What is the Russian word for decrease?

Junior partner of Russia - Belarus

After 200 years of belonging to Russia, Belarus lacks awareness of its own national identity. Closely intertwined with Russia, the country has isolated itself in terms of foreign policy under the autocratic President Lukashenka.

Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus since 1994, at a meeting with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in Minsk in 2010. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)


The borders of today's Belarusian territory were drawn only after the Second World War. Belarus or Belarus is geographically west of Russia and north of Ukraine. It borders Poland to the west, Lithuania to the northwest and Latvia to the north. Belarus is somewhat smaller in area than Great Britain. The maximum distance from west to east is 650 kilometers and from north to south 560 kilometers. The shortest transport routes from Central and Eastern Russia to Western Europe and from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea run through its territory.

Belarus has a population of 9.8 million, five times less than Ukraine but more than Austria. According to the last census of 1999, Belarusians make up 81.2 percent of the population. 11.4 percent are Russians, 3.9 percent Poles and 2.4 percent Ukrainians. Around 80 percent of the population are of the Orthodox faith. The Poles and Lithuanians are mostly Roman or Greek Catholics. There are no serious ethnic or religious conflicts in Belarus.

Seventy percent of the population live in cities and eleven percent have a higher education. In the education statistics of the UN, Belarus is at the top of all CIS countries and ranks 53rd worldwide.

Part of Russia for two hundred years

Belarus, like Ukraine and Russia, belonged to the Kievan Rus until the 14th century. It formed their northwestern area, from which the name Belarus (from bely: in the Middle Ages "west" or "north"), that is, Western Rus, may be derived. "Belarus", the literal translation of the Russian name for the area (from bela: "white") was the name used in the Russian tsarist empire and in the Soviet era and is therefore sometimes viewed critically today.

From the 14th to the end of the 18th century Belarus was part of the dual state of Poland-Lithuania. In the course of the Polish partitions, the country came completely under Russian rule in 1793.

After the fall of the tsar, Belarus - like the Ukraine - was briefly a republic in 1918, albeit under a German protectorate. After the victory of the Polish troops over the Red Army, the western part of Belarus was annexed to Poland in 1920. The eastern part of Belarus was founded as the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic - similar to the Ukraine - with the Soviet Union in 1922.

During the Second World War Belarus was the CIS state that suffered most from the German occupation, it was the main combat zone of the partisans against the German troops and lost about a quarter of its population. From 1943 to 1945 Belarus was recaptured by Soviet troops. At the end of the war, the country was almost completely destroyed.

After the Second World War, Belarus had the highest military density per inhabitant of all CIS countries due to its strategic military importance for Russia. In contrast to the Ukraine, whose western regions were able to maintain a minimum level of Ukrainian language usage, there was practically a 100%, nationwide conversion to Russian in Belarus. In addition, Russian immigrants came to the depopulated country for industrial reconstruction. As a result of all this, unlike in the Ukraine, a national feeling could hardly develop and the knowledge of the Belarusian language was almost no longer available.

Dismissal into independence

The Belarusian Popular Front - the counterpart to the Ukrainian national movement Ruch - was created in 1988 as a reaction to the discovery of mass graves in the Kuropaty forest near Minsk. The remains of 30,000 people who were shot under Stalin between 1937 and 1941 were found there. The Russian leadership lost further prestige due to its belittling and delayed reaction to the 1986 nuclear reactor disaster in the Ukrainian Chernobyl, which radioactively contaminated 23 percent of Belarusian territory with 2.2 million people. Decontamination measures were only initiated in 1989.

Source text


As a result of the reactor explosion, which occurred on April 26, 1986 at 1:23 a.m. local time as a result of a scheduled test during the shutdown for renovation work at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, large parts of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia were radioactively contaminated. About 70 percent of the fallout fell on Belarus. As a result, 23 percent of Belarusian territory was contaminated with over 1 curie / square kilometer of Cesium-137. At the time of the disaster, about 2.2 million people lived there, over a fifth of the Belarusian population. Ukraine and Russia affected five and 0.6 percent of the territory with a population of 2.4 million (five percent of the total population) and 2.6 million (one percent), respectively.

The people in the affected regions did not find out about the extent of the disaster and the health risks until several years after the reactor explosion. [...] The growing impression that Moscow in particular was responsible for playing down the catastrophe for several years, encouraged the independence movement in Belarus and Ukraine. Although the Communist Party retained a majority in both republics after the elections to the Supreme Soviet in March 1990, in the summer of 1990 the Communist MPs also supported the declarations of sovereignty proposed by the Popular Fronts. In it, the territory of both republics was declared an ecological emergency area and a moratorium was imposed on the construction of new nuclear power plants. The Belarusian and Ukrainian parliaments passed laws in February 1991 that provided for comprehensive resettlement programs and social support measures for the people affected by the consequences of the reactor disaster. [...]
The Belarusian and Ukrainian special laws, according to which more than one million people were granted the right to state-funded resettlement from the contaminated regions, were of course developed on the assumption that they would be financed mainly from the Union budget. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, the successor states were now forced to finance the measures from their own resources. Calculations by the Belarusian Academy of Sciences from the 1990s show the burdens involved, according to which the total damage incurred to Belarus amounts to 235 billion US dollars for the years 1986 to 2015. Accordingly, a total of 19.9 percent of the state budget in 1992 was earmarked for measures to deal with the consequences of the disaster; in the Ukraine it was 15.7 percent.
In view of the worsening economic crisis, these expenditures were continuously reduced to around five percent in both countries in the following years. [...] It should be noted that despite all the cuts, the social benefits for the affected population groups in all three countries (including Russia - editor's note) are still considerable. In 2000, for example, 293,895 children in Belarus and 347,500 children in Ukraine were given free recreational stays. [...]
Aid from the European Union (EU) focused primarily on scientific issues as well as on the decommissioning of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and securing the sarcophagus built around the destroyed reactor Renewal of the sarcophagus is still working on a final solution: By 2008, the destroyed reactor should be surrounded by a second, more secure casing, as the previous sarcophagus has had dangerous cracks for years.
In fact, it was non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from many countries that provided most of the aid to the population in reducing the consequences of the disaster. In 1993 the Belarusian government stated that by then 82 percent of all aid had been received from NGOs. Most of this aid came from Germany. [...] The volume of aid received by Belarus from Germany over the past few years has been around 20 million US dollars a year. In addition, around 10,000 children are still invited by host parents to Germany to relax. However, this aid is not fully welcomed in Belarus. Since 1998 there has been an increasing state regulation of this aid, which not only serves to prevent abuse, but is also apparently intended to inhibit the development of civil society engagement. [...]
In the Ukraine, the construction freeze was lifted back in 1993 with the aim of preventing dependence on Russian energy supplies. [...]
In Belarus, too, the construction of a nuclear power plant has been discussed as an option to increase national energy security since 1992. In contrast to Ukraine, Belarus, as a previously nuclear-free country, had far less favorable conditions for implementing this option. [...] However, the nuclear power option in Belarus can only be realized with considerable support from Russia - and thus not reduce the country's energy dependency on Russia. [...]

Astrid Sahm, "Dimensions of a Catastrophe" in: From Politics and Contemporary History. Supplement to the magazine Das Parlament, No. 13/2006, p.12ff.



After the failed coup in August 1991, Belarus - like Ukraine - declared its independence. The dissolution of the USSR and the establishment of the CIS was decided on Belarusian territory at the meeting of Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his Ukrainian counterpart Leonid Kravchuk with the Belarusian parliamentary president Stanislau Shushkevich in early December 1991 on the government dacha of Wiskuli in the Belavescher Heide, northwest of Brest.

The independence of Belarus was less the result of a national revolt as in the Baltic Republics or Ukraine, but rather the result of external events. The majority of the population reacted rather negatively because they wanted to maintain the diverse political, economic and social ties with Russia. The starting conditions for the transformation were also worse in Belarus than in Ukraine. What was missing was a nationally oriented elite that recognized the signs of the times in good time and was ready for reforms.

The function of the first Belarusian president was taken by parliamentary president Stanislau Schuschkewitsch because the old Soviet constitution did not provide for the Belarusian presidency and no attempts were made to establish it, as in Ukraine or Russia. In contrast to Kravchuk and Yeltsin, Shushkevich was not a top CPSU official, but a nuclear physicist. He was not up to the difficulties that the transformation from a communist to a pluralistic and market-based system brought with it.

The established political elite, and with it large parts of the population, longed for the economic and social security of the Soviet era and therefore advocated integration with Russia in the illusionist expectation that this security would at least to a certain extent be regained.

Even the first Belarusian government after the country's independence under Vyachazlau Kebitsch did not make any serious efforts to establish new economic contacts with the successor states of the USSR - with which the Belarusian economy was 90 percent intertwined - that had been shattered by the collapse of the Soviet Union to replace Western Europe. When the economic situation worsened again in 1993, the gap between Shushkevich, who steered a cautious reform course, and the predominantly anti-reform forces in parliament and in government widened. Prime Minister Kebitsch continued to rely on close relationships with Russian state-owned companies, especially with the military-industrial complex.

The West, for its part, viewed Belarus - like Russia - practically as a Russian province and showed little interest in the new westernmost CIS state.