Belarus is a landlocked nation of Eastern Europe with the capital Minsk. Belarus borders Poland on the west, Lithuania on the northwest, Latvia on the north, Russia on the east, and Ukraine on the south. The country is formally named the Republic of Belarus.
Origin and history of the name
The spellings Belorussia and Byelorussia are transliterations of the name of the country from Russian and are no longer widely used.
Historically, in English, Belarus was sometimes referred to as "White Russia" or "White Ruthenia", a literal though not entirely correct translation of its name. This literal translation is also used in a number of other languages, e.g., Germanic languages, "Λευκορωσία" in Greek, "Baltkrievija" in Latvian and "Baltarusija" in Lithuanian. The name "Byelorussia" is considered derogatory by some, as it reminds them of Russian and Soviet imperialism and policies of russification (the full title of the Russian tsar was "Emperor of All the Russias - Great, Minor, and White").
The present Slavic population of Belarus settled there between the 6th and the 8th century. The Early East Slavs gradually came in contact with the Varangians and were organized under the Rus', notably in the principality of Polatsk in modern-day northern Belarus.
By the 13th century, the state of Rus was gravely impacted by the Mongol invasion and the Belarusian territories were consolidated under the Lithuanians as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Rus' and Samogitia. The city of Navahradak in today's western Belarus was at one point the capital of this state.
In 1569 the duchy became part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth under the collaboratively elected kings of Poland that were also crowned grand dukes of Lithuania. It remained part of it until 1795, when it was acquired by Imperial Russia.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, at the end of the German occupation during World War I, on March 25, 1918 Belarusians declared their independence for the first time, but Belarus National Republic (Беларуская Народная Рэспубліка) was short-lived and didn't manage to remain independent. In modern Belarus, Lukashenko's official historians ignore BNR and the date of the independence proclamation, but democratic opposition and simple Belarusians celebrate March 25 every year both, publicly and in private.
In 1919 Byelorussian SSR was declared, which in 1922 became one of the founding members of the Soviet Union.
In the Second World War, Belarus was occupied by Nazi Germany between 1941 and 1944. Another notable harsh period in Belarusian history was the Chernobyl accident of 1986.
Belarus declared independence from the Soviet Union on July 27, 1990.
On December 8, 1991, the leaders of Russia (Boris Yeltsin), Ukraine (Leonid Kravchuk), and Belarus (Stanislav Shushkevich) republics met in Belarus, in Belavezhskaya Pushcha, to issue a declaration that the Soviet Union was dissolved and replaced by the Commonwealth of Independent States.