Allo' Expat Belarus - Connecting Expats in Belarus
Main Homepage
Allo' Expat Belarus Logo


Subscribe to Allo' Expat Newsletter
 
Check our Rates
   Information Center Belarus
Belarus General Information
 
History of Belarus
Belarus Culture
Belarus Cuisine
Belarus Geography
Belarus Population
Belarus Government
Belarus Economy
Belarus Communications
Belarus Transportations
Belarus Military
Belarus Transnational Issues
Belarus Healthcare
Belarus People, Language & Religion
Belarus Expatriates Handbook
Belarus and Foreign Government
Belarus General Listings
Belarus Useful Tips
Belarus Education & Medical
Belarus Travel & Tourism Info
Belarus Lifestyle & Leisure
Belarus Business Matters
  Sponsored Links


Check our Rates

History of Belarus
 
 
 

Early History

The history of Belarus, or, more correctly of the Belarusian ethnicity, begins with the migration and expansion of the Slavic peoples throughout Eastern Europe between the 6th and 8th centuries. East Slavs settled on the territory within present-day Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, assimilating local Baltic – (Yotvingians, Dniepr Balts), Ugro-Finnic (Russia) and steppe nomads (Ukraine) already living there, early ethnic integrations that contributed to the gradual differentiation of the three East Slavic nations. These East Slavs were pagan, animistic, agrarian people whose economy included trade in agricultural produce, game, furs, honey, beeswax and amber.

The modern Belarusian ethnos was probably formed on the basis of the three Slavic tribes – Kryvians, Drehovians, Radzimians as well as several Baltic tribes.

During the 9th and 10th centuries, Scandinavian Vikings established trade posts on the way from Scandinavia to the Byzantine Empire. The network of lakes and rivers crossing East Slav territory provided a lucrative trade route between the two civilisations. In the course of trade, they gradually took sovereignty over the tribes of East Slavs, at least to the point required by improvements in trade.

The Rus' rulers invaded the Byzantine Empire on few occasions, but eventually they allied against the Bulgars. The condition underlying this alliance was to open the country for Christianisation and acculturation from the Byzantine Empire.

The common cultural bond of Eastern Orthodox Christianity and written Church Slavonic (a literary and liturgical Slavic language developed by 8th century missionaries Saints Cyril and Methodius) fostered the emergence of a new geopolitical entity, Kievan Rus' – a loose-knit network of principalities, established along pre-existing trade routes, with major centres in Novgorod (currently Russia), Polatsk (in Belarus) and Kiev (currently in Ukraine) – which claimed a sometimes precarious pre-eminence among them.

Between the 9th and 12th centuries, the Principality of Polotsk (northern Belarus) emerged as the dominant centre of power on Belarusian territory, with a lesser role played by the Principality of Turaŭ in the south.

It repeatedly asserted its sovereignty in relation to other centres of Rus', becoming a political capital, the episcopal see of a bishopric and the controller of vassal territories among Balts in the west. The city's Cathedral of the Holy Wisdom (1044-66), though completely rebuilt over the years, remains a symbol of this independent-mindedness, rivalling churches of the same name in Novgorod and Kiev, referring to the original Hagia Sophia in Constantinople (and hence to claims of imperial prestige, authority and sovereignty). Cultural achievements of the Polatsk period include the work of the nun Euphrosyne of Polatsk (1120-73), who built monasteries, transcribed books, promoted literacy and sponsored art (including local artisan Lazarus Bohsha's famous "Cross of Euphrosyne", a national symbol and treasure stolen during World War II), and the prolific, original Church Slavonic sermons and writings of Bishop Cyril of Turau (1130-82).

Grand Duchy of Lithuania

In the 13th century, the fragile unity of Kievan Rus' disintegrated due to nomadic incursions from Asia, which climaxed with the Mongol sacking of Kiev (1240), leaving a geopolitical vacuum in the region. The East Slavs splintered into a number of independent and competing principalities. Due to military conquest and dynastic marriages the Belarusian principalities were acquired by the expanding Lithuania, beginning with the rule of Lithuanian King Mindaugas (1240-63). From the 13th to 15th century, Baltic and Ukrainian lands were consolidated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, with its initial capital unknown, but which presumably could have been either Voruta, Trakai, Kernavė or Vilnius. Since the 14th century, Vilnius had been the only official capital of the state.

The Lithuanians' smaller numbers and lack of their own written language in this medieval state gave the Ruthenians (present-day Belarusians and Ukrainians) a very important role in shaping Lithuanian political, religious and cultural life, and further assimilation between the Slavs and Balts occurred. Owing to the predominance of East Slavs and the Eastern Orthodox faith among the state's population, the Ruthenian language was widely used for the state chancery, legal, diplomatic and judicial needs until 1696, when it was eventually replaced by Polish.

This period of political breakdown and reorganisation also saw the rise of written local vernaculars in place of the literary and liturgical Church Slavonic language, a further stage in the evolving differentiation between the Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian languages.

Several Lithuanian monarchs – the last being Švitrigaila in 1432-36 – relied on the Eastern Orthodox Ruthenian majority, while most monarchs and magnates increasingly came to reflect the opinions of the Roman Catholics.


See more information on the next page... (next)


 

 
 

   



 


copyrights © AlloExpat.com
2015 | Policy