Belarus History

862 AD 1st mention of Polotsk, the oldest city in Belarus

980 1st written document of the Belarusian statehood

13th–16th c. Great Duchy of Lithuania

1569   Lithuania–Poland confederation

18th c. Belarusian land annexed to the Russian Empire

1918 Independent Belarusian People's Republic

1922 Eastern regions annexed to the USSR and western to Poland

1939 Western regions joined the USSR

1941–1945 Belarus lost 1/4 of its population in World War 2

1991 Republic of Belarus.

Belarus is a country with an ancient and rich history. The first people to inhabit the territory of Belarus appeared 40,000 years ago. Indo–European tribes, ancestors of Slavs and Balts, began to settle on the Belarusian land in the 3rd–2nd millennium BC. The Belarusian ethnic group began to form in the 6th–8th centuries. The oldest city of Belarus is Polotsk known since 862. At the end of the 10th century, two principalities emerged, Polotsk and Turov, both dependent on Kievan Russia. From the 13th to the 16th centuries, the territory of contemporary Belarus became a center of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, one of the largest feudal monarchies in Europe. Belarusian was the state language of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Novogrudok (Grodno Region) was its capital. In the 14th century, the capital moved to Vilnius. In the Medieval Period, the Belarusian land was known as Litva (Litvanie) while the name Belarus was rarely used and applied only to the northeastern part of the current territory.

In 1569, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland united to form a confederation, Rzecz Pospolita. By the end of the18th century, Rzecz Pospolita was split, and the Belarusian territory annexed to the Russian Empire.

An independent Belarus was proclaimed (March 1918) after the collapse of the Russian Empire. After the Polish–Soviet war, Western Belarus was occupied by Poland, while the eastern regions became part of Soviet Russia (transformed into the Soviet Union in 1922). In 1939, the western territories also joined the USSR. From June 1941 to July 1944, Belarus was occupied by the Nazi troops. Belarus lost 2,200,000 people in World War 2, more than a quarter of its population. Soon after the war, Belarus was among the UN founders.

A new era in the history of Belarusian statehood began in 1991 when (after seven decades as a constituent republic of the USSR) Belarus attained its independence. The USSR was dissolved and the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) created. Minsk was chosen as a location for the central bodies of the CIS.

On March 15, 1994 the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus was adopted and Belarus was declared a unitary, democratic, social, and law–governed state.


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