Moscow and Minsk are today marking the first anniversary of the Russia-Belarus Union, founded by Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Alyaksandr Lukashenka on April 2, 1997. In a written address to the two countries, Lukashenka stated that their one-year-old Union stems from a "glorious Soviet past" and from "one thousand years of history of the Slavic nation." (Russian agencies, April 1 and 2)
The reference to one Slavic nation marks an escalation in Panslavist rhetoric. Elements of Panslavism are often present in Yeltsin’s, the Russian Communists’ and Lukashenka’s pronouncements on the Russia-Belarus Union. But they have until now always spoken of "Slavic peoples" in the plural and of a "family" or "fraternity" of peoples. Lukashenka’s reference to a Slavic nation, however, carries more far-reaching political implications, and derives from a radical and expansionist version of Panslavist ideology in the former Russian Empire.
Russian Parliament Defends Lukashenka’s Reputation.