Destinations » Europe
» Eastern Europe »
is literally translated from Russian or Belarusian to mean "White Rus,"
with Rus being a reference to the ancestors of today's Eastern Slavs. Why these
people were called "white" is unknown but it seems likely this adjective
was given to them because they were Christian (so saw the light), due to light-colored
clothing the people wore, or because they were never taken over by the Tatars and
hence this region was called "white Russia."
Belarus has always been a nearly forgotten land and this begins with its people
who are humble and have created a culture and lifestyle based on the lands. These
swampy lands have made for some good farming, but in other areas little land of
use. For nearly as long as the Belarusians have exists the people have been focused
on these lands for survival. However, the swamps have made the people divided and
rural and cities are only a thing of the present, which is experiencing a quickly
changing Belarusian culture.
Due to geography, the Belarusians have lived simple lives as most people spent their
time in the fields with their crops and animals, while family was the center of
free time. Over time changes occurred in the region, but few with great significance
other than Christianity, which has long been an important part of the culture and
lifestyle. As foreign powers took over the region and people little changed as the
Belarusians lacked an upper class or aristocracy so power was held by foreigners
as the Belarusians continued to work the fields.
The major changes for the Belarusian people didn't begin until the Russians
took control. During earlier rulers taxes, power, and politics changed, but Belarusian
culture and lifestyle remained fairly stable. However, the Russians changed the
culture to a great degree as their similarities, including linguistic similarities,
led to better communication between the groups and hence great influence from one
culture to the next.
Russian control led to cultural changes, but also to a greater Belarusian identity.
This ended when the Soviets took over and began to destroy the culture of the Belarusians.
The Russian language was forced on the people as religion was destroyed and the
people were forced to urbanize as jobs moved from agriculture to industry in large
numbers. Although religion has since returned, as have other aspects of the culture,
today many Belarusians only speak Russian and the urban lifestyle has become popular
and the only place to find jobs in significant numbers.
Today the Belarusians are still changing their culture, lifestyle, and identity.
Due to the Soviet past and close ties to Russia today there are still many shared
cultural similarities to this past culture and the current Russian people. However,
the people are again seeking to re-define themselves as their path forward is uncertain
and the cultural battles are ever-present.
Learn More About Belarus:
Map of Belarus: