Protests in Belarus that started at the height of the presidential campaign in June 2020 and gained a massive scale in August have been going on for a year. Despite the suppression of large demonstrations, the conflict is actively unfolding in a symbolic 'world': conflicting sides – the pro-Soviet one backing by the government and the pro-democratic one represented by the protesters – try to undermine each other's cultural and ideological foundations, acting on the level of identity. Heritage – its mobilizing tool – is used both to attack and defend, given its political undertone. Young people as the future generation are an important target audience in this regard. Therefore, how and in what ways do both sides of the current protests in Belarus utilize heritage as a symbolic(-political) instrument, and how is this being negotiated by young Belarusians in constructing a sense of national identity? The interview method has been adopted to assess the multi-layered interplay between heritage and national identity in the context of Belarusian protests. Based on thorough communication with ten respondents, the research results show that through heritage, conflicting sides establish contact with politically 'beneficial' eras and adapt their principles to existing needs. The pro-Soviet side, accordingly, turns to heritage of the USSR, precisely one of the Great Patriotic War, to expose protesters as Nazis. The pro-democratic side strengthens its position through traditional/pre-Soviet heritage, demonstrating that the 'roots' of Belarus are deeper than the USSR. To achieve dominance over defining Belarusianness, opponents 'paint public space' via heritage. The public art that protesters use as an additional means of symbolic 'hegemonization' is transformed into conflict heritage due to iconoclasms: its defense/restoration has become the crux of resistance. Moreover, heritage that has come to the fore during protests prompted the respondents to actively reflect on national identity, imbue it with new meanings and shift their position on the spectrum of Belarusian identity – such a model is presented in the thesis to provide the fluidity and dynamics characteristic of national identity as such.

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Es, N. van
Place, Culture and Tourism
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Sialitski, Dzmitry. (2021, July 7). (Pro)testing heritage, (re)searching identity: Belarus uprising – studying national perspectives. Place, Culture and Tourism. Retrieved from