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DZIADY and Kurapaty Unite the Opposition

From the Belarus Miscellany Web site, www.belarus-misc.org:
November 2  - Remembrance Day Dziady ( Forefathers),  a traditional holiday.
The day for commemorating ancestors with a special family meal, dates from pre-Christian times and was later associated with Christianity's All Souls' Day. In some areas of Belarus, Dziady was commemorated several times during the year. Until 1997, it was an official holiday observed with a day off from work. For possible reasons for the change in the status of the holiday, see the following:
Since the Belarusian Declaration of Sovereignty in July, 1990, Dziady became an occasion for patriotic demonstrations emphasizing the victims and heroes of the historical past. Such observances were led by the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF) and other groups and included marches to Kurapaty, a site near Minsk where mass executions took place during the Stalinist era of the USSR.

It has been 15 years, since the traditional autumn Remembrance Day Dziady has been linked with honoring the victims of political represions and fighters for Belarus' freedom. On October 30, 1988 youth organizations Tutejsyja and Talaka staged a march to the infamous Kurapaty grove. Communist authorities did not sanction the march and tried to stop it using violence and tear gas, but in vain, as the historic commemoration did take place. In a requiem mass, held near Kurapaty, people were addressed by the writer Uladzimier Arlou and the politician Zianon Pazniak. The march made a great impression on Belarusian society, causing it to join, by the thousands, the newly-established Popular Front movement.
This year's commemoration and the march to Kurapaty was officially organized on November 2nd by the Conservative Christian Party of BPF. It was joined by practically all Belarusian national forces: the BPF party, the Belarusian Social-Democratic party (National Assembly), members of the Young Front, Belarusian Freedom party, Charter 97 and many unaffiliated Belarusian activists - Dr. Hienadz Hrusavy, chairman of the
Children of Chernobyl
Fund, Dr. Uladzimier Kolas, representing the National Humanities Lyceum , and others. Altogether over 500 people participated in the march.
The commemoration meeting took place on a hill, dubbed the ?Kurapaty Golgotha.? The marchers heard speeches by deputy leaders of the Conservative Christian party, Juras Bielenki and Uladzimier Papkou, the chairman of the Belarusian Language Society Aleh Trusau, and the chairman of the BPF party Vincuk Viacorka.

Sources: BPF Press center, Nasa Niva from Nov. 7, 2003, November issue of the newspaper Bielarus (New York).

This article appeared in
Belarusian Review, Vol. 15, No 4
Copyright 2003 Belarusian Review
All rights reserved.

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