Understanding what “BUR” is

In texts coming from Eastern Europe the term “BUR” is used from time to time. For some people it might be confusing to understand what it means as it is used mostly by the anarchist activists. This is a text to understand a bit the term and context of it's appearance in the Eastern Europe.

The word “BUR” itself stands for Belarus, Ukraine, Russia. So the region described by BUR includes those three countries which are separate states but in many cases have common political issues as well as similarities of development of anarchist movement to the certain extent.

First of all Russian language is playing an important role in spreading theory and practice. All three countries have a big Russian-speaking population (and although in Ukraine Ukrainian language is gaining ground, in Belarus Russian is still the majority language). This is a direct result of Russification policies that were happening for generations in the region including the soviet times. After the collapse of the imperial soviet project small steps were made to recover anarchist thought and slowly start building up theory around antiauthoritarian movement. So any big theoretical text that was published in Russian would go to the movement of all BUR countries for discussion. This would form up quite tight bonds between different organizations.

On the other side for quite a long time organizational bonds existed between the countries. Organization of libertarian communists “Avtonom” united different groups mostly from Russia but had chapters in Belarus and certain associated projects in Ukraine. This created massive connection networks between different countries with people traveling for private or political visits as well as joining political events. No visa policy between ex-USSR countries made even easier for connections to appear. And while going West was in most of the cases associated with making visa, going to political comrades in BUR had a free movement to it.

Interestingly before Poland joined Schengen it was quite easy to get Polish visa and connections between Polish and Belarusian/Ukrainian anarchists were quite tight due to cultural and political exchange.

For really long time anarchist movement in “BUR” had its own political development that was catching European theory but also developing its own solutions to authoritarian politics of the region. Dealing with aggressive Russian policies in Belarus and Ukraine was another common struggle for the anarchists in BUR with a lot of mutual solidarity between the people in different parts of the region.

Regular anarchists camps in BUR were attracting activists from different countries and again forming up a bigger movement that was flexible in its response to the authoritarian development.

The first strike against anarchist unity within the BUR region happened in 2010 with mass repressions against the anarchists in Belarus. With Lukashenko regime becoming more stable with less and less political opposition anarchists came into the focus of political police and KGB. Organizing common events and camps became extremely hard, however some people kept on trying. Belarusian regime started slowly implementing policies of deporting “problematic” foreigners at any point (this achieved its high point in 2020 with hundreds of Russians and Ukrainians deported who dared to participate in protests against Lukashenko).

Russian repressions that followed in 2012 also hit hard against the BUR anarchists. With more problems at home activists from Russia started paying less attention to the movement “abroad”. At some point later several splits appeared inside the anarchist movement all around BUR region. First it was around nationalism that was trying to cripple into anarchism and was accepted by some parts of it (especially in Belarus and Ukraine finding good ground on anti-imperialist agenda). Later on another split happened on the basis of opposition to women liberation topics: certain groups of social revolutionary anarchists were insisting on giving up this agenda and saying that it was harmful for the revolutionary cause. In both cases it was not the majority of the movement that got split, but several small splits turned into a bigger problem that would plague the anarchist movement in BUR till today.

Acceptance of Nechaev revolutionary thought of some split social revolutionaries turned into a great problem. It became normal for certain groups to spread lies and manipulate new comrades into submission. Even within their own ranks fight for power turned into other splits and threat of murder. This was mostly the achievements of Revolutionary Action organizations and Narodnaya Samooborona. Both organizations for their activity faced serious political repressions in BUR countries and are now left only in Ukraine (with attempts to move the same political form of organization at least to Poland).

With all of that at the current moment all three countries of BUR are having quite different situations. Ukraine is now facing slow movement in direction of right-wing authoritarianism under support of EU but still people enjoy a lot of political freedoms. Belarus is destroyed by the Lukashenko regime and shaking from the protests mainly demanding liberal reforms and removal of the regime. While Putin in Russia remains stable and slowly destroys the last bits of anarchist movement with work of FSB and political police.

Nevertheless, anarchists in the region are still trying to work together and keep the struggle going on. In 2014 dozens of anarchists from Belarus and Ukraine visited Maidan and many moved to Ukraine after it to participate in development of the local movement. In 2017 and 2020 anarchists from Russia were deported from Belarus for active participation in protests against lukashenkos regime. And although repressions both in Russia and Belarus are becoming quite complicated to continue the struggle anarchists in BUR region keep developing their own ideas and participate in the liberation of society from capitalism and the state.