Belarus – national flag
The flag was adopted in 1995. It replaced the flag of 1917, which had horizontal stripes in white, red and white and had been reintroduced after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The new flag, which was adopted after a referendum, is based on the Belarusian Soviet Republic flag with omission of hammer, seal and star. At the flagpole is a vertical ribbon with a pattern from the country’s folk art.
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The oldest population was the reindeer hunters of the late period. Settlements from the Mesolithic, approximately 9000-5000 BC, are found on sandy terraces along streams and lakes. In the Neolithic, a distinction is made between different groups: Narva, Neman, Valdaj and Dnepr-Donets culture, the latter is also called chamber ceramic culture. The basis of life in this period, approximately 5000-3000 BC, was still hunting and fishing, which it continued to be in many areas, after agriculture and cattle breeding were introduced approximately 3000 BC Flint mines have been found at Krasnoje Selo in northeastern Belarus. With the Dnieper-Desna culture began the use of metal in the form of axes and jewelry of Caucasian copper, and at the same time amber was introduced from the Baltics. In the older Bronze Age, metal cases were imported from the Ural Mountains. Around the birth of Christ, the so-called Zarubinets complex is known, and north therefore cultural groups with contact to the Baltics. The slightly later Wielbak culture shows new connections to the Baltic Sea and is probably a reflection of the Goths’ expansion towards the Black Sea.
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According to a2zgov, archaeological finds, languages, place names and physical anthropological features show that in ancient times the population was culturally oriented towards the Baltics. Between approximately 500 and 1100 AD. the country became part of the Slavic language and cultural complexes.
The area that now makes up Belarus, has throughout its history been a toss-up between strong neighbors. Around the year 1000, it was populated with the East Slavic tribes, which in the Old Russian Chronicle are called krivitjer, dregovitjer and radimitjer. They had their own princes who were in a certain dependence on the Grand Duke of Kyjiv. In the 1200’s and 1300’s. the principalities of Polotsk-Vitebsk, Turov-Pinsk and Smolensk arose; they were part of the 1300’s. with an extensive autonomy in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, where laws and other official documents were written in Belarusian.
In 1386, the Belarusian territories, along with Lithuania, entered into a personnel union with Poland, and a Polish-speaking Roman Catholic aristocracy gradually developed. In addition to Poles, the political, economic and cultural upper class consisted of Russians and eventually also of Jews. In 1569, the personnel union was transformed into a Polish-dominated real union, the Lublin Union, which lasted until the partitions of Poland in the late 1700’s; during this period the term litviny ‘Lithuanians’ was used for the Belarusian population, the majority of whom were originally Greek Orthodox peasants. From 1596, the Belarusian peasantry joined the United Church in large numbers, who accepted the pope as spiritual head, but retained the Orthodox liturgy and the Church Slavonic language in the service. The Polish influence, in turn, meant that the Belarusian language lost its position as a state language.
After the partition of Poland in 1772, 1793 and 1795, the union ceased and the Belarusian territories became part of the Russian Empire. The strong Polish dominance was replaced by an even tougher Russification, aimed primarily at the Roman Catholic aristocracy. The territory of Belarus was divided into administrative governments without regard to the ethnic affiliation of the population, the term Belarus was banned in 1840, 1859-1906 there was a ban on publishing books in Belarus, and the language disappeared as a language of instruction. In 1839, the United Church was dissolved and the Belarusian peasants joined the Russian Orthodox Church.
Around the middle of the 1800’s. a national movement emerged under the leadership of writers and other intellectuals and in 1902 a political movement demanding autonomy and the reintroduction of Belarusian as a state language. The prevalence of the language was used as a criterion for how a Belarusian territory should be defined.
After World War I, a number of border shifts took place in the Belarusian territory. In the wake of the Brest-Litovsk peace, in March 1918 Belarusian patriots proclaimed a Belarusian people’s republic, which, however, only existed until the Bolsheviks conquered Minsk in December of that year. On January 1, 1919, a Belarusian Soviet republic was proclaimed, the borders of which largely corresponded to the language borders; a few months later, large parts of it became part of a Byelorussian-Lithuanian Soviet republic with Vilniusas the capital. During the Polish-Russian War of 1919-20, the Poles occupied Vilnius and Minsk in 1919, and a third Belarusian republic was proclaimed when the Bolsheviks recaptured Minsk the following year. At the Peace of Riga in 1921, the Vilnius and Grodno territories were annexed to independent Lithuania, while the eastern parts were incorporated into the Russian Soviet Republic. With an area of 52,000 km2 and a population of 1.5 million. the new Belarusian Soviet Republic constituted only a fraction of the Belarusian territory of 397,000 km2 with a Belarusian-speaking population of 12 million. Border regulations in 1924 and 1926, however, increased the territory to approximately the double.
Belarus was a co-founder of the Soviet Union in 1922, and the 1920’s became, in many ways, a heyday of Belarusian language and culture. Based on the national movements that emerged around 1900, a Belarusian cultural elite developed. In the following decade, however, Stalin’s brutal campaign against national cultures put an end to this development, with Belarusian intellectuals and kulaks, viz. self-employed peasants, were sent into exile or labor camps, executed or murdered; mass graves with more than 100,000 of these victims were discovered in 1988 in Kuropaty near Minsk. In 1933, through a language reform, the Soviet power sought to Russify the Belarusian language, just as, for example, Belarus’s heyday in the Middle Ages was concealed in history writing.
World War II was a disaster for Belarus. Stalin’s terror was replaced by German executions and deportations; virtually the entire Jewish population perished. Calculations have shown that the losses were greater than in any other Soviet republic. Belarus experienced a population decline of 12.7% in 1939-51; by comparison, the population decreased by 8% in Ukraine and throughout the Soviet Union by 4.7%. In 1945, Belarus gained the eastern parts of Poland, which were largely populated by ethnic Belarusians. After the end of the war, Russification continued steadily. In the 1970’s, Belarusian completely disappeared as the language of instruction in the cities, and the same trend prevailed in the countryside.
After Mikhail Gorbachev’s initiation of economic and from 1988 political reforms, a Belarusian popular front emerged with demands for, among other things. sovereignty and de-Russification of the language. However, the reform movement never really broke through in Belarus. On 26.8.1991, i.e. after it became clear that the August coup against Gorbachev had failed, the communist-dominated Belarusian Supreme Soviet proclaimed Belarus (Belarus) as an independent republic. Despite its composition, Parliament elected the reform-minded and liberal nuclear physicist Stanislav Shushkevich as chairman and thus as head of state. In December 1991, he hosted when Belarus, along with Ukraine and Russia, dissolved the Soviet Union and formed the CIS., The Association of Independent States.
Shushkevich believed that Belarus should maintain a neutral course. He therefore came into conflict with the majority of the parliament, which wanted to link the country to the collective security system that Russia wanted to build between the CIS countries, and on January 26, 1994, he was deposed as parliamentary speaker. After that, a real presidency was introduced, and in the election on July 10, 1994, the chairman of the parliamentary anti – corruption committee, Alexander Lukashenko, was elected., to president; under him, Belarus has sought close economic and security cooperation with Russia, and in a referendum in November 1996, voters said yes to a series of controversial constitutional amendments that gave the president greatly expanded powers. Parliament was dissolved and replaced by a bicameral parliament which had no real influence. Mr Lukashenko’s presidency was extended from 1999 to 2001; Lukashenko has since consolidated his power and increasingly isolated himself from the West. The OSCE and the EU did not recognize the Constitution, and the Council of Europesuspended in 1997 the country’s observer status. The constitution has also been criticized internally, but the opposition has been divided and has even been fiercely fought. Lukasjenkostyret has violated human rights, by imprisoning political opponents and suppressing freedom of expression. The 2000 parliamentary elections were not recognized as democratic by the OSCE and the EU. In 2001, Lukashenko was re-elected for five years with 76% of the vote; the only counter-candidate got 16%. The OSCE did not recognize the election. The OSCE also did not recognize the 2004 parliamentary elections, in which the opposition did not have a single representative elected. In a simultaneous referendum, Lukashenko received support to remain in the presidency for more than two terms. He has since failed to implement political and economic reforms, human rights continue to be violated, and the country has become increasingly isolated from the outside world. The opposition managed to rally in the autumn of 2005 and agreed to field Alexander Milinkevich (b. 1947) as a common candidate for Lukashenko in the March 2006 presidential election. However, Milinkevich won only 6% of the vote, while Lukashenko won with 83% of the vote. The OSCE did not recognize the election. Belarus has a close relationship with Russia. Since 1996, the two countries have been in union with each other, as most recently confirmed by a 1999 agreement, according to which the two states are to form a confederation with various joint bodies, but remain sovereign. However, the agreement was not implemented in early 2006. Belarus ‘relations with Poland and Lithuania are strained due to the two countries’ criticism of the Lukashenko regime and their support for the opposition in the country.