Belarusian (Беларуская мова / Bielaruskaja mova)
Belarusian is an Eastern Slavonic language with about 7.5 million speakers
in Belarus. It is closely related to Russian and Ukrainian. Most Belarusians
are bilingual in Belarusian and Russian.
The country now known as the Belarus was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
from the mid 13th century until the end of the 18th century. An archaic
form of Belarusian known as "Old Belarusian" was the offical language
of the Grand Duchy and and was initially written with the Cyrillic alphabet.
Due to the domination of the Greek Orthodox Church in the region,
the written form of Belarusian was heavily influenced by Church
Slavonic, the liturgical language of the Orthodox church.
During the 16th century a Reformation and Counter-Reformation led to
the purging of Church Slavonic elements from literary Belarusian. It
was also during this period that handwritten Belarusian texts started to appear in
the Latin alphabet (Lacinka). The earliest known printed Belarusian
text in the Latin alphabet appeared in Witanie na Pierwszy Wiazd z Krolowca
do Kadlubka Saskiego Wilenskiego, a Jesuite anti-Lutheran publication
published in Wilno in 1642.
The Russian invasion of 1654-1667 caused to the destruction of many
Belarusian cities and the deaths of about half the population,
including 80% of the urban population. By 1710, Old Belarusian was
replaced by Polish as the official language of the region, however
Belarusian continued to appear in writing in a limited way.
During the late 19th century, Belarusian, written in the Latin
alphabet, started to emerge as a literary language closer to its
modern form. It took many years for people to agree on a standard
spelling system: some favoured Polish-based systems, some prefered
Russian-based systems and others used systems based on the Belarusian
version of the Latin alphabet. Eventually a compromise was reached
which combines elements from all these systems. It was during this
time that Belarusian started to be written with the Cyrillic alphabet
During the early 20th century, many Belarusian publications were
printed in both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. After the Soviet
invasion of eastern Belarus in 1919-1920, the Cyrillic alphabet became the
only alphabet used in official writings. Meanwhile in western Belarus,
the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets continued to coexist, though after
1943 the majority of publications were printed in the Cyrillic
alphabet. One notable exception was publications written by Belarusian
emigrés, who favoured the Latin alphabet.
Since Belarus gained independence in 1991, efforts have been made to
revive Belarus writing in the Latin alphabet. One major problem
is that nobody can agree on a spelling system.
Belarusian has also been written with the Arabic script by
Belarusian Tartars and with the Hebrew script by Belarusian Jews.
Cyrillic alphabet for Belarusian (Беларускі кірылічны альфабэт)
The letter in parenthesis was abolished by the Soviet reform of 1933,
but is still used by some people.
Latin alphabet for Belarusian (Biełaruskaja łacinskaja abeceda)
The letters W and X are also used to write foreign names.
Sample text in Belarusian (Cyrillic alphabet)
аднаго ў духу
Sample text in Belarusian (Latin alphabet)
Usie ludzi naradžajucca svabodnymi i roŭnymi ŭ
svajoj hodnasci i pravach. Jany nadzieleny rozumam i sumleńniem i
pavinny stavicca adzin da adnaho ŭ duchu bractva.
Hear a recording of this text by Yuri from Belarus
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Information about Belarusian |
Belarusian phrases |
Tower of Babel in Belarusian
Information about the Belarusian language
Details of the Latin alphabet for Belarusian (source of much of the information on this page):
Online Belarusian lessons
Learn Belarusian with Glossika Mass Sentences
Belarusian learning software
Online resources for learning Belarusian (in Russian)
Belarusian transliteration and spell check
Online Belarusian radio
Online Belarusian news
Free Cyrillic fonts
Old Church Slavonic,
Other languages written with the Cyrillic and