Myths & Facts about Belarus
Belarus is far from Europe
Belarus is the geographical center of Europe!
The exact geographical center of Europe is located around Belarussian city Polatsk city: 55°30′0″N 28°48′0″E.
The closest European capital, Vilnius (Lithuania), is just two hours’ drive from Minsk, the capital of Belarus.
Also Minsk is around an hour flight from Warsaw (Poland) or Moscow (Russia), less than a two hour flight from Berlin (Germany) and less than three hours from London (England).
The Belarusian language is a Russian dialect
They are two different languages. They both belong to Slavonic group of languages; but the differences between them are great.
The old Belarusian language was an official language of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1230–1596) – the state that comprised of contemporary Belarus, Lithuania, Ukraine, and part of Russia.
In 1517, a great Belarusian scientist Francisc Skaryna published the Bible in the Belarusian language. The Belarusians became the third nation after the Germans and the Czechs to have a printed Bible in their native language.
All the Belarusians speak the Belarusian language
While in the cities Belarusian people predominantly speak Russian, in rural areas people tend to speak Belarusian. Moreover, most of Belarusian Russian speakers consider Belarusian as their native language.
According to the 1999 census, 85.6% of over 8,000 Belarusians surveyed consider Belarusian their mother tongue, and 41.3% of them said they used Belarusian at home.
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The word "Belarus" means "White Russia"
The origin of the name "White Russia" some researchers associate with the meaning "independent and free".
Others associate it with the appearance of the population in Northern Russia, as the predominant color of clothing in the region was white.
Some more researches think that the lands of our country were not explored enough at those times. So we can say that they were considered as “white spots” in a map and later gave birth to the name of the area.
The Belarusians don't have their national identity
Belarusians have a lower level of consciousness about their national identity than their neighbors. Several reasons explain this, such as rather late first declaration of independence (1918), the German occupation twice during the XX century, serious human and material losses during both the WWI and WWII, Polish control in 1921 - 1939, russification during the Soviet times... So the Belarusians have learned to be content even with the most basic freedoms, which look like luxuries after the years of war and brutal Soviet times.
The Belarusians always use only Cyrillic alphabet
Since the Middle Ages, there was a tradition of Latin script usage up until the 1950s. Later, the national activists organized a wide-scale public discussion on the scripts dilemma which by rather a small margin resulted in choosing Cyrillic.
The Belarusian nation also has a tradition of writing its language in the Arabic script, modified to suit Belarusian sounds by the local Muslim community in medieval times. There were thousands of manuscripts published– so called kitab literature – written in Belarusian with Belarusian-Arabic script up until the early 20th century.
Minsk has always been the capital of Belarus
The old Belarusian town Polotsk was the center of powerful and independent Polotsk princedom and first mentioned in chronicles in 862.
In the middle if the XIII-th century Novogrudok town became the first capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and Belarusian lands were a part of it.
Later Vilna was the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
In April 1919 the capital was moved to Minsk.
On the 1, January, 1919 SSRB was announced, it was a part of Soviet Russia. And the capital was formed in Smolensk (now Smolensk is Russia).
On the 31, January 1919 SSRB left Soviet Russia and was renamed into Belarussian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR) with the capital in Minsk.
Belarus has the world’s largest population of aurochs
They are the heaviest and largest land mammal of Europe. The giant makes a great impression, it smells with old times and the age of the last glaciation, as an aurochs is a contemporary of a mammoth.
In 1920-s they were under the treat if extinction, but fortunately now they are not in danger anymore. The majority of them live in South-West of Belarus in Belovezha Forest which we call pushcha.
Belovezha Forest is the largest ancient forest in Europe
Antique historian Herodotus (Vth century B.C.) wrote about the forest.
It was also mentioned in the Hypatian Chronicle (in 983).
In the late XIV-th century, Duke Yagailo of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania declared the forest a protected area and prohibited hunting there. The ancient forest has been protecting for almost 600 years!
There are nearly 2,000 giant trees in the Belovezha Forest, some of them pre-dating Columbus' discovery of America. The Belovezha Forest has been added into the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Pripiats National Park is the only place where you can find primeval lowland oak-woods
The Park is in South-East of Belarus, this area has the name Polesie. The lowlands of the Belarusian Polesie have survived in their primeval state.
The huge area of the Belarusian Polesie is home for vast swamps, blue lakes, wide inundated lands, oak woods, and broad-leaved forests.
Polesie area is truly the lungs of Europe since its complex of forests and swamps are the best generators of oxygen.
Fifteen Nobel Prize winners have Belarusian roots
Most part of them were not the Belarussians by the nationality, but their roots came from our lands.
They are: Martin Lewis Perl, Simon S. Kuznets (Smith), Alan J. Heeger, Zhores Alferov, Aaron Klug, Sheldon Lee Glashow, Menahem Begin, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Frederick Reines, Leonid Kantorovich, Jerome Isaac Friedman, Ilya Prigogine, Richard Feynman.
And of course our Svetlana Alexievich who got the Nobel Prize in the sphere of literature! More about Our Nobel laureates
Belarus is one of the first nations in Europe to have its own printed Bible (1517)
Belarus’ first printer Frantsysk Skorina started his publishing business in Prague where he printed 23 illustrated Bibles. They were published in the old Belarusian language.
In the early 1520s he moved to Vilno where he founded a publishing house. It printed the Small Travel Guide and Book of the Apostles. Frantsysk Skorina's works were distinguished by high print quality, unique illustrations and distinctive typefaces.
Tadeush Kostiushko, the national hero of Belarus, Poland and United States, is a native of Belarus
In 1776 - 1783 he volunteered to participate in the War of Independence in the USA. He returned home in 1784 and joined the Polish army in 1789. He was declared commander and head of the rebellion of the year 1794. In the battle of Matchevitz (1794) T. Kostiushko was heavily wounded, captured and imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress. He was released in 1796 and went to the USA. He returned to Europe in 1798.
T. Kostiushko died in Switzerland in 1817, and is interred in Krakow.
The Belarusian partisan movement in WWII was the strongest resistance movement in Europe
By 1943 the partisans controlled about 60% of Belarusian territory.
Europe’s largest Jewish partisan detachment led by the Belsky brothers fought in Belarus. The heroic struggle of the detachment is depicted in a movie Defiance directed by Edward Zwick from a screenplay by Zwick and Clay Foreman. The movie premiered in January 2009.