Belarus History

Belarus History

Early history to the Middle Ages

Archaeological finds in the Belarusian area refer to forms of settlement that already existed in the Stone Age. The region was one of the first to be inhabited by Slavic tribes. Already from the second half of the 1st millennium AD. several East Slavic tribes shared the current territory of the state. The most significant were the Dregowitschen on Pripjet and Dwina, the Radimitschen on the Zosch, and the Kriwitschen on the upper Dnieper. In addition, the Viking tribe of the Varagans settled in the Kiev region, the historical role of which in establishing the first centrally-governed East Slavic state, which began in the middle of the 9th century with numerous vassal states, is unclear.

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The Dnieper River played a central role in the economic and social rise of southern Belarus. As a waterway, the river connected the Baltic Sea with Constantinople and thus the Byzantine Empire via Kiev and Novgorod. Trade intensified in the following centuries and numerous Belarusian cities were founded, eg Brest (until 1921 Brest-Litovsk) on the navigable western bow on the border with Poland in 1017 and today’s capital Minsk on Swislotsch, which was first mentioned in 1067 has been. Around the time of the first Kiev empire, missionaries came to the country to Christianize the population of Belarus. Numerous small principalities, which separated from the Kiev empire, emerged.

In the middle of the 13th century, numerous cities were destroyed by a Mongolian invasion, and the raided regions became part of the so-called Golden Horde, a Mongolian sub-empire. In addition, the Lithuanian duchy began to expand. In the 13th and 14th centuries, it extended to areas east of Moscow, south to Kiev and the shores of the Black Sea. Parts of Belarus also came under the predominance of the Lithuanians, but these left the Belarusians relatively independent, which led to the first expression of a national identity and language. While the royal houses bound together and the nobility in Belarus also adopted the Catholic faith and the Polish language, the peasantry mostly remained Orthodox and spoke Belarusian.

Modern times

At the beginning of the 16th century, the Grand Duchy of Moscow had become a militarily and politically influential figure in Eastern Europe, and Belarus became an object of dispute between the Polish-Lithuanian and Moscow empires. Smolensk and Lithuania’s easternmost countries fell to Russia, but most regions of Belarus remained under Lithuanian control. The Livonian War in the second half of the 16th century left Belarus to Poland-Lithuania for the time being after the loss of further areas to Russia, according to the peace agreement of Andrussowo in 1667. Reform plans, which had already been introduced in the mid-16th century, practiced three-arable farming in Belarus and gradually turned the serfs into serfs.

A change occurred only through the three Polish divisions. In 1772, Tsarina Katherina the Great acquired the eastern part of Belarus including the cities of Visyebsk, Mahilyow and Gomel for Russia, in the second division Minsk and the central part of Belarus came into Russian hands, and in the third division in 1795 the rest was incorporated into the Russian Empire. With the abolition of serfdom, agriculture in the country experienced a modest upswing, although living conditions remained poor. In the period from 1850 to the Russian Revolution, around 1.5 million people emigrated, the main destinations being the United States and Siberia. The first political parties such as the Marxist Party and the Russian Social Democratic Party emerged around the turn of the century.

Soviet domination

After the fall of the tsar, the bourgeois-oriented Belarusian Rada made a first attempt in 1917 to found an autonomous, independent country. However, this failed, the First World War had made Belarus a highly competitive front line between Russia and Germany, and after a short German occupation, the Red Army gained the upper hand: in January 1919, the Belarusian Soviet Republic was proclaimed. This was followed by the Polish-Soviet was in 1920, in which the country was briefly occupied by Polish troops, but was recaptured by the Red Army in the same year, and was established as the Soviet Republic in the borders of the first Polish division in the Peace of Riga in 1921. In 1922 Belarus was one of the four founding members of the USSR, and, like the other Soviet republics, came under a rigid rule centrally controlled by Moscow. The industrial centers in the big cities were expanded in five-year plans. The 1930s were marked by Stalinist cleansing, which killed many citizens (an estimated 100,000).

According to AbbreviationFinder, the Second World War brought an expansion of the national territory through the annexation of Polish areas laid down in the Hitler-Stalin Pact. After the country was occupied by German troops after the German declaration of war on the Soviet Union in 1941, it came under Soviet rule again in 1945 after heavy fighting. Despite the fact that the country was a Russian Soviet Republic, it was accepted as an independent member of the UN.

The following five-year plans were all about reconstruction. The big cities grew at the same rate as the small cities decreased in population. The capital Minsk already had more than a million residents in the early 1970s.

Areas in the southeast of Belarus were also contaminated in the 1986 nuclear accident in neighboring Chernobyl, Ukraine.


In 1990 the country used the political changes initiated by Gorbachev to declare its own sovereignty within the USSR, and in 1991 the declaration of independence followed. The state name was changed to “Belarus” (Republic of Belarus). In the same year, Head of State Shushkievich co-founded the successor organization of the Soviet Union, the CIS. The attempted coup in Moscow resulted in a two-year ban on the Communist parties, which was lifted in 1993. Under the Prime Minister Kebitsch, the economic-military link to Russia was restored. In 1993 the country joined the START contract. The old communist nomenclature had never been completely eliminated, which was expressed in 1994 in the election of the reform-oriented President of Parliament Shushkievich and the election of the pro-Russian-oriented Lukashenko. Already in 1991 he opposed the political reform course. Through his autocratic leadership style, Lukashenko managed to implement a major constitutional amendment in 1996, which gave him an unusually large amount of power. His five-year presidency was extended and Parliament largely disempowered. For this reason, the changes he introduced have not been recognized by many Western governments. In this way, Belarus remains one of the few countries in Europe that are still governed by a president who is not democratically legitimized. The domestic political situation remained tense even after the presidential elections in March 2006; numerous opposition figures were arrested. The government held steady, above all due to the high level of economic growth, which, however, suffered a slump as a result of higher oil and gas prices (cf.Belarus, economy).

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In 1999, Russian President Putin and Lukashenko signed a union treaty that provided for a confederation of states while the former Soviet republics were independent. Common citizenship and closer cooperation on social, economic and military issues have been established. Relations with the USA continued to deteriorate; the US government is one of Lukashenko’s harshest critics and is trying to bring the government to comply with human rights through economic sanctions.

The presidential election of December 2010, characterized by manipulation and lack of transparency, and the subsequent wave of repression have brought the relationship between the EU and Belarus to a new low. The EU resumed its sanctions and imposed travel and wealth freezes and a comprehensive arms embargo.

Belarus President