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UNICEF WARNS AGAINST EXPLOITATION OF EASTERN EUROPEAN CHILDREN IN WEST. Thousands of children from Eastern Europe are being exploited as sex slaves and cheap labor in Western Europe, dpa reported on 10 June, citing a UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) report. The report was prepared by UNICEF's German branch and released ahead of Child Labor Day on 12 June. The report says Albania alone accounts for 15,000 children and adolescents forced into prostitution or sweatshops in Western Europe. Unscrupulous traders, according to the findings, "buy" children for roughly $25 from Albanian parents, claiming that they can provide better lives for them in the West. A spokesman for UNICEF Germany said children as young as six years old are being brought from Moldova and Ukraine and forced to work on the streets. MS

UKRAINIAN, POLISH PRESIDENTS TO ATTEND RECONCILIATION EVENT. Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski will take part in a reconciliation ceremony commemorating the Poles of Volhynia, western Ukraine, who were murdered by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and local Ukrainians 60 years ago (see "RFE/RL Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine Report," 4 March 2003), PAP reported on 11 June. The decision was confirmed by Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council head Yevhen Marchuk and Polish National Security Bureau chief Marek Siwiec during their meeting in Kyiv on 11 June. The ceremony will be held on 11 July in Pavlivka, where more than 100 Poles were herded into a local church and burned alive on 11 July 1943, the agency reported. Polish historians estimate that some 60,000-80,000 Poles died as a result of the UPA operation, intended to drive them out of Volhynia. Ukrainian historians estimate that up to 30,000 Ukrainians were killed in reprisals by the Polish Home Army. JM

KYIV URGED TO USE ODESA-BRODY PIPELINE IN 'REVERSE MODE.' Russia's Tyumen Oil Company (TNK) proposed to the Ukrainian government on 11 June the creation of a working group to study the possible use of the Odesa-Brody oil pipeline in a "reverse mode" -- that is, for pumping oil from Brody to an oil terminal in Odesa -- Interfax reported, quoting TNK Executive Director German Khan. Khan said the proposal was made jointly with British Petroleum (BP), a stakeholder in TNK, during BP Executive Director John Brown's meetings with President Kuchma and other Ukrainian officials in Kyiv. Meanwhile, the Stratfor commercial-intelligence group reported on 11 June that Kuchma approves of the idea of pumping Russian oil from Brody to Odesa until it becomes possible to pump Caspian oil to Europe through the pipeline. The use of the Odesa-Brody pipeline for pumping oil in the "reverse mode" reportedly could bring Ukraine an estimated $60 million in annual revenues. JM

U.S. NAMES REGIONAL STATES INVOLVED IN HUMAN TRAFFICKING... Several Balkan and European postcommunist countries are mentioned in the U.S. State Department's third annual report on human trafficking, which Secretary of State Colin Powell presented in Washington on 11 June, RFE/RL reported. Among the countries in the "Tier 3" group, which Powell said do not meet even minimum standards and do nothing to combat trafficking, are Bosnia, Georgia, Greece, and Turkey. Among the "Tier 2" group, which also do not meet minimum standards but are trying to do so, are Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine. The "Tier 1" group of countries that fully comply with the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act of October 2000 include, among others, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Macedonia, and Poland. Tier 3 countries face sanctions if they do not make what the State Department calls "significant efforts" by 1 October. PM

JOINT MOLDOVAN-TRANSDNIESTER COMMISSION HOLDS FIRST MEETING IN CHISINAU. The joint Moldovan-Transdniestrian commission on the elaboration of the constitution for the envisaged federal state held its first meeting in Chisinau on 11 June, RFE/RL's bureau in the Moldovan capital reported. Discussions focused on procedural issues. The meeting was also attended by William Hill, OSCE mission chief to Moldova, and by representatives of Russia and Ukraine, which along with the OSCE are mediating the negotiations for resolving the Moldova-Transdniester conflict. MS

Even President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's Belarus -- a country generally believed to be deeply immersed in the Soviet era in terms of its political regime and socioeconomic environment -- offers its citizens many liberties that were utterly unthinkable in the days of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic. To name just a few: people may travel abroad freely (provided they have the finances); opponents of the ruling regime may take their discontent to the streets (provided they are unafraid of spending a dozen days in jail); journalists may write what they choose (provided they work for a nonstate publication and are unafraid of spending a couple of years in an "open-type corrective-labor institution" for "defaming the president"); and Belarusian writers may publish what they wish, provided they can find a publisher.

Freedom of expression in Soviet Belarus posed a problem similar to that faced by authors in other Soviet republics or former communist countries in Eastern Europe. However, in contrast to the situation in Russia or Ukraine, let alone Poland, Belarusian writers of the Soviet era produced only a negligible number of publications that could be designated by the internationalized Russian word "samizdat." The reasons for this were many; but one is of particular interest, as it presents a good angle from which to view Belarus's unique cultural and linguistic situation. For Belarusian writers, writing in their mother tongue was (and still is) not only an outlet for releasing their creative potential and expressing themselves, but also (or, perhaps, first and foremost) a noble mission of saving the Belarusian language and Belarus's indigenous culture from total oblivion. Thus, the political and ideological curbs imposed by Soviet censors on the literary process in Belarus were of much less importance to participants in this process than the very fact of being published in Belarusian.

Naturally, it is debatable whether the ideologically tainted Belarusian literature of the Soviet era could actually erect a tangible barrier on the methodical path of the cultural and linguistic Russification of Belarusians pursued by the government in the 1960s and 1970s. On the other hand, however, the situation in which the government intended to destroy the national identity of its citizens while writers sponsored by the same government intended to save it was nothing more than a typical Orwellian dichotomy. Thus, even writers of younger generations who debuted in post-Soviet Belarus are not eager to assert that their older colleagues were merely conformists when they followed some Communist Party precepts in their works in order to get published. From today's perspective, it seems that financial support for literature in the Belarusian language was the most significant contribution of Belarus's Soviet-era regime to maintaining the Belarusian national identity as distinct from the Russian one.

The 1990s, with its numerous market-economy shocks and surprises for the citizens of postcommunist countries, radically corrected cultural policies pursued by postcommunist governments. Suddenly, ideological concerns in cultural policies gave way to economic calculation. Writers en masse were denied public money for publication and told to look for nonstate sponsors or to write books that would sell just like any other commodity and bring financial profits for themselves and their publishers. A similar policy was adopted in post-USSR Belarus, although in the pre-Lukashenka period (1991-94) this policy was not as severe as nowadays. The publication of books in Belarusian has fallen dramatically, particularly following the 1995 referendum, which gave Russian the status of an official language alongside Belarusian. That referendum has buried the hope awakened in Belarus in the early 1990s that an appropriate government policy might significantly contribute to preserving the mother tongue of Belarusians and making it a full-fledged means of communication in the independent state.

However, even under Lukashenka's rule, the state continued to finance the publication of a few literary periodicals in Belarusian. Such a situation lasted until mid-2002, when the government established the Office of Literature and Art to manage the publication of four literary monthlies and one weekly, which had been operated until then by the Union of Belarusian Writers (SBP), an organization independent of the government. The Ministry of Information appointed writers loyal to government policies to head those periodicals in what was generally perceived as a step toward the imposition of stricter ideological controls on cultural and literary life in the country. The government subsequently tried and failed to replace the SBP leadership with a more compliant one that could provide a sort of intellectual support to the ruling regime. The union defended its political independence but simultaneously lost any lingering hope of state financing. It seems that it was only in 2002 that Belarusian writers actually became divorced from the idea that it was possible to pursue different national ideals than those followed by the government and publish books for government money at the same time.

All of the above refers primarily to older-generation writers who remember both the harsh ideological controls over their work and lavish royalties paid to them by Soviet-era publishers. The Belarusian writers who reached their creative maturity after the collapse of the Soviet Union harbored few illusions about state sponsorship, and started to publish their books and periodicals outside the SBP publishing system and for money obtained from nonstate sponsors both at home and abroad. From the very start, they preferred creative freedom to self-imposed censorship, which was a sine qua non for gaining state sponsorship. This independent literary process, which somewhat resembles the Soviet-era "samizdat" in its unimpressive circulation figures, now remains the only hope of those Belarusians who have not yet abandoned the dream of one day seeing a revival of the Belarusian language and culture in their country. After all, as exemplified by the plight of the Irish language in Ireland, state sponsorship is insufficient to revive a native language if natives cease to be interested. Judging by the tortuous course of Belarusian literature over the past decade, some Belarusian natives still derive interest and amusement from the artful use of their mother tongue. And this provides the grounds for some historical optimism -- particularly since history has repeatedly taught us that dictators and dictatorships are not immortal.