After the Tatar raids on the region, the Swedes and
Russians fought with the Poles and
Lithuanians to control the land the Belarusians
lived in. This slow crumbling of the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom began in the mid-1600s
and ended in the late 1700s when the country was partitioned by the Russians, Prussians,
and Austrians; most of the Belarusian people fell under
Russian rule in 1795.
After the Russians took over the region they tried to expel
Polish influence by Rusifying the
Belarusians. The Russians implemented a number of changes and tried to make
the people view themselves as Russian, but instead the Belarusian people, for the
first time, found an independent identity that was neither Polish nor Russian.
The 1800s brought the industrial revolution to the region and destroyed all remnants
of the feudal system, including the freeing of all serfs. These changes were followed
by many Belarusians fleeing the region to find a better
During World War I the Germans took over much of the
Belarusians, but by war's end the Germans fell and the Belarusians were
quickly retaken by the Russians, under their new Soviet government.
At first this relationship was cordial, but under Josef Stalin in the 1930s the
Belarusians, like many ethnic minorities, were severely condemned as Russia's
culture and language was forced upon the people. Their difficulties continued during
World War II (WWII) when the Germans ruthlessly destroyed the land and the Soviets
came back through, acting in much the same way. During this time most of the Jews
and Poles in the region left or were killed.