The area that today constitutes Belarus
(Belarus) was part of the Kiev Empire in the 9th century
and in the 13th and 13th centuries in the Grand Duchy of
Lithuania, which later merged with Poland through the
Lublin Union in 1569. Poland's division
in the late 18th century led to Belarussian territory
was incorporated into the Tsarist empire. After World
War I, Belarus became a republic in the Soviet Union.
World War II was devastating; the country was first
occupied by Nazi Germany and then re-occupied by the
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Belarus, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
The territories of the rivers Dnieper, Pripjat, Dvina
and Bug have been populated for millennia. The first
East Slavic groups came to what is today Belarus in the
600s and had spread throughout the area in the 800s.
They lived as hunters, fishermen and collectors.
During the 9th century, the country was part of the
Kiev kingdom, the first East Slavic state formation.
When the ruler of the Kingdom of Kiev, Jaroslav den
Vise, died in 1054, the kingdom was divided into a
number of city states. One of them, Polatsk, became the
embryo of today's Belarus.
Following the Tatars' invasion of the Kiev kingdom in
the 13th and 13th centuries, the Belarussian territories
became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. There,
Slavic people were in the majority and therefore came to
have great cultural influence. The official language was
based on Old Church Slavic, a precursor to Belarusian
(Belarusian) and Ukrainian.
Part of the Russian tsar empire
At the end of the 1300s, the Lithuanian Grand Prince
Jogaila converted from paganism to Catholicism. At the
same time he married in 1386 the only twelve-year-old
Polish queen Jadwiga. Thus, Poland and Lithuania entered
into a personnel union. The new mighty empire stretched
from the Baltic to the Black Sea. The Lithuanian Grand
Principality merged fully with Poland through the Lublin
Union in 1569. The Belarusian nobility transitioned from
Orthodox Christianity to Catholicism. Belarussian was
gradually replaced as a state language by Latin and
In the 1600s, social anxiety and distress prevailed.
Most Belarusians were poor peasants. In 1648–1654
several revolts against the Polish landowners failed.
Many fled to the Ukrainian steppes to become Cossacks.
The three divisions of Poland 1772-1795 would have a
decisive influence on history. For each division,
Tsarist Russia gained an increasing share of Belarus,
and eventually almost all of the country was
incorporated into the Russian Empire.
Under the new masters, the autonomy of Belarus under
Poland-Lithuania ceased, and in the 19th century a tough
policy of reform began. The Greek Catholic Church (see
Religion) was dissolved, and in 1840 the name Belarus
was banned. The area was divided into Russian provinces.
From 1859 to 1906, the publishing of writings in
Belarusian was prohibited as well as the use of language
Surprise and hard oppression
The peasants were shackled in life trait, which meant
that they had to serve a lord of goods and had no right
to move. When the living property was abolished in the
Russian Empire in 1861, the Belarussian people consisted
of farm workers and a few landowners. Although the
peasants became free, the vast majority had neither land
nor influence. Instead, the Russian language, the
Orthodox faith, tangible taxes and, in the case of men,
25 years of military service were imposed on the Tsar.
From the middle of the 19th century, national
self-awareness grew. In 1863, the insurgent Kastus
Kalinowski (Kastuś Kalinoŭski) called for a revolt
against the tsar. Many Belarusians took up arms, but the
peasant army was crushed by Russian troops. The leader,
now seen as an ancestor of Belarusian nationalism, was
hanged in 1864.
At the end of the 19th century, the country began to
industrialize, but few benefited from the development of
the new age. Instead, unemployment and poverty spread.
Many people chose to seek happiness elsewhere. In
1867-1917, almost 1.5 million Belarusians emigrated to
the United States and Siberia, primarily.
Since Russia lost in war to Japan in 1905, Belarus
demanded increased autonomy. The Russian czar was forced
to give in and the Belarusian language was again
allowed, as was literature and other cultural
Socialist Soviet Republic established
The front line of the First World War split Belarus
into two parts. During the February Revolution in Russia
in 1917, Belarussian nationalists and socialists formed
a council in Minsk that sought some self-government. But
when the Russian Communists, the Bolsheviks, took power
in November 1917, troops were sent to Minsk and the
Council dissolved. However, the Bolsheviks were forced
to retreat from advancing German troops, and during the
Brest-Litovsk peace in March 1918, Germany gained most
That same month, nationalists proclaimed what was
known in Swedish as the Belarusian National Republic,
also called the Belarusian People's Republic, but the
Germans did not recognize the new state formation. When
the Germans withdrew later in the year, the Bolsheviks
again occupied Minsk, and a Belarusian Socialist Soviet
Republic was proclaimed on January 1, 1919. One month
later, Belarus was united with Lithuania in a Soviet
republic with Vilnius as its capital.
In April 1919, Polish troops entered Lithuania and
Belarus, and both were declared part of Poland. Only on
July 31, 1920 did the Bolsheviks return to Minsk, and in
August the Soviet Socialist Republic of Belarus
(Belarus) was restored, while Lithuania became
independent. The Republic covered only the eastern part
of the area populated by Belarusians. The western parts
fell to Poland through the Riga Treaty in 1921. When the
Soviet Union was established in 1922, Belarus became one
of the sub-republics. In Swedish, the Belarusian
Socialist Soviet Republic or Belarusian SSR was called.
Under the Soviet system, all parties except the
Communist Party were banned and all property was
nationalized. But the chaos that prevailed after the
civil war in the early 1920s led Soviet leader Vladimir
Lenin to make some departures from his planning economic
principles. Some private enterprise is allowed in
agriculture, trade and small industry. During the 1920s,
Belarus developed both culturally and economically. Many
got it better, their language was allowed and the
culture flourished. By the mid-1920s, Belarus also
regained lands in the east that the Russians had
Devastation during Stalin's terror
When Josef Stalin took power at the end of the 1920s,
the rule of Moscow hardened. In 1928, a brutal
collectivization of agriculture began and private lots
were merged into large agricultural collectives. The
campaign faced strong opposition from the Belarusian
peasants. Farmer rebellion was met with deportations and
imprisonment. The history books were rewritten to show
that the people always strived to be part of Russia. The
persecution in the early 1930s was particularly directed
at nationalists and intellectuals, but in 1936-1938
included all groups of the population. Today,
Belarussian reports say that two million people fell
victim to Stalin's terror during this period.
The Belarusians in Poland after 1921 had a different
history. Initially, this newly formed Polish state was
tolerant of minorities, but then the tone was sharpened.
Eastern Poland, where the Belarusians lived, was
economically decaying and many emigrated to the United
States and France. Under Marshal Józef Piłsudski's rule
(1926-1935), Belarusians were persecuted in Poland. When
the Soviet Red Army troops marched into eastern Poland
in September 1939, many cheered and saluted the Soviet
Union as liberators. The Polish, western Belarus was
united with the Russian, eastern. But many cheered too
soon. About 300,000 people from western Belarus were
deported to Soviet labor camps from 1939 to 1941.
World War II was devastating. In 1941, the country
was occupied by Nazi Germany. During the two-year
occupation, approximately 2.2 million Belarusians were
killed, most of them the Jewish population of the
Republic. More than a million buildings were destroyed,
and cities such as Minsk and Vitebsk were destroyed.
When the Red Army troops again entered the country,
many fled west. The abuse continued, but now the
Russians were facing the oppression. Stalin ordered
extensive deportations of Belarusians who collaborated
with the Nazis or sat in German labor camps. At the
Yalta conference in 1945, the Allies confirmed that the
so-called Curzon line would become Belarus's western
border, which meant that the country's two halves