Belarusian (Bielarusian) history and linguistic development

  1. Biełarusian territories were a crossroad and subject of interest to many invaders throughout centuries. Despite that, the early (feudal) Biełarusian principalities were much more prosperous and culturally advanced than most of their Russian, Polish, and Lithuanian neighbours (the latter accepted Christianity only in the 14th century); the reader will find confirmation in the following on-line material. By the last third of the seventeenth century, Biełarusian history became very tragic compared to most of the European countries. This situation worsened by the end of the eighteenth century with Imperial Russia’s three major partitions of the Biełarusian lands. Biełarusian history was reflected in the country’s linguistic development (Please see part 2).
    1. History of Belarus (Great Litva)
    2. Polacak (Polatsak)
    3. Polacak (Polatsak) facts:
    4. The Origins of the Great Duchy of Litva (Litvania; Lithuania)
    5. Great Duchy of Litva (Litvania; Lithuania)
    6. Vera Rich. “Belarus: Nation in Search of a History, 1991 and all that”
    7. Belarus History
    8. Belarus
    9. History of Belarus 
    1. Old Biełarusian was the state language of the Duchy (Principality) of Połacak (Polack; Polatsak; Polotsk, founded in 10th century), which together with other old Biełarusian principalities (for example, Navahrudak, founded in the11th century and Turaŭ: first mentioned in 980), were integrated into the Grand Duchy of Litva; Lithuania (GDL) in the 13th and the very beginning of the 14th century. The earliest Biełarusian writer (renowned by all the Christians), is St. Cyril, the Bishop of Turaŭ (Kiryła Turaŭski; 1130-1182), the most accomplished, prolific, genuine, imitated, and followed author of Orthodox theology until the appearance of the next genius of Biełarusian origin, Francysk (Francišak) Skaryna (1490-1552). Dr. Skaryna was the Renaissance person: humanist, writer, translator, medical doctor, botanist, and one of the first book printers in Eastern Europe. Skaryna singlehandedly created literary Old Biełarusian language (based on vernacular of his native city of Połacak. The Old Biełarusian was the country’s state language, where spiritual and secular literature became the most advanced in Europe by the 16th century. Biełarusian grammar book was published in 1596 (the first in East Slavic tradition).
    2. Though Lublin’s unification of the GDL and Kingdom of Poland in 1569 seconded Old Biełarusian language to Polish, major government documents (GDL’s Metrics (archival documents): Metrika   and Statutes (Civil Law) of Grand Duchy of Litva continued to be written in Biełarusian.
    3. There were the following changes in the eighteenth century, noted by the academician Adam Maldzis: “Compared to the Baroque, Biełarusian literature of Enlightenment had a strong multilingual character, and Biełarusian was no longer the dominant language in the 18th century. Though Polish acquired dominance in writing and performing, books in Old Slavonic, Latin, Hebrew, Yiddish, German, and French, and some handwritten manuscripts, often included Ukrainian, Lithuanian, and Tatar texts. After 1772, and particularly in the 1790s, the Russian language was popularized by the tsarist government of victorious Russia. Biełaruś was a true literary Babylon in a rather small territory!” (Adam Maldzis, “Šlacheckaja kultura, Lecture 16, p. 3.”)
    4. Written Biełarusian was prohibited in 1864, and was resurrected only by the very end of the 19th century by a group of young intellectuals: enthusiasts for the native word.
    5. A rich diversity of written native languages was first officially returned to the land by the Biełarusian People’s Republic (BNR). One of its memorandums called for the following actions, proposed by the BNR’s first president, Vaclaŭ Lastoŭski: “All the state documentation, including paper currency and stamps, are printed in the following state languages: Biełarusian, Yiddish, Polish, and Russian.” For Yiddish that act was unprecedented in the two-thousand history of the Jewish Diaspora.
    6.   The Soviets copied this memorandum and accepted Biełarusian, Yiddish, Polish, and Russian as the state languages in their constitution of the 1919. They abandoned this clause in 1938. By that time even Biełarusian became a “second hand language” in its own country. Unfortunately, the present Biełarusian government continues the same language politics by preferring Russian to the country’s native Biełarusian.
  2. Belarusian (Biełarusian) Language Links:
    1. Omniglot. Belarusian (Беларуская мова / Bielaruskaja mova)
    2. Wikipedia. Belarusian language
    3. A Belarus Miscellany
    4. Belarusian Language
  3. Details of the Latin alphabet for Belarusian (source of much of the information on this page):
    1. http://www.cus.cam.ac.uk/~np214/lacin.htm
  4. Online Belarusian lessons
    1. http://www.radiobelarus.tvr.by/en/content/belarusian-language-lessons
    2. http://mylanguages.org/learn_belarusian.php
    3. http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Belarusian
    4. http://polymath.org/belarusian.php
    5. http://www.movananova.by/
  5. Learn Belarusian with Glossika - Fluency is Confidence. Start speaking today!

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