novels in Belarusian language. I will tell you a story about my totally Belarusian speaking friend. He was walking with his dogs giving them some commands. A passing by woman asked: "Listen, your dogs really understand Belarusian?"

“Be in own time” – Vitali Silitski for BUDZMA.ORG project “How I became a Belarusian”:

[…] proud of the suссesses of the BSSR got along with contempt for Belarusian language. Not respect it as well as everything what is connected to Belarus before 1917, the school and family taught gracefully and diligently. No, nobody told that Belarusian language is a shit, and even brought to school administration when we were laughing at provincial accent of our physics teacher (they were telling us we are walking on Belarusian land, eating Belarusian bread, while laughing at Belarusian language). But the school books and teachers were such faceless, uninteresting [...] that any interest towards Motherland and its heritage was destroyed in the bud.

And even literature, who remember those confirm that the whole course (with its "I am a Belarusian-provincial man") only strengthened inferiority complex and gratitude to Russia and the party that they get out us from this swamp to the BSSR vertices.

[…] lust for individuality for me personally transformed in Belarusian self-determination. It happened with the help of what I now call "ontological shock" - external impulse that without the noise and din changed my perception. Simply once a new teacher of Belarusian language and literature entered the classroom [...]. And she told us that Belarusian language is disappearing; that it is not a provincial language, but a normal European language; and that we are the same nation as Germans or French; and that we have own history and dignity; and that we have for what to be proud but we just do not care. The impulse was given.

For the joint project of TUT.BY and BUDZMA.ORG “What means to be a Belarusian?”:

- Live in Belarus, speak Belarusian, take care about Belarus, love Belarus.