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Historical Introduction

Soviet legacy: Belarus´s pupils hold red flags prior to an admission ceremony as pioneers members, former Communist youth organization of the Soviet Union for children aged 10 to 14 in a WWII museum in Minsk, 03 May 2007. AFP

The Republic of Belarus was proclaimed in Minsk on 25th March 1918, but enjoyed a mere six months of independence before being conquered by the Red Army. A Soviet Socialist Republic of Belarus was established on 1st January 1919 and incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1922, thus ending the independence of Belarus. Communist takeover was accompanied by extensive terror against people accused of cooperation with „public enemies“ or seen as a potential threat to the regime. Belarus took a heavy blow when its independent peasantry was wiped out during the 1930-31 forced collectivization. To „eliminate kulaks as a class”, more than 20,000 families or some 100,000 people were deported to Siberia. Hundreds were convicted and executed. Tens of thousands were arrested during the Soviet „great terror“ of 1936-38 and thousands were executed by shooting. Great damage was done to institutions vital to the Belarusian culture. For example, 140 members of the Academy of Sciences were arrested and 42 of them shot. A majority of Belarusian writers were arrested and many were later executed. A new wave of terror, and new mass deportations, struck Belarus in 1939-41. To replace the population deported to Siberia, settlers were brought from other areas of the Soviet Union, leading to russification and the loss of national identity. It has not been restored to date, although Belarus regained independence in 1991.