A brief history of Belarus: back to the past

A brief history of Belarus: back to the past

It seems like such a small country, about which not even all people in the world know, couldn’t amaze you. It often happens that you talk to foreigners, call the name of your homeland, and they look at you in amazement and ask: "Is this somewhere in Russia?".

However, Belarusians are not offended, because we have something to be proud of and something to tell about ourselves. Over the long history of existence, the Belarusian state has been part of many strong powers and has acquired special features of culture and life. But what kind of historical events made our country what it is? Let's get along with the VETLIVA guide!

Belarusian history

Belarus history: dating back to the oldest time

Let's start from where the history of all people began: from the Stone Age.

100–35 thousand years BC dates the appearance of primitive man on the territory of Belarus. The most ancient human settlements were found in the Gomel region (near the villages of Yurovichi and Berdyzh), they date from 26–23 millennia BC. Traces of prehistoric cultures have also been found in other areas.


The Bronze Age gave the world archaeological finds that take place throughout Belarus. There are tools, and the ancient decorations of men and women, household accessories such as clay pots, plates and much more else.

During the Iron Age period, the territory was occupied by modern Belarus in the basins of the largest rivers: the Dnieper, Dvina, Pripyat, there were settlements of archaeological cultures and the culture of hatched ceramics.

History of Belarus: the time for shining armors  

At the beginning of the first millennium of our era, Slavic tribes began to inhabit the territory of modern Belarus. For several centuries, they spread throughout the region, gradually assimilating the tribes of the Balts who lived in these lands.

In the VIII – IX centuries, the development of agriculture and crafts contributed to the formation of feudal relations, the expansion of trade, the emergence of cities. The most ancient of them were Polotsk and Turov. In the X – XI centuries, almost all the Eastern Slavic unions of the tribes were united in the framework of the Kievan Rus.

History of Belarus — Polotsk

The Polotsk princedom periodically fell under the authority of Kiev, but soon it became in fact an independent state with all the relevant attributes — the sovereign power of the prince, the administration, the capital, the army, the monetary system, etc. At the same time, the principality itself expanded its influence towards the Baltic Sea, subjugating a number of Baltic tribes.

The question of the legality of the consideration of the Polotsk principality in the composition of the Dneprusskogo state is challenged by a number of Belarusian historians. It is considered that the first centers of consolidation of the Eastern Slavic tribal unions, where princely dynasties were born, were not only Polyansky Kiev and Slovenian Novgorod, but also Krivitsky Polotsk. The Polotsk princely dynasty throughout its 400-year history had two names — Rogvolodovich and Vseslavich, which are of Rurik's origin.

Gradually, new cities emerge — Brest, Vitebsk, Minsk, etc. Cities become the political, economic and cultural centers of the land.

History of Belarus — Brest

Belarus history facts: go(l)ds of culture

In the XIII century, the Lithuanian prince Mindovg united under his rule a part of the Lithuanian and Eastern Slavic lands and thus created one of the largest states of medieval Europe — the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. From the middle of the XVI century, the official written language of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, along with Latin, was the so-called Western Russian written language.

In the Middle Ages, the Belarusian lands were an integral part of the pan-European cultural processes. Thanks to the achievements of the past centuries, the rich folk culture and the favorable influence of the humanistic ideas of the European Renaissance, the XV–XVII centuries became the “Golden Age” of the Belarusian culture.

Belarusian traditions

In Western Russian written language, the enlightener Francis Skaryna from Polotsk printed the first among the Eastern Slavs books (Bible translations). You can read more about him and many other great figures of Belarus in our article! The vaults of legal documents — II and III statutes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania — were a classic example of the decorated feudal law of medieval Europe. The territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was called at that time the country of cities and castles.

This period was the most significant in the history of the Belarusian culture: you can find the ruins of castles and entire palaces, museums dedicated to the saved values of that time throughout the country.

History of the culture of Belarus

During the war with Ivan the Terrible, a difficult time came for Belarus. GDL decided to find an ally in the face of the Kingdom of Poland. But because of disagreements, the parties for a long time could not come to a consensus; Then the Polish state annexed most of the land ON, which put the Lithuanian statehood on the brink of destruction. So in 1569, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland united on a federal basis in the so-called. Commonwealth of the Two Nations.

At the end of the 18th century, as a result of the three sections of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (in 1772, 1793 and 1795), almost the entire territory of modern Belarus was ceded to the Russian Empire.

Map of the Russian Empire

Belarus history: tears of the whole country

During the First World War, the territory of Belarus once again became the scene of bloody hostilities: in 1915 Germany occupied its western lands, and since March 1918 - almost the entire territory. On March 25, 1918, representatives of national parties and movements under the conditions of German occupation announced the creation of an independent Belarusian People’s Republic. After the Germans left, the territory was occupied by the Red Army, the BNR government was forced to emigrate, and on January 1, 1919, the Soviet Socialist Republic of Belarus was proclaimed in Smolensk.

In the 1920–1930s industrialization processes were active, new industries and agriculture were formed in Soviet Belarus. It was a period of exaltation of machines and new technologies on a pedestal, while cultures were pushed to the rear: a black milestone for the Church, forbidden books, speakers.

Tragedy of the Second World War in Belarus

But the real hell came to the lands of Belarus during the Second World War. Several years of hard struggle led to victory, but Belarus lost a huge number of people in it. On the territory of Belarus, the German occupiers created 260 concentration camps, in which about 1.4 million civilians and Soviet prisoners of war were killed. From the territory of Belarus, the Nazis took 399,374 people to work in Germany.

VETLIVA tells: one of the most significant historical monuments of this war was the village of Khatyn, completely burned together with the inhabitants. Now you can visit it as part of the tour and truly feel the horror and grief of the Belarusians at that time.

During the war years, Belarus lost about a third of the population (34% of the country's pre-war population in its current borders — 3 million people), the country lost more than half of its national wealth. 209 cities, towns, regional centers and more than 9 thousand villages have been fully or partially destroyed.

Brest Fortress

History of Belarus: the dawn will come

Despite the moral and physical decline in the country, it was still inhabited by people ready to live and develop. In the 1950 – 1970-ies. the country's recovery was proceeding rapidly, industry and agriculture were rapidly developing. The economy of Belarus was a key part of the national economy of the USSR, Belarus was called the "assembly shop" of the Soviet economy.

The political processes of the late 1980s – early 1990s. led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the communist system. On July 27, 1990, the Supreme Council of the BSSR adopted the Declaration of State Sovereignty. September 19, 1991 Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR) was renamed the Republic of Belarus. In December 1991, as a result of the Bialowieza Accords, Belarus entered the Commonwealth of Independent States. On March 15, 1994, the Supreme Council adopted the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, according to which it was declared a unitary democratic social state of law. In accordance with the Constitution, the Republic of Belarus is a presidential republic.

VETLIVA reminds: the Soviet period left an indelible imprint on the culture of the country. The architecture of buildings with all its appearance reminds of that time. Wanna see it with your own eyes? So it’s high time to conquer the sights of Minsk!

The Songs of Old Europe

Belarus history: back to the future

So we went back to where we started from: now. In fact, now you have seen only the highest point of the iceberg, which can be seen on the water history of Belarus. And what is under the horizon line is beyond your words! Belarusian history is endowed with both light and dark moments, the development of culture and technology. And since people make up history, if you want to learn more about Belarus, talk to the locals and contact VETLIVA for help: we will tell and show everything through the most interesting excursions!

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A brief history of Belarus: back to the past