views updated


ETHNONYMS: Belorussians, Byelorussians, White Russians


Identification. Belarussians are a majority in the nation of Belarus. Large groups of Belarussians also live in Russia, the Baltic states, Kazakhstan, and the Ukraine. The overall population of Belarussians in the territory of the former USSR was 10,036,000 in 1991. In Poland, the United States, Canada, Argentina, and Australia there are from 300,000 to 2 million people of Belarussian ancestry, according to different estimates. Linguistically the Belarussians belong to the East Slavic Subgroup of the Indo-European Language Family.

Location. The ethnic territory of the Belarussians occupies the westernmost part of the eastern European plain in the basin of the western Dvina River, the middle Dnieper, and the upper Neman. The peculiarities of the landscape were formed under the influence of the anthropogenic ice. Alternation of hills and plains with glacial low grounds, often covered with lakes or swamps, is typical. The peculiarities of Belarus's mild continental climate are determined by the heavy influence of air masses from the Atlantic. The average annual temperature ranges from 7.4° C in the southwest to 4.4° C in the northeast; the amount of rain and snow ranges from 52 to 71 centimeters per year. The period of vegetation is 180 to 208 days. A characteristic feature of the hydrography is the abundance of lakes (over 10,000); the largest is Narotch (79.6 square kilometers). The predominant type of soil is turf-ash (up to 60 percent), and approximately 5 percent is turf-humus with a large percentage of humus. Marshlands make up nearly 20 percent of the territory and swamps 12 percent; over 30 percent of the territory is forest. Among trees, pines are the most common (56.5 percent); broad-leaved ones (oak, hornbeam, maple) constitute almost 5 percent. The fauna are typical of the forest zone of Europe. A peculiar representative of the fauna is the relict animal bison bonasus, whose picture is often used to symbolize Belarus.

Demography. Sharp fluctuations of the population level, caused by social and political events, characterize the demographic history of Belarus. In the middle of the seventeenth century Belarus lost more than 50 percent of its inhabitants, in the beginning of the eighteenth century up to 30 percent, and in the beginning of the nineteenth century 12 to 15 percent. In the period during World War I and the civil war the population was diminished by 18 percent; the Stalin genocide and World War II took the lives of 40 percent of the population. Currently, demographic dynamics are determined by the combination of a low birth rate and a low death rate, with natural growth at 4.9 percent. The average life span is 71.7 years. Urban residents constituted 66 percent of the population in 1991. Besides Belarussians, Russians (1,342,00013.2 percent), Poles (418,0004.1 percent), Ukrainians (291,0002.9 percent) and Jews (112,0001.1 percent) live in Belarus.

Linguistic Affiliation. Seventy-one percent of Belarussians living in the territory of the former USSR, 64 percent of Poles, and 5.5 percent of Ukrainians residing in the Republic of Belarus consider Belarussian their mother tongue. Many phonetic, grammatical, and lexical peculiarities bring Belarussian close to Russian and, even more, to Ukrainian. Peculiar phonetic features include the affricates dz and is appearing in place of the soft d' and t '; nonsyllabic y in place of the etymological I and v; hard r ; proteic sounds v before labial vowels; a, i before consonant clusters; hardening of labial vowels before j and in word-final position; and lengthening of consonants before j and between vowels. In morphology, features include the alternations between c, k, and x and z, g, and s in words of feminine gender; dropping of the final t in the third-person singular present verb forms; gender distinctions in the declension of numerals; and dropping of the final y in adjectives, participles, and ordinal numerals in the nominative masculine forms. Syntactic peculiarities of Belarussian include preference for descriptive constructions over participial ones. The lexicon is composed of words of Common Slavic and Indo-European origin, Belarussian neologisms, and borrowings from Polish, Latin, German, Lithuanian, and Tatar languages.

Two main dialects of the Belarussian language can be distinguished: the Northeastern (the Polotsk and Vietbsk-Mogilev group of dialects) and the Southwestern (the Grodno-Baranovichi and Slutsk-Mozir dialects). There is also a transitional group of middle Belarussian dialects between them. Especially distinctive is the West Polesk dialect region, the dialects of which come close in many phonetic and grammatic features to the northwestern Ukrainian dialects. The modern literary language has been formed on the basis of the transitional middle Belarussian dialects, the writing system mostly on the basis of the Cyrillic alphabet. In the period between the sixteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries the Polish version of the Latin alphabet was also used.

History and Cultural Relations

The early stage of the ethnogenesis of Belarussians is linked to the Slavic colonization of eastern Europe in the seventh to ninth centuries a.d., which was accompanied by the assimilation of the ancient Baltic population. Tenth-to twelfth-century sources register several ethnic formations on the territory of Belarus, the identities of which are still in dispute: Slavic Kriviches in the northeast, Dregoviches in the center and south, Radimiches in the southeast, and Baltic speakers in the southwest. In the eleventh to thirteenth centuries they were replaced by territorial entities"lands" (zemli ) and kingdoms. The local group of Kriviches, Polochans who were centered in Polotsk (the city was first mentioned in 862), established the earliest of these kingdoms. During the period of its prime (eleventh to twelfth centuries) the Polotsk Kingdom became one of the three largest political and cultural centers of East Slavs. The conversion of the population of Belarus to Christianity, which began at the turn of the tenth to eleventh centuries, contributed to the development of the culture. In the thirteenth to fourteenth centuries the Belarussian and Lithuanian lands were united into the Great Kingdom of Lithuania, Russia, and Zemotia. Its creation allowed both nations to retain their political independence in the struggle against the Tatar-Mongol invasion and the German expansion. Historic Lithuaniaa region in the northwest of Byelorus with a mixed Slavic and Baltic populationbecame the center of the new state. Belarussians made up the majority of the population of the kingdom, and their language, peculiarities of which are noted in written documents beginning in the thirteenth century, became official.

In connection with east Belarussian lands, White Rus was first mentioned in the beginning of the fourteenth century. In the sixteenth to seventeenth centuries the names "Byelorus," "Belarus," and the self-name, "Belarussians," had finally became associated with the territories of the Vitebsk, Mogilev, and Smolensk regions. There are several interpretations of the etymology of the name. It is linked to the predominance of the color white in the traditional costume, the fair anthropological type, independence from Tatars in the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, the relatively early adoption of Christianity relative to the other regionBlack Russia, to the west of the ethnic territory of Belarussians. The term "Polessje" was used for the southern part of Byelorus from the thirteenth century on. In the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries the Belarussians created a complex system of ethnonymic names, which combined local territorial forms (Belarussians, Chernorussians, Litvins, Paleshuks) with confessional (Litvins-Catholics and Ruthens-Orthodox) and common-state (Litvins) forms that were independent of the place of residence or confession. The name "Litvins," as applied to Belarussians, became accepted by Poles, Russians, and Belarussians in the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries. Lithuanians called the Belarussians "Gudasi" and the Latvians called them "Krives."

Belarussian Renaissance culture attained its zenith at the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth centuries. The marked transformation of traditional state structures contributed to this process: trade was developing rapidly because of the disintegration of communal agriculture beginning in the middle of the sixteenth century; the peasantry became involved in the trade network, and the number of cities and the urban population increased. The development of printing in Belarussian (1517), the spread of Protestantism and humanistic ideology, the creation of an extensive network of educational establishmentsall promoted the process of national consolidation, the codification of literary language, and the formation of ethnic self-consciousness.

The continuing expansion of the Moscow kingdom, however, forced the Great Kingdom of Lithuania to enter into a federal union with Poland. The creation of a new state"Retch Pospolitaja"together with the development of the Counter-Reformation, led to a noticeable strengthening of the position of the Catholic church and Polish culture, especially among the landed aristocracy. In 1596 in Brest the church Unia was proclaimed, as a result of which the Orthodox church, although retaining its rituals, became part of the Catholic church. In the first half of the seventeenth century Belarussian gradually lost its dominant position in the social sphere. The war with Russia (1654-1667) led to a catastrophic loss of population, mainly in the urban areas, and to the final ethnocultural separation of the feudal elite from the peasantry. This conversion of Belarussians into a "small" nation with an incomplete social structure greatly complicated the process of national consolidation in the ninteenth to twentieth centuries.

The slow rate of national formation was also determined by a number of other factors. The occupation of Belarus by Russia toward the end of the eighteenth century slowed down social and economic developmentup to the beginning of the 1960s. In the nineteenth century almost 80 percent of the population were peasants. The Russian administration enacted a policy of assimilation with regard to the Belarussians, who were considered a separate ethnic group, but part of the Russian nation, "spoiled" by Polish influence. In 1839 the Uniate church was abolished. The Belarussian political movement was repressed. The anti-Russian insurrection of 1863-1864 had a national character; on its eve the Belarussian primer and a landestine newspaper (1862) were published. Between 1860 and 1870 a Belarussian political organization of Socialist trend was formed in St. Petersburg. In its journal Gomon the main postulates of national ideology were presented in full for the first time. National ideology started to form in the 1910s. The appearance of literary works in Belarussian can be traced to this period.

Toward the end of the nineteenth century the structure of Belarussian ethnic self-consciousness underwent considerable change. The terms "Belarussian" and "Belarussians" replaced most local names. The name "Lithuania" at this time stabilized in its use relative to the Lithuanian ethnic territory. Belarussians did not have a national identity and were affected by religious tensions between Catholic Poles and Orthodox Russians. retained its importance. In the northwest the self-name "Tuteishia" (locals) was relatively widespread. National consciousness per se was common only among the relatively narrow stratum of intellectuals. In 1903 national parties appeared. In 1906 legal newspapers and publishing houses and national artistic culture took shape rapidly. The sign of the maturity of this Belarussian movement was the declaration of a national statethe Belarussian Peoples Republic (February to November 1918) and the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (January 1919 to August 1991). These events, however, could not prevent the disruption of the territorial integrity of the Belarussians. In 1919 the lands of East Byelorussia were alienated by the Communist leadership in favor of Russia, and in 1921 West Byelorussia was given to Poland.

Despite this, the 1920s became the period of the highest national activity in the history of Belarussian people. The relatively liberal character of the political regime of that time allowed the creation of a national infrastructure in the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR): a system of public education, including university education; mass media; artistic culture; and research institutions. The Belarussian language was granted its dominant role constitutionally. At this time the Belarussian national movement within the territory of Poland was particularly extensive. As a result of the establishment of a totalitarian regime in the USSR by the end of the 1920s, the ethnic crisis of Belarussians became global. By the 1930s the national intellectual elite was near complete destruction, the use of Belarussian was restricted, and Belarussian history was rewritten. As a consequence of the Soviet-German division of Poland, West Byelorussia was returned to the BSSR. This event was accompanied by mass repressions against the activists of the national movement and mass deportations.

A considerable acceleration in Russification in the postwar period entailed the replacement of the Belarussian language in the official sphere and in education. By the beginning of the 1960s Russian-based culture occupied a dominant position in urban life. Its high social status determined a rapid deethnicization of migrants from the rural areas during the period of great urbanization of the 1960s through the 1980s. The dominating Communist ideology, which was oriented toward an integration of nations, was the vehicle of this unimpeded development.

By the middle of the 1980s practically all the structures that provided the ethnocultural identity of Belarussians were either destroyed or heavily deformed. There was not a single Belarussian school left in the cities. The Belarussian language was retained only by a small number of intellectuals and in the rural areas. On a mass level, national self-consciousness lost its ethnic identity and acquired instead an administrative-regional character. The national artistic culture, which was retained by the regime for purposes of propaganda, lost its link with the consumer and turned into a self-contained system. At the same time, in the 1970s the first signs of a national rebirth of the Belarussian became apparent. At first, this took the form of cultural resistance to the regime by the intellectual elite. In the beginning of the 1980s the first informal national-cultural educational organizations appeared, and in 1988 political organizations (the Belarussian National Front) appeared, as did an uncensored mass press. The development of the national democratic movement resulted in the restoration of the Belarussian language as the official one, the declaration of independence in 1990, and a noticeable growth of national self-consciousness on a mass scale. In September 1991 the new nameRepublic of Belaruswas adopted, and the white-red flag and the coat of arms "Pogona" were introduced as national symbols.


Classical descriptions of the traditional culture of the Belarussians date back to the second half of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. At this time peasants constituted almost 90 percent of the total population of Belarus, and their life-style remained relatively unchanged under the influence of the urbanized culture. Typical rural settlements were small household villages (5 to 100 households) and villages whose distinctive features were a church, school, or local administration. They were of several types: nonsystematic (the oldest), linear, and street. Also widespread were settlements of the hamlet type, called okolitsi (neighborhoods) where the land-starved nobility (shl'akhta ) lived; folvarki (a complex consisting of a mansion and several peasant households) and peasant hamlets as such existed.

The traditional peasant household included a house (khata ) and numerous household constructions: for the cattle (khlev ) and for the storage of grain (klet'), food (puna), vegetables (istopka), and agricultural tools (povet'). Apart from the house there was a place for threshing grain (gumno ) and a bathhouse (bana ). Two types of household plan became common: a wreathlike plan (in the north and northeast), in which all the buildings were located along the perimeter of the household, creating a closed space, and a straplike plan (in the west), in which all the buildings were constructed in one or two rows under one roof. A free-plan type also existed, with the buildings 10-15 meters from the house. The traditional Belarussian dwelling was a two-or three-room log cabin built of pine or spruce logs. Usually the house was raised off the ground with stones or wooden blocks. Up to the middle of the nineteenth century small houses with two rooms with an earthen or clay floor, arched beam ceiling, and a stove with no chimney were prevalent. Later on there appeared chimneys, hardwood floors, and flat, board roofs with one or two longitudinal beams. The roofs were two-or four-pitched, most frequently of a rafter construction; they were covered with rye or reed thatches, more rarely by shingles or boards.

The traditional architectural decor was noted for its conservatism. It was exemplified by carved window panels and artistic pediments of thin planking (shalevka ). A characteristic feature of the interior of a peasant home was its compositional integrity throughout the whole ethnic territory of the Belarussians. The stove, made of brick, was in the right or left corner by the entrance, and its orifice was turned toward the side wall with windows. A wooden floor for sleeping was built by the stove along the blank wall with no windows. In the "red" cornerthe one diagonally across from the stovethere was a table and above it an icon; next to it there were wide benches. Hanging shelves for kitchenware were attached to the walls. Clothes and linen were kept in wooden trunks. In winter the krosni (a loom) was put in the house and, if necessary, a hanging wooden cradle. The house was lit with a splinter that was fixed on a wooden or metal stand, a suspended metal frame that had its own chimney.


Belarussians are a typical agricultural people. The most important traditional agricultural crops were rye, oats, barley, buckwheat, flax, and from the second half of the eighteenth century, potatoes. The three-field system was the dominating one in agriculture. In the northeast in the second half of the nineteenth century, orchards and horticulture played an important role (for example, cabbages, beets, carrots, maize, legumes, and tobacco). The main agricultural tools were a two-tooth wooden plow of the sokha type and a harrow. Plows had started to appear by the end of the nineteenth century; at first they were wooden, with metal only at the points. In the northeast horses were used as draft animals, and in the southwest oxen were so used. The crop was harvested with the help of a sickle. The scythe was used for hay and to harvest oats, buckwheat, and peas. The stacks of the cut-down crops were tied into sheaves and dried either in the fields or in special buildings. Threshing was done by hand or with the help of wooden staves. Flour was ground in watermills or windmills or sometimes in the household itself with the help of millstones or in wooden mortars.

Animal husbandry traditionally was subordinate to agriculture. Its main purpose was to provide draft animals and, to a lesser degree, to provide dairy or meat products, wool, or leather. Belarussians bred horses, oxen, cows, goats, sheep, and pigs. Most of the year the cattle were fed forage crops; in winter they were kept in special premises. During the period when they were penned in, cattle were most often fed straw; horses and sheep were fed hay; and pigs were given chaff fortified with potatoes and flour.

In the north (Poozerje) and south (Polessye) fishing played an important role in the traditional economy. Nets of various kinds (for example, sweep nets) were in widespread use, as were stationary and mobile traps, harpoons, and hook tackles.

Hunting was much less important. Its objects were boars, moose, deer, and hare. Bear spears, rifles, traps, and snares were used in hunting. Gathering forest and swamp berries, mushrooms, and nettles was an additional economic occupation in summer and autumn. Beekeeping traditionally played an important part in the economy. Boats were the main means of water transportation.

Industrial Arts. Home trades and crafts were an important addition to the main occupations of the Belarussians. The timber industry was oriented toward the production of tools and implements, means of transportation (sleighs and sledges), and household utensils (barrels, churns, cooking appliances, and trunks). Weaving was highly developedlinen, hemp, and wool fabrics for clothes, linen, tablecloths, towels, and bed covers were produced. Such weaving equipment as the distaff (kolovrot ) and the vertical loom (krosni) were widespread. Braiding and plaiting were also widespread. Containers for storing grain and clothes were made out of straw and willow, footgear (lapti ) and bags were made out of bark, household utensils and caskets were made out of tree roots, headgear and toys of straw, and furniture of willow. Usually, there was one blacksmith for several villages. He made the metal parts for agricultural tools, joiner's and fitter's tools, parts of the interior (locks and screens), and furniture. Pottery was highly evolved. Ceramic kitchenwarepots, bowls, and mugswas made and then burnt on potter's wheels. Leather making was also developed to a high degree.

Clothing. Local variations, in the traditional costume of Belarussians were congruent with the composition and style of dress throughout the ethnic territory. The main part of the woman's costume was a tunic shirt (kashul'a ) made of bleached linen fabric. The sleeves, collar, and cuffs of this shirt had an embroidered or fabric ornament, usually of red thread. The skirt (spadnitsa ) was of two kinds: the summer skirt (letnik ) was made of linen, with a fabric ornament of hemp or red wool; the winter skirt (andrak ) was made of wool, checkered or striped, with a red, blue, or dark-green background. In the southeast the archaic form of costume consisting of two separate sheets (poneva ) was retained. A long white linen apron was a necessary part of the costume; it had an ornament and lace. Often a short woolen vest (garset ) was added to the costume. Namitki long linen sheets wrapped in a peculiar way around the head and neckwere a characteristic feature of the woman's costume. The man's costume included a linen shirt and pants made of cloth or wool (spodni ), often also a vest (kamizelka ) and headgeara straw hat (bril ') or a felt cap (magerka ). Men's and women's seasonal clothes consisted of a long, Ukrainian-style outer garment svita made at home out of a white, gray, or (rarely) brown felt wool fabric and decorated with an embroidery of woolen threads. In the cold time of the year men and women wore sheepskins. An ornamented belt woven with woolen threads was a necessary part of the costume. Woven linden or willow lapti were a universal peasant footgear; at the same time leather shoes became popular, too. In winter felt boots were worn. Within the ethnic territory of the Belarussians up to thirty local types of traditional costume were known, differing in the color pattern, technique of weaving, and the character of decorative ornaments.

Food. Cereals constituted the basis of the traditional diet of the Belarussians: bread, blinis, and rye, rye sourdough, oatmeal, buckwheat, and pea-flour pancakes. Cereals formed the basis of kissel or blancmange (zur ), porridge (culaga, saladukha ), and various soups (kalatukha, kulesh ). Potato dishes became a characteristic feature of traditional Belarussian cuisine (there were over 500 different ways of preparing them). Potatoes were fried, baked, or boiled and cooked in a casserole; draniki (pancakes made of minced potatoes) as well as kletsks and dumplings were consumed. Meat, pork mostly, was eaten relatively rarely, primarily on winter holidays. Meat was used to make sausages and aspic, cooked in casseroles in a sauce, and eaten with buckwheat pancakes (machanka ). Dairy products were mostly fresh and sour milk, sour cream, farmer's cheese, and butter. Farmer cheeses became common. Among the traditional beverages there were bread, birch, and linden juice kvass; herbal infusions; and dried-fruit compote (uzvars ). Of alcoholic beverages vodka (garelka ) was the most popular one; beer and mead medovukha were less so. The traditional Belarussian food was seasonal: in winter and in the autumn the food was most nutritious and plentiful; in summer vegetarian food prevailed. Belarussian peasants would usually eat three or four times a day. Breakfast (snedanje ) was very early and nutritious: it included first courses (e.g., soups), a main course, and always porridge. Dinner included several very high-calorie dishes. The afternoon snack (padvacherja ) and supper (vacherja ) were lighter meals, but they also included several courses.

Division of Labor. There was a clear division of labor in the economy of the Belarussians. Men would plow the land; sow and mow; take in the hay and sheaves from the fields; thresh; store timber; construct and repair buildings; make carts, sledges, and boats; and weave iapti (boat shoes) and baskets. The women would reap; harvest hay, hemp, flax, and potatoes; take care of cattle; prepare the food; and provide the family with clothing. Beginning at ages 5 to 6 children would take care of the younger ones. From the ages of 7 to 8 boys worked as shepherds, and by age 12 they helped with the haying. From the age of 15 they mowed and threshed, and after about 16 they had to do every kind of job. This rule was also applicable to young women relative to women's jobs.

Trade. As a rule the traditional Belarussian economy was not closely connected with the large markets; it was a semisubsistence economy. Mestechki were local market centers where goods were sold once or twice a week fairs (kirmash ) were held several times a year. Trade operations were an activity mainly of members of the Jewish ethnic group.

Kinship, Marriage, and Family

The Belarussians had several types of families in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The small family (six or seven people) was prevalent; at the same time there were large patriarchical families that consisted of several generations of relatives and also fraternal families. Marriage was usually virilocalalthough the husband moving in with the family of his wife (primachestvo ) was a fairly frequent alternative. The unity of two unrelated groups or the adoption of a nonrelative (zdolnik ) into the family for the purposes of making the economy more effective were peculiar forms of family relations. Relations both in the large patriarchical family and the small families were based on the authoritarian power of the eldest man (batsko ) and his wife.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Traditional knowledge of Belarussians was represented by the folk calendar that was oriented toward the phases of the moon, relative to which the starting point of various stages in agricultural work was defined. Weather watching at certain calendar days made long-term meteorologic forecasts possible, whereas observations of animal behavior and natural phenomena were used for short-term forecasts. Traditional meteorology relied on length, space, weight, and volume measures.

Ceremonies. The family was the main institution through which Belarussians socialized in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The entire population of the village would participate in the celebration of holidays. The most important events of the year-long cycle were Christmas festivities (kaladi ), calling the spring (gukanje ), the first driving of the cattle to the pasture on Yuri day, Easter (balikden ), Trinity (semukha ), summer solstice (the feast of Ivan Kupala, or Saint John the Baptist), and the beginning and the end of harvest (zazhinki, dazhinki ).

Arts. Traditional Belarussian art was very diverse. In the seventeenth through eighteenth centuries, within the framework of the early Baroque style, the Belarussian Uniate school of icon painting and sculpture was formed: it combined features of professional art and folk art. Applied decorative art was the main development in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; it was represented by weaving, embroidery, pottery, artistic forging, and wood carving. Straw weaving is a type of decorative art peculiar to the Belarussians. This technique was used for making ornaments, toys, boxes, and even architectural details of church interiorsthe "czar's gates of the iconstasis." Traditional music was represented by two formssongs and instrumental music. Archaic forms of vocal art are monophonic. Polyphony started to spread mostly at the end of the nineteenth century in the south. The most popular instruments were the violin, cymbals, different kinds of bagpipes, flute (zalejika ), "lyre" (a string instrument with the body of a violin but with a keyboard), and the basetla (double bass). Puppet theater (batlejika ) was a characteristic form of theater. Performances of a carnival character were also known. The repertoire included plays with biblical themes, for example King Herod.

Medicine . Folk medicine was based on a developed system of beliefs and treatments in the fields of hygiene, epidemiology, pharmacology. The most common drugs were made from herbs, dried root and bark infusions, animal fat, bile, and preparations of mineral origin. They were quite successfully used to prevent the spreading of infections and diseases (notably cholera) and to treat colds, wounds, and bruises. Baths were considered a kind of physiotherapeutical treatment.

Death and Afterlife. The funeral ritual of Belarussians included many magical elements. The dead person was buried on the third day after death. Salt, a pipe, and copper coins were usually put into the coffin. After the funeral and also on the sixth, ninth, and fortieth days and after half a year after the memorial, ritual dinners (trapeza ) were held. Kutsa (a sweet barley porridge) was a necessary dish at these events. According to the traditional beliefs of the Belarussians, the next world is separated into two parts: heaven in the south, where summer is eternal, and hell in the north. God assigned people to either parts, depending on the good and bad deeds they had accomplished during their lives. Four times a year Belarussians held commemorative feasts for all the dead ancestors (dzadi ), who returned home on these days. Every participant at the ritual left some food for them (three pieces or three tablespoons of each course). There was a belief that the late relatives patronize the family and ensure its success.


Krushinsky, S. (1953). Byelorussian Communism and Nationalism: Personal Recollections. New York: Research Program on the USSR, East European Fund.

Shamiakin, I. P., et al., eds. (1989). Etnahrafiia Belarusi: Entsyklapediia (Encyclopedia of Belarussian ethnology). Minsk: Belaruskaiia Savetskaia Entsyklapediia.

Vakar, Nicholas P. (1949). "The Name White Russia." American Slavic and East European Review 8:201-213.

PAVEL TERESHKOVICH (Translated by Olga Beloded)

About this article


Updated About content Print Article