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History

A thousand-year history of Belarus is part of the pan-Slavic, European and global civilizations. About 100 thousand years ago, the first people appeared on the lands that Belarus occupies today. In the Neolithic era, pottery appears, stone mining develops, agriculture, animal husbandry and trade in the form of barter begin.

The Indo-Europeans who came to the lands of Belarus contributed to the transition to the Bronze Age. A late-bodied community developed, and the rudiments of property inequality appeared. Agriculture and livestock breeding were becoming more productive, tools of labor were being improved. Artifacts related to the Bronze Age were found throughout the territory of Belarus. There were settlements in the basins of the Dnieper, Dvina and Pripyat rivers during the Iron Age (8th–7th centuries BC – 8th century AD) on the territory of modern Belarus.

In the 2nd–5th centuries AD, the first Slavic tribes came to Belarusian lands, mixing with the local Baltic population. As a result of assimilation, three dominant communities were formed: Krivichi, Dregovichi and Radimichi. The first Belarusian principality of Polotsk, with the capital of Polotsk, appeared on the territory of the settlement of Krivichi. According to the chronicles, the first prince was Rogvolod (10th century). Under the reign of the legendary Vseslav the Sorcerer, the principality reached the peak of its power. At the end of the 10th century another major principality of Turov appeared. Like the one of Polotsk, it was under the control of the Kiev rulers for some time. Getting rid of their power, mighty principalities broke up into small parts, and feudal disunity reigned. Feudalism spread on the lands of Belarus in the 10th–12th centuries, not displacing, however, completely the elements of slavery and the communal system.

With the coming of Christianity from Byzantium, a cultural upraise began, in particular, the development of religious architecture, the construction of stone churches, the development of religious painting and writing.

The Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) that appeared in the 13th–14th centuries with its capital in Novogrudok was a powerful state, confronting external threats. Later the center of the GDL moved to Vilno, which is now known as Vilnius. The Belarusian language was considered the state language in the principality, and the Slavic principles determined the political structure and cultural development.

At the end of the summer of 1385, the Krevo Union, a dynastic union between the GDL and the Polish Kingdom, was adopted. As a result of the union, borders of the united state at the expense of Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian lands expanded to the Black Sea coast. By the middle of the 16th century, its political order was formed. Its foundations were fixed by the Statutes of 1529, 1566 and 1588.

In the Middle Ages, Belarus was called the "castle country": there were fortified cities and towns every 20–30 km, under the protection of which the surrounding population was gathered.

The Livonian War led to the deterioration of the GDL, and as a result, in 1569 the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland united in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with Stephen Báthory at the head.

It was the beginning of a new epoch in Belarusian history. The GDL preserved its name and the right to issue local laws, mint coins and have internal management and judicial bodies, some of the most important state posts and the army.

The GDL had its own seals with the symbols of the state (the image of "Pahonia" in the Principality and the "Eagle" in Poland). The language of the official record keeping was the Old Belorussian in the GDL, and Polish and Latin in Poland.

In the 16th century, the Renaissance and the Reformation (the second half of the 16th – the middle of the 17th century) came to Belarusian lands, and Protestant communities appeared in the cities. At the same time, distinctions between the upper and lower strata of society were clearly formed.

In the second half of the 18th century, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth entered a period of a deep political crisis. The state was torn by internal contradictions and was constantly drawn into wars. In the Commonwealth, Belarusian lands survived the devastating wars and were weakened and devastated.

In 1772, the first partition of the Commonwealth took place, and some of the lands of the federal state became part of the Russian Empire. In 1793 and 1795, there were two more partitions, after which the Commonwealth ceased to exist and disappeared from the political map. The act of abdication of the crown by the last king of the Commonwealth, Stanislaw August Poniatowski, was signed on November 25, 1795 at the New Royal Castle in Grodno.

The Russian government began to carry out the policy of the Russification actively on its new territories. At the end of the 18th century – the beginning of the 19th century, Belarusian lands were divided into two Governorates: Belarusian (Vitebsk and Mogilev provinces) and Lithuanian (Minsk, Grodno and Vilno provinces).

At the end of the 18th century, there were several serious conflicts on the territory of Belarus. The uprising 1794, headed by Tadeusz Kosciuszko (1746–1817) and suppressed by Suvorov’s army, was an attempt to save the independence of the Commonwealth and restore the frontier of 1772.

In 1812, Belarusian lands suffered from Napoleon’s troops.

In 1830–1831, there was a national liberation revolt in Poland, Belarus and Lithuania to restore the statehood. After its suppression, the political and economic influence of the nobility and Catholicism was weakened. Cathedrals and monasteries were closed; manors of participants in the uprising were seized. The Vilno University was closed, and the 1588 Statute of the GDL was abolished.

In 1863–1864, there was a national liberation movement against tsarism in Poland, Belarus and Lithuania. In Belarus the revolt was headed by Kastus Kalinowski (1838–1864).

Reforms of the second half of the 19th century contributed to the acceleration of socio-economic development of Belarus, formation of capitalist relations and activation of social and political life.

During the First World War (1914–1918) most of the territory was under the occupation of Germany and was the scene of violent battles between German and Russian troops.

After the victory of the Great October Revolution in November 1917, the Soviet power was established on the entire unoccupied territory of Belarus.

On March 3, 1918, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed to mark the defeat and withdrawal of the Soviet Russia from the First World War.

On March 25, 1918 the Belarusian People′s Republic (BPR) was proclaimed.

On January 1, 1919 the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed, which in 1922 became a member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

On March 18, 1921, the Treaty of Riga was signed, which ended the Soviet-Polish war (1919–1921). The treaty established the boundaries between the RSFSR, the Ukrainian SSR, the BSSR and Poland. As a result, the lands of Western Belarus were transferred to Poland.

In 1939, Western Belarus was reunited with the BSSR.

Nearly a thousand industrial enterprises were built in Belarus in the pre-war period, about 900 were reconstructed. Science, national culture and art developed. However, mass political repressions affected all segments of the population, and more than 86 thousand Belarusians suffered from them.

In June 1941, Belarus was one of the Soviet republics where the Nazis' invasion began and became again the arena of devastating and violent battles. The entire territory of Belarus was occupied by German fascist troops.

During the Great Patriotic War, the partisan movement was widely deployed on the territory of Belarus. It became an important factor, forcing the Nazis to maintain a significant contingent there and facilitating the early release of Belarus. The eastern regions of Belarus were liberated by the Soviet Army in the autumn of 1943, and the entire republic in the summer of 1944, during the operation “Bagration”. During the war years, Belarus lost about a third of the population (34% of the pre-war population, i.e. 3 million people in its current borders), more than a half of national wealth. 209 cities, towns, district centers and more than 9 thousand villages were fully or partially destroyed. More than 380 thousand people were taken to Germany. On the territory of Belarus, there were 260 death camps and their branches, in which about 1.4 million civilians and Soviet prisoners of war were killed.

During the Great Patriotic War, the symbols of the courage of Belarusian people were the Brest Fortress, which was awarded the title of the Hero Fortress, and Khatyn, which keeps the memory of Belarusian villages burnt by the Nazis.

The post-war period in the history of Belarus was marked by the following events:

1945: Belarus was admitted to the founding members of the United Nations (UN).

1946: the Supreme Council of the BSSR adopted the Law on the five-year plan for the restoration and development of the national economy of the republic for 1946–1950 of infrastructure, cities, and villages of the republic. One of the main directions of the industrial development of postwar Belarus was the accelerated growth of machine building and metalworking.

1954: Belarus joined the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). 

In the late 1950s – early 1960s, there was the beginning of the "space era" in the USSR. Belarusians P.I. Klimuk and V.V. Kovalyonok became cosmonauts and made a direct contribution to the exploration of outer space.

April 1986: an accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, as a result of which a significant territory of Belarus suffered.

On July 27, 1990, the Supreme Council of the BSSR adopted the Declaration on the State Sovereignty of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic.

On August 25, 1991, the Declaration on the State Sovereignty of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic acquired the status of the constitutional law, which in fact proclaimed the independence of the BSSR.

70 years in the Soviet Union have significantly changed the image of Belarus, turning it from the agrarian outskirts of the Russian Empire into an industrialized republic. Such industrial giants as the Belarusian Automobile Plant (BelAP), the Minsk Automobile Plant (MAP), the Minsk Tractor Plant (MTP), the Belarusian Metallurgical Plant (BMP), Belaruskali were created.

On September 19, 1991, the name of the state – the Republic of Belarus – was adopted.

On December 8, 1991, it was officially announced that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of the USSR ceased to exist at the meeting of the heads of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus in Viskuli (Brest region).

In the early 1990s, a number of leading organizations and institutions of the Republic of Belarus were given the status of national

On March 15, 1994, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Belarus adopted a new Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, which introduced the institution of the presidency.

In 1994, the first elections of the President of the Republic of Belarus took place. Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko was elected Belarus President.

On June 7, 1995, the Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus, the new National Emblem and the National Flag of the Republic of Belarus were approved.

On November 24, 1996, according to the results of the republican referendum, the current Constitution of the Republic of Belarus was amended and supplemented.

On December 8, 1999, the Treaty on the creation of the Union State of Belarus and Russia was signed, the Program of actions for the implementation of its provisions was adopted.

On October 10, 2000, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan signed an agreement on the formation of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC).

On November 27, 2009, the heads of three states – Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia – signed documents on the establishment of the Customs Union on January 1, 2010.

On November 18, 2011, the Declaration on Eurasian Economic Integration was adopted, and on January 1, 2012, the agreement between Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan on the Common Economic Space (CES) entered into force.

On May 29, 2014, the agreement on the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union was signed in Astana by the presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.

On January 1, 2015, the agreement on the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union, which was joined by the Republic of Armenia, came into force.

On January 15, 2016, the first Belarusian telecommunications satellite Belintersat-1 was successfully launched into space.

From June 21 to 30, 2019, the Republic of Belarus hosted the II European Games. This continent’s largest multisports forum was attended by over 4,000 athletes from 50 countries who played 200 sets of awards in 15 sports.

The Republic of Belarus as an independent state takes an active part in major international events and maintains friendly relations with a number of countries in Europe, Northern and Southern Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia.

Links to the Internet resources

Archives of Belarus

Belarus in the First World War

Belarusian State Museum of the Great Patriotic War

The Нistory and Сulture Museum-Reserve "Zaslaŭje"

Hrodna State Historical and Archeological Museum

Institute of Нistory of the National  Academy of Sciences  of Belarus

National Historical Museum of the Republic of Belarus

100 days to the Great Victory

Polotsk National Historical and Cultural Museum-Reserve

State memorial complex "Khatyn"

The year 1812 in the history of Belarus

Underground and Partisan Press of Belarus

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