|Back to the map of Europe|
Russian and Belarusian are the two official languages in Belarus. Belarus has a population of a little over 10 million. Belarussian is not a Russian dialect. Belarusian is spoken by about 80% of the population, but many people are bilingual and can also speak Russian.
There are also a few substantial language minorities in Belarus, mainly Russian (1.1 million) and Polish (400,000).
Belarusian has been influenced by the languages of its neighboring countries, that is, Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish.
From 1385, until PolandŐs division at the end of the 18th century, Belarus formed a grand duchy with Poland and Lithuania. Polish was a major influence on the language during hundreds of years. During the 19th and 20th century, Russian has had a strong influence on Belarusian. First the Russian Czar and then the Soviet Union had policies to "Russianize" the language and culture of Belarus. A Belarusian literary culture did not develop until the late 19th century.
Belarusian belongs to the East Slavic language group and is written with the Cyrillic alphabet, but it can also be written with the Latin alphabet. Its nearest relatives are Russian and Ukrainian.
You can read more about Belarus and its language at the web site "A Belarus Miscellany" which can be found at either of the following addresses: