The Congress of Belarusian Studies — the largest event of its kind that brings together independent researchers focusing on Belarus — was held in Kaunas on 2–4 October. This year’s event was attended by an estimated 450 guests, including BISS experts.
Specifically, BISS analyst Andrei Yeliseyeu presented the report “Prospects of Migration between Belarus and the European Union: Findings of an Expert Survey,” whereas senior analyst Dzianis Melyantsou made a presentation of the paper “Belarus in Eastern Partnership: Expectations and Outcomes.” Furthermore, as part of the Congress, Andrei Yeliseyeu in association with the public campaign Go Europe! Go Belarus! Visa-Free! acted as a co-organizer of a separate section on migration, where leading migration and mobility specialists shared the results of their studies.
This year, the Congress opened with a speech by Dr. Johann Wadephul, Member of the German Bundestag, who presented his vision of the current Belarus–Germany and Belarus–EU relationships. Specifically, Dr. Johann Wadephul voiced an opinion that following Russia’s occupation of Crimea “Belarus took the opportunity to break its international isolation.” Aliaksandr Lukashenka made efforts in order to renew Belarus’s dialogue with the West.
“Lukashenka created a sort of neutral territory. In the meanwhile he showed the West that he was open to communication and released political prisoners,” said Dr. Johann Wadephul. He went on to say that “these activities should have a reasonable assessment and not be overestimated.” “Freedom is something more than staying outside of a prison cell,” the member of the German Bundestag stated.
In his speech the German guest outlined the most realistic prospect for the engagement between the West and Belarus. Dr. Johann Wadephul believes it lies in the resumption of the country’s full membership in the Council of Europe.
The Congress named prize winners in the following categories: history, human sciences, social and political sciences, foreign monograph about Belarus.
Nastassia Skiepjan of the National Academy of Sciences won the prize for the best historical book for her work “Princes of Sluck.”
Professor Mikalaj Khaŭstovič, formerly of Belarusian State University and currently of the University of Warsaw, won the Zora Kipel Prize for the best book in human sciences for “Belarusian Literature of the 18th–19th Centuries.”
The authors of the best articles also received awards.
In the History category, Hrodna-based historian Siarhiej Tokt was awarded for his article “Birth and Death Rates in a Traditional Peasant Community of Belarus in the 19th–early 20th Century (based on materials of the Hlybokaje parish).”
Marharyta Aliaškievič received the Humanities award for her article “Strategies of Success in Belarusian Literary Criticism.”
Aliaksiej Lastoŭski and Nadzieja Jafimava won the award in the category Social and Political Sciences for the article “Sources of National Statehood in Belarusian Historical Memory.”