In the course of its history Belarus for a long time had firm and direct ties with Ukraine. At the end of the 10th century Prince Volodymyr the Great of Kyiv conquered west Krivichian Polatsk principality and introduced Christianity into Belarus. As the Belarusian principalities were subdivided and the Kyivan Rus’ state declined, the Belarusian territories (and later Ukrainian as well) were progressively occupied and controlled by the Lithuanian princes. The unification of Belarusian and Ukrainian lands within the Lithuanian-Ruthenian state sustained a common Ruthenian (Ukrainian-Belarusian) identity, tradition, and literary language and postponed the national differentiation of Ukrainians and Belarusians for several centuries. Although almost all the Ukrainian territories belonging to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were transferred to Poland by the Union of Lublin in 1569, while the Belarusian lands stayed with the Duchy, Ukrainian-Belarusian ties remained close. Many Belarusians studied at the Ostrih Academy, the Lviv Dormition Brotherhood School, and the Kyivan Mohyla Academy. Religious polemical literature was common to Ukrainians and Belarusians whether it was written by Orthodox, Protestant, or Catholic authors. Because Ukrainians and Belarusians shared a common culture and literature, it is sometimes difficult to classify a given work as belonging to one or the other people. In 1648 the Cossack-Polish War spread through almost all of Belarus and initially many Belarusians joined the Ukrainian Cossacks in their struggle. Later, the religious and cultural ties between Ukraine and Belarus helped the latter to withstand the pressures of Polonization, which increased beginning in the late 17th century. The Belarusian national and cultural renaissance of the 19th and early 20th centuries was closely connected with the Ukrainian national movement. The February Revolution of 1917 led to the creation in March 1917 of the Belarusian National Rada (patterned after the Ukrainian Central Rada) in Minsk. But first the Bolsheviks and then the Germans, who occupied the country, did not permit this government to assume power. Even prior to 1917 many Ukrainian and Belarusian circles proposed a federation of the two countries. Mykhailo Hrushevsky, in particular, was a strong advocate of a Black Sea-Baltic federation consisting of Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania. Following the victory of the Soviets, Ukrainian-Belarusian relations in the USSR existed mainly in the fields of culture and scholarship... Learn more about Belarusians in Ukraine and Ukrainians in Belarus by visiting the following entries:


BELARUSIANS IN UKRAINE. Belarusians are scattered throughout Ukraine. Most of them have come from Belarus in the last few decades of the existence of the USSR and settled in the larger cities and industrial regions. According to the 1926 census there were 76,000 Belarusians (0.4 percent of the population) within the Ukrainian SSR's boundaries at that time, and 48 percent of them lived in cities. The Crimea had 3,800 Belarusians. The largest concentrations of Belarusians were in Kyiv with 5,400, in Dnipropetrovsk with 4,300, in Odesa with 2,500, in Dniprodzerzhynsk with 2,100, in Kharkiv with 1,500, and in Donetsk with 1,400. Fifteen thousand lived in the Donbas. There were several Belarusian peasant colonies in the steppes, most of which were established in the first half of the 19th century. The Belarusians assimilated quickly in Ukraine, as is evident from the fact that of 76,000 Belarusians only 16,000 used Belarusian as a working language. The number of Belarusians in the Ukrainian SSR increased to 291,000 in 1959 (0.7 percent of the total population) and 406,100 in 1979 (0.8 percent), owing to large-scale immigration to the industrial regions of Ukraine, the Crimea, and the large cities. According to the 2001 census, there were 275,800 Belarusians living in Ukraine (0.6 percent of the total population of Ukraine). The majority of them (77.8 percent) lived in cities. The largest concentration of them lived in the Donbas, but Belarusians can be found in almost every oblast. They are fewest in Western Ukraine. The All-Ukrainian Association of Belarusians was founded in 2000. Although most of the Belarusians have come to Ukraine from Belarus in the last several decades, they are Russified to a great extent...

Belarusians in Ukraine


BELARUS. A country in the watershed of the upper Dnieper River, Dvina River, and Neman River populated mainly by Belarusians. Belarus has an area of 207,600 sq km and the population of 9,498,700 (2016). In 1939, before the annexation of western Belarus (then part of Poland) by the USSR, the Belorussian SSR had an area of 126,000 sq km and a population of 5,570,000. The western boundaries of the country generally correspond to the ethnic borders (about 300,000 Belarusians live in Latvia; smaller numbers live in Lithuania and Poland). In the east, Belarusian ethnic territories are part of Pskov oblast, Smolensk oblast, and Briansk oblast of the Russian Federation. Because of the existence of transitional ethno-linguistic groups and the strong impact of Russification on Belarusians living outside their republic, it is difficult to define the Russian-Belarusian ethnic boundary. Belarus contains a sizable territory inhabited by Ukrainians. The ethnic boundary between Ukrainians and Belarusians is difficult to define, because there are, in Polisia and the northern Chernihiv region, transitional dialects that have scarcely been studied, and the population’s national affiliation is unclear. Southern Belarus--the southern parts of Brest oblast and Homel oblast--has a Ukrainian population of up to one million, although this fact has been doctored in the Soviet censuses of 1959, 1970, and 1979. The discrepancy between the Ukrainian-Belarusian political border and the ethnic border results from a deliberate decision made by the Soviet authorities and from their policy aimed at weakening the Ukrainian SSR and reducing the size of the Ukrainian population, which has been subjected to denationalization through both Belarusification and Russification in Belarus...



BREST OBLAST. A southwestern province of Belarus, bordering on Ukraine in the south and Poland in the west. In the north and east it borders on other oblasts of the Belarus. It's capital is Brest. Brest oblast was formed on 4 December 1939. Its area covers 32,300 sq km. Although Brest oblast lies within Belarus, most of its territory is a part of Ukrainian ethnic territory. Of the 16 raions, 10 are essentially Ukrainian, 4 in the north are Belarusian, and 2 are mixed (ie, are divided by the Ukrainian-Belarusian ethnic border). The part of the oblast settled by Ukrainians covers about 20,000 sq km and has a population of over 900,000. The Ukrainian part of Brest oblast includes the following areas of Polisia: Buh Polisia, the western part of Prypiat Polisia, Zaiasoldia, Zarichia, and the somewhat more elevated Zahorodia. Bilovezha Forest lies within the oblast. Under the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth most of the present Brest oblast constituted Brest voivodeship of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. After the partitions of Poland it became part of Hrodna gubernia within the Russian Empire. In 1917-19 the area was part of the Ukrainian National Republic. In 1920-39 under Poland it belonged to Polisia voivodeship. After 1939, retaining approximately the same boundaries, it became Brest oblast. In 2014 the population of Brest oblast was 1,388,500, resulting in a density of 42 people per square kilometer. The population density was highest in the raions with the largest cities--the Brest and Pynsk raions. In the First World War the front for a long time ran through the region, and there was a high loss of life during that war as well as during the Second World War...

Brest oblast


BREST (BERESTIA). City (2009 pop 318,000); the capital of Brest oblast in Belarus. Brest was founded under the name Berestia as a center for trade and defense on the border between Kyivan Rus', the Polish Kingdom, and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It was first mentioned in 1017 as the city of the Derevlianians and was for a time ruled by the Turiv princes. In 1044 it was conquered by Yaroslav the Wise of Kyiv. As the major center of Berestia land, Berestia was a part of the Kyivan state and the Volhynian principality. In 1319 it came under Lithuanian rule; in 1596 the Church Union of Berestia took place there which established the Uniate (Greek Catholic) church. From 1569 to 1795 it was the major city of Brest voivodeship in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (during this time it was called Brest Lytovskyi). In the 15th and 16th century it was a busy market town; during the second half of the 17th century it fell into decline. In 1795 Brest came under Russian rule and in 1801 it became a county town of Hrodna gubernia, with the name of Brest-Litovsk. In 1831 the population of the town was resettled a few kilometers to the east, and Brest was turned into a fortress to defend the highways leading to Kyiv and Moscow from the west. In the second half of the 19th century, when Brest became a railway junction, trade increased, and by 1909 the population (mainly Jewish) had increased to 53,000. In 1918 the Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk between the Ukrainan National Republic and the Central Powers was signed there. In 1920-39 Brest was under Polish rule. In 1939 the Brest region became part of the Belorussian SSR, although its inhabitants were Ukrainian...

Brest (Berestia)


PYNSK (PINSK) REGION. A historical-geographic region in the upper reaches of the Prypiat River in Polisia. Until the late 12th century it was part of Turiv-Pynsk principality, but later it constituted an appanage of Pynsk principality, with its capital in Pynsk, dominated by the princes of Kyiv and Volodymyr-Volynskyi. The rulers of Pynsk principality included the brothers Yaroslav Yaroslavych (1183) and Yaropolk Yaroslavych (1190) and their descendants, Volodymyr (1206-7), Rostyslav (1228–32), Mykhailo (1228), Teodor (1262), and Yurii (d 1289). In the mid-13th century the principality recognized the overlordship of King Danylo Romanovych of Galicia-Volhynia, and ca 1318 it was annexed by the Lithuanian grand duke Gediminas. From 1471 to 1521 it was governed by the Olelkovych family of Lithuanian-Ruthenian princes of Kyiv. Thenceforth it was under Polish rule. During the Cossack-Polish War the principality’s nobles officially joined the Hetman state on 20 June 1657, and created Pynsk-Turiv regiment. Today part of Brest oblast in Belarus, the Pynsk region lies, for the most part, within the vaguely defined boundaries of the Ukrainian ethnic territory stretching north of the Ukraine-Belarus state border...

Pynsk (Pinsk) region


BILOVEZHA FOREST. The Bilovezha Forest is the largest stretch of forest in the Central European Lowland. It lies on the border of Podlachia and Polisia, on the watershed between the Narva (Narew) River and the Yaselda River. It overlaps Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Polish ethnic territories. The forest covers about 1,250 sq km. The eastern part (740 sq km) belongs to Belarus; the western part, to Poland. The Bilovezha Forest is a gently undulating plain at an elevation of 150-170 m. The climate is moderately cold. Snow lies on the ground for 70 days. There are many swamps. About 82 percent of the Bilovezha Forest is virgin forest, mostly evergreen. The predominant trees are pine, spruce, oak, birch, alder, aspen, maple, ash, and linden. Swamps and peat bogs cover 10 percent of the area. Over 900 plant species grow here. Over 55 animal species inhabit the forest, among them the European bison, elk, wild boar, deer, lynx, wolf, beaver, otter, marten, and squirrel. At the beginning of the 20th century elk could still be found; in the 19th century, wild horse and brown bear; and in the 17th century, aurochs. Over 212 bird species live here, including the great grouse, woodcock, hazel grouse, and black crane. For centuries the forest received some protection as the hunting grounds of the Polish kings. Under Russian rule the forest was state land, and from 1820 any kind of exploitation of it was prohibited. In 1889 the Bilovezha Forest became the property of the tsar's family, who hunted there from time to time...

Bilovezha Forest

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