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History of Belarus

History of Belarus

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This article describes the history of Belarus. The Belarusian ethnos
Belarusians
Belarusians ; are an East Slavic ethnic group who populate the majority of the Republic of Belarus. Introduced to the world as a new state in the early 1990s, the Republic of Belarus brought with it the notion of a re-emerging Belarusian ethnicity, drawn upon the lines of the Old Belarusian...

 is traced at least as far in time as other East Slavs
East Slavs
The East Slavs are Slavic peoples speaking East Slavic languages. Formerly the main population of the medieval state of Kievan Rus, by the seventeenth century they evolved into the Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian peoples.-Sources:...

.

After an initial period of independent feudal consolidation, Belarusian lands were incorporated into the Kingdom of Lithuania
Kingdom of Lithuania
The Kingdom of Lithuania was a Lithuanian monarchy which existed from 1251 to roughly 1263. King Mindaugas was the first and only crowned king of Lithuania. The status of a kingdom was lost after Mindaugas' assassination in 1263. Other monarchs of Lithuania are referred to as Grand Dukes, even...

, Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic...

, and later in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

 and eventually the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

 became an independent country in 1991 after declaring itself free from the Soviet Union.

Early history



The history of Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

, or, more correctly of the Belarusian ethnicity
Belarusians
Belarusians ; are an East Slavic ethnic group who populate the majority of the Republic of Belarus. Introduced to the world as a new state in the early 1990s, the Republic of Belarus brought with it the notion of a re-emerging Belarusian ethnicity, drawn upon the lines of the Old Belarusian...

, begins with the migration and expansion of the Slavic peoples
Slavic peoples
The Slavic people are an Indo-European panethnicity living in Eastern Europe, Southeast Europe, North Asia and Central Asia. The term Slavic represents a broad ethno-linguistic group of people, who speak languages belonging to the Slavic language family and share, to varying degrees, certain...

 throughout Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 between the 6th and 8th centuries. East Slavs settled on the territory present-day Belarus, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

, assimilating local Baltic
Balts
The Balts or Baltic peoples , defined as speakers of one of the Baltic languages, a branch of the Indo-European language family, are descended from a group of Indo-European tribes who settled the area between the Jutland peninsula in the west and Moscow, Oka and Volga rivers basins in the east...

 — (Yotvingians
Yotvingians
Yotvingians or Sudovians were a Baltic people with close cultural ties to the Lithuanians and Prussians...

, Dniepr Balts), Ugro-Finnic
Finnic peoples
The Finnic or Fennic peoples were historic ethnic groups who spoke various languages traditionally classified as Finno-Permic...

 (Russia) and steppe
Steppe
In physical geography, steppe is an ecoregion, in the montane grasslands and shrublands and temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biomes, characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes...

 nomads (Ukraine) already living there, their early ethnic integrations contributed to the gradual differentiation of the three East Slavic nations. These East Slavs were pagan
Paganism
Paganism is a blanket term, typically used to refer to non-Abrahamic, indigenous polytheistic religious traditions....

, animistic
Animism
Animism refers to the belief that non-human entities are spiritual beings, or at least embody some kind of life-principle....

, agrarian people whose economy included trade in agricultural produce, game, fur
Fur
Fur is a synonym for hair, used more in reference to non-human animals, usually mammals; particularly those with extensives body hair coverage. The term is sometimes used to refer to the body hair of an animal as a complete coat, also known as the "pelage". Fur is also used to refer to animal...

s, honey
Honey
Honey is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers. The variety produced by honey bees is the one most commonly referred to and is the type of honey collected by beekeepers and consumed by humans...

, beeswax
Beeswax
Beeswax is a natural wax produced in the bee hive of honey bees of the genus Apis. It is mainly esters of fatty acids and various long chain alcohols...

 and amber
Amber
Amber is fossilized tree resin , which has been appreciated for its color and natural beauty since Neolithic times. Amber is used as an ingredient in perfumes, as a healing agent in folk medicine, and as jewelry. There are five classes of amber, defined on the basis of their chemical constituents...

.

The modern Belarusian ethnos was probably formed on the basis of the three Slavic tribes — Kryvians, Drehovians, Radzimians as well as several Baltic tribes.


During the 9th and 10th centuries, Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

n Vikings established trade posts on the way from Scandinavia to the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

. The network of lakes and rivers crossing East Slav territory provided a lucrative trade route
Trade route
A trade route is a logistical network identified as a series of pathways and stoppages used for the commercial transport of cargo. Allowing goods to reach distant markets, a single trade route contains long distance arteries which may further be connected to several smaller networks of commercial...

 between the two civilizations. In the course of trade, they gradually took sovereignty over the tribes of East Slavs, at least to the point required by improvements in trade.

The Rus'
Rus' (people)
The Rus' were a group of Varangians . According to the Primary Chronicle of Rus, compiled in about 1113 AD, the Rus had relocated from the Baltic region , first to Northeastern Europe, creating an early polity which finally came under the leadership of Rurik...

 rulers invaded the Byzantine Empire on few occasions, but eventually they allied against the Bulgars
Bulgars
The Bulgars were a semi-nomadic who flourished in the Pontic Steppe and the Volga basin in the 7th century.The Bulgars emerge after the collapse of the Hunnic Empire in the 5th century....

. The condition underlying this alliance was to open the country for Christianization
Christianization
The historical phenomenon of Christianization is the conversion of individuals to Christianity or the conversion of entire peoples at once...

 and acculturation from the Byzantine Empire.

The common cultural bond of Eastern Orthodox Christianity and written Church Slavonic (a literary and liturgical Slavic language developed by 8th century missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius
Saints Cyril and Methodius
Saints Cyril and Methodius were two Byzantine Greek brothers born in Thessaloniki in the 9th century. They became missionaries of Christianity among the Slavic peoples of Bulgaria, Great Moravia and Pannonia. Through their work they influenced the cultural development of all Slavs, for which they...

) fostered the emergence of a new geopolitical entity, Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus was a medieval polity in Eastern Europe, from the late 9th to the mid 13th century, when it disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1240....

 — a loose-knit network of principalities, established along preexisting trade routes, with major centers in Novgorod (currently Russia), Polatsk
Polatsk
Polotsk , is a historical city in Belarus, situated on the Dvina river. It is the center of Polotsk district in Vitsebsk Voblast. Its population is more than 80,000 people...

 (in Belarus) and Kiev
Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

 (currently in Ukraine) — which claimed a sometimes precarious preeminence among them.

First Belarusian states


Between the 9th and 12th centuries, the Principality of Polotsk (northern Belarus) emerged as the dominant center of power on Belarusian territory, with a lesser role played by the Principality of Turaŭ
Principality of Turov and Pinsk
The Duchy of Turov and Pinsk was a medieval principality and state on the territory of modern southern Belarus and northern Ukraine. The principality's capital was Turov or Pinsk, other important cities were Mazyr and Slutsk, Lutsk, Brest, and Volodymyr-Volynskyi...

 in the south.

It repeatedly asserted its sovereignty in relation to other centers of Rus', becoming a political capital, the episcopal see
Episcopal See
An episcopal see is, in the original sense, the official seat of a bishop. This seat, which is also referred to as the bishop's cathedra, is placed in the bishop's principal church, which is therefore called the bishop's cathedral...

 of a bishopric and the controller of vassal
Vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

 territories among Balts
Balts
The Balts or Baltic peoples , defined as speakers of one of the Baltic languages, a branch of the Indo-European language family, are descended from a group of Indo-European tribes who settled the area between the Jutland peninsula in the west and Moscow, Oka and Volga rivers basins in the east...

 in the west. The city's Cathedral of the Holy Wisdom
Saint Sophia Cathedral in Polotsk
The Cathedral of Holy Wisdom in Polotsk was built by Prince Vseslav Briacheslavich between 1044 and 1066...

 (1044–66), though completely rebuilt over the years, remains a symbol of this independent-mindedness, rivaling churches of the same name in Novgorod and Kiev, referring to the original Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey...

 in Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 (and hence to claims of imperial prestige, authority and sovereignty). Cultural achievements of the Polatsk period include the work of the nun Euphrosyne of Polatsk
Euphrosyne of Polatsk
Euphrosyne of Polotsk was the granddaughter of a prince of Polotsk, Vseslav....

 (1120–73), who built monasteries, transcribed books, promoted literacy and sponsored art (including local artisan Lazarus Bohsha's famous "Cross of Euphrosyne
Cross of Saint Euphrosyne
The Cross of Saint Euphrosyne was a revered relic of the Russian Orthodox Church and Belarus, which was made in 1161 by Lazar Bogsha for the order of Saint Euphrosyne of Polatsk and lost in June 1941 in Mahilyow....

", a national symbol and treasure stolen during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

), and the prolific, original Church Slavonic sermons and writings of Bishop Cyril of Turau (1130–82).

Grand Duchy of Lithuania



In the 13th century, the fragile unity of Kievan Rus' disintegrated due to nomadic incursions from Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, which climaxed with the Mongol sacking of Kiev (1240), leaving a geopolitical vacuum in the region. The East Slavs splintered into a number of independent and competing principalities. Due to military conquest and dynastic marriages the West Ruthenian (Belarusian) principalities were acquired by the expanding Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

, beginning with the rule of Lithuanian King
Kingdom of Lithuania
The Kingdom of Lithuania was a Lithuanian monarchy which existed from 1251 to roughly 1263. King Mindaugas was the first and only crowned king of Lithuania. The status of a kingdom was lost after Mindaugas' assassination in 1263. Other monarchs of Lithuania are referred to as Grand Dukes, even...

 Mindaugas
Mindaugas
Mindaugas was the first known Grand Duke of Lithuania and the only King of Lithuania. Little is known of his origins, early life, or rise to power; he is mentioned in a 1219 treaty as an elder duke, and in 1236 as the leader of all the Lithuanians...

 (1240–63). From the 13th to 15th century, Baltic and Ukrainian
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 lands were consolidated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, with its initial capital unknown, but which presumably could have been either Navahrudak, Voruta
Voruta
Voruta may have been the capital city of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Lithuania during the reign of king Mindaugas in the 13th century. Voruta is mentioned briefly only once in written sources and its exact location of Voruta is unknown...

, Trakai, Kernavė
Kernave
Kernavė was a medieval capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and today is a tourist attraction and an archeological site . It is located in the Širvintos district municipality located in southeast Lithuania...

  or Vilnius
Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

. Since the 14th century, Vilnius had been the only official capital of the state.

The Lithuanians' smaller numbers and lack of their own written language
Lithuanian language
Lithuanian is the official state language of Lithuania and is recognized as one of the official languages of the European Union. There are about 2.96 million native Lithuanian speakers in Lithuania and about 170,000 abroad. Lithuanian is a Baltic language, closely related to Latvian, although they...

 in this medieval state gave the Ruthenians (present-day Belarusians and Ukrainians) a very important role in shaping Lithuanian political, religious and cultural life, and further assimilation between the Slavs and Balts occurred. Owing to the predominance of East Slavs and the Eastern Orthodox faith among the state's population, the Ruthenian language
Ruthenian language
Ruthenian, or Old Ruthenian , is a term used for the varieties of Eastern Slavonic spoken in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the East Slavic territories of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth....

 was widely used for the state chancery, legal, diplomatic and judicial needs until 1696, when it was eventually replaced by Polish
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

.

This period of political breakdown and reorganization also saw the rise of written local vernaculars in place of the literary and liturgical Church Slavonic language, a further stage in the evolving differentiation between the Belarusian
Belarusian language
The Belarusian language , sometimes referred to as White Russian or White Ruthenian, is the language of the Belarusian people...

, Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

 and Ukrainian
Ukrainian language
Ukrainian is a language of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. It is the official state language of Ukraine. Written Ukrainian uses a variant of the Cyrillic alphabet....

 languages.

Several Lithuanian monarchs — the last being Švitrigaila
Švitrigaila
Švitrigaila Švitrigaila Švitrigaila (ca 1370 – 10 February 1452; was the Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1430 to 1432. He spent most of his life in largely unsuccessful dynastic struggles against his cousins Vytautas and Sigismund Kęstutaitis.-Struggle against Vytautas:...

 in 1432–36 — relied on the Eastern Orthodox Ruthenian majority, while most monarchs and magnates increasingly came to reflect the opinions of the Roman Catholics.


Construction of Orthodox churches in some parts of present-day Belarus had been initially prohibited, as was the case of Vitebsk
Vitebsk
Vitebsk, also known as Viciebsk or Vitsyebsk , is a city in Belarus, near the border with Russia. The capital of the Vitebsk Oblast, in 2004 it had 342,381 inhabitants, making it the country's fourth largest city...

 in 1480. On the other hand, further unification of the, mostly Orthodox, Grand Duchy with mostly Catholic Poland led to liberalization and partial solving of the religious problem. In 1511, King and Grand Duke
Grand Duke
The title grand duke is used in Western Europe and particularly in Germanic countries for provincial sovereigns. Grand duke is of a protocolary rank below a king but higher than a sovereign duke. Grand duke is also the usual and established translation of grand prince in languages which do not...

 Sigismund I the Old
Sigismund I the Old
Sigismund I of Poland , of the Jagiellon dynasty, reigned as King of Poland and also as the Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1506 until 1548...

 granted the Orthodox clergy an autonomy enjoyed previously only by Catholic clergy. The privilege was enhanced in 1531, when the Orthodox church was no longer responsible to the Catholic bishop and instead the Metropolite
Metropolitan bishop
In Christian churches with episcopal polity, the rank of metropolitan bishop, or simply metropolitan, pertains to the diocesan bishop or archbishop of a metropolis; that is, the chief city of a historical Roman province, ecclesiastical province, or regional capital.Before the establishment of...

 was responsible only to the sobor
Sobor
A sobor is a council of bishops together with other clerical and lay delegates representing the church as a whole in matters of importance...

 of eight Orthodox bishops, the Grand Duke and the Patriarch of Constantinople
Patriarch of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarch is the Archbishop of Constantinople – New Rome – ranking as primus inter pares in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which is seen by followers as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church....

. The privilege also extended the jurisdiction of the Orthodox hierarchy over all Orthodox people.

In such circumstances, a vibrant Ruthenian culture flourished, mostly in major present-day Belarusian cities. Despite the legal usage of the Old Ruthenian language
Ruthenian language
Ruthenian, or Old Ruthenian , is a term used for the varieties of Eastern Slavonic spoken in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the East Slavic territories of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth....

 (the predecessor of both modern Belarusian
Belarusian language
The Belarusian language , sometimes referred to as White Russian or White Ruthenian, is the language of the Belarusian people...

 and Ukrainian
Ukrainian language
Ukrainian is a language of the East Slavic subgroup of the Slavic languages. It is the official state language of Ukraine. Written Ukrainian uses a variant of the Cyrillic alphabet....

 languages) which was used as a chancellery language in the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the literature was mostly non-existent, outside of several chronicles. The first Belarusian book printed with the first printing press
Printing press
A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium , thereby transferring the ink...

 in the Cyrillic alphabet was published in Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

, in 1517, by Francysk Skaryna, a leading representative of the renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 Belarusian culture. Soon afterwards he founded a similar printing press in Polatsk
Polatsk
Polotsk , is a historical city in Belarus, situated on the Dvina river. It is the center of Polotsk district in Vitsebsk Voblast. Its population is more than 80,000 people...

 and started an extensive work of publishing the Bible and other religious works there. Apart from the Bible itself, until his death in 1551 he published 22 other books thus laying the foundations for the evolution of the Ruthenian language
Ruthenian language
Ruthenian, or Old Ruthenian , is a term used for the varieties of Eastern Slavonic spoken in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the East Slavic territories of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth....

 into the modern Belarusian language
Belarusian language
The Belarusian language , sometimes referred to as White Russian or White Ruthenian, is the language of the Belarusian people...

.

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth


The Lublin Union of 1569 constituted the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth as an influential player in European politics and the largest multinational state in Europe. While Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 and Podlaskie became subject to the Polish Crown
Crown of the Polish Kingdom
The Crown of the Kingdom of Poland , or simply the Crown , is the name for the unit of administrative division, the territories under direct administration of Polish nobility from middle-ages to late 18th century...

, present-day Belarus territory was still regarded as part of Lithuania
Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

. The new polity was dominated by much more densely populated Poland, which had 134 representatives in the Sejm
Sejm
The Sejm is the lower house of the Polish parliament. The Sejm is made up of 460 deputies, or Poseł in Polish . It is elected by universal ballot and is presided over by a speaker called the Marshal of the Sejm ....

 as compared to 46 representatives of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. However the Grand Duchy of Lithuania retained much autonomy, and was governed by a separate code of laws called the Lithuanian Statutes, which codified both civil and property rights. Mogilyov was the largest urban centre of the territory of present-day Belarus, followed by Vitebsk, Polotsk, Pinsk
Pinsk
Pinsk , a town in Belarus, in the Polesia region, traversed by the river Pripyat, at the confluence of the Strumen and Pina rivers. The region was known as the Marsh of Pinsk. It is a fertile agricultural center. It lies south-west of Minsk. The population is about 130,000...

, Slutsk
Slutsk
Slutsk is a town in Belarus, located on the Sluch River south of Minsk. As of 2010 its population is of 61,400).-Geography:The town is situated in the south-west of its Voblast, not too far from from the city of Soligorsk.-History:...

, and Brest
Brest, Belarus
Brest , formerly also Brest-on-the-Bug and Brest-Litovsk , is a city in Belarus at the border with Poland opposite the city of Terespol, where the Bug River and Mukhavets rivers meet...

, whose population exceeded 10,000. In addition, Vilna (Vilnius)
Vilnius
Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 560,190 as of 2010. It is the seat of the Vilnius city municipality and of the Vilnius district municipality. It is also the capital of Vilnius County...

, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, also had a significant Ruthenian population.
With time, the ethnic pattern did not evolve much. Throughout their existence as a separate culture, Ruthenians formed in most cases rural population, with the power held by local szlachta
Szlachta
The szlachta was a legally privileged noble class with origins in the Kingdom of Poland. It gained considerable institutional privileges during the 1333-1370 reign of Casimir the Great. In 1413, following a series of tentative personal unions between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of...

 and boyar
Boyar
A boyar, or bolyar , was a member of the highest rank of the feudal Moscovian, Kievan Rus'ian, Bulgarian, Wallachian, and Moldavian aristocracies, second only to the ruling princes , from the 10th century through the 17th century....

s, often of Lithuanian, Polish or Russian descent. As in the rest of Central and Eastern Europe, the trade
Trade
Trade is the transfer of ownership of goods and services from one person or entity to another. Trade is sometimes loosely called commerce or financial transaction or barter. A network that allows trade is called a market. The original form of trade was barter, the direct exchange of goods and...

 and commerce was mostly monopolized by Jews
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

, who formed a significant part of the urban population. Since the Union of Horodlo
Union of Horodlo
The Union of Horodło or Pact of Horodło was a set of three acts signed in the town of Horodło on October 2, 1413. The first act was written by Jogaila, King of Poland, and Vytautas, Grand Duke of Lithuania. The second and third acts were composed by the Lithuanian and Polish nobility respectively...

 of 1413, local nobility was assimilated into the traditional clan system
Polish heraldry
Polish heraldry is a branch of heraldry focused on studying the development of coats of arms in the lands of historical Poland , as well as specifically-Polish traits of heraldry. The term is also used to refer to Polish heraldic system, as opposed to systems used elsewhere, notably in Western Europe...

 by means of the formal procedure of adoption by the szlachta
Szlachta
The szlachta was a legally privileged noble class with origins in the Kingdom of Poland. It gained considerable institutional privileges during the 1333-1370 reign of Casimir the Great. In 1413, following a series of tentative personal unions between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of...

(Polish gentry
Gentry
Gentry denotes "well-born and well-bred people" of high social class, especially in the past....

). Eventually it formed a significant part of the szlachta. Initially mostly Ruthenian and Orthodox, with time most of them became polonized
Polonization
Polonization was the acquisition or imposition of elements of Polish culture, in particular, Polish language, as experienced in some historic periods by non-Polish populations of territories controlled or substantially influenced by Poland...

. This was especially true for major magnate
Magnate
Magnate, from the Late Latin magnas, a great man, itself from Latin magnus 'great', designates a noble or other man in a high social position, by birth, wealth or other qualities...

 families (Sapieha
Sapieha
The Sapieha is a Polish-Lithuanian princely family descending from the medieval boyars of Smolensk. The family acquired great influence in the sixteenth century.-History:...

 and Radziwiłł clans being the most notable), whose personal fortunes and properties often surpassed those of the royal families and were huge enough to be called a state within a state. Many of them founded their own cities and settled them with settlers from other parts of Europe. Indeed there were Scots
Scottish people
The Scottish people , or Scots, are a nation and ethnic group native to Scotland. Historically they emerged from an amalgamation of the Picts and Gaels, incorporating neighbouring Britons to the south as well as invading Germanic peoples such as the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse.In modern use,...

, Germans
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 and Dutch people
Dutch people
The Dutch people are an ethnic group native to the Netherlands. They share a common culture and speak the Dutch language. Dutch people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in Suriname, Chile, Brazil, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the United...

 inhabitating major towns of the area, as well as several Italian artists who had been "imported" to the lands of modern Belarus by the magnates. Contrary to Poland, in the lands of the Grand Duchy, the peasants had little personal freedom in the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

. However, with time, the magnates and the gentry gradually limited the few liberties of the serf
SERF
A spin exchange relaxation-free magnetometer is a type of magnetometer developed at Princeton University in the early 2000s. SERF magnetometers measure magnetic fields by using lasers to detect the interaction between alkali metal atoms in a vapor and the magnetic field.The name for the technique...

s, at the same time increasing their taxation, often in labour for the local gentry. This made many Ruthenians flee to the scarcely populated lands, Dzikie Pola (Wild Fields), the Polish name of the Zaporizhian Sich
Zaporizhian Sich
Zaporizhian Sich was socio-political, grassroot, military organization of Ukrainian cossacks placed beyond Dnieper rapids. Sich existed between the 16th and 18th centuries in the region around the today's Kakhovka Reservoir...

, where they formed a large part of the Cossacks. Others sought refuge in the lands of other magnate
Magnate
Magnate, from the Late Latin magnas, a great man, itself from Latin magnus 'great', designates a noble or other man in a high social position, by birth, wealth or other qualities...

s or in Russia.
Also, with time the religious conflicts started to arise. The gentry with time started to adopt Catholicism
Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

 while the common people by large remained faithful to Eastern Orthodoxy. Initially the Warsaw Compact of 1573 codified the preexisting freedom of worship
Freedom of religion
Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance; the concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religion or not to follow any...

. However, the rule of an ultra-Catholic King Sigismund III Vasa
Sigismund III Vasa
Sigismund III Vasa was King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, a monarch of the united Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1587 to 1632, and King of Sweden from 1592 until he was deposed in 1599...

 was marked by numerous attempts to spread the Catholicism, mostly through his support for counterreformation and the Jesuits. Possibly to avoid such conflicts, in 1595 the Orthodox hierarchs of Kiev signed the Union of Brest
Union of Brest
Union of Brest or Union of Brześć refers to the 1595-1596 decision of the Church of Rus', the "Metropolia of Kiev-Halych and all Rus'", to break relations with the Patriarch of Constantinople and place themselves under the Pope of Rome. At the time, this church included most Ukrainians and...

, breaking their links with the Patriarch of Constantinople
Patriarch of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarch is the Archbishop of Constantinople – New Rome – ranking as primus inter pares in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which is seen by followers as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church....

 and placing themselves under the Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

. Although the union was generally supported by most local Orthodox bishops and the king himself, it was opposed by some prominent nobles and, more importantly, by the nascent Cossack
Cossack
Cossacks are a group of predominantly East Slavic people who originally were members of democratic, semi-military communities in what is today Ukraine and Southern Russia inhabiting sparsely populated areas and islands in the lower Dnieper and Don basins and who played an important role in the...

 movement. This led to a series of conflicts and rebellions against the local authorities. The first of such happened in 1595, when the Cossack insurgents under Severyn Nalivaiko took the towns of Slutsk
Slutsk
Slutsk is a town in Belarus, located on the Sluch River south of Minsk. As of 2010 its population is of 61,400).-Geography:The town is situated in the south-west of its Voblast, not too far from from the city of Soligorsk.-History:...

 and Mogilyov and executed Polish magistrates there. Other such clashes took place in Mogilyov (1606–10), Vitebsk (1623), and Polotsk (1623, 1633). This left the population of the Grand Duchy divided between Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox
Greek Orthodox Church
The Greek Orthodox Church is the body of several churches within the larger communion of Eastern Orthodox Christianity sharing a common cultural tradition whose liturgy is also traditionally conducted in Koine Greek, the original language of the New Testament...

 parts. At the same time, after the schism
Schism (religion)
A schism , from Greek σχίσμα, skhísma , is a division between people, usually belonging to an organization or movement religious denomination. The word is most frequently applied to a break of communion between two sections of Christianity that were previously a single body, or to a division within...

 in the Orthodox Church (Raskol
Raskol
Raskol |schism]]') was the event of splitting of the Russian Orthodox Church into an official church and the Old Believers movement in mid-17th century, triggered by the reforms of Patriarch Nikon in 1653, aiming to establish uniformity between the Greek and Russian church practices.-The Raskol:...

), some Old Believers
Old Believers
In the context of Russian Orthodox church history, the Old Believers separated after 1666 from the official Russian Orthodox Church as a protest against church reforms introduced by Patriarch Nikon between 1652–66...

 migrated west, seeking refuge in the Rzeczpospolita, which allowed them to freely practice their faith.

From 1569, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth suffered a series of Tatar invasions
Tatar invasions
The Mongol invasion of Europe from the east took place over the course of three centuries, from the Middle Ages to the early modern period.The terms Tatars or Tartars are applied to nomadic Turkic peoples who, themselves, were conquered by Mongols and incorporated into their horde...

, the goal of which was to loot, pillage and capture slaves into jasyr. The borderland area to the south-east was in a state of semi-permanent warfare until the 18th century. Some researchers estimate that altogether more than 3 million people, predominantly Ukrainians
Ukrainians
Ukrainians are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine, which is the sixth-largest nation in Europe. The Constitution of Ukraine applies the term 'Ukrainians' to all its citizens...

 but also Russians
Russians
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

, Belarusians
Belarusians
Belarusians ; are an East Slavic ethnic group who populate the majority of the Republic of Belarus. Introduced to the world as a new state in the early 1990s, the Republic of Belarus brought with it the notion of a re-emerging Belarusian ethnicity, drawn upon the lines of the Old Belarusian...

 and Poles
Poles
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

, were captured and enslaved during the time of the Crimean Khanate
Crimean Khanate
Crimean Khanate, or Khanate of Crimea , was a state ruled by Crimean Tatars from 1441 to 1783. Its native name was . Its khans were the patrilineal descendants of Toqa Temür, the thirteenth son of Jochi and grandson of Genghis Khan...

.

Despite the abovementioned conflicts, the literary tradition of Belarus evolved. Until the 17th century, the Ruthenian language
Ruthenian language
Ruthenian, or Old Ruthenian , is a term used for the varieties of Eastern Slavonic spoken in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later in the East Slavic territories of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth....

, the predecessor of modern Belarusian
Belarusian language
The Belarusian language , sometimes referred to as White Russian or White Ruthenian, is the language of the Belarusian people...

, was used in Grand Duchy as a chancery language, that is the language used for official documents. Afterwards, it was replaced with the Polish language
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

, commonly spoken by the upper classes of Belarusian society. Both Polish and Ruthenian cultures gained a major cultural centre with the foundation of the Academy of Vilna. At the same time the Belarusian lands entered a path of economic growth, with the formation of numerous towns that served as centres of trade on the east-west routes.

However, both economical and cultural growth came to an end in mid-17th century with a series of violent wars against Tsardom of Russia
Tsardom of Russia
The Tsardom of Russia was the name of the centralized Russian state from Ivan IV's assumption of the title of Tsar in 1547 till Peter the Great's foundation of the Russian Empire in 1721.From 1550 to 1700, Russia grew 35,000 km2 a year...

, Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, Brandenburg
Brandenburg
Brandenburg is one of the sixteen federal-states of Germany. It lies in the east of the country and is one of the new federal states that were re-created in 1990 upon the reunification of the former West Germany and East Germany. The capital is Potsdam...

 and Transylvania
Transylvania
Transylvania is a historical region in the central part of Romania. Bounded on the east and south by the Carpathian mountain range, historical Transylvania extended in the west to the Apuseni Mountains; however, the term sometimes encompasses not only Transylvania proper, but also the historical...

, as well as internal conflicts, known altogether as The Deluge
The Deluge (Polish history)
The term Deluge denotes a series of mid-17th century campaigns in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. In a wider sense it applies to the period between the Khmelnytsky Uprising of 1648 and the Truce of Andrusovo in 1667, thus comprising the Polish–Lithuanian theaters of the Russo-Polish and...

. The misfortunes were started in 1648 by Bohdan Chmielnicki, who started a large-scale Cossack uprising in Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

. Although the Cossacks were defeated in 1651 in the battle of Beresteczko, Khmelnytsky sought help from Russian tsar, and by the Treaty of Pereyaslav
Treaty of Pereyaslav
The Treaty of Pereyaslav is known in history more as the Council of Pereiaslav.Council of Pereyalslav was a meeting between the representative of the Russian Tsar, Prince Vasili Baturlin who presented a royal decree, and Bohdan Khmelnytsky as the leader of Cossack Hetmanate. During the council...

 Russia dominated and partially occupied the eastern lands of the Commonwealth since 1655. The Swedes
Swedish Empire
The Swedish Empire refers to the Kingdom of Sweden between 1561 and 1721 . During this time, Sweden was one of the great European powers. In Swedish, the period is called Stormaktstiden, literally meaning "the Great Power Era"...

 invaded and occupied the rest in the same year. The wars had shown internal problems of the state, with some people of the Grand Duchy supporting Russia while others (most notably Janusz Radziwiłł) supporting the Swedes. Although the Swedes were finally driven back in 1657 and the Russians were defeated in 1662, most of the country was ruined. It is estimated that the Commonwealth lost a third of its population, with some regions of Belarus losing as much as 50%. This broke the power of the once-powerful Commonwealth and the country gradually became vulnerable to foreign influence.

Subsequent wars in the area (Great Northern War
Great Northern War
The Great Northern War was a conflict in which a coalition led by the Tsardom of Russia successfully contested the supremacy of the Swedish Empire in northern Central Europe and Eastern Europe. The initial leaders of the anti-Swedish alliance were Peter I the Great of Russia, Frederick IV of...

 and the War of Polish succession) damaged its economy even further. In addition, Russian armies raided the Commonwealth under the pretext of the returning of fugitive peasants. By mid-18th century their presence in the lands of modern Belarus became almost permanent.

The last attempt to save the Commonwealth's independence was a Polish–Belarusian–Lithuanian national uprising
Kosciuszko Uprising
The Kościuszko Uprising was an uprising against Imperial Russia and the Kingdom of Prussia led by Tadeusz Kościuszko in Poland, Belarus and Lithuania in 1794...

 of 1794 led by Tadeusz Kościuszko
Tadeusz Kosciuszko
Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko was a Polish–Lithuanian and American general and military leader during the Kościuszko Uprising. He is a national hero of Poland, Lithuania, the United States and Belarus...

, however it was eventually quenched.

Eventually by 1795 Poland was partitioned by its neighbors
Partitions of Poland
The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland for 123 years...

. Thus a new period in Belarusian history started, with all its lands annexed by the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

, in a continuing endeavor of Russian tsars of "gathering the Rus lands" started after the liberation from the Tatar yoke by Grand Duke Ivan III of Russia
Ivan III of Russia
Ivan III Vasilyevich , also known as Ivan the Great, was a Grand Prince of Moscow and "Grand Prince of all Rus"...

.

Russian Empire




Under Russian administration, the territory of Belarus was divided into the guberniya
Guberniya
A guberniya was a major administrative subdivision of the Russian Empire usually translated as government, governorate, or province. Such administrative division was preserved for sometime upon the collapse of the empire in 1917. A guberniya was ruled by a governor , a word borrowed from Latin ,...

s
of Minsk
Minsk Governorate
The Minsk Governorate or Government of Minsk was a governorate of the Russian Empire. The seat was in Minsk. It was created in 1793 from the land acquired in the partitions of Poland, and lasted until 1921.- Administrative structure :...

, Vitebsk, Mogilyov, and Hrodno
Grodno Governorate
The Grodno Governorate, was a governorate of the Russian Empire.-Overview:Grodno: a western province or government of Europe lying between 52 and 54 N lat 23 and E long and bounded N by Vilna E by Minsk S Volhynia and W by the former kingdom of Poland The country was a wide plain in parts very...

. Belarusians were active in the guerrilla
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

 movement against Napoleon
Napoleon I of France
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

's occupation and did their best to annihilate
Battle of Berezina
The Battle of Berezina took place November 26–29, 1812 between the French army of Napoleon, retreating after his invasion of Russia and crossing the Berezina , and the Russian armies under Mikhail Kutuzov, Peter Wittgenstein and Admiral Pavel Chichagov. The battle ended with a mixed outcome...

 the remains of the Grande Armée when it crossed the Berezina River
Berezina River
The Berezina is a river in Belarus and a tributary of the Dnieper River.The Berezina Preserve by the river is in the UNESCO list of Biosphere Preserves.-Historical significance:...

 in November 1812. With Napoleon's defeat, Belarus again became a part of Imperial Russia  and its guberniyas constituted part of the Northwestern Krai
Northwestern Krai
Northwestern Krai was a subdivision of Imperial Russia in the territories of the present day Belarus and Lithuania. Together with the Southwestern Krai it formed the Western Krai...

. The anti-Russian uprisings of the gentry in 1830
November Uprising
The November Uprising , Polish–Russian War 1830–31 also known as the Cadet Revolution, was an armed rebellion in the heartland of partitioned Poland against the Russian Empire. The uprising began on 29 November 1830 in Warsaw when the young Polish officers from the local Army of the Congress...

 and 1863
January Uprising
The January Uprising was an uprising in the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth against the Russian Empire...

 were subdued by government forces.

Although under Nicholas I
Nicholas I of Russia
Nicholas I , was the Emperor of Russia from 1825 until 1855, known as one of the most reactionary of the Russian monarchs. On the eve of his death, the Russian Empire reached its historical zenith spanning over 20 million square kilometers...

 and Alexander III
Alexander III of Russia
Alexander Alexandrovich Romanov , historically remembered as Alexander III or Alexander the Peacemaker reigned as Emperor of Russia from until his death on .-Disposition:...

 the national cultures were repressed due to the policies of de-Polonization
Polonization
Polonization was the acquisition or imposition of elements of Polish culture, in particular, Polish language, as experienced in some historic periods by non-Polish populations of territories controlled or substantially influenced by Poland...

 and Russification
Russification
Russification is an adoption of the Russian language or some other Russian attributes by non-Russian communities...

, which included the return to Orthodoxy, the 19th century was signified by the rise of the modern Belarusian nation and self-confidence. A number of authors started publishing in the Belarusian language, including Jan Czeczot
Jan Czeczot
Jan Czeczot of Ostoja was a noble of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of Belarusian origin, romantic poet and ethnographer. Fascinated by folk lore and traditional folk songs of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania, confederal part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, he recollected hundreds of...

, Władysław Syrokomla and Konstanty Kalinowski
Konstanty Kalinowski
Wincenty Konstanty Kalinowski , also known under his Polish and Lithuanian names of Konstanty Kalinowski or and Kostas Kalinauskas; 1838 – March 24, 1864) was a writer, journalist, lawyer and revolutionary...

.

In a Russification
Russification
Russification is an adoption of the Russian language or some other Russian attributes by non-Russian communities...

 drive in the 1840s, Nicholas I
Nicholas I of Russia
Nicholas I , was the Emperor of Russia from 1825 until 1855, known as one of the most reactionary of the Russian monarchs. On the eve of his death, the Russian Empire reached its historical zenith spanning over 20 million square kilometers...

 forbade the use of the term Belarusia and renamed the region the "North-Western Territory". He also prohibited the use of Belarusian language in public schools, campaigned against Belarusian publications and tried to pressure those who had converted to Catholicism under the Poles to reconvert to the Orthodox faith. In 1863, economic and cultural pressure exploded into a revolt
January Uprising
The January Uprising was an uprising in the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth against the Russian Empire...

, led by Kalinowski. After the failed revolt, the Russian government reintroduced the use of the Cyrillic alphabet
Cyrillic alphabet
The Cyrillic script or azbuka is an alphabetic writing system developed in the First Bulgarian Empire during the 10th century AD at the Preslav Literary School...

 to Belarusian in 1864 and banned the use of the Latin alphabet
Latin alphabet
The Latin alphabet, also called the Roman alphabet, is the most recognized alphabet used in the world today. It evolved from a western variety of the Greek alphabet called the Cumaean alphabet, which was adopted and modified by the Etruscans who ruled early Rome...

.

In the second half of the 19th century, the Belarusian economy, like that of the entire Europe, was experiencing significant growth due to the spread of the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

 to Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

, particularly after the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. Peasants sought a better lot in foreign industrial centres, with some 1.5 million people leaving Belarus in the half-century preceding the Russian Revolution of 1917
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

.

BNR and LBSSR





World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 was the short period when Belarusian culture started to flourish. German administration allowed schools with Belarusian language, previously banned in Russia; a number of Belarusian schools were created until 1919 when they were banned again by the Polish military administration. At the end of World War I, when Belarus was still occupied
Military occupation
Military occupation occurs when the control and authority over a territory passes to a hostile army. The territory then becomes occupied territory.-Military occupation and the laws of war:...

 by Germans, according to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918, mediated by South African Andrik Fuller, at Brest-Litovsk between Russia and the Central Powers, headed by Germany, marking Russia's exit from World War I.While the treaty was practically obsolete before the end of the year,...

, the short-lived Belarus National Republic was pronounced on March 25, 1918, as part of the German Mitteleuropa
Mitteleuropa
Mitteleuropa is the German term equal to Central Europe. The word has political, geographic and cultural meaning. While it describes a geographical location, it also is the word denoting a political concept of a German-dominated and exploited Central European union that was put into motion during...

 plan.

In December 1918, Mitteleuropa was obsolete as the Germans withdrew from the Ober-Ost territory, and for the next few years in the newly created political vacuum the territories of Belarus would witness the struggle of various national and foreign factions. On January 2, 1919, the Soviet Socialist Republic of Byelorussia was declared. Next month, it was disbanded. Part of it was included into RSFSR, and part was joined to the Lithuanian SSR
Lithuanian SSR
The Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic , also known as the Lithuanian SSR, was one of the republics that made up the former Soviet Union...

 to form the LBSSR, Lithuanian-Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic
Lithuanian-Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic
Lithuanian–Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic or Litbel was a Soviet socialist republic, that existed within the territories of modern Belarus and eastern Lithuania for approximately seven months during 1919. It was created after the merger of Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic and the...

, informally known as Litbel. While Belarus National Republic faced off with Litbel, foreign powers were preparing to reclaim what they saw as their territories: Polish forces were moving from the West, and Russians from the East.

Eventually, it was the foreigners who prevailed. When the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 entered Minsk
Minsk
- Ecological situation :The ecological situation is monitored by Republican Center of Radioactive and Environmental Control .During 2003–2008 the overall weight of contaminants increased from 186,000 to 247,400 tons. The change of gas as industrial fuel to mazut for financial reasons has worsened...

 on January 5, 1919, the Rada (Council) of the Belarus National Republic went into exile, first to Kaunas
Kaunas
Kaunas is the second-largest city in Lithuania and has historically been a leading centre of Lithuanian economic, academic, and cultural life. Kaunas was the biggest city and the center of a powiat in Trakai Voivodeship of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania since 1413. During Russian Empire occupation...

, then to Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 and finally to Prague
Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

. Several months later, in August, the Litbel was also dissolved, this time because of the pressure of Polish forces advancing from the West.

Belarusian Soviet Republic and West Belarus


Within the USSR
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, the country's name was Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic
Byelorussian SSR
The Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic was one of fifteen constituent republics of the Soviet Union. It was one of the four original founding members of the Soviet Union in 1922, together with the Ukrainian SSR, the Transcaucasian SFSR and the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic...

. The latter was declared on January 1, 1919, in Smolensk
Smolensk
Smolensk is a city and the administrative center of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Dnieper River. Situated west-southwest of Moscow, this walled city was destroyed several times throughout its long history since it was on the invasion routes of both Napoleon and Hitler. Today, Smolensk...

 under the name of Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia
Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia
The Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia or Soviet Socialist Republic of Belarus was an early republic in the historical territory of Belarus after the collapse of the Russian Empire as a result of the October Revolution....

 (SSRB).

Some time in 1918 or 1919, Sergiusz Piasecki
Sergiusz Piasecki
Sergiusz Piasecki , was one of the best known Polish language writers of the mid 20th century. His crowning achievement, published in 1937, was the third most popular novel in the Second Polish Republic...

 returned to Belarus, joining Belarusian anti-Soviet units, the "Green Oak" (in Polish, Zielony Dąb), led by Ataman
Ataman
Ataman was a commander title of the Ukrainian People's Army, Cossack, and haidamak leaders, who were in essence the Cossacks...

 Wiaczesław Adamowicz (pseudonym
Pseudonym
A pseudonym is a name that a person assumes for a particular purpose and that differs from his or her original orthonym...

: J. Dziergacz). When on August 8, 1919, the Polish Army captured Minsk
Minsk
- Ecological situation :The ecological situation is monitored by Republican Center of Radioactive and Environmental Control .During 2003–2008 the overall weight of contaminants increased from 186,000 to 247,400 tons. The change of gas as industrial fuel to mazut for financial reasons has worsened...

, Adamowicz decided to work with them. Thus Belarusian units were created, and Piasecki was transferred to a Warsaw
Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

 school of infantry
Infantry
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

 cadet
Cadet
A cadet is a trainee to become an officer in the military, often a person who is a junior trainee. The term comes from the term "cadet" for younger sons of a noble family.- Military context :...

s. In the summer of 1920, during the Polish-Soviet War
Polish-Soviet War
The Polish–Soviet War was an armed conflict between Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine and the Second Polish Republic and the Ukrainian People's Republic—four states in post–World War I Europe...

, Piasecki fought in the Battle of Radzymin
Battle of Radzymin (1920)
The Battle of Radzymin took place during the Polish-Soviet War. The battle occurred in the area around the town of Radzymin, some north-east of Warsaw, between August 13 and 16, 1920. Along with the Battle of Ossów and the Polish counter-offensive from the Wieprz River area, the battle was one of...

.

The frontiers between Poland, which had established an independent government after World War I, and the former Russian Empire were not recognized by the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

. Poland's Józef Piłsudski, who envisioned the formation of an Intermarum
Miedzymorze
Międzymorze was a plan, pursued after World War I by Polish leader Józef Piłsudski, for a federation, under Poland's aegis, of Central and Eastern European countries...

 Federation
Federation
A federation , also known as a federal state, is a type of sovereign state characterized by a union of partially self-governing states or regions united by a central government...

 as a Central and East European bloc that would be a bulwark against Germany to the west and Russia to the east, carried out a Kiev Offensive into Ukraine in 1920. This met with a Red Army counter-offensive that drove into Polish territory almost to Warsaw
Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

. Piłsudski, however, halted the Soviet advance at the Battle of Warsaw
Battle of Warsaw (1920)
The Battle of Warsaw sometimes referred to as the Miracle at the Vistula, was the decisive battle of the Polish–Soviet War. That war began soon after the end of World War I in 1918 and lasted until the Treaty of Riga resulted in the end of the hostilities between Poland and Russia in 1921.The...

 and resumed his eastward offensive. Finally the Treaty of Riga, ending the Polish–Soviet War
Polish-Soviet War
The Polish–Soviet War was an armed conflict between Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine and the Second Polish Republic and the Ukrainian People's Republic—four states in post–World War I Europe...

, divided Belarus between Poland and Soviet Russia. Over the next two years, the Belarus National Republic prepared a national uprising, ceasing the preparations only when the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

 recognized the Soviet Union's western borders on March 15, 1923.


The Polish part of Belarus was subject to Polonization
Polonization
Polonization was the acquisition or imposition of elements of Polish culture, in particular, Polish language, as experienced in some historic periods by non-Polish populations of territories controlled or substantially influenced by Poland...

 policies (especially in the 1930s), while the Soviet Belarus was one of the original republics which formed the USSR. For several years, the national culture and language enjoyed a significant boost of revival in the Soviet Belarus. This was however soon tragically ended during the Great Purge
Great Purge
The Great Purge was a series of campaigns of political repression and persecution in the Soviet Union orchestrated by Joseph Stalin from 1936 to 1938...

, when almost all prominent Belarusian national intelligentsia
Intelligentsia
The intelligentsia is a social class of people engaged in complex, mental and creative labor directed to the development and dissemination of culture, encompassing intellectuals and social groups close to them...

 were executed, many of them buried in Kurapaty
Kurapaty
Kurapaty is a wooded area on the outskirts of Minsk, Belarus, in which a vast number of people were executed between 1937 and 1941 by the Soviet secret police, the NKVD.The exact count of victims is uncertain, NKVD archives are classified in Belarus...

. Thousands were deported to Asia. As the result of Polish operation of the NKVD
Polish operation of the NKVD
The Genocide of Poles in the Soviet Union often referred to as, the Polish operation of the NKVD, was a coordinated action of the Soviet NKVD and the Communist Party in 1937–1938 against the entire Polish minority living in the Soviet Union, representing only 0.4 percent of Soviet citizens...

 tens of thousands people of many nationalities were killed. Belarusian orthography
Orthography
The orthography of a language specifies a standardized way of using a specific writing system to write the language. Where more than one writing system is used for a language, for example Kurdish, Uyghur, Serbian or Inuktitut, there can be more than one orthography...

 was Russified in 1933 and use of Belarusian language was discouraged as exhibiting anti-soviet attitude.

In West Belarus
West Belarus
West Belarus is the name used in reference to the territory of modern Belarus which belonged to the Second Polish Republic between 1919 and 1939. The area of West Belarus was annexed into the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic following staged elections soon after the Nazi-Soviet Invasion of...

, up to 30 000 families of Polish veteran
Veteran
A veteran is a person who has had long service or experience in a particular occupation or field; " A veteran of ..."...

s (osadnik
Osadnik
Osadniks was the Polish loanword used in Soviet Union for veterans of the Polish Army that were given land in the Kresy territory ceded to Poland by Polish-Soviet Riga Peace Treaty of 1921 .-Colonization process:Shortly before the battle of Warsaw on August 7, 1920, the Premier of Poland,...

s
) were settled in the lands formerly belonging to the Russian tsar
Tsar
Tsar is a title used to designate certain European Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism...

 family and Russian aristocracy. Belarusian representation in Polish parliament
Polish parliament
Polish parliament is an expression referring to the historical Polish parliaments. It implies chaos and general disorder, and that no real decision can be reached during sessions...

 was reduced as a result of the 1930 elections. Since the early 1930s, the Polish government introduced a set of policies designed to Polonize all minorities (Belarusians, Ukrainians, Jews, etc.). The usage of Belarusian language was discouraged and the Belarusian schools were facing severe financial problems. In spring of 1939, there already was neither single Belarusian official organisation in Poland nor a single Belarusian school (with only 44 schools teaching Belarusian language left).

Belarus in World War II



When the Soviet Union invaded Poland
Invasion of Poland (1939)
The Invasion of Poland, also known as the September Campaign or 1939 Defensive War in Poland and the Poland Campaign in Germany, was an invasion of Poland by Germany, the Soviet Union, and a small Slovak contingent that marked the start of World War II in Europe...

 on September 17, 1939, following the terms of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact's secret protocol
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact
The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, named after the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and the German foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was an agreement officially titled the Treaty of Non-Aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and signed in Moscow in the late hours of 23 August 1939...

, much of what had been eastern Poland was annexed to the BSSR. Similarly to the times of German occupation during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, Belarusian language and Soviet culture enjoyed relative prosperity in this short period. Already in October 1940, over 75% of schools used the Belarusian language, also in the regions where no Belarus people lived, e.g. around Łomża, what was Ruthenization. After twenty months of Soviet rule, Germany and its Axis
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 allies invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. Soviet authorities immediately evacuated about 20% of the population of Belarus and destroyed all the food supplies. The country suffered particularly heavily during the fighting and the German occupation. Minsk was captured by the Germans on 28 June 1941. Following bloody encirclement battles, all of the present-day Belarus territory was occupied by the Germans by the end of August 1941.

During World War II, the Nazis
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 attempted to establish a puppet Belarusian government, Belarusian Central Rada
Belarusian Central Rada
The Belarusian Central Rada was nominally the government of Belarus from 1943–44. It was a collaborationist government established by Nazi Germany within the occupation and colonial administration of Reichskommissariat Ostland.- Timeline :...

, with the symbolics similar to BNR. In reality, however, the Germans imposed a brutal racist
Racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

 regime, burning down some 9 000 Belarusian villages, deporting some 380,000 people for slave labour, and killing hundreds of thousands of civilians more. Local police took part in many of those crimes. Almost the whole, previously very numerous, Jewish populations of Belarus that did not evacuate was killed. One of the first uprisings of a Jewish ghetto
Ghetto
A ghetto is a section of a city predominantly occupied by a group who live there, especially because of social, economic, or legal issues.The term was originally used in Venice to describe the area where Jews were compelled to live. The term now refers to an overcrowded urban area often associated...

 against the Nazis occurred in 1942 in Belarus, in the small town of Lakhva
Lakhva
Lakhva is a small town in southern Belarus, with a population of approximately 2100. Lakhva is considered to have been the location of one of the first, and possibly the first, Jewish ghetto uprisings of the Second World War.-Geography:Lakhva is located in the Luninets district of the Brest...

.

Since the early days of the occupation, a powerful and increasingly well-coordinated Belarusian resistance movement
Belarusian resistance movement
Belarusian resistance during World War II was focused towards Nazi Germany from 1941 until 1944. Belarus was one of the Soviet republics occupied during Operation Barbarossa...

 emerged. Hiding in the woods and swamps, the partisans inflicted heavy damage to German supply lines and communications, disrupting railway tracks, bridges, telegraph wires, attacking supply depots, fuel dumps and transports and ambushing German soldiers. Not all anti-German partisans were pro-Soviet. In the largest partisan sabotage action of the entire Second World War, the so-called Asipovichy
Asipovichy
Asipovichy or Osipovichi is a town in Mahilyow Voblast, Belarus, located 136 km southwest of Mogilev, 3 km north of the Minsk-Homyel expressway. It is located at the junction of railway lines between Minsk, Homel, Mahilyow , and Baranavichy...

 diversion of 30 July 1943 four German trains with supplies and Tiger tank
Tiger I
Tiger I is the common name of a German heavy tank developed in 1942 and used in World War II. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. E, often shortened to Tiger. It was an answer to the unexpectedly formidable Soviet armour encountered in the initial months of...

s were destroyed. To fight partisan activity, the Germans had to withdraw considerable forces behind their front line. On 22 June 1944 the huge Soviet offensive Operation Bagration was launched, Minsk was re-captured on 3 July 1944, and all of Belarus was regained by the end of August. Hundred thousand of Poles were expelled after 1944. As part of the Nazis' effort to combat the enormous Belarusian resistance during World War II, special units of local collaborationists were trained by the SS's Otto Skorzeny
Otto Skorzeny
Otto Skorzeny was an SS-Obersturmbannführer in the German Waffen-SS during World War II. After fighting on the Eastern Front, he was chosen as the field commander to carry out the rescue mission that freed the deposed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from captivity...

 to infiltrate the Soviet rear. In 1944 thirty Belarusians (known as Čorny Kot (Black Cat
Black cat
A black cat is a feline with black fur. It is not a particular breed of cat and may be mixed or of a specific breed. The Bombay, known for its sleek black fur, is an example of a black cat. The all-black pigmentation is equally prevalent in both male and female cats...

) and personally led by Michał Vituška) were airdrop
Airdrop
An airdrop is a type of airlift, developed during World War II to resupply otherwise inaccessible troops, who themselves may have been airborne forces. In some cases, it is used to refer to the airborne assault itself. Early airdrops were conducted by dropping or pushing padded bundles from...

ped by the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 behind the lines of the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

, which had already liberated Belarus during Operation Bagration. They experienced some initial success due to disorganization in the rear of the Red Army, and some other German-trained Belarusian nationalist units also slipped through the Białowieża Forest in 1945. The NKVD
NKVD
The People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs was the public and secret police organization of the Soviet Union that directly executed the rule of power of the Soviets, including political repression, during the era of Joseph Stalin....

, however, had already infiltrated these units. Vituška managed to escape to the West following the war, along with several other Belarusian Central Rada
Belarusian Central Rada
The Belarusian Central Rada was nominally the government of Belarus from 1943–44. It was a collaborationist government established by Nazi Germany within the occupation and colonial administration of Reichskommissariat Ostland.- Timeline :...

 leaders.

In total, Belarus lost a quarter of its pre-war population in World War II - mainly Poles and Jews - including practically all its intellectual elite. About 9 200 villages and 1.2 million houses were destroyed. The major towns of Minsk
Minsk
- Ecological situation :The ecological situation is monitored by Republican Center of Radioactive and Environmental Control .During 2003–2008 the overall weight of contaminants increased from 186,000 to 247,400 tons. The change of gas as industrial fuel to mazut for financial reasons has worsened...

 and Vitsebsk lost over 80% of their buildings and city infrastructure. For the defence against the Germans, and the tenacity during the German occupation, the capital Minsk was awarded the title Hero City
Hero City
Hero City is a Soviet honorary title awarded for outstanding heroism during the German-Soviet War of 1941 to 1945. It was awarded to twelve cities of the Soviet Union. In addition the Brest Fortress was awarded an equivalent title of Hero-Fortress...

after the war. The fortress of Brest
Brest, Belarus
Brest , formerly also Brest-on-the-Bug and Brest-Litovsk , is a city in Belarus at the border with Poland opposite the city of Terespol, where the Bug River and Mukhavets rivers meet...

 was awarded the title Hero-Fortress
Hero-Fortress
Hero-Fortress is the honorary title awarded to the Soviet Brest Fortress, now in Brest, Belarus in 1965 for the defence of the frontier stronghold during the very first weeks of the German-Soviet War of 1941 to 1945...

.

BSSR from 1945 to 1990


After the end of War in 1945, Belarus became one of the founding members of the United Nations Organisation
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

. Joining Belarus was the Soviet Union itself and another republic Ukraine. In exchange for Belarus and Ukraine joining the UN, the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 had the right to seek two more votes, a right that has never been exercised. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/time/wwii/17604.htm

The Belarusian economy was completely devastated by the events of the war. Most of the industry, including whole production plants were removed either to Russia or Germany. Industrial production of Belarus in 1945 amounted for less than 20% of its pre-war size. Most of the factories evacuated to Russia, with several spectacular exceptions, were not returned to Belarus after 1945. During the immediate postwar period, the Soviet Union first rebuilt and then expanded the BSSR's economy, with control always exerted exclusively from Moscow. During this time, Belarus became a major center of manufacturing in the western region of the USSR. Huge industrial objects like the BelAZ
BelAZ
BelAZ is a Belarusian manufacturer of haulage and earthmoving equipment based in Zhodzina. The factory opened its door in 1948 and has produced over 120,000 vehicles for use in the Soviet Union.BELAZ is a site for one of the largest Commonwealth of Independent States investment project...

, MAZ, and the Minsk Tractor Plant were built in the country. The increase in jobs resulted in a huge immigrant population of Russians in Belarus. Russian became the official language of administration and the peasant class, which traditionally was the base for Belarusian nation, ceased to exist.

On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl disaster
Chernobyl disaster
The Chernobyl disaster was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine , which was under the direct jurisdiction of the central authorities in Moscow...

 occurred at the Chernobyl
Chernobyl
Chernobyl or Chornobyl is an abandoned city in northern Ukraine, in Kiev Oblast, near the border with Belarus. The city had been the administrative centre of the Chernobyl Raion since 1932....

 nuclear power plant
Nuclear power plant
A nuclear power plant is a thermal power station in which the heat source is one or more nuclear reactors. As in a conventional thermal power station the heat is used to generate steam which drives a steam turbine connected to a generator which produces electricity.Nuclear power plants are usually...

 in Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 situated close to the border with Belarus. It is regarded as the worst nuclear accident in the history of nuclear power
Nuclear power
Nuclear power is the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and electricity. Nuclear power plants provide about 6% of the world's energy and 13–14% of the world's electricity, with the U.S., France, and Japan together accounting for about 50% of nuclear generated electricity...

. It produced a plume of radioactive debris that drifted over parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

. Large areas of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 were contaminated, resulting in the evacuation and resettlement of roughly 200,000 people. About 60% of the radioactive fallout landed in Belarus. The effects of the Chernobyl accident in Belarus
Chernobyl disaster effects
The Chernobyl disaster triggered the release of substantial amounts of radiation into the atmosphere in the form of both particulate and gaseous radioisotopes. It is the most significant unintentional release of radiation into the environment to date...

 were dramatic: about 50,000 km² (or about a quarter of the territory of Belarus) formerly populated by 2.2 million people (or a fifth of the Belarusian population) now require permanent radioactive monitoring (after receiving doses over 37 kBq
Becquerel
The becquerel is the SI-derived unit of radioactivity. One Bq is defined as the activity of a quantity of radioactive material in which one nucleus decays per second. The Bq unit is therefore equivalent to an inverse second, s−1...

/m² of caesium
Caesium
Caesium or cesium is the chemical element with the symbol Cs and atomic number 55. It is a soft, silvery-gold alkali metal with a melting point of 28 °C , which makes it one of only five elemental metals that are liquid at room temperature...

-137). 135,000 persons were permanently resettled and many more were resettled temporarily. After 10 years since the accident, the occurrences of thyroid cancer
Thyroid cancer
Thyroid neoplasm is a neoplasm or tumor of the thyroid. It can be a benign tumor such as thyroid adenoma, or it can be a malignant neoplasm , such as papillary, follicular, medullary or anaplastic thyroid cancer. Most patients are 25 to 65 years of age when first diagnosed; women are more affected...

 among children increased fifteenfold (the sharp rise started in about four years after the accident). http://expo2000.bsu.by/main.idc?id=500&id2=500

Republic of Belarus


On 27 July 1990, Belarus declared its national sovereignty, a key step toward independence from the Soviet Union. The BSSR was formally renamed the Republic of Belarus on 25 August 1991. Around that time, Stanislav Shushkevich
Stanislav Shushkevich
Stanislau Stanislavavich Shushkevich is a Belarusian politician and scientist. From September 28, 1991 to January 26, 1994 he was the first leader and head of state of independent Belarus after the dissolution of the Soviet Union...

 became the chairman of the Supreme Soviet
Supreme Soviet
The Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union was the Supreme Soviet in the Soviet Union and the only one with the power to pass constitutional amendments...

 of Belarus, the top leadership position in Belarus. On December 8, 1991, Shushkevich met with Boris Yeltsin
Boris Yeltsin
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin was the first President of the Russian Federation, serving from 1991 to 1999.Originally a supporter of Mikhail Gorbachev, Yeltsin emerged under the perestroika reforms as one of Gorbachev's most powerful political opponents. On 29 May 1990 he was elected the chairman of...

 of Russia and Leonid Kravchuk
Leonid Kravchuk
Leonid Makarovych Kravchuk is a Ukrainian politician, the first President of Ukraine serving from December 5, 1991 until his resignation on July 19, 1994, a former Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada and People's Deputy of Ukraine serving in the Social Democratic Party of Ukraine faction.After a...

 of Ukraine, in Belavezhskaya Pushcha, to formally declare the dissolution of the Soviet Union
Dissolution of the Soviet Union
The dissolution of the Soviet Union was the disintegration of the federal political structures and central government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , resulting in the independence of all fifteen republics of the Soviet Union between March 11, 1990 and December 25, 1991...

 and the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States
Commonwealth of Independent States
The Commonwealth of Independent States is a regional organization whose participating countries are former Soviet Republics, formed during the breakup of the Soviet Union....

.

In 1994, the first presidential elections were held and Alexander Lukashenko
Alexander Lukashenko
Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko has been serving as the President of Belarus since 20 July 1994. Before his career as a politician, Lukashenko worked as director of a state-owned agricultural farm. Under Lukashenko's rule, Belarus has come to be viewed as a state whose conduct is out of line...

 was elected president of Belarus. Under Lukashenko, economic reforms were slowed. The 1996 Belarus Referendum
1996 Belarus Referendum
A seven-question referendum was held in Belarus on 24 November 1996. Four questions were put forward by President Alexander Lukashenko on changing the date of the country's independence day, amending the constitution, changing laws on the sale of land and the abolition of the death penalty...

 resulted in the amendment of the constitution that took key powers off the parliament. In 2001, he was re-elected as president in elections described as undemocratic by Western observers. At the same time the west began criticising him of authoritarianism
Authoritarianism
Authoritarianism is a form of social organization characterized by submission to authority. It is usually opposed to individualism and democracy...

. In 2006, Lukashenko was once again re-elected in presidential elections
Elections in Belarus
Belarus elects on national level a head of state - the president - and a legislature. The president is elected for a five year term by the people. The National Assembly has two chambers...

 which were again criticised as flawed by most EU countries.

See also



  • Commonwealth of Independent States
    Commonwealth of Independent States
    The Commonwealth of Independent States is a regional organization whose participating countries are former Soviet Republics, formed during the breakup of the Soviet Union....

  • Dissolution of the Soviet Union
    Dissolution of the Soviet Union
    The dissolution of the Soviet Union was the disintegration of the federal political structures and central government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , resulting in the independence of all fifteen republics of the Soviet Union between March 11, 1990 and December 25, 1991...

  • Dzierzynszczyzna
  • History of Europe
    History of Europe
    History of Europe describes the history of humans inhabiting the European continent since it was first populated in prehistoric times to present, with the first human settlement between 45,000 and 25,000 BC.-Overview:...

  • History of Lithuania
    History of Lithuania
    The history of Lithuania dates back to at least 1009, the first recorded written use of the term. Lithuanians, a branch of the Baltic peoples, later conquered neighboring lands, establishing the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and in the 13th century the short-lived Kingdom of Lithuania. The Grand Duchy...

  • History of Poland
    History of Poland
    The History of Poland is rooted in the arrival of the Slavs, who gave rise to permanent settlement and historic development on Polish lands. During the Piast dynasty Christianity was adopted in 966 and medieval monarchy established...

  • History of Russia
    History of Russia
    The history of Russia begins with that of the Eastern Slavs and the Finno-Ugric peoples. The state of Garðaríki , which was centered in Novgorod and included the entire areas inhabited by Ilmen Slavs, Veps and Votes, was established by the Varangian chieftain Rurik in 862...

  • History of Ukraine
    History of Ukraine
    The territory of Ukraine was a key center of East Slavic culture in the Middle Ages, before being divided between a variety of powers. However, the history of Ukraine dates back many thousands of years. The territory has been settled continuously since at least 5000 BC, and is also a candidate site...

  • List of Belarusian rulers
  • Politics of Belarus
    Politics of Belarus
    The politics of Belarus takes place in a framework of a presidential republic, where by the President of Belarus is the head of state. Executive power is exercised by the government, in its top sits a prime minister, appointed by the President...


External links