Belarusian Peasants' and Workers' Union
|Dissolved||De-legalized on March 21, 1927|
|Membership (November 1936)||120,000 |
|Political position||Left-wing nationalism
|Colours||White, red and white|
The Belarusian Peasants' and Workers' Union or the Hramada (Belarusian: Беларуская Сялянска-Работніцкая Грамада (Lacinka: Biełaruskaja Sialanska-Rabotnickaja Hramada), Polish: Białoruska Włościańsko-Robotnicza Hromada was a socialist agrarian political party created in 1925 by a group of Belarusian deputies to the Sejm of the Second Polish Republic that included Branislaw Tarashkyevich, Symon Rak-Michajłoŭski (be), Piotra Miatła (be), and the founder of Hramada Pavieł Vałošyn (be). The group received logistical help from the Soviet Union, and financial aid from the Comintern.
The main points of BPWU's program were: the democratic self-governance for West Belarus within Poland, introduction of an eight-hour working day, the recognition of the Belarusian language in Poland as a second official language, the cancellation of the "colonization of Belarus" by the Polish Osadniks, and the free distribution to peasants of land owned by landlords upon its confiscation. There was also a semi-official goal to unite all of Belarusians of West Belarus and East Belarus within one Soviet state, which in all practicality, was an act of treason against Poland.
Hramada was formed legally in July 1925. Its leaders were among prominent members of the Belarusian national liberation movement of the early 20th century: Symon Rak-Michajloŭski has previously been a high-ranking diplomat for the Belarusian Democratic Republic, Branisłaŭ Taraškievič is known as the creator of the first modern Belarusian grammar.
The Polish authorities began to suppress the activities of the Hramada in late 1926 due to its policy coordination with the delegalized Communist Party of Western Belarus. Belarusian media in Poland faced increased pressure and censorship from the authorities.
Membership and structure
Membership numbers of the Hramada grew on a very fast pace with sometimes entire Belarusian villages becoming members. By November 1926 the party has enrolled 120,000 members, which is believed to be the largest political party in Belarusian history today, and one of the largest revolutionary-democratic organizations of its time.
The Hramada had party cells in the following powiats of the Nowogródek Voivodeship in Second Polish Republic: Baranovichi (Baranowicze), Bielsk, Valozhyn (Wołożyn), Vawkavysk (Wołkowysk), Vileyka (Wilejka), Wilno, Grodno, Dzisna, Kosava, Lida, Maladzyechna, Navahrudak, Pastavy, Pinsk, Slonim, Stouptsy and Sokółka.
The Belarusian Peasants' and Workers' Union Hramada established several periodicals devoted not only to politics, but also to culture and business, including Zyccio bielarusa, Bielaruskaja niva, Bielaruskaja sprava, Narodnaja sprava, and Nasa sprava. The total circulation of publications of the Hramada in early 1927 was above 10,000 copies.
Radicalization and dissolution
The Belarusian national movement in West Belarus (called Kresy macroregion in interwar Poland) grew more loyal to the Soviet regime and its communist ideology as the years went on. The Soviets also gained increasingly more control over the Belarusian Peasants' and Workers' Union, and gave the Belarusian national liberation movement in Poland a communist context. According to Polish sources in Belarus, the Hramada received not only logistical, but also physical help from the Soviet Union, and financial aid from the Comintern.
The connection between Hramada and the delegalized Communist Party of Western Belarus aided by Moscow was inevitably discovered by the Polish authorities. On 15 January 1927 some top activists of Hramada were arrested under the charge of subversive anti-Polish activities. The trial of the leaders of Hramada became known as the Trial of the Fifty Six (Belarusian: Працэс 56-ці). The leaders including Branisłaŭ Taraškievič, Symon Rak-Michajłoŭski, Piotra Miatła, and Pavieł Vałošyn, were each sentenced to 12 years in prison. The Polish authorities handed them over to the Soviets in 1930 (Rak-Michajłoŭski, Vałošyn, Miatła) and 1933 (Taraškievič) in exchange for political prisoners held in the USSR (including the West Belarusian journalist and playwright Francišak Alachnovič). A few years later, all four former leaders of the Hramada were either executed by the Soviet regime as "Polish spies" or sent to perish in the GULAG.
In the aftermath of the party's de-legalisation, on February 3, 1927 a riot erupted in Kosava where the Soviet diversionist cell was already formed by Moscow with all required help. Polish police responded to attacks with fire, killing 6 people and wounding several dozens.
Historical role, legacy and criticism
According to historian Andrew Savchenko, by 1927 the Hramada organization was controlled entirely by agents deployed from Moscow, whose aim was to destabilize the region and recruit partisans. According to Polish media, the Hramada turned into a cover for infiltration of Poland by the Soviet Union. According to Savchenko, BPWU only theoretically demanded independence for Belarus, but in practice promoted only the idea of incorporating the ethnically Belarusian lands into the Soviet Union which meant yet another partition of Poland. The Russian agents attempted to isolate the Belarusian ethnic minority in Poland from the political process in the country. In turn, Hramada leaders did exactly what their Moscow advisers suggested they do, and disseminated Comintern propaganda, which resulted in the rapid growth of its rank and file. By March 1927 the party had 120,000 members. The membership of the Communist Party decreased at the same time by a thousand.
In Belarus, the BPWU is viewed positively by both the official regime and the opposition. It is seen as a mass democratic party that emerged in West Belarus as a response to harsh ethnic discrimination of the Belarusians in mid-war Poland. It is being pointed out that the Hramada was persecuted by both the Polish regime and by the Stalinist USSR
- Branisłaŭ Taraškievič, linguist, writer, later executed by the Soviets in 1938
- Symon Rak-Michajłoŭski (be-tarask), former diplomat of the Belarusian Democratic Republic, later executed by the Soviets in 1938
- Michaś Mašara (be-tarask), writer and poet
- Piotra Miatła (be-tarask), later sentenced to 10 years in GULAG, died in a concentration camp
- Ryhor Šyrma (be-tarask), musician and composer
- Pavieł Vałošyn (be-tarask), later executed by the Soviets in 1937
- Ludvika Sivickaja (alias Zośka Vieras) (be-tarask), poet and writer, former member of the Rada BNR and delegate to the First All-Belarusian Congress
- Radaslau Astrouski, later President of the Belarusian Central Rada and member of the Belarusian community in the United States
- Іван Саверчанка, Зьміцер Санько, 150 пытанняў і адказаў з гісторыі Беларусі, Менск, 1999: "Чаму была разгромлена Беларуская Сялянска-Работніцкая Грамада?" (I. Saviercanka and Z. Sanko, "150 Questions and Answers on the History of Belarus: Why Belarusian Peasants 'and Workers' Union was defeated?", Minsk, 1999; in Belarusian language).[no source of data provided]
- Andrzej Poczobut; Joanna Klimowicz (2011). "Białostocki ulubieniec Stalina" [Stalin's protégé from Białystok] (PDF). Głos znad Niemna. Ogólnokrajowy tygodnik SZ «Związek Polaków na Białorusi» (Association of Poles in Belarus) (7 (60)): 6–7 of current document. Retrieved 24 May 2014 – via PDF file, direct download 1.79 MB.[verification needed] [no source of data provided]
- Andrew Savchenko (2009). Belarus - A Perpetual Borderland. BRILL. p. 106. ISBN 9047427947 – via Google Books.
- Васіль Гарбачэўскі (September 2, 2002). "ЗНІТАВАНЫЯ ЛЁСАМ". Куфэрак Віленшчыны (in Belarusian). Archived from the original on 12 July 2003.
Магчыма, што ў Косаве не дайшло б да расстрэлу мірнай дэманстрацыі, каб не “памаглі” камуністы... Хачу прывесці урывак з таго артыкула без перакладу, каб не парушаць сэнс напісанага: »Засылаемые из СССР начальники “участков” в общем и целом поднимали волну “гнева трудящихся Западной Белоруссии.«
- Dr Andrew Savchenko (2009). Belarus: A Perpetual Borderland. BRILL. pp. 106–107. ISBN 9004174486.
- Dorota Michaluk; Per Rudling (2014). The Journal of Belarusian Studies. Ostrogorski Centre. p. 27. ISBN 1291893253 – via Google Books.
- Кореневская, О. (2003). "Особенности Западнобелорусского возрождения (на примере периодической печати)" (PDF). Białoruskie Zeszyty Historyczne (20): 69–89.
- Алесь Пашкевіч. Сымон Рак-Міхайлоўскі: старонкі жыцця і дзейнасці. (Alieś Paškievič, Symon Rak-Michajloŭski: staronki žyccia i dziejnasci.)
- Гісторыя Беларусі (Istoriya Belarusi, History of Belarus), Volume V, "Ekoperspektiva", Minsk, (2006), ISBN 985-6598-19-2, ISBN 985-469-149-7.
- Чаму была разгромленая Беларуская Сялянска-Работніцкая Грамада? - 150 пытанняў і адказаў з гісторыі Беларусі
- Разгром “Грамады” за кулісамі палітычнага скандалу
- У новай айчыне. Штодзённае жыццё беларусаў Беласточчыны ў міжваенны перыяд.