Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Belarusians, also spelt Belarusans, Belarussians, Byelorussians and Belorussians are a distinct ethnic group of East Slavs who are the major population of Belarus, also being minorities in the neighboring Poland (especially Bialystok province), Russia, Lithuania and Ukraine. Noticeable numbers are in emigration in the USA and Canada.
The prefix "Bela" can be translated into 'White' so these people were sometimes called White Russians though not to be confused with the political group of white Russians that opposed Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War. This name was in use in the west for some time in history, together with White Ruthenes, White Ruthenians and similar forms. See Ruthenia#Belarusians. Using the form "White Russians" is considered offensive and misleading by many Belarusians as it incorrectly suggests being a subgroup of Russians.
The Belarusian people trace their distinct culture to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Rus' and Samogitia and earlier. For quite a long time they were mostly known under the name of Litvins (Lithuanians), which refers to the state of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (Litva, Vialikaja Litva) of which the White Ruthenian lands were part of since the 12th century.
After Russian Revolution Belarusians had their own state, of varying degree of independency (Belarus National Republic under German occupation, and Byelorussian SSR since 1919, included into the USSR in 1922). In 1991 Belarus gained full independence after the leaders of Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia declared the dissolution of the Soviet Union. However, because of political bonds, Belarusian economy still remains largely dependent on Russia.
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