|c. 9.5–10 million
|Regions with significant populations|
|Belarus 7.99 million|
| United States|
|Belarusian (historical and native)|
|Orthodox Christianity (majority), Roman Catholicism or Belarusian Greek Catholicism (minority)|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Other East Slavs|
(Ukrainians, Rusyns, and Russians)
Belarusians (Belarusian: беларусы, romanized: bielarusy, Russian: белорусы, romanized: byelorusy), also known formerly as Byelorussians (from the Byelorussian SSR), Belarussians or Belorusians, are an East Slavic ethnic group native to modern-day Belarus and the immediate region. Over 9.5 million people proclaim Belarusian ethnicity worldwide. Nearly 8 million of Belarusians reside in Belarus, with the United States and Russia being home to more than half a million Belarusians each.
See also: Belarusian diaspora
Belarusians are an East Slavic ethnic group, who constitute the majority of Belarus' population. Belarusian minority populations live in countries neighboring Belarus: Ukraine, eastern Poland (especially in the Podlaskie Voivodeship), the Russian Federation and Lithuania. At the beginning of the 20th century, Belarusians constituted a minority in the regions around the city of Smolensk in Russia.
Significant numbers of Belarusians emigrated to the United States, Brazil and Canada in the early 20th century. During Soviet times (1917–1991), many Belarusians were deported or migrated to various regions of the USSR, including Siberia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
Since the 1991 breakup of the USSR, several hundred thousands of Belarusians have emigrated to the 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% in daily life. According to a study, in varying degrees, a majority of residents speak the Belarusian language: 29.4% are fluent, being able to read and write, 52.5% can speak and read the language, 8.3% can understand it but cannot speak or read it, while 7% are able to understand the some parts of Belarusian language that are similar to Russian. Belarusian is a language of the East Slavic group.
The name Belarus can be literally translated as White Ruthenia, which is a historical region on the east of the modern Republic of Belarus, known in Latin as Ruthenia Alba (English: White Rus). That name has been in use in western Europe for some time, along 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'.
The term Belarusians was promoted mostly during the 19th century by the Russian Empire. For instance, this can be traced by editions of folklorist 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).
The territory of what is now Belarus was inhabited by Balts before the 6th century. Most Belarusians are related to the East Slavic tribes Dregoviches, Krivichs, and Radimichs, which moved into the region during the 6th and 8th century. These tribes mixed with the autochtonous Balts, especially in northwestern Belarus. Some Belarusians, such as Belarusian political activist and journalist Alieś Kirkievičand Belarusian publicist Aliaksiej Dziermant , say that Belarusians are Slavicized Balts. The Lithuanian professor Zigmas Zinkevičius states that Belarusians as a nation formed on a Baltic, i.e. Lithuanian, basis. Belarusians began to emerge as a nationality during the 13th and 14th centuries in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania mostly on the lands of the upper basins of Neman River, Dnieper River, and the Western Dvina River. The Belarusian people trace their distinct culture to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, earlier Kievan Rus' and the Principality of Polotsk.
In the 13th–18th centuries, Belarusians were known as Ruthenians and Litvins and spoke the Ruthenian language, while being part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Casimir's Code of 1468 and all three editions of Statutes of Lithuania (1529, 1566, and 1588) were written in the Ruthenian language. From the 1630s it was replaced by the Polish language, as a result of Polonisation policies in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.
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 maneuvers, and was part of the region of allowed permanent residency of the Jews known as the Pale of Settlement.
After World War I Belarusians created their own national state, with varying degrees of independence – first as the short-lived Belarusian People's Republic under German occupation, then as the Byelorussian SSR from 1919 to 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
Belarusian cuisine shares the same roots as the cuisines of other Eastern and Northern European countries.
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