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Belarusian Review

Media Watch

Belarus Will Remain Belorussia for Moscow Journalists and Scholars

Despite Minsk’s official insistence that Belarus is “the uniquely correct form of the name of our state” and the willingness of at least some Moscow officials to agree to that practice, Russian journalists and academics say they will continue to identify their Western neighbor as Belorussia.

On Thursday, Belarusian Deputy Justice Minister Alla Bodak told a session of the Unified Collegium of Justice Ministries of the two countries that “the uniquely correct form of the name of our state is ‘the Republic of Belarus’ and ‘Belarus’” and that any other formulation was incorrect (www.kommersant.ru/doc-rss.aspx?DocsID=1281369).

Russian Justice Minister Aleksandr Konovalov responded that his ministry uses the name Belarus and will continue to do so in official documents. Indeed, he said, to do otherwise would be “impermissible.” But he added that he was “not certain that all the media of Russia will use the official name” -- although he insisted the use of Belorussia was customary and not a slight.

... But if Russian officials are at least prepared to follow international practice and identify countries as they prefer to do, Russian journalists and Russian philologists have made it clear that they plan to continue calling Belarus Belorussia regardless of Moscow or Minsk says (forum-msk.org/material/news/1851332.html).

Mikhail Fedotov, secretary of the Union of Journalists of Russia and one of the authors of the Russian media law, said that despite the appeals of the Belarusians, the rules of the Russian language should determine what Russians call their neighbor. At the very least, he added, such questions were “the affair of philologists and not justice ministries.”

Meanwhile, Yasen Zasurky, the head of the journalism faculty at Moscow State University, agreed, adding that the use of the term Belorussia was “a definite tradition which should not be violated.” Any “search for a compromise” should involve “consultations between the two sides.”

And Vladimir Pykhov, academic secretary of the Institute of the Russian Language of the Russian Academy of Sciences, took a harder line. He said that “in the Russian language, there is only one norm for the neighboring country – Belorussia – and that should be followed,” apparently regardless of the desires of its residents and their government....

This article appeared in
Belarusian Review, Vol. 21, No. 4
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Copyright 2009 Belarusian Review
All rights reserved.
Source: Despite Minsk’s official insistence that Belarus is “the uniquely correct form of the name of our state” and the willingness of at least some Moscow officials to agree to that practice, Russian journalists and academics say they will continue to identify their Western neighbor as Belorussia.

Paul Goble

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