More than four in five people identify themselves as Belarusians (Belarusians). Of the minority groups, the Russians are the most; almost every tenth resident is of Russian descent. However, the boundary between Belarusians and Russians is vague and the Russian language is used more than the Belarussian.
Many Russians were forcibly recommended to Belarus (Belarus) during the 1940s and 1950s, when there was a shortage of manpower as a result of Soviet Union leader Josef Stalin deporting many Belarusians to the east. During the Soviet era (1920–1991), the authorities also actively sought to mix the peoples of the different republics with each other.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Belarus, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
Besides the Russians, Poles and Ukrainians are the largest minority groups. Poles live mainly in the western parts of the country. They have largely retained their traditions and their Catholic religion.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Jews were the second largest ethnic group in the country. They dominated in several cities. The Nazi extermination of the Jews during World War II and the subsequent emigration, which increased after independence in 1991, have meant that the Jews are now few in Belarus.
Heavy population decline
In total, the country is estimated to have lost at least a quarter of its population during the Second World War. It was not until the 1970s that the number of residents was at the same level as before the war. Since Belarus became independent, the population has decreased by close to one million, to just over 9.5 million. The reason is increased mortality, lower birth rates and emigration.
Nearly two million Belarusians live abroad. They are found mainly in the area of the former Soviet Union, in Poland as well as in Western Europe and North America.
Belarus has been relatively spared from the ethnic contradictions that have characterized many other former Soviet republics. However, Jews testify to anti-Semitism, which has contributed to the great emigration. The Israeli press has estimated the number of remaining Jews to be around 20,000, but also noted that there are Jews among the most well-off in business who have benefited from the regime’s investments in the IT field.
It is estimated that there are close to 60,000 Roma in the country. They are subject to extensive discrimination with limited access to education and extremely high unemployment.
Belarusians, like Ukrainian and Russian, are an East Slavic language, but it has a great influence on Polish who are West Slavic. The three East Slavic languages have all evolved from ancient times and have great similarities with each other. All are written in Cyrillic letters.
During the Soviet era, the Belarusian language gradually gave way to Russian, which became the dominant language. Belarussians have long lived a thinning life and many intellectuals feared that the language was dying out. However, it received a renaissance during the national awakening in the late 1980s. Although only 10–20 percent of the population had Belarusian as their mother tongue, it was proclaimed the country’s official language in 1990. An effort was made to introduce it as the main language in schools and public contexts. 1995 also became Russian official language and then Belarusians were allowed to resign, despite continuing to teach courses in Belarus around the country.
The country’s president Aleksandr Lukashenko (Aljaksandr Lukashenka) generally speaks Russian or a widespread mixed language known as Trashanka, but in the summer of 2015 he delivered for the first time part of a political speech in Belarusian.
The proportion that identifies itself as Belarusians increased somewhat between the 1999 and 2009 census, and a further few percentage points to 2019, when almost 84 per cent saw themselves as Belarusians, at the expense of all other groups. At the same time, the proportion of those who indicated Belarus as mother tongue or everyday language decreased. In 2019, just over 23 percent stated Belarusian as their first language, while 70 percent said that they are Russian-speaking.
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
Belarusians 83.7%, Russians 8.3%, Poles 3.1%, Ukrainians 1.7%, others 3.2%
Number of residents
9 507 875 (2017)
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
78.1 percent (2017)
Nativity / birth
12.4 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
12.6 per 1000 residents (2016)
0.1 percent (2017)
1.7 number of births per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
53.5 percent (2017)
74 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
79 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
69 years (2016)
Belarusian (Belarusian) and Russian are official languages 1
- Otherwise, Polish and Ukrainian sources, among others, are spoken
Lukashenko visits EU countries
Lukashenko participates in an economic forum in neighboring Lithuania. This is his first visit to an EU country following the signing of the Eastern Partnership Agreement (see May).
Opposition arrested during demonstration
Several opposition activists and politicians are arrested during a demonstration in Minsk.
The EU disappointed in Belarus
The EU expresses disappointment at the lack of reforms in Belarus, especially when it comes to human rights.
Relations with Russia are shattering
Relations with Russia are shattering. Belarus suspends its participation in a meeting in Russia on regional security cooperation.
Lukashenko invited to EU meeting
The EU invites Lukashenko to its summit on the so-called Eastern Partnership Agreement. The Belarusian opposition is critical and considers itself deceived.
The central bank announces a 20 percent devaluation of the Belarusian ruble against the US dollar.