- August 3, 2012
Radczenko: Ideal Lithuanian government
Although the Polish-Lithuanian tension is visible on the line Vilnius-Warsaw, its causes are the domestic and they can be solved only in Lithuania. So let’s think about what should do the Lithuanian government to get out from the current Polish-Lithuanian conflict.
Allow on the original spelling of names and bilingual topographic of inscriptions, complete return of Middle Lithuanian lands and to withdraw or at least make better education reform? Undoubtedly, these matters – some less, some more – important. However, resolving only them is the treating the symptoms, not diseases, but without overcoming the Polish-Lithuanian disease problems will be returning like a boomerang.
Years of civil wars on several acres of wasteland, books written “to uplift hearts” and to lecturing “hysteria” at schools and universities instead of history led to the fact that today we are societies which perceive one another by black and white patterns. “Their world is small – a few valleys and mountains. Their world is simple – on one side us, good people, on the other one they, our enemies. Their world is ruled by an exclusive right – either we or they”- wrote Ryszard Kapuściński in “Empire” about the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Something very similar can be said about the Polish-Lithuanian conflict. It could like that, but should it be nurtured?
From the Lithuanian government, which would like in fact end Polish-Lithuanian conflict and normalize relations with Lithuanian Poles and Poland, I expect a pragmatism, acceptance of multiculturalism, the introduction of zero tolerance for crime and hate speech and actions oriented on the actual integration of national minorities.
Henry John Temple once said that England has no eternal enemies and eternal friends, it has only eternal interests. The same can be said about any other country. That is why the easiest, but pragmatic account of costs and losses to show in black and white that it is better to have good relationships with neighbors and your own citizens than the perpetual guerrilla war. By contrast, as long as the national or language emotions will overshadow the benefits of peaceful coexistence, we will continue waged futile disputes about the letter “a” or who someone took Vilnius. Therefore, we need a pragmatic government, pragmatic parliament and pragmatic head of state, who will understand that sticking in the nineteenth-century language schemes, national stereotypes and historical myths is not unprofitable. Unfortunately, today on both sides of the Bug pragmatism is missing.
“Citizens belonging to ethnic communities have the right to develop their language, culture and traditions” – says Article 37 of the Lithuanian Constitution. I understand that this provision can be treated in different ways but I treat it as a record about multiculturalism. What is multiculturalism? Is an inter-ethnic management strategy relationship, which seeks to respect all the differences in customs, culture, religion and origin. In short, in terms of the policy of building such a society, such a state in which Polish and Lithuanian, Christian and Muslim, white and yellow would have the same right to respect their diversity, to preserve their customs, traditions, culture, language without prejudice the rights of other people and creating one, close society. Unity in diversity.
The Lithuanian State should allow minorities to decide on matters of culture and education, preservation of language and tradition. It should be once and forever decided that national minorities are the part of the Lithuanian political nation (civil), but they are not the part of the Lithuanian ethnic nation. So the spelling of their surnames or bilingual street names in their language, education of national minorities in no way threaten the Lithuanian ethnos, because in any way… do not concern it. Let the national communities decide how to preserve their national identity. Let them various options and alternatives, let’s create them possibility to choice, but do not impose the only one, right vision or only one, equitable solution. Even if they make a mistake, it will be only their mistake and only their choice. We do not live longer in The Soviet Union, where official and the party knew better what citizens need.
“Self-fulfilling prophecy in which anxiety is converted into reality works only in situations in which it does not take conscious institutional regulations. Ethnic prejudices disappear, but slowly. We can help them to get through the threshold of oblivion: not by continuous reminding that supporting them is unreasonable and wicked, but cutting off from the base of such prejudices”- considered a great American sociologist Robert K. Merton. His proposals were the basis of U.S. doctrine against racial segregation. This is also another challenge for the Lithuanian government – cut off from existence of ethnic produces.
On the international front Lithuania is criticized by human rights defenders. It is not because of not respecting rights of national minorities (in comparison to neighboring Latvia and Estonia it looks much better) but because of the tolerance for nationalist marches and hate speech and not so active prosecution of hate crimes. That is why, we have to create an atmosphere of “zero tolerance” for speech and actions of “haters”. If we cannot teach tolerance by school or articles in press, perhaps it is time to start “teaching” by the Criminal Code. Freedom of speech and freedom of meetings also have their limits and may not be an excuse for the activities of nationalists, racists and homophobes.
At last but not at least we need the government actions aimed at the true integration of national minorities. Effective integration of national minorities cannot be reduced to the expectation that the national minorities will slowly assimilate and “problem” will disappear, but it should strive to maintain their ethno-cultural-linguistic difference and also its insertion into the tissue of a nationwide. The attitude of “first prove that you are loyal and then we will consider what (if at all) we will give you for it” – this attitude is illogical. Because in the majority-minority relations bigger and stronger should take first step and reach out.
“It is naive to expect that Poles begin to integrate, if we begin actively implement the Lithuanian language in their schools. In order to integrate it is necessary to create certain conditions needed to its implementation. If you want someone to integrate with you, you have to be attractive to someone”- quite rightly noticed Lithuanian historian and political scientist Vladas Sirutavičius. There is no doubt that national minorities should perfectly know Lithuanian language, they have to be loyal citizens of Lithuania. As once rightly pointed out Trevor Phillips, chairman of the British Commission for Racial Equality: “Multiculturalism does not mean that everyone can do what they want in the name of their culture.”
Respecting the rights of national minorities cannot mean that national minorities are above the law, but the lack of respecting the rights of national minorities we cannot called a policy of integration. Therefore, national minorities should be an integral part of Lithuania, but they should not become the Lithuanians. Lithuania has always been varied: nationally, linguistically, culturally, and religiously. Lithuania was strong when she could take advantage of this diversity, attract to the service of “Vardan tos Lietuvos” Lithuanians and Ruthenians, Poles and Tartars, Jews and Karaites. We have already lost enormous, fantastic, unique layer of Jewish culture. We cannot afford for further losses.
Someone will say: “You are writing about a perfect government and in the nature there is not so!” But the difference between Yeti, dwarfs and a perfect government is that it is true that no one ever saw of them, but in the case of ideal government can always create it. At least we can trend to it.
Tłumaczenie Daria Bergmann w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Daria Bergmann within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.