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Poleshuks from Kobryn (1916)
Regions with significant populations
West Polesian, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian
Related ethnic groups
Belarusians, Ukrainians, Podlashuks

The Poleshuks,[1] also known as Polesians (Ukrainian: поліщуки, romanizedpolishchuky, Belarusian: палешукі, romanizedpaleshuki, Russian: полещуки, romanizedpoleshchuki) are the indigenous population of Polesia (also known as Polesie and Polissia).[1] Their native speech forms a dialect continuum between the Ukrainian and Belarusian languages and includes recently codified West Polesian, as well as many local variations and sub-dialects.[4]


Polesia (dark green), current borders

Since the interbellum, the Poleshuks started developing a sense of identity, influenced by the ethnic politics of the Second Polish Republic within the Polesie Voivodeship.[5] The voivodship had the sparsest population and among the lowest levels of prosperity, due to its adverse climatic and agricultural (soil) conditions. A 1923 Polish statistical document said that 38.600 of 880.900 of population in Polesie Voivodeship (about 4%) were identified as Polezhuks, who self-identified their ethnicity in the census as tutejszy ("local"). The document noted that they were using East Slavic dialects, transitional between Ukrainian and Belarusian, sometimes identified as a separate Polesian language. In the 1931 Polish Census the question about ethnicity was replaced with the question about mother tongue. As a result, 62.5% of population identified their language as tutejszy ("local"). (14.5% declared Polish and 10.0% declared Yiddish or Hebrew as mother tongue.) That some respondents declared their language as Belarusian or Ukrainian was interpreted as the formation of the corresponding ethnic consciousness in the area.[6] Currently the ethnic group of Poleshuks is considered one of the distinct cultural and ethnic identities in the area, while most of the population of the Belarusian, Polish and Ukrainian parts of the region of Polesie have assimilated with the respective nations, as well as with Russian ethnos.[1]

"Tutejszy" (Poleshuk) language in the 1931 Polish census
Linguistic and religious structure of the Polesie Voivodeship in 1931

At the end of the 1980s, there was a minor campaign in Soviet Byelorussia for the creation of a standard written language for the dialect based on the dialects of Polesia launched by Belarusian writer Nikolai Shelyagovich and his associates as part of his activities for the recognition of Poleshuks as a separate ethnicity and for their autonomy. However, they received almost no support and the campaign eventually melted away.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Christopher Lord; Olga Strietska-Ilina (2001). Parallel Cultures: Majority/minority Relations in the Countries of the Former Eastern Bloc. Ashgate. "Poleshuks"; pp. 197-198, 202. ISBN 0754616169. Poleshuk leaders emphasised that the best possible territorial and political arrangement of the Ukrainian state for Poleshuks would be a Federation with a high degree of decentralisation.
  2. ^ Етнографічні групи: поліщуки (з українською самосвідомістю) Державний комітет статистики України.
  3. ^ Население по национальности и родному языку Population by nationality and native language
  4. ^ Marek Jan Chodakiewicz (2012). Intermarium: The Land Between the Black and Baltic Seas. Transaction Publishers. p. 493. ISBN 978-1412847742. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  5. ^ Majecki Henryk, "Problem samookreślenia narodowego Poleszuków w Polsce okresu międzywojennego", In: Загароддзе--3: матэрыялы навукова-краязнаўчай канферэнцыі "Палессе ў ХХ стагоддзі" 1-4 чэрвеня 2000 г., Беласток (it was available online: Problem samookreślenia narodowego Poleszuków w Polsce okresu międzywojennego, accessed July 21, 2007 Archived July 15, 2012, at archive.today)
  6. ^ Vadzim Pauliuczuk, Wychodźstwo z województwa poleskiego za ocean. Zarys problematyki, Białostockie Teki Historyczne, vol. 13, 2015, pp. 193-212 doi:10.15290/bth.2015.13.08
  7. ^ Цадко О. Полесье и опыт национального конструирования (1988–1995), Палітычная сфера. Гісторыя і нацыя, no.24 (1), 2016, pp. 78-93.