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The Russification of Belarus (Belarusian: Расеізацыя Беларусі, Rasyeizatsyya Byelarusi; Russian: Русификация Белоруссии, romanizedRusyfikatsiya Byelorussii) is a policy of replacing the use of the Belarusian language and the presence of Belarusian culture and mentality in various spheres of public life in Belarus by the corresponding Russian analogs. Russification is one of the major reasons of insufficient adoption of the Belarusian language by Belarusians.[1]

In Belarus, Russification was carried out by the authorities of the Russian Empire and, later, by the authorities of the Soviet Union.[2][3][4][1] Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko has renewed the policy since coming to power in 1994,[5][6][7][8][9] although with signs of a "soft Belarusization" (Russian: мягкая белорусизация) after 2014.[10][11][12]

Components of Russification

The Russification of Belarus comprises several components:

Russification in Belarus under Lukashenka


Minsk, Belarus, 2011: old street sign in Belarusian language (right) replaced with new one in Russian language (left).
Minsk, Belarus, 2011: old street sign in Belarusian language (right) replaced with new one in Russian language (left).

In the 1994-1995 academic year, 58% of students in the first classes of elementary school were taught in the Belarusian language (Minsk city). After the beginning of Lukashenka's presidency in 1994, the number of these classes decreased. In 1999 only 5.3% of students in the first classes of elementary school were taught in the Belarusian language in Minsk.[17]

In the academic year 2016-2017 near 128,000 students were taught in Belarusian language (13.3% of total).[18] The vast majority of Belarusian-language schools located in rural areas that are gradually closed through the exodus of its population to the cities. Each year, there is a closure of about 100 small schools in Belarus, most of which use Belarusian language in teaching. There is a trend of transfer the students of these schools to Russian-language schools. Thus, there is a loss of students studying in Belarusian.[19]

Concerning to the cities, there are only seven Belarusian-language schools, six of which are in Minsk, the capital of Belarus (in 2019). Thus, the capital city, regional and district centers of the Republic of Belarus has six Belarusian-language schools in total:

  1. Gymnasium № 4 (Kuntsaushchyna street, 18 – Minsk, Frunzyenski District)
  2. Gymnasium № 9 (Siadykh street, 10 – Minsk, Pyershamayski District)
  3. Gymnasium № 14 (Vasnyatsova street, 10 – Minsk, Zavodski District)
  4. Gymnasium № 23 (Nezalezhnastsi Avenue, 45 – Minsk, Savyetski District)
  5. Gymnasium № 28 (Rakasouski Avenue, 93 – Minsk, Leninsky District)
  6. Secondary school № 60 (Karl Libkneht street, 82 – Minsk, Maskowski District)
  7. Secondary school № 4 (Savetskaya street, 78 – Ivanava city)
Number of Belarusian-language schools in the capital city, regional and district centers of Belarus (2019)
Settlement Number of Belarusian-language schools Total number of schools Percentage of Belarusian-language schools
Minsk 6 277 2.17%
Brest 0 37 0%
Vitsebsk 0 48 0%
Hrodna 0 42 0%
Homel 0 53 0%
Mahilyow 0 47 0%
District centers in total
(except the capital and regional centers)
1* ~ 920 0.11%
* in Ivanava (secondary school № 4)[20]

Explanations of the Russification Policy

Officially, the Lukashenka regime gives no explanation for the reasons for forcing the policy of Russification after 1995. There is suspicion in the Belarusian civil society that there is a hidden deal between the Lukashenka regime and the leadership of the Russian Federation. According to the alleged deal, the Lukashenka regime is committed to political loyalty to Russia and a policy of Russification in Belarus, narrowing the use of the Belarusian language in exchange for funds from Russia to retain power in Belarus.[21][22][23]

A possible confirmation of the existence of such a deal could be the traditional emphasis of Russia's leadership on the expansion of the Russian language and culture to neighboring countries. The Kremlin criticized derussification in Ukraine that has been implemented since 2014, as well as derussification initiatives in Kazakhstan.[24][25][26][27]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Yuliya Brel. (University of Delaware) The Failure of the Language Policy in Belarus. New Visions for Public Affairs, Volume 9, Spring 2017, pp. 59—74
  2. ^ Early Belorussian Nationalism in [Helen Fedor, ed. Belarus: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1995.]
  3. ^ Stalin and Russification in [Helen Fedor, ed. Belarus: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1995.]
  4. ^ Why Belarusians Don’t Speak Their Native Language? // BelarusFeed
  5. ^ Belarus has an identity crisis // openDemocracy
  6. ^ a b c d Vadzim Smok. Belarusian Identity: the Impact of Lukashenka’s Rule // Analytical Paper. Ostrogorski Centre, BelarusDigest, December 9, 2013
  7. ^ Нацыянальная катастрофа на тле мяккай беларусізацыі // Novy Chas (in Belarusian)
  8. ^ Галоўная бяда беларусаў у Беларусі — мова // Novy Chas (in Belarusian)
  9. ^ Аляксандар Русіфікатар // Nasha Niva (in Belarusian)
  10. ^ "Belarus leader switches to state language from Russian", BBC, July 10, 2014
  11. ^ "Belarus in the multipolar world: Lukashenka bets on himself"
  12. ^ Ivan Prosokhin, "Soft Belarusization: (Re)building of Identity or “Border Reinforcement”?" doi:10.11649/ch.2019.005
  13. ^ Страчаная спадчына. — Менск, 2003. С. 54. (in Belarusian)
  14. ^ Волкава В. Мінск 21 лютага 1918 г. вачыма нямецкага салдата (па матэрыялах газеты "Zeitung der 10. Armee") // Беларускі гістарычны часопіс. № 2, 2018. С. 11. (in Belarusian)
  15. ^ Соркіна І. Палітыка царызму адносна гарадоў Беларусі ў кантэксце гістарычнай памяці і ідэнтычнасці гараджанаў // Трэці міжнародны кангрэс даследчыкаў Беларусі. Працоўныя матэрыялы. Том 3. 2014. С. 376. (in Belarusian)
  16. ^ Kapylou I., Lipnitskaya S. Current status and related problems of national toponyms standardization in the Republic of Belarus // Studia Białorutenistyczne. Nr. 8, 2014.
  17. ^ Антонава Т. Моўныя пытаньні ў Беларусі // Зьвязда, 10 красавіка 1999 №59 (23660), 4–5 pp. (in Belarusian)
  18. ^ Марціновіч Я. Моўная катастрофа: за 10 гадоў колькасць беларускамоўных школьнікаў скарацілася ўдвая // Nasha Niva, May 31, 2017 (in Belarusian)
  19. ^ Алег Трусаў: Скарачэнне беларускамоўных школ можа прывесці да выраджэння нацыі // Берасьцейская вясна (in Belarusian)
  20. ^ Вучыцца на роднай мове. 8 фактаў пра беларускія школы // Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (in Belarusian)
  21. ^ Numbness. From the annals of the destruction of the Belarusian language // Belarusian Shelf: (in Belarusian)
  22. ^ OUR WORD No. 28 (1231), July 15, 2015 (in Belarusian)
  23. ^ Nelly Bekus. Chapter 15. Paradoxes of Political and Linguistic Russification. The Struggle for Identity.
  24. ^ Serhiy Osnach. Linguistic component of hybrid warfare // Portal of language policy (in Ukrainian)
  25. ^ Russian propaganda about the events in Ukraine: trends 2014-2016 // NGO "Media Detector" (in Ukrainian)
  26. ^ War between Ukraine and Russia. Linguocultural Front // Radio Liberty (in Ukrainian)
  27. ^ Kazakhs reject Russian State Duma's meddling over proposed language law // Caravanserai