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  UN in Belarus > About Belarus > History


The territory of Belarus started to be populated around 100  40 thousand B.C. Until the IX century it was inhabited by Slavonic associations of the Dregovichi, Crivichi and Radimichi tribes. The first administrative entities on the Belarusian territory were the Duchies of Polotsk, Turov and Smolensk. The city of Polotsk was known since 862 A.D. The Duchy of Polotsk reached its peak power in the XI century under Duke Vseslav Charodey.

    By the end of the X century Byzantean style Christianity began to spread across Belarusian territory, thus facilitating the development of culture, the appearance of monumental stone architecture, art and literature. The Sofia Cathedral, the first monumental structure built on the Belarusian land, was erected in the 1050's. In 1161 Lazar Boksha, a jeweler, produced a unique crucifix, a masterpiece of East Slavonic applied art, for Yefrosinya of Polotsk, the wellknown enlightener. Among the Christian writers and ecclesiasts, the bestknown was Kiryll of Turov. The Belarusian language started to be shaped in the first half of the XIII century.

    The end of the XIV  beginning of the XV century saw the peak of power of the Great Duchy of Lithuania under the reign of Duke Vitovt.

    In the middle of the XVI century the Great Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland were united (the Lublin Unia). The new federal state, Rzecz Pospolita, was established. Agrarian reforms were actively implemented, cities were developing fast, urban crafts and trade were flourishing. The Reformation brought about religious tolerance.

    In late XVI century the Orthodox Church of the Great Duchy of Lithuania recognized the supremacy of the Pope of Rome (the Brest Church Unia). This faced resistance in the Orthodox environment, which, together with the consequences of severe economic hardship, resulted in an antifeudal war.


    The middle of the XVII century saw the war with Russia, which resulted in a severe economic and demographic crisis (the Belarusian population decreased by half). At the beginning of the XVIII century war was waged with Sweden, which caused yet another economic crisis. The durable political crisis and anarchy characterized the situation in the country in the second half of the XVIII century. Three divisions of Rzecz Pospolita resulted in Eastern, Central and later Western lands of Belarus becoming part of the Russian Empire.

    As a state, Rzecz Pospolita ceased to exist. Belarus was subjected to Russianstyle territorialadministrativ e division.

    The middle of the XIX century saw the abolition of serfdom, strengthening of the national liberation movement against the Tsarist regime.

    The new wave of democratic and national liberation movement, the emergence of revolutionary organizations signified the threshold between the XIX and XX centuries.

    In 1917 the Soviet rule was established.
    In 1919 the LithuanianBelarusian Soviet Socialist Republic was established.
    In 1920 the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR) was proclaimed.
    In 1922 the BSSR joined the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
    In 1941 the Great Patriotic War began, German Nazi troops occupied Belarus.
    In 1944 the territory of Belarus was liberated. As a result of the war, every fourth Belarusian citizen perished, all towns, major and middlesize enterprises were destroyed, more than 9 thousand villages were burnt to the ground. About 380 thousand people were taken to Germany as forced labor.
    In 1945 the BSSR became the founding member of the United Nations. Thus the international community recognized the contribution of the Belarusian people into the defeat of fascism.

    1986 saw the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, which became a national tragedy.
    In 1991 after the dissolution of the USSR the Republic of Belarus became an independent sovereign state.
    In 1994 the first President of the Republic of Belarus was elected.
    In 1997 the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation signed the Treaty on the Creation of a Union State.

Official Public Holidays:

  • January 1 - New Year
  • January 7 - Orthodox Christmas
  • March 8 - International Women's Day
  • March 15 - Constitution Day (adopted in 1994)
  • Commemoration Day (Radunitsa)
  • May 1 - Labour Day
  • Mat 9 - Victory Day
  • July 3 - Independence Day
  • December 25 - Catholic Christmas
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