Former Belarus leader Stanislav Shushkevich died this week at the age of 87. He took a part of the history of the Soviet Union with him.
Smart and intelligent, he was the one who put the last nail in the coffin of the Soviet Union. Together with Ukrainian and Russian leaders Leonid Kravchuk and Boris Yeltsin, in the cold winter of 1991 in the Belvezha forest of Belarus, they signed the document that became the death certificate for the USSR.
A physicist by profession, soft-spoken and with his wife everywhere, Shushkevich never regretted the collapse of the USSR, and called the signing of historical documents in Belvezha a “brilliant work.” His family was politically repressed by the Soviet Union and his grandmother, a Catholic, taught him to speak Polish.
He spent his last days at his dacha in Belarus witnessing the brutality of the Alexander Lukashenko-led regime, to whom he lost power in 1994. It’s hard to imagine how he felt about the future of his country, which adopted the white and red-striped flag, which became a symbol of Lukashenko’s protest on his own election day in 1991.
From what we know for sure, he did not believe that an all-out attack on Ukraine, organized by President Vladimir Putin in the last days of Shushkevich’s life, was possible. He told me about it in 2016 during a long interview in Washington. We spoke our different native languages, he in Belarusian and I in Ukrainian, and we understood each other perfectly.
Shushkevich considered former Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s decision to appoint Putin as his successor a grave mistake.
“I think it was Yeltsin’s mistake to appoint Putin. But it was very well crafted by KGB professionals who know how to manipulate people. Putin was portrayed as a man [former St. Petersburg mayor Anatoly] Sobchak’s team, as an educated lawyer, as someone who has demonstrated that he can manage the KGB well….”
“But this organization quickly lost its professionalism as a structure that cares about the security of the state, and quickly acquired corruption as a structure that cares about the well-being of its leaders and these leaders.” cares about politicians,” he told me during the interview.
Asked how the war in eastern Ukraine, which had been going on for two years at that time, could be stopped, Shushkevich said the war would be prolonged and could not be stopped until Putin was in power.
“Putin is in such a position that he can no longer hold back. All his popularity is based on the fact that he continues the work of Stalin, Peter the Great and Lenin. After all, they are all emperors. And Russia would like to be an empire.” does, and many Russian intellectuals like it.”
And on the issue of Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, he said it had no valid grounds for doing so.
“It is utter nonsense that Crimea is really Russian, has always been Russian, and they took what was theirs. wants,” he said.
The world should not forget his wisdom.