|There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in. - Graham Greene|
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 182, Part II, 17 September 1999
___________________________________________________________ RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 3, No. 182, Part II, 17 September 1999 A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. This is Part II, a compilation of news concerning Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Part I covers Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia and is distributed simultaneously as a second document. Back issues of RFE/RL Newsline and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's Web site: http://www.rferl.org/newsline xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part II * LUKASHENKA ORDERS FIRM SECURITY MEASURES * RUSSIAN GENERAL URGES ETHNIC ALBANIANS TO TRUST HIS SOLDIERS * MONTENEGRO: MILOSEVIC MOBILIZING POLICE END NOTE: AMBIGUOUS ANNIVERSARY xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE PROMINENT BELARUSIAN OPPOSITIONIST DISAPPEARS. Viktar Hanchar, deputy chairman of the opposition Supreme Soviet, disappeared in the evening of 16 September in Minsk. Hanchar's wife told Belapan that he was driving home with a friend but failed to appear on time. She called the police and the KGB in Minsk inquiring about her husband but obtained no information on his whereabouts. Hanchar is the second major oppositionist to have vanished in Belarus this year. Former Interior Minister Yury Zakharanka went missing in May. JM LUKASHENKA ORDERS FIRM SECURITY MEASURES... At a 16 September government meeting devoted to combating organized crime and preventing extremism and terrorism, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka prioritized public security as "goal number one," Belarusian Television reported. Lukashenka said Belarus is threatened not so much by foreigners (including those from Chechnya) as by domestic "liberators and zealots for the people." He told his ministers to take "rigorous" measures to enforce order in Belarus. These measures include toughening control at the state border and preventing any gatherings at production facilities and on the streets (except for specially-designated areas). Lukashenka also ordered the media to inform the public within three days about where Belarusian "extremists" and "nationalists" get finances "to destabilize" the country. JM ...PLEDGES TO END 'DEMOCRACY GAMES.' At the same meeting, Lukashenka attacked the Belarusian opposition for its alleged intent to derail the OSCE-mediated dialogue with the authorities. "We are playing democracy games with them...while they are working out mechanisms on how to disrupt this dialogue, how to sling mud at [OSCE mediator Hans Georg] Wieck," Lukashenka noted. He pledged to introduce "real democracy" instead of the "democracy games" which, in his opinion, are characteristic of Russia. According to Lukashenka, there may be only one reason for people's dissatisfaction with the Belarusian authorities--untimely payment of wages. He added that on other counts people trust the authorities and are confident that they will have "enough drinks, foodstuffs, heat, and hot water." JM UKRAINIAN CABINET SUBMITS 2000 BUDGET DRAFT TO PARLIAMENT. The government on 15 September submitted a draft 2000 budget to the parliament. Finance Minister Ihor Mityukov said the next day that Ukraine's debt obligations in 2000 forced the cabinet for the first time during Ukraine's independence to draft a budget with a surplus. The draft projects the country's GDP in 2000 at 150.8 billion hryvni ($33 billion), with revenues set at 27.1 billion hryvni and spending at 26.5 billion hryvni. JM KAZAKH PRESIDENT IN KYIV TO BOOST ECONOMIC TIES. Nursultan Nazarbaev arrived in Kyiv on 16 September for two days of economic talks. Nazarbaev and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma signed the following day a 10-year economic cooperation agreement. "There are no problems between Ukraine and Kazakhstan, but trade is developing slowly," ITAR-TASS quoted Nazarbaev as saying. First Deputy Premier Anatoliy Kinakh told AP that Kyiv will ask Astana for gas and crude oil supplies, while offering help in developing new gas and oil deposits in Kazakhstan. JM ESTONIAN PRESIDENT IN ICELAND. Lennart Meri made a four-day state visit to Iceland on 14-17 September. Meri held talks with Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, who paid a state visit to Estonia last year. Meri also met with Prime Minister David Oddsson and members of Iceland's parliament. Meri gave a speech at the University of Iceland titled "From Yalta to Yalta: What Have We Learned?" which stressed the role of small countries in regional stability. MH ESTONIA TO SUBSTANTIALLY CUT POLICE FORCE. Estonian Interior Minister Juri Mois has introduced a plan to reform the police that includes laying off 536 officers, "Eesti Paevaleht" reported. This cut from the current 4,234 police officers is one-seventh of the country's police force and should be implemented by the 2000. Mois said the force needs "to be preferably smaller" if low state funding for police continues. However, the plan envisages a wage increase for the trimmed-down force. Mois stressed that many of those to be made redundant are not directly involved in law enforcement. The plan has been met with "shock" in the regions, as well as in Estonia's second city Tartu, which would lose nearly 40 percent of its police force. MH LITHUANIAN SOCIAL INSURANCE HEAD QUITS. The director of the Social Insurance Fund (SODRA), Vincas Kunca, resigned on 16 September. The beleaguered fund has been in serious financial difficulties with debts currently estimated at 320 million litas ($80 million). Kunca, the head of SODRA since 1994, has been the target of increasing criticism, especially from the parliament's Social Affairs Committee chairwoman, Birute Visokaviciene. Earlier in the week Hansabankas, the Lithuanian branch of the Estonian Hansapank, agreed to extend a 30 million litas loan--reportedly after several other banks refused, according to local wire services. MH LITHUANIAN CENTRAL BANK APPROVES BLOCKBUSTER MERGER. The Lithuanian Central Bank on 16 September approved the merger of Hermis and Vilniaus Bankas (Bank of Vilnius). In actuality, the larger Vilniaus Bankas has been given permission to acquire two-thirds or more of Hermis shares. After the acquisition, Vilniaus Bankas, with assets of 5.56 billion litas ($1.39 billion), would be the second largest bank in the Baltics, behind Estonia's Hansapank. Concerns were voiced earlier by banking regulators about the proposed merger of Lithuania's second and fourth largest banks and the implications that would have on the market. MH POLISH PRESIDENT PAYS TRIBUTE TO POLES MURDERED BY SOVIET UNION. On 17 September in Katyn, Smolensk Oblast, Aleksander Kwasniewski paid tribute to thousands of Polish prisoners of war murdered by the Soviet Union after its invasion of Poland on the same day in 1939. Some 15,000 Polish army officers, policemen, and border guards from the camps of Ostashkov, Kozelsk, and Starobelsk were executed by the Soviet NKVD in 1940. Kwasniewski's trip to Katyn and subsequently to another execution site at Kharkiv, Ukraine, serves to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Soviet aggression (see also "End Note"). JM U.S. CHIEF OF STAFF PRAISES CZECH REPUBLIC. Visiting General Henry Shelton, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on 16 September in Prague that the Czech Republic has made "great progress in preparing for NATO integration" and in transforming its military to meet NATO requirements, but that "there is still much work do be done in this regard." Shelton said he "applauds" the efforts of Czech Chief of Staff General Jiri Sedivy and the country's political leadership "for making the difficult but necessary decisions to restructure and reform the armies of the Czech Republic," an RFE/RL correspondent reported. In talks with President Vaclav Havel, Shelton praised the fact that the government has kept its pledge to raise military expenditure by 0.1 percent annually, despite the country's economic situation, CTK reported. MS PRAGUE CEREMONY COMMEMORATES HOLOCAUST. Nearly 300 survivors of the Holocaust, children of its victims, intellectuals, and politicians gathered on 16 September in Prague's Pinkas synagogue to commemorate in a live radio broadcast the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust, AP reported. President Vaclav Havel was among the first to take part in the four-hour reading of 3,000 names. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who found the names of her paternal grandparents inscribed on the synagogue's walls during a private trip to Prague two years ago, took part in the reading on a taped contribution. Havel told Czech radio: "It is important to remember the past especially now, when many young people march chanting nationalist slogans, not knowing where they could eventually lead." MS GERMAN PRESIDENT IN SLOVAKIA. Slovak President Rudolf Schuster told visiting German President Johannes Rau on 16 September that his country wants "equal treatment" with Hungary and the Czech Republic in being considered for membership in the EU. Schuster said that Slovakia has already atoned for "having been shown the yellow card" by the EU and it is time now to allow her to return to where her neighbors are. He said that Germany could play "a decisive role" in making this possible, CTK and dpa reported. Rau, however, was noncommittal and said that Germany will ensure that admission talks are "fair" and that "no artificial delays" will be allowed. MS SLOVAK PARLIAMENT AMENDS PRIVATIZATION LAW. The parliament on 16 September approved by a 70 to 37 vote with eight abstentions an amendment to the law on large scale privatization, SITA reported. The amendment allows the privatization of stakes in natural monopolies, banking, postal services, telecommunications, gas industry, and the energy sector. The Democratic Left Party succeeded in having its positions included in the amended law, namely that the parliament will have to approve large-scale privatization and that the state will keep a 51 percent stake in several so- called "strategic" companies while others will be excluded from privatization. MS SLOVAKIA REPORTEDLY TO CLOSE DOWN NUCLEAR REACTORS. The government has decided to close down two nuclear reactors at Jaslovske Bohunice, the official TASR agency reported on 16 September. The agency said that the decision was taken as part of Slovakia's effort to join the EU. Citing the independent daily "Sme," the agency said that the cabinet has not yet decided on a date for the closure of the nuclear power plant (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 1999). MS SCHUSTER SUES JOURNALIST. President Schuster has filed suit against journalist Ales Kratky for defamation, CTK reported on 16 September, citing the Czech daily "Mlada fronta Dnes." Kratky recently published a commentary criticizing Schuster for including in his staff former members of the Czechoslovak secret police (StB) and said that a list of StB collaborators includes one named Rudolf Schuster, whose ID card has the same number as that of the president. Schuster said that "no one has the right to tarnish anyone's reputation in this country," adding that Slovakia has no lustration law banning former StB collaborators from serving in senior public office. MS SLOVAK, HUNGARIAN PREMIERS SIGN AGREEMENT TO REBUILD BRIDGE. Premier Dzurinda and his Hungarian counterpart, Viktor Orban, signed an agreement on 16 September to rebuild the bridge between the Slovak town of Sturovo and the Hungarian town of Esztergom, TASR reported. The Danube River bridge was blown up by the Nazis at the end of Word War II. It will be rebuilt by 2001 at an estimated cost of $20.2 million, with the two countries equally sharing the cost. MS HUNGARY KNEW OF NATO INVASION PLAN. Former chief of staff General Ferenc Vegh on 16 September told journalists that NATO had a plan for ground intervention in Yugoslavia on 15 September if by that date the Yugoslav leadership had not agreed to pull its forces out of Kosova, "Nepszabadsag" and "Magyar Hirlap" reported on 17 September. Vegh said that Prime Minister Viktor Orban was informed of the plan. One day earlier, British Defense Secretary George Robertson, the next NATO secretary-general, revealed that such a plan existed under the name Bravo Minus. MS SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE RUSSIAN GENERAL URGES ETHNIC ALBANIANS TO TRUST HIS SOLDIERS. Major-General Valerii Yevtukovich told journalists in Prishtina on 16 September: "We will not use force, but we will continue our talks to find a solution that allows Russian troops to deploy in [Rahovec]. We believe that we will find a positive result," an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. Ethnic Albanians have been blocking the roads to that town since late August to prevent the deployment of the Russian KFOR contingent there, arguing that Russian mercenaries committed atrocities in that region during the war. Yevtukovich stressed that the Russian forces must go to Rahovec as part of the [18 June] Helsinki agreements and reassured the Kosovar Albanians that the Russian forces are neutral. He stressed that "the Russian Federation [is] not responsible for the things that [mercenaries had done, and those things] must not be linked to the Russian peacekeeping mission." FS UNMIK PREPARES VOTER REGISTRATION. Officials from the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) announced in Prishtina on 16 September that on 1 October they will begin to register voters for the upcoming elections, for which no date has been set. The registration process will last for six months, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. Meanwhile, several key political parties of Kosova have decided to form a joint body which will assist with organizing the upcoming elections. FS OSCE, UN LAUNCH 'RADIO AND TELEVISION KOSOVA'... Richard Dill, the interim director of Radio and Television Kosova (RTK), told an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent in Prishtina on 16 September that the UN and OSCE have given the green light for his station to begin broadcasting on 19 September. Dill said that the program will be transmitted via satellite. He stressed that RTK is a public service that does not belong to any government or investor but exclusively to the people of Kosova. Dill added that RTK intends to broadcast programs from Kosova, which are produced by Kosovars in Kosova in cooperation with UN television. He predicted that it will become the basis for the creation of a full-fledged public service broadcaster and train the staff of such a station. The programs will be in Albanian and Serbian. FS ...DISAPPOINTING SACKED 'RADIO AND TELEVISION PRISHTINA' JOURNALISTS. Martin Cuni, the chairman of the Coordinating Council of Radio and Television Prishtina, issued a declaration in Prishtina on 16 September saying that his council has nothing in common with RTK. The council was founded by ethnic-Albanian journalists who were demonstratively sacked by the Belgrade regime in 1990. Cuni stressed that neither the UN nor the OSCE or the European Broadcasting Union have consulted his council about the creation of RTK. Dill, however, made clear that RTK is not a continuation of Radio and Television Prishtina, even though it will broadcast from its former premises. FS U.S. GENERAL SAYS UCK LEADERSHIP 'COMMITTED' TO DISARM. General Henry Shelton, who is the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Prague on 16 September that the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) has "not complied as rapidly as any of us would have liked to have in terms of the local level, but at the leadership level they have remained committed," Reuters reported. He added: "As of right now they are moving steadily toward that and we have no reason to believe that they don't intend to comply." Shelton declined to answer what he called "hypothetical" questions about what NATO will do if the UCK does not fulfill its obligations. He said: "It is something we will deal with when and if the date comes and they do not comply." FS BELGRADE CALLS UCK DISARMAMENT 'FARCE.' Vladislav Jovanovic, who is Yugoslavia's top diplomat at the UN, said in New York on 16 September that the disarmament of the UCK is a "farce" because the guerrillas are handing in only outdated weapons. He charged that the UCK is hiding its best weapons in Albania, Macedonia, and secret locations in Kosova. Jovanovic did not provide any proof of his assertions, but added that "everybody knows" that what he says is true, AP reported. He stressed that the UCK seeks to become the dominant military and political force in the province. PM FBI BACKS STORIES OF MASSACRES. FBI forensic experts said in Washington on 16 September that they are prepared to substantiate eyewitness claims of massacres in Kosova during the recent conflict. The experts noted that their conclusion is based on having examined 124 bodies from 21 sites in Kosova. One spokesman noted that the victims ranged between 2 and 94 years of age. PM GLIGOROV SAYS WEST MISREAD SERBS, MISLED MACEDONIA. Macedonian President Kiro Gligorov told the Belgrade weekly "Vreme" that he well remembers the 40 years he spent in the Serbian capital as a communist official. He stressed that Western governments were mistaken if they thought that the Serbs could be defeated by only a few weeks' bombing. He added that those same governments made "big promises" to Macedonia but did little to help with his country's huge refugee burden during the recent conflict. His political rival, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, was wrong to treat the UCK's Hashim Thaci as "almost a head of state," Gligorov argued. He noted that ethnic Albanians could constitute the majority of the population in Macedonia by 2015 if present demographic trends continue. PM ANTI-MILOSEVIC COALITION CALLS FOR 'PEACEFUL REVOLUTION.' Some 5,000 supporters of the Alliance for Change attended the organization's convention in Novi Sad on 16 September. Alliance leader Vladan Batic told cheering crowds that the nationwide protests slated to begin on 21 September will mark the start of a "peaceful, social revolution." He stressed that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic "must go." Several other prominent speakers--including senior banker Dragoslav Avramovic and Democratic Party leader Zoran Djindjic--echoed a key theme of the convention's resolution, namely that prosperity and integration into Europe will come only after Milosevic goes. Other prominent persons in attendance included Vojvodina's Nenad Canak, Cacak's Velimir Ilic, former General Vuk Obradovic, and Archbishop Artemije, who is a key leader of the Kosova Serbs. PM PENSIONERS WANT MILOSEVIC TO GO. Several hundred pensioners demonstrated in Belgrade and Kragujevac against the government on 16 September. They protested plans by the authorities to give them vouchers for electricity payments in place of unpaid pensions. PM WILL HIS FRIENDS OUST HIM? Dusan Mihajlovic, who heads the New Democracy Party, said that the main threat to Milosevic comes not from the opposition but from those members of the ruling establishment who want to end Serbia's international pariah status, AP reported from Belgrade on 17 September. PM MONTENEGRO: MILOSEVIC MOBILIZING POLICE. Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said in Podgorica on 16 September that Milosevic has increased the number of his military police in Montenegro without consulting with or informing the republic's authorities, Reuters reported. He did not provide any details but added that the Montenegrin government will not "take any countermeasures." The Belgrade press is wrong when it reports that Montenegro has set up paramilitary formations, Vujanovic added. He stressed that his government will seek international aid in response to Serbia's blockade on food shipments to his mountainous republic (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 1999). In other news, the Montenegrin parliament began discussions of Podgorica's future relations with Belgrade, RFE/RL's South Slavic Service reported. And Serbian Renewal Movement leader Vuk Draskovic told Montenegrin Television that he helped block a plan by Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic to launch a putsch in Montenegro in April. PM ALBANIA'S MAJKO SLAMS POLITICIANS FOR LINKS TO CRIMINALS... Prime Minister Pandeli Majko said in Tirana on 16 September that unspecified Albanian politicians have "encouraged crime, supporting it not only morally," AP reported. He added that these politicians, abusing their parliamentary immunity, have protected criminals who would have had to be convicted under the law. Majko explicitly said that this applied to both his Socialist Party and the opposition Democrats. He said: "Before shooting, a policeman has to think first which political clan a given criminal represents." Majko pledged that his government "will work for a definitive and full separation of politics from crime [and attack] crime without any compromise." FS ...AND CHALLENGES NANO. Majko announced in Tirana on 16 September that he will run against his predecessor Fatos Nano for the chair of the Socialist Party on 10 October, an RFE/RL South Slavic Service correspondent reported. Majko dismissed recent charges by Nano that he is too close to opposition leader Sali Berisha by saying that "it is better to shake hands with Berisha than with Milosevic." He was referring to a Balkan summit on Crete in 1997, where Nano met Milosevic. Responding to recent claims by Nano that Majko has allowed Kosovar guerrillas to smuggle arms through Albania, Information Minister Musa Ulqini said that "the Albanian government has acted in accordance with the constitution and has fulfilled all its obligations towards what is called the 'national question.'" FS HUNGARY SIDES WITH BULGARIA IN DISPUTE WITH ROMANIA. Defense Minister Janos Szabo on 16 September told his visiting Bulgarian counterpart Georgi Ananiev that he will inform his NATO colleagues at an informal meeting in Toronto next week on "the need to build a bridge between Vidin and Calafat" and will "insist on their support." Bulgaria and Romania have long disagreed on the location of a new bridge over the Danube River, with Romania wanting the bridge to be built further east than the Vidin-Calafat stretch favored by Bulgaria. Szabo said that he is convinced that the passage of NATO troops, including Hungarian troops, across Bulgaria to Kosova would be greatly facilitated by a Vidin-Calafat bridge, BTA reported. MS CLUJ EXTREME NATIONALIST MAYOR DOES IT AGAIN. Police on 17 September dismantled a sign put up during the night in front of the Hungarian general consulate in Cluj at the order of extreme nationalist Mayor Gheorghe Funar, Romanian radio reported. The inscription read "Seat of Hungarian espionage." Funar said the inscription had been put up "in line with the provisions of the law" and that it came to "draw attention to the appointment of Laszlo Alfoldi as general consul, a person declared persona non grata and expelled from the country in 1988." Interior Minister Constantin Dudu Ionescu ordered police to dismantle the inscription after being warned by Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania Executive Secretary Csaba Takacs that a diplomatic incident was imminent. MS ROMANIA, RUSSIA, DIFFER ON EVALUATING EXPERT MEETING. Following a meeting in Bucharest of experts from the Romanian and Russian foreign ministries on 16 September, Romanian radio reported that the two sides agreed to further develop "pragmatic collaborative relations" and that "the absence of a bilateral treaty must not hinder" such ties. But the head of the Russian team, Aleksandr Tolkach, was cited by ITAR- TASS as saying that "Romania lacks the political will to really sign a bilateral treaty." Tolkach said Russia rejected Bucharest's insistence on having the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact mentioned in the document, as well as the Romanian raising of the state treasure deposited in Russia during World War I. MS COMPROMISE IN OFFING ON MOLDOVAN PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM? Presidential spokesman Anatol Golea said on 16 September that President Petru Lucinschi is "satisfied" with the results achieved at a meeting held one day earlier with leaders of political parties represented in the parliament, at which he presented his proposals for changing the political system into a presidential one, Infotag reported. Golea said that Lucinschi "once more stated that he is open to a compromise and once again invited the party leaders to join him in the search for a mutually-acceptable formula." Former President Mircea Snegur, leader of the Democratic Convention of Moldova, said that the meeting revealed that Lucinschi and the parliamentary leaders were "ready to compromise in order to avoid confrontation between the two power branches." MS BULGARIAN LOCAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN OFFICIALLY LAUNCHED. Campaigning for local elections officially started on 16 September. Ninety-six parties are competing in the elections, compared with 64 in 1995. Fifteen parties registered candidates for the post of Sofia mayor, for which the ruling United Democratic Forces nominated Mayor Stefan Sofiyansky for a second term. Thirty parties, nine party coalitions, and three initiative committees are running lists for the municipal council in the capital, BTA reported. The first round of the elections will be held on 16 October, and a run- off a week later between the two front runners in localities where no mayoral candidate wins more than half of the votes cast in the first round. MS END NOTE AMBIGUOUS ANNIVERSARY by Jan Maksymiuk Poland marks the 60th anniversary of the Soviet invasion today. While Polish armies were involved in an unequal but heroic fight against Nazi Germany, some 600,000 Soviet troops moved into Poland on 17 September 1939. The 25 border guard and police units in eastern Poland were no match for the Soviet forces. On 25 September, German and Soviet troops met along the length of the demarcation line that had been determined in a secret protocol to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 23 August 1939. Three days later, Berlin and Moscow signed a friendship and border treaty erasing Poland from the map of Europe for almost six years. The Soviet annexation of eastern Poland was presented by Moscow as the "liberation of Belarusian and Ukrainian brothers from the oppression of Polish landlords." Eyewitness accounts testify that most Belarusians and Ukrainians greeted the Soviet troops as friends, if not liberators, and promptly cooperated in organizing a Soviet system of power. "Popular assemblies" of western Belarus and western Ukraine were swiftly elected in October 1939 and requested the unification of the newly conquered areas with the Belarusian SSR and Ukrainian SSR, in particular, and with the USSR in general. Historians have cited many reasons for this Belarusian and Ukrainian attitude toward the Soviet invasion. Two appear especially persuasive. First, pre-war Poland--which experienced a measure of democracy during its initial years of independence but became an authoritarian state following Jozef Pilsudski's coup d'etat in May 1926--did not develop a policy toward its ethnic minorities that those minorities, accounting for nearly 30 percent of the country's population, found acceptable. Belarusians and Ukrainians were especially treated by the state as second-rate citizens in terms of their civil rights. In Poland's "eastern outlands" (kresy wschodnie, the name applied to eastern parts of pre-war Poland), economic, social, and ethnic inequality and injustice were widespread. Second, Belarusians and Ukrainians suffered under the delusion--skillfully promoted by Soviet propaganda at the time--that Soviet Belarus and Soviet Ukraine embodied the national statehood that they so intensely desired. The Polish-Soviet border was hermetically sealed, as a result of which Polish Belarusians and Ukrainians were completely unfamiliar with the real state of affairs in the Soviet Union (as, incidentally, was the rest of Europe). Therefore, even anti-Communists among Belarusian and Ukrainian political circles in pre-war Poland generally welcomed the unification of all Belarusian and Ukrainian ethnic territories as an "act of historical justice." Some 20 months later, when Hitler's armies invaded the Soviet Union, many people in western Belarus and Ukraine who had greeted Stalin's soldiers were now somewhat inclined to welcome the Germans as the "liberator." From September 1939 to June 1941, Stalin's persecution machine was used against not only "Polish landlords" but also their allegedly liberated victims: Belarusian and Ukrainian peasants. The legendary communist paradise proved a socio-economic hell for those hapless "brothers" of the Soviet Union. The 1945 Yalta Conference endorsed the Polish-Soviet border foreseen by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (with some post-war corrections), leaving Poland without its former "eastern outlands." For more than 40 years, the official Soviet interpretation of the 17 September 1939 military operation as the "liberation of the oppressed" prevailed in Poland's communist historiography. Only after Solidarity took over in 1989 were Polish historians able to openly identify the invasion by its proper name. Belarusian and Ukrainian historians, or at least those who have renounced the Soviet historiography tradition, offer interpretations of the significance of the 17 September anniversary that are more ambiguous. The notion of "liberation" appears to be gradually disappearing from their versions. However, there is hardly any historian in Belarus and Ukraine who would take issue with the argument that the Soviet invasion against Poland 60 years ago was "positive" for their nations in so far as it unified formerly divided nations into one political organism. That organism collapsed in 1991 and gave birth to two independent states--Belarus and Ukraine. At a recent conference of Belarusian historians in Minsk, one delegate spoke for many when he argued that the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its territorial consequences cannot be viewed as separate from the Polish-Bolshevik Treaty of Riga in 1921. Under that treaty, Warsaw and Moscow arbitrarily carved up between themselves Belarusian and Ukrainian ethnic territories without taking into account the interests of the indigenous people who inhabited them. According to this line of argument, the Soviet Union in 1939- -even in the role of an aggressor--ensured that justice was done by bringing Belarusians and Ukrainians together. Whether Polish historians will accept such a viewpoint remains to be seen. Currently, the differing attitudes toward the Soviet invasion 60 years ago are reflected in the planned official commemorations of the anniversary. Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski has visited sites in Russia and Ukraine of the mass murders of Polish officers taken prisoner by Soviet troops in 1939. Belarus's Alyaksandr Lukashenka will preside over official events in his country marking the 60th anniversary of the reunification of Belarus. And Lviv in Ukraine will host a congress of anti-Communists from Eastern Europe who will discuss Soviet repression in the 1930s and early 1940s. When history serves different policies, a single historical interpretation is the exception rather than the rule. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1999 RFE/RL, Inc. All rights reserved. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx HOW TO SUBSCRIBE Send an email to email@example.com with the word subscribe as the subject of the message. HOW TO UNSUBSCRIBE Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word unsubscribe as the subject of the message. 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