The Russification of Belarus (Belarusian: Расеізацыя Беларусі, Rasyeizatsyya Byelarusi; Russian: Русификация Белоруссии, romanized: Rusyfikatsiya 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.
In Belarus, Russification was carried out by the authorities of the Russian Empire and, later, by the authorities of the Soviet Union. Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko has renewed the policy since coming to power in 1994, although with signs of a "soft Belarusization" (Russian: мягкая белорусизация) after 2014.
The Russification of Belarus comprises several components:
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.
In the academic year 2016-2017 near 128,000 students were taught in Belarusian language (13.3% of total). 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.
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:
|Settlement||Number of Belarusian-language schools||Total number of schools||Percentage of Belarusian-language schools|
|District centers in total
(except the capital and regional centers)
|* in Ivanava (secondary school № 4)|
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.
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.