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Title: Belorussians  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Demographics of Kyrgyzstan, Demographics of Moldova, Tartu, Amur Oblast, Anthony Sawoniuk, Lysychansk, Gîsca, Saulkrasti, 2007 US Open (tennis), List of ethnic groups in Russia
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Olga Korbut
Total population
c. 11–12 million
Regions with significant populations
 Belarus  8,159,073[1]
 Russia 890,443[2]
 United States
(Belarusian ancestry)
 Ukraine 275,763[4]
 Kazakhstan 66,476[5]
 Latvia 68,174[6]
 Canada 10,505[7]
 Brazil 45,000 – 80,000[8]
 Poland 47,000 (2011)[9]
 Lithuania 41,100[10]
 Moldova 20,000[11]
 Australia 20,000[11]
 Estonia 12 327 (2013)[12]
 Argentina 7,000[11]
 France 7,500[11]
 Belgium 2,000[11]
 Greece 1,168[13]
 Portugal 1,002[14]
 United Kingdom 7,000[11]
Orthodox Christianity
Roman Catholicism, Greek Catholicism and Protestantism [15]
Related ethnic groups
Other Slavs, particularly other East Slavs.[16]

Belarusians (Belarusian: беларусы biełarusy, Russian: белорусы byelorusy) are an East Slavic ethnic group who populate the majority of the Republic of Belarus. There are over 8 million people who associate themselves with the Belarusian nationality today.


Belarusians form minorities in neighboring Ukraine, Poland (especially in the Podlaskie 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 Baltic states, the United States, Canada, Russia, and EU countries.


The two official languages in Belarus are Belarusian and Russian. Russian is the most spoken language, principally by 72% of the population, while Belarusian is only used by 11.9%[17] in everyday 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.[17] Belarusian is a language of the Eastern Slavic group.


Belarusians have a high percentage of male ancestry Haplogroup R1a (51%), similar to Russians, Ukrainians and Poles. Such large frequencies of R1a have been found only in Eastern Europe and India.[18]

Genetic studies show that genetically Belarusians have close genetic 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.[19][20][21] In terms of haplogroup distribution, the genetic pattern of Belarusians most closely resembles that of Ukrainians.

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.[22]


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 (English: White Rus). 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'. Until the 19th century Belarusians were also known as Litvins (after the Grand Duchy of Lithuania). The term Belarusians was promoted mostly during the 19th century. For instance, this can be traced by editions of folklorist researches by Ivan Sakharov, where in the edition of 1836 Belarusian customs are described as Litvin, while in the edition of 1886 the words Литва (Lithuania) and Литовцо-руссы (Lithuanian-Russians) are replaced by respectively Белоруссия (Byelorussia) and белоруссы (Byelorussians).[23]


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.[24]

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 the Ruthenian language developed and gradually became the dominant written language in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, replacing 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 the Ruthenian (also referred to as Old Belarusian) language. Eventually it was replaced by Polish.

On the grounds of the dominance of Ruthenian language (which later evolved into contemporary Belarusian and Ukrainian Languages) and culture in the Eastern parts of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, some modern Belarusian scholars and people in Belarus consider the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to be a Belarusian state when it existed.[25][26][27] 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 made part of a region known as the Pale of Settlement. Throughout the 19th century, the Belarusians were merely regarded as a branch of the triune Russian people.[28][29][30]

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.


Main article: Belarusian cuisine

See also

References and notes

External links

  • Ethnographic Map (New York, 1953)
  • CIA World Fact Book 2005
  • "ЧТО ТАКОЕ БЫТЬ БЕЛОРУСОМ?", ("What does it mean to be a Belarusian? ") a 2009 survey (Russian)

Template:Slavic ethnic groups Template:Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Christians

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