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Belarusians (, , byelorusy) 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 language spoken by the Ruthenian ethnic group that ruled (together with ancestors of today's Lithuanians) the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. However, after the creation of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, many of the Old Belarusian-speaking Ruthenian nobles would be absorbed by the Polish szlachta in the West and, later, the Russian nobility in the East, leaving only a small rural-dwelling population to be the propagators of a distinct non-literary Belarusian language up until its revival. There are over 8 million people who associate themselves with the Belarusian nationality today.



Ethnic territory of Belarusians

Belarusians also form minorities in neighboring Poland (especially in the Bia ystok Voivodeship), Russia and Lithuania. At the beginning of 20th century Belarusians constituted a majority in the regions around Smolensk.

Noticeable numbers have emigrated to the United States, Brazil and Canada in the early 20th century. During Soviet times, many Belarusians were deported or migrated to various regions of the USSR, including Siberia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

Since the breakup of the USSR several hundred thousand have emigrated to the European Union, United States, Canada and Russia.


The most spoken language in Belarus is Russian, principally spoken by 72% of the population, while the other official language, Belarusian, is only used by 11.9%[1] in every day life. Statistical data shows that Belarusian is fluently communicated, read and written by 29.4%, while 52.5% of the population can communicate and read in Belarusian.[1] Belarusian is a language of the Eastern Slavic group.


R1a1a]], also known as R-M17 and R-M198, adapted from . Belarusians show the characteristic R1a genes of the male ancestorship at 51%, similar to other East slav groups. Such large frequencies of R1a have been found only in East Europe and India.[2]

Genetical studies show that genetically Belarusians have close genetical similarities with Poles, Russians and Ukrainians, which belong to the same group. A study of the Y chromosome in East Slavs groups shows that there is no significant variation in the Y chromosome between Belarusians, Poles, central-southern Russians and Ukrainians, and it is overlapped by their vast similarities, thus revealing an overwhelmingly shared patrilineal ancestry.[3][4][5]

A genetic portrait of modern Belarusians documents A separation of subpopulations along the south-north line, which is demonstrated particularly in distribution of Y chromosomal lineages R1b, I1a and I1b, N3 and G-chromosomes, has been noted; east-west gradient is insignificant.[6]


The name Belarus can be literally translated as White Ruthenia that is a historical region in the east of modern Republic of Belarus, known in Latin as Ruthenia Alba. This name was in use in the West for some time in history, together with White Ruthenes, White Russians (though not to be confused with the political group of White Russians that opposed the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War) and similar forms. Belarusians trace their name back to the people of Rus'.

Commonwealth of Polish Kingdom and Grand Duchy of Lithuania]] in the 17th century


Baltic population in the 12th century The Belarusian people trace their distinct culture to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and earlier Kievan Rus and the Principality of Polatsk. Most Belarusians are descendants of the East Slav tribes Dregovichs, Krivichs and Radimichs, as well as of a Baltic tribe of Jotvingians who lived in the west and north-west of today's Belarus.[7]

In 13th-18th centuries Belarusians were mostly known under the name of Ruthenians which refers to the Eastern part of state of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (Litva, Vialikaja Litva) of which the White Ruthenian, Black Ruthenian and Polesian lands were part of since the 13th-14th centuries and where Ruthenian language which developed in Old Belarusian language gradually became the dominant written language in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, that replaced Latin. Casimir's Code of 1468 and all three editions of Statutes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1529, 1566, and 1588) were written in Old Belarusian language. Eventually it was replaced by Polish.

On the grounds of the dominance of Ruthenian language (which later evolved into modern Belarusian and Ukrainian Languages) culture in the Eastern parts of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, some modern Belarusian scholars and people in Belarus count that Grand Duchy of Lithuania was mostly Belarusian state when it existed.[8][9][10][11]

Between 1791 and 1917 much of Belarus, with its Christian and Jewish populations, was acquired by the Russian Empire in a series of military conquests and diplomatic manoeuvres, and was part of a region known as the Pale of Settlement.

After World War I Belarusians revived their own statehood, with varying degrees of independence - first as the short-lived Belarusian National Republic under German occupation, then as the Byelorussian SSR from 1919 until 1991, which merged with other republics to become a constituent member of the Soviet Union in 1922). Belarus gained full independence with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Draniki, traditional Belarusian potato pancakes


See also

  • Demographics of Belarus
  • Dregovichs
  • History of Belarus
  • Krivichs
  • List of Belarusians (ethnic group)
  • Litvins
  • Radimichs

References and notes

External links

ar: an:Belarrusos av: be: be-x-old: bg: bs:Bjelorusi cv: cs:B lorusov da:Hviderussere de:Wei russen et:Valgevenelased es:Bielorrusos eo:Belorusoj fa: fr:Bi lorusses ko: hr:Bjelorusi os: it:Bielorussi ka: kk: la:Rutheni Albi lv:Baltkrievi lt:Baltarusiai hu:Belaruszok mk: xmf: nl:Wit-Russen ja: no:Hviterussere uz:Belaruslar pl:Bia orusini pt:Bielorrussos ro:Belaru i ru: simple:Belarusians sk:Bielorusi sl:Belorusi cu: sr: sh:Belorusi fi:Valkoven l iset sv:Vitryssar tt: tr:Beyaz Ruslar udm: uk: zh:

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