Reinterpretation of History as the Identity-Building Tool. Case of Poleshuks in Belarus
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In late 1980s – early 1990s part of local intelligentsia in Palesse region of Belarus (that is, South-Western part of the Republic of Belarus, which is also referred in English academic literature as Polesia, Polesie, Polesje and Polissya) propagated the idea of existence of independent East-Slavonic Poleshuk nationality different from neighboring Ukrainians and Belarusians. Trying to shape a new Poleshuk identity and spread it among the local population, Poleshuk identity-makers developed a wide range of activities. Alongside with the creation of Poleshuk literary language, reinterpretation of history became one of the most essential tools used by representatives of the local intelligentsia in their identity-building efforts. Poleshuk history-makers readdressed and reinterpreted the whole range of key events in the mediaeval, modern and contemporary history of Palesse tailoring them to their current ideological needs and using historical material for legitimizing alleged Poleshuk distinctiveness from their Ukrainian and Belarusian surroundings. Alternative model of history elaborated by Poleshuk ideologists often contradicted to traditional clichés of both Soviet historiography and national historiographies of independent Belarus and Ukraine and was not easily accessible for the general public.
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