Belarusians aren't Russians and Never will be

Belarusians aren't Russians and Never will be

In 2003, Leonid Kuchma published a book emphasizing that “Ukraine is Not Russia” in response to increasing Russian insistence that Russians and Ukrainians are not separate nations. Now, faced with Moscow’s continuing denial of their distinctiveness, many Belarusians are making a similar argument about themselves.

Many of the articles and books which make the case that Belarusians aren’t Russians just like their counterparts that Ukrainians aren’t Russians are easily dismissed because their authors insist that their nation is the repository of everything good and the other is the manifestation of everything bad.

But there are cases which deserve close attention because they go beyond that, acknowledge shortcomings in their own nation as well as pointing them out in the other and that admit that the cultures have been intermingled as a result of political history and social engineering, even though such processes have not eliminated key distinctions.

Writing on the Belarusian opposition portal Charter 97Viktor Nikitenko avoids these pitfalls and focuses as he says on both commonalities and differences in the characteristics and models of behavior of Belarusians and Russians before pointing out that the differences overwhelm the commonalities.

“The main distinction of the Russian from the Belarusian,” the commentator says, “is the powerful emotionalism” of the former and are often manifested in “maximalism and extreme judgments.” The Belarusian in contrast is “the opposite of the Russian: he is pragmatic, quiet and doesn’t like extreme ideas or actions.”

Russians are more inclined to “blindly following ideas and slogans” and to rush forward without reflecting on their implications. Belarusians in contrast take their time and don’t get so excited about ideas. That works both to their benefit but also to their detriment in some cases, Nikitenko says.

Another major difference, he continues, is that Russians are far more open to people different than themselves than are the Belarusians who are more inclined to a focus on their own community and to social “isolationism” than to “collectivism.” That too works both for and against the Belarusians – and one could add the Russians as well.

The two peoples because of a history which has often linked them together are both given to hero worshiping their leaders. But this hero worship is very different in the two cases. Russians simultaneously deify their leaders while retaining an anarchic streak of changing from one leader to another. Belarusians in contrast don’t go as far in either direction.

Another distinction between the two nations, Nikitenko says, is the relationship of their behaviors in public and private. Among Russians, there is not a large gap in most cases; but among Belarusians, especially now, the distance between how they have in public and how they behave in the privacy of their homes can be enormous.

He gives the following example: A Belarusian may spend thousands on a foreign car and stylish clothes to display when he is among others. But when one visits his apartment, it is unlikely to have been updated or even repairs. Indeed, Nikitenko says, it often looks like in style “a back to the USSR” advertisement.

When suffering from difficulties or a lack of hope, he continues, “a Belarusian will love to identify with the effective speeches of banal populists … who say what the suffering want to hear at a given movement. In large measure, Russians also like to be self-deceived and to put liars and clowns in the center of attention.”

The two nations divide in this, however. The Russian may give lip service to the grand schemes of his leaders; but the Belarusian will “slowly but scrupulously” try to implement what the leaders say “even if this process doesn’t have any sense.”

Ethnic Russians “very much love to destroy everything old and build on the ruins something new and are inclined to adventurism and revolutionary methods of resolving problems. The Belarusian ability to remember and preserve their history and the Russian habit of instantly forgetting the past” lead to fundamentally different approaches to public life.

The willingness of Belarusians to go along and their “latent xenophobia” are “the foundation on which the authoritarian power in Belarus is built. Infantilism dominates the personality of the Belarusian and is something immanent.” It is concealed in many cases by xenophobic attitudes.

At the same time, certain Russian characteristics like a proclivity to revolt and then submit completely are “absolutely alien” to Belarusians. Also different are the greater propensity of Russians for “spiritual simplicity” and “hospitality.” Belarusians are more complicated and more reserved.

“Beyond any doubt,” Nikitenko says, “Belarsians and Russians are two different people, and therefore the nationalists of Belarus are absolutely right when they speak about the cultural-social identity of their country and recall the history of the life of their ancestors in the Grand Principality of Lithuania.”

That doesn’t mean they haven’t been affected by each other. “The Belarusians have learned from Russians both good and bad things.” Today, Russian television makes this worse, spreading vulgarity from Russians to Belarusians. But even that powerful channel has not succeeded in obliterating the underlying differences.

“In the final analysis,” the commentator says, “Belarusians will remain Belarusians and Russians will continue to be Russians. And that outcome will only strengthen the fact that these peoples never were a single whole and never will become one.”



  • edited August 2017
    Does that mean that they now should remove Rusians from name and become Belas? :D
  • edited August 2017

    Some Belarusians would abondon the ethnonym altogether stating their ancestors never identified themselves as such.  Belarusian as ethnonym was applied to our ancestors after partition of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1795). Ukrainians dropped Catherine's ethonym Malorusians, so have the Russians (Velikorusy). Belarusians kept it to this day.

    Besides, Belarusian is pronounced as Belarus-ian akin to (Ital-ian, Austr-ian ) rather than Bela-russian.
  • edited August 2017
    Sviatogor my previous post just a joke. I know and remeber that you belive that modern Russians and Belrus people are not the same. But seems that your president disagree :) I remeber watching some Serbian documentary on the TV when he said to Serbian interviewer that Belarusians are the purest Russians and that one of the meaning of "Bel" white can be "pure" in sense never ocupied. Actually not can´t remember if it was him, but it was mentioned for sure.
  • edited August 2017

    Our president is Ukrainian by descent and old commie who doesnt know about Belarusia history and culture. His ancestors were born in eastern Ukraine, while he was born on the border with western Russia in eastern Belarus. He's often made fun of when he's speaking in Belarusian or talks about Belarusian culture due poor skills and knowledge of the language and culture. Lukashenka is former chairman of collective farm in eastern Belarus, so I would ignore what he says about our history and ancestry.

  • edited August 2017
    Colors used to be used by some Slavs to mean cardinal direction i.e. North, West , South , East.  White was typically associated with "West" or "north" and "Belo" means white in most Slavic languages. Could it be that 'white Rus' was used to describe 'west Rus?' 

    Btw, most of the east Slavs have legitimate claim on the 'Rus' name which doesn't mean modern Russian. Everybody already knows about the Kiev Rus as the ancestor nation of the Ukrainians, Russians, Carpatho-Rusyns, and Belarusans. 
  • edited August 2017

    A common opinion in literature White Rus meant 'Free Rus'. Belarus was that part of Rus that was never conquered by the Mongols. In fact historic region of White Rus is north-eastern Belarus and adjacent districts of western Russia. This ethnographic region gave the name to the whole country.
  • By the way Red Rus was refered to what is present day western Ukraine and adjacent districts of south-eastern Poland.

    Red Ruthenia, Red Rus (Latin: Ruthenia Rubra or Russia Rubra; Ukrainian: Червона Русь, Chervona Rus, Polish: Ruś Czerwona, Russian: Червоная Русь, Chervonaya Rus) is a historic term used since the Middle Ages for Western Ukraine or sometimes southeastern Poland or Right-bank Ukraine.

    First mentioned in a 1321 Polish chronicle, Red Ruthenia was the portion of Rus' incorporated into Poland by Casimir the Great during the 14th century.

  • Red traditionally meant "south" 
  • edited August 2017
    Isn't "Rus" then another name for most eastern Slavs? My understanding is that Belarus, Ukr, and Russia are all successor states of the old country of Rus. Also don't forget the Rusyns. In fact I would think Belarusians and Ukrainians have a better claim on "Rus" than Russians themselves due to the fact that those states are centered around old Kievian Rus and that modern Russians have intermixed with a lot of people, especially to the east. 
  • edited August 2017
    Ironically 'red russia' was neighbor to old white croatia. 

  • edited August 2017

    Rus existed only for 250 years or so. It was a loose political state established on territories settled by different Slavic tribes. Non-Slavic  too.  The term Rusyn, Ruthenian was applied to all Slavs who were eastern Orthodox later.
  • Sviatogor that sounds a bit confusing to me. Like a matter of a interpretation. Like if Belarusian is pro Russian he would say: yes, we are the best Russians, but if is not he will intepretate by his belief.
    I am curious if there is some unbiased historical writings about all of that.
  • edited August 2017
    Pro-Russian Belarusians will not state that Belarusians are Russians are the same people. Russians who live in Belarus will not state that Russians and Belarusians are the same people either. It's people who have little knowledge are seeking for brotherhood.

    I'd ignore Lukashenko's comments. He's a politician and a bit of a nutcase. If memory serves me correctly he called Kazakhs our brothers. Tajiks and Azerbaijani are our brothers too. On his visit to Venezuela Lukashenko stated Venzuelans are brothers of Belarusians. He seeks brotherhood when he needs to sign a contract or get cheap oil & gas.

    It's also ridiculous to judge about people and their history from the comments their leader who is known for wrong reasons. It's like forming an opinion about  history and heritage of Serbia from the comments of current Serbian prime minister.

  • Is it correct that the Early Slavic tribes of Russia originally came from the Pinsk Marshes of Belarus?

    Or was that all Early Slavs?  I thought the Early Slavs all came from the marshes... Or is that a myth?

  • @GLK According to Darwin all life form came from marshes via evolution, so Early Slavs too
  • I've always thought the marshes theory was historians' way of explaining away the conspicuous lack of records of the early Slavs in antiquity. If you ask me, they were lumping them in with the Germans.
  • edited August 2017
    Proto-Slavs were numerous in numbers as per chronicles. Unlikely Pripyat' marshes could sustain large population due to little fertile soil. The home-land  was more likely further south in western Ukraine , south-eastern Poland. This region of settlement also explains layers of Iranic and Germanic loan-words in proto-Slavic where proto-Slavs could come in contacts with Scythians/Sormatians and Goths.
  • From what I know of the smallest of the Rus' descended states, they are the best friends of Russian narod, but even I would not dare say that Belarus is the same as Rossiya, mainly because the language is so different.  Just look at "Добры дзень" vs "Добрый день".  The Belarusian to me is just like a reverse of the Polish "Dobry dzien".  Just putting my two cents as to why we are not the same as Belarusians.  Just close brothers, where both were seperated at a young age and lived in different houses (Belarus in Polska-Litwa, and Rossiya in Mongol vassalage until we crushed them from inside).

    Another thing, about Litwa; Belarus is Slavic, not Baltic.  Wet dreams about being true Litwa is just that, akin to Greeks wanted restored East Roman Empire.  It was Baltorusja when part of Litwa, and the Lithuanians simply called their subjects in Belarus and Ukraina "Rusijos".  Think of it like how Turkic peoples were (and still are) called Tatars, despite variety of ethnonyms (Chuvash, Mishar, Astrakhani, Crimian, etc)
  • edited August 2017

    Belarus was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania between 1253-1795. Even Samogitia - present day north-western Lithuania - was not part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania till tge Grunwald battle.  Most great chancellors of Lithuania, great hetmans of Lithuania were Slavic by descent. Most known Lithuanian magnates such as Radzivil were living on territories of present day Belarus. Leo Sapieha (Slav) compiled Lithuanian 3 editions of Lithuanian constitutions that were published in old Belarusian. What do you mean Belarusians are having wet dream about being Litva? The Grand Duchy of Lithuania is historic state of the Belarusians whose ancestors played a prominent role in the state.

    Baltorusja is a recent term Lithuanians utilised. A traditional Baltic  term for Slavic speakers in  Lithuania (Belarusians) was Gudas / Gudai (plural)
  • @Sviatogor
    What I mean is that the same can be said for the Ukrainians and the Russians of Smolensk and the sometimes but rarely occupied Dikoe Pole.  Both of those groups were in Litwa as well, before the Unia of Lublin.  Both played their roles too.  But despite all of that, Litwa is still simply Vil'no, Kuanas, and Samogitia, and that is it.  Chjornaja Rus' is now part of Belarus, and Brest-Litovsk is Belarusian as well.  A parallel is Constantinople.  She is part of the Republic of Turkey, but at least the Turks realise that holding old land doesn't mean that they are a previous state.  It is a wet dream because in the end, just like all empires, the people not of the ruling group get taken advantage of, and in this case, driven against a brotherly people.  We Rus' should not fight, but Litwa, through it's conquests of Ukraina and Belarus, forced the hand of God, and in 1795, the complete uniting of Old Rus occured (though Sankt-Peterburg screwed over everyone because God Save the Idiot who Created the BS of the Triune Identity of the Rus').

    Simply put, I am criticising Stockholm syndrome of a conquered Rus' state to a Baltic overlord.  Going as far as to adopt the name of conquerors is really far, but then again, though we invited Rurik, he had to conquer the rest of us throughout Old Rus for us to started calling ourselves "Russkij", so I guess it is accurate to say Stockholm syndrom for every East Slav from Peterburg to Odessa.
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