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Example of Russification in the 19th century; the reconstructed Church of St. Mary's (no longer exists) in Grodno

The Russification of Belarus (Belarusian: Русіфікацыя Беларусі, romanizedRusifikatsyya Bielarusi; Russian: Русификация Беларуси, romanizedRusifikatsiya Belarusi) denotes a historical process where the integration of Russian language and culture increasingly influenced Belarusian society, especially during the 20th century.[1]

This period witnessed a notable rise in the use of the Russian language in education, administration, and public life, often paralleling and sometimes overshadowing the Belarusian cultural and linguistic elements. Russification is one of the major reasons of low rate of adoption of the Belarusian language by Belarusians.[2]

Evolution of Russification Policies in Belarus

Russian Empire

According to the terminology of the 18th and 19th centuries, Russification meant the strengthening of the local culture of all three branches of the Pan-Russian people, with Russian language considered the main literary standard, while Belarusian language was regarded as its dialect, in which literature was also published.[3][4]

The active introduction of Russian language in education and administration, part of the Empire's modernization efforts, provided Belarusians with enhanced access to education and broader cultural engagement.[5] This period also saw the growth of a distinct Belarusian national consciousness, influenced by the socio-economic changes and cultural exchanges within the Empire.[6]

Study of the Belarusian Language in the Russian Empire

Ethnographic Map by Yefim Karsky, 1903. The author classified the territories of Western Polesia as part of the distribution area of the Little Russian dialect (Ukrainian language), but included significant territories of modern Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, and Ukraine in the distribution area of Belarusian dialects.

Interest in studying the language of the local population began to emerge in the academic community in the late 19th century. Izmail Sreznevsky and Alexander Potebnja considered Belarusian dialects to be part of the South Russian vernacular.[7] Most researchers were quite skeptical at the time about the prospects of socializing the Belarusian language. As noted by the famous ethnographer and collector of Belarusian folklore, Pyotr Bessonov: "The Belarusian oral folk speech will never become a literary, written, and book language".[8]

The first scholar to thoroughly approach the study of Belarusian dialects was Yefim Karsky, considered the founder of Belarusian linguistics. Based on his many years of research, he published a three-volume work "The Belarusians" in 1903-1922, with the first volume containing his "Ethnographic Map of the Belarusian Tribe. Belarusian Dialects".[9]

Soviet Era

Usievalad Ihnatoŭski was a Belarusian politician, scholar and the first president of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus

In Belarus, the initial phase of Russification was undertaken by the authorities of the Russian Empire, which was later followed by a period of cultural promotion and national development under the Soviet policy of belarusization.[10] This phase, however, eventually gave way to a renewed emphasis on Russification under subsequent Soviet policies.[11][12][13][2]

Candidate of Philological Sciences Igor Klimov writes:

The Bolshevik state, in its unique historical experiment of creating a new society and a new human being, viewed language as an object of special manipulation aimed at achieving certain non-linguistic goals. A key aspect of these manipulations, starting from 1930, was to reinforce Russian influence in the literary language norms of other ethnicities of the USSR. This enhanced cultural homogeneity among the peoples of the Soviet empire, subdued their separatist aspirations, and facilitated their cultural and linguistic assimilation. From the 1930s, the Belarusian language became a victim of this policy, its further development being influenced not by internal necessity or actual usage, but by the internal dynamics of the Soviet state.[14]

Presidency of Alexander Lukashenko

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

Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko has renewed the policy since coming to power in 1994,[15][16][17][18][19] although with signs of a "soft Belarusization" (Belarusian: мяккая беларусізацыя, romanizedmiakkaja biełarusizacyja) after 2014.[20][21][22]

In Minsk city for the 1994-1995 academic year, 58% of students in the first classes of elementary school were taught in the Belarusian language. After the beginning of Lukashenko'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.[23]

In the academic year 2016-2017 near 128,000 students were taught in Belarusian language (13.3% of total).[24] 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.[25]

As for the cities, there are only seven Belarusian-language schools, six of which are in Minsk (in 2019). In other words, the capital city, regional and district centers of the Republic of Belarus has seven 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)[26]

Current State of Belarusian Language Instruction

In the context of the Russification of Belarus, an important aspect to consider is the preparation of educators in a bilingual environment.[27] The incorporation of bilingual teaching methods and the integration of the Belarusian language into the educational system are crucial for preserving national identity.[28] Furthermore, this approach contributes to a diverse educational landscape, where the Belarusian language gains a strengthened presence alongside Russian, enhancing the overall educational quality. [29]

Components of Russification

The Russification of Belarus comprises several components:

See also

References

  1. ^ "О русском языке в Белоруссии". pp. 23–24. Retrieved November 26, 2023.
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ "Белорусский: история, сходство языками Европы и трудности перевода". Retrieved November 26, 2023.
  4. ^ "О русском языке в Белоруссии". p. 23. Retrieved November 26, 2023.
  5. ^ Трещенок, Я. И. (2003). История Беларуси. Досоветский период часть 1 (in Russian). pp. 124–125.
  6. ^ Трещенок, Я. И. (2003). История Беларуси. Досоветский период часть 1 (in Russian). pp. 135–138.
  7. ^ Крывіцкі, А. А. (1994). Асноўны масіў беларускіх гаворак (in Belarusian). Мінск. p. 55.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  8. ^ Коряков, Ю. Б. Языковая ситуация в Белоруссии и типология языковых ситуаций (in Russian). p. 28.
  9. ^ Коряков, Ю. Б. Языковая ситуация в Белоруссии и типология языковых ситуаций (in Russian). p. 26.
  10. ^ "Conclusion. A Theoretical Framework for Belarusization". pp. 1–2. Retrieved November 26, 2023.
  11. ^ Early Belorussian Nationalism in [Helen Fedor, ed. Belarus: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1995.]
  12. ^ Stalin and Russification in [Helen Fedor, ed. Belarus: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1995.]
  13. ^ Why Belarusians Don’t Speak Their Native Language? // BelarusFeed
  14. ^ Клімаў, І. (2004). "Мова і соцыўм (Terra Alba III)". Два стандарты беларускай літаратурнай мовы (in Belarusian). Магілёў.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  15. ^ Belarus has an identity crisis // openDemocracy
  16. ^ a b c d Vadzim Smok. Belarusian Identity: the Impact of Lukashenka’s Rule // Analytical Paper. Ostrogorski Centre, BelarusDigest, December 9, 2013
  17. ^ Нацыянальная катастрофа на тле мяккай беларусізацыі // Novy Chas (in Belarusian)
  18. ^ Галоўная бяда беларусаў у Беларусі — мова // Novy Chas (in Belarusian)
  19. ^ Аляксандар Русіфікатар // Nasha Niva (in Belarusian)
  20. ^ "Belarus leader switches to state language from Russian", BBC, July 10, 2014
  21. ^ "Belarus in the multipolar world: Lukashenka bets on himself". New Eastern Europe - A bimonthly news magazine dedicated to Central and Eastern European affairs. January 21, 2020.
  22. ^ Ivan Prosokhin, "Soft Belarusization: (Re)building of Identity or “Border Reinforcement”?" doi:10.11649/ch.2019.005
  23. ^ Антонава Т. Моўныя пытаньні ў Беларусі // Зьвязда, 10 красавіка 1999 №59 (23660), 4–5 pp. (in Belarusian)
  24. ^ Марціновіч Я. Моўная катастрофа: за 10 гадоў колькасць беларускамоўных школьнікаў скарацілася ўдвая // Nasha Niva, May 31, 2017 (in Belarusian)
  25. ^ Алег Трусаў: Скарачэнне беларускамоўных школ можа прывесці да выраджэння нацыі Archived September 27, 2020, at the Wayback Machine // Берасьцейская вясна (in Belarusian)
  26. ^ Вучыцца на роднай мове. 8 фактаў пра беларускія школы // Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (in Belarusian)
  27. ^ Карпишек, Вратислав. Развёрнутый план научного доклада на тему: Взаимосвязь белорусского и русского языков в Республике Беларусь и отражение ситуации билингвизма в системе образования (in Russian). pp. 5–7.
  28. ^ Карпишек, Вратислав. Развёрнутый план научного доклада на тему: Взаимосвязь белорусского и русского языков в Республике Беларусь и отражение ситуации билингвизма в системе образования (in Russian). p. 6.
  29. ^ Карпишек, Вратислав. Развёрнутый план научного доклада на тему: Взаимосвязь белорусского и русского языков в Республике Беларусь и отражение ситуации билингвизма в системе образования (in Russian). p. 6.
  30. ^ Страчаная спадчына. — Менск, 2003. С. 54. (in Belarusian)
  31. ^ 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)
  32. ^ 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)
  33. ^ Kapylou I., Lipnitskaya S. Current status and related problems of national toponyms standardization in the Republic of Belarus // Studia Białorutenistyczne. Nr. 8, 2014.

Further reading