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Total population
c. 10.5 million
Regions with significant populations
 Belarus  8,159,073[1]
 Russia 890,443[2]
 United States
(Belarusian ancestry)
 Ukraine 275,763[4]
 Latvia 68,174[5]
 Poland 47,000 (2011)[6]
 Brazil 45,000 – 80,000[7]
 Lithuania 41,100[8]
 Moldova 20,000[9]
 Australia 20,000[9]
 Canada 15,565[10]
 Estonia 12 327 (2013)[11]
 France 7,500[9]
 Argentina 7,000[9]
 United Kingdom 7,000[9]
 Belgium 2,000[9]
 Greece 1,168[12]
 Portugal 1,002[13]
Orthodox Christianity
Roman Catholicism, Greek Catholicism and Protestantism[14]
Related ethnic groups
Other Slavs, particularly other East Slavs and Balts.[15]

Belarusians (Belarusian: беларусы, belarusy) 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.


Ethnic territory of Belarusians
  According to Y. Karskiy (1903)
  According to M. Dovnar-Zapol'skiy (1919)
  Modern state boundaries

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.[citation needed]

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%[16] 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.[16] Belarusian is a language of the Eastern Slavic group.


Frequency distribution of R1a1a, also known as R-M17 and R-M198, adapted from Underhill et al (2009).

Belarusians have a high percentage of male ancestry Haplogroup R1a (51%), similar to Russians and Ukrainians. Such large frequencies of R1a have been found only in Eastern Europe and India.[17]

Studies show that genetically, Belarusians have also close similarities with Poles, 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, central-southern Russians and Ukrainians, and it is overlapped by their vast similarities, thus revealing an overwhelmingly shared patrilineal ancestry.[18][19][20] 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.[21]


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'.[citation needed] 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/Ruthenians) are replaced by respectively Белоруссия (Byelorussia) and белоруссы (Byelorussians).[22]

Commonwealth of Polish Kingdom and Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 17th century
  Kingdom of Poland
  Duchy of Prussia, Polish fief
  Grand Duchy of Lithuania
  Duchy of Courland, a joint fief


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.[23]

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.[24][25][26] 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.

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[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ 1999 census
  2. ^ Demographics of Russia
  3. ^ Demographics of USA
  4. ^ Про кількість та склад населення України за підсумками Всеукраїнського перепису населення 2001 року (Ukrainian)
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Przynależność narodowo-etniczna ludności – wyniki spisu ludności i mieszkań 2011. GUS. Materiał na konferencję prasową w dniu 29. 01. 2013. p. 3. Retrieved on 2013-03-06.
  7. ^ 2002 census
  8. ^ [2]
  9. ^ a b c d e f
  10. ^ "Ethnic Origin (264), Single and Multiple Ethnic Origin Responses (3), Generation Status (4), Age Groups (10) and Sex (3) for the Population in Private Households of Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2011 National Household Survey". 
  11. ^ 2013 census. Eesti Statistikaamet.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ CIA – The World Factbook – Belarus – People – Religions – 1997 Census
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b
  17. ^ Behar, Doron M.; Thomas, Mark G.; Skorecki, Karl; Hammer, Michael F.; Bulygina, Ekaterina; Rosengarten, Dror; Jones, Abigail L.; Held, Karen; Moses, Vivian; Goldstein, David; Bradman, Neil; Weale, Michael E. (2003). "Multiple Origins of Ashkenazi Levites: Y Chromosome Evidence for Both Near Eastern and European Ancestries". American Journal of Human Genetics 73 (4): 768–779. doi:10.1086/378506. PMC 1180600. PMID 13680527. 
  18. ^ "DK Zelenin, Ethnographical divisions of East Slavs"[full citation needed]
  19. ^ Balanovsky, Oleg; et al. (2008). "Two Sources of the Russian Patrilineal Heritage in Their Eurasian Context". American Journal of Human Genetics 82 (1): 236–250. doi:10.1016/j.ajhg.2007.09.019. PMC 2253976. PMID 18179905. 
  20. ^ Malyarchuk, Boris; et al. (2004). "Differentiation of Mitochondrial DNA and Y Chromosomes in Russian Populations". Human Biology 76 (6): 877–900. doi:10.1353/hub.2005.0021. PMID 15974299. 
  21. ^ Genetic portrait of modern Belarusians: mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome perspective. Alena Kushniarevich, 1Larysa Sivitskaya, 1Nina Danilenko, 2Richard Villems, 1Oleg Davydenko 1Institute of Genetics and Cytology, Academicheskaya Str 27, Belarus, 2Estonian Biocenter, Riia Str 23, Estonia
  22. ^ Сказанія русскаго народа, собранныя Иваномъ Петровичемъ Сахаровымъ, 1836, 1886
  23. ^ Энциклопедия Кругосвет
  24. ^[dead link]
  25. ^ Ivan Saverchanka "portrays the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as a strong Belarusian state in the center of Europe". Zejmis, Jakub, "Belarusian National Historiography and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as a Belarusian State," Zeitschrift fur Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung , 1999, 48, pp. 392–383.
  26. ^ Elena Gapova. "The Nation in Between". Over the Wall/After the Fall: Post-Communist Cultures Through an East-West Gaze. Indiana University Press. 2004. p. 65.

External links[edit]