Study the following vocabulary before reading the text:
to owe allegiance – находиться в вассальной зависимости
remould – переформировать
expediency – целесообразность
Belarus is the Eastern Slavic nation. Historically part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Poland and Russia, it regained its independence on the 27th of July, 1990.
The original Belarusian tribes were related to the Baltic nations, and grouped in independent principalities. From the beginning of the 10th century up to the 13th century there were several state formations on the territory of the present-day Belarus. The most important ones were Principalities of Polatsk, Turau, Novgorod and some others. The most powerful was Polatsk, a port and fortress on the river Dvina, which flows into the Baltic Sea.
First, these principalities were parts of the Kievan Rus, which was an original, very vast medieval federation, where the relations between the princes were based on suzerainty-vassalage. During the 10th–12th centuries, some of the major principalities actually became independent and were being ruled by local dynasties.
From the middle of the 13th century up to the end of the 18th century, the Belarusian lands belonged to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (the GDL). The Duchy passed through two main stages in its state and political development:
1) from the middle of the 13th century till 1569, when the GDL existed as a fully independent sovereign state;
2) from 1569, when the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Poland formed the Polish Commonwealth (Rzecz Pospolita), till the end of the 18th century.
The middle Belarusian language was the official state language of the united Grand Duchy of Lithuania from the 13th to the late 17th century, and the Code of Laws of 1588 − the Lithuanian Statute was a compilation of that language. During this period Belarusian culture flourished to its highest level and developed its distinctive quality in almost every field.
In the 16th century in the result of numerous wars, the Great Dukes formed the Union with the Kingdom of Poland. The old principalities were remoulded into provinces, though the status of the Kingdom of Grand Duchy remained that of dual Monarchy with separate laws and customs, known as the Rzecz Pospolita until 1795. Cultural decline set in, the Belarusian language was greatly influenced by Polish.
Retrospectively, the state system of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from the end of the 16th century to the 18th century was an early form of the bourgeois (the szlachta) democracy.
In the 18th century the territory of Belarus appeared under Russian rule followed by russification. The change found reflection in its official name: from 1840 it was named “the North-Western Lands”. No special laws were issued regarding Belarus, which could have treated it as a region with a special legal status. From 1801 the ethnic territory of the Belarusians was part of the Minsk, Mogilev, Vitebsk, Grodno and Vilnya provinces.
Nevertheless the phenomenal advance of Belarusian studies in the 19th century was clearly observed. The publication of the first Dictionary of the Belarusian Language (1870) by I. Nosovich (1788−1877) helped to lay the foundation of modern Belarus as a nation. A revival of the literary Belarusian language led to a rebirth of national feelings, to the proclamation of the country’s independence.
On the 25th of March 1918, under the conditions of occupation by the German troops, the Belarusian People’s Republic was proclaimed, as a national bourgeois-democratic state. It failed, however, to turn into a fully-fledged state: it had no Constitution, no state boundaries, it had no armed forces of its own, the financial system and other attributes of statehood were not formed. It didn’t exist long.
Soon the Bolsheviks took the power and on the 1st of January 1919, the Byelorussian Soviet Socialistic Republic (the BSSR) was formed and the first Constitution of the BSSR was adopted.
In December 1922 it joined the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (the USSR) as one of the founders.
The advantageous geographical position was the reason of many wars, invasions and aggressions. In the 11th century the Tatar-Mongols attacked Polotsk and Turov principalities in the east and south. In the 13th century the Crusaders invaded Belarus lands from the west. Sweden conquered the north of Belarus. It was devastated by Russian-Polish wars (16−18th centures), the Napoleon invasion (1812), World War I (1914−1918), the Soviet-Polish war which ended with Western Belarus ceded to Poland and the World War II and Nazi occupation (1914−1944). All these tragic events didn’t stop the development of the nation.
On the disintegration of the USSR, Belarus proclaimed its sovereignty and adopted the Declaration of State Sovereignty on July 27, 1990. In December 1991 it was one of the republics of the former USSR to form the CIS (the Commonwealth of Independent States) with the headquarters in Minsk.
1. Use the text to complete the sentences from the text:
1. Belarus was a part of … .
2. … was the official state language of the Grand Duchy in the 13th−17th centuries.
3. Belarus regained its … in 1990.
4. Belarus was proclaimed … .
5. The Belarusian language was greatly influenced by … .
6. Belarus was ... by many wars.
7. The territory of Belarus appeared under Russian rule followed by ... .
8. The publication of … helped to lay the foundation of modern Belarus as a nation.
2. Decide if the following statements are false or true:
1. The Lithuanian Statute was written in the middle Belarusian language.
2. The first Dictionary of the Belarusian Language was published in 1870.
3. The BSSR was proclaimed in 1918.
4. The advantageous geographical position was the reason of many wars, invasions and aggressions.
5. Belarusian culture flourished to its highest level during the period when Belarus was a part of Rečpaspalitaya.
6. In 1991 Belarus became a member of the USSR.
7. The fist Constitution of the republic was adopted in 1918.
8. The reason of many wars was its rich deposits of oil and gas.
3. Answer the questions on the text:
1. Was Belarus an independent state before 1918?
2. What stages did the GDL pass?
3. What language was the official state language of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania?
4. What does the Lithuanian Statute mean?
5. Why was the Belarusian language influenced by other languages?
6. When was Belarus joined Russia?
7. When was Belarus proclaimed a republic?
8. What was the reason of many wars?
9. When did Belarus proclaim its sovereignty?