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1772 - Czarist Belorussia

Belorussia remained a part of Poland until Russia, Prussia, and Austria carried out the three partitions of Poland in 1772, 1793, and 1795. After the last partition, the entire territory of Belorussia found itself part of the Russian Empire, with the exception of a small piece of land in the west, which was held by Prussia. The situation to preserve and develop Belarusian culture after the annexation of Belarusian land to the Russian Empire did not get any better. Russification (Russian cultural domination), discreet at first, was later added to already existent polonization. Still, in the condition of Belarusian culture suppression, Belarusian land was known in the world for such famous people as: Adam Mickievicz, Stanislaw Moniuszko, Mikhal Kleofas Aginski, Ignaty Dameyko, Mikhail Glinka, Iosif Gashkevich, Ivan Cherski and others.

After its incorporation into the Russian Empire, Belarus lost its status as a state. A new revolt against the Russian Empire took place in 1830 in Belarus, Lithuania and Poland. The main goal of the revolt was restoration of the Rzeczpospolita as it was before 1772. The revolt provoked "shljahta screening"-the check up of the documents confirming noble ancestry of the rebels in order to eradicate the opposition movement among the nobility. At this point Belarusians were subjected to Russification (the propagation of Russian culture).

Russian authorities strived at dispersing and establishing their influence over Belarusian people. Their "cultural and spiritual" concepts included the necessary measures to eliminate "Polish influence". Polotsk and Vilnia Universities were closed down (1820 and 1832 respectively), and the Belarusian language was banned from schools.

Orthodox Russia tolerated the Uniate Church to a certain degree, but in 1839, when three-quarters of all Belorussians were Uniates, Tsar Nicholas I (with the support of the Russian Orthodox Church) abolished the Uniate Church and forced the Uniates to reconvert to Orthodoxy. The Uniate church schools were closed down. Russian schools were opened instead. He also banned the use of the name "Belorussia" and from 1840 it was named "Northwest Territory" (Severo-zapadnyy kray, in Russian). 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 Vilnia provinces. Overall, the state pursued a policy of Russification.

At the time serfdom was abolished in the Russian Empire in 1861, Belorussia was essentially a nation of peasants and landlords. Although they had their freedom, the peasants had little else: they remained poor and largely landless. The imposition of the Russian language, the Orthodox religion, heavy taxes, and military service lasting twenty-five years made the past under Polish rule seem better than the present under the tsars.

It was those memories that Kastus' Kalinowski (1838-64) tried to evoke in his clandestine newspaper Muzhytskaya Prawda (Peasants' Truth), which he published to inspire an uprising in solidarity with the Polish-Lithuanian insurrection against Russia in January 1863. The insurrection failed, and the Polish territories and people were absorbed directly into the Russian Empire. Kalinowski, today considered the founding father of Belorussian nationalism, was hanged in Vilnius.

In 1863-1864 an uprising against tsarism took place in Belarus, Lithuania and Poland. It was coordinated by Belarusian, Lithuanian and Polish clandestine organizations, which were founded in the 1850-60-ies. In Belarus the uprising was coordinated by K.Kalinouski, who supported the idea of having two relatively independent centers of the uprising in Warsaw and Vilnya. In his fight K.Kalinouski supported the peasantry and demanded that the land be given to peasants and the right to self-determination be granted to Belarus and Lithuania.

After the 1863-1864 Rebellion, book publishing in Belarusian was prohibited in Poland, Belarus and Lithuania (in 1867). However, a lot of scientists and writers, such as Vincent Dunin-Martinkevich and Francishek Bogushevich made a great contribution to the development of Belarusian culture.

The first half of the 1880's saw the rise of Homan, a revolutionary organization created by St.Petersburg higher schools students of Belarusian origin. A national magazine of the same name, Homan, published in its issues, for the first time in the history of the Belarusian public and political movement, concretized and theoretically grounded ideas on the right of the Belarusian people to "an autonomous federative independency within the family of other nationalities of Russia". The magazine was also proving identity of the Belarusian language and underscoring the need to develop the Belarusian culture and literature.

Despite the industrial development that took place in Belorussia during the 1880s and 1890s, unemployment and poverty were widespread, giving impetus to large-scale migrations. In the fifty years leading up to the Bolshevik Revolution, almost 1.5 million persons emigrated from Belorussia to the United States and to Siberia.

In 1897 the Bund-all-Jewish labor union-was created in Lithuania, Poland and Russia. The Bund played a vital role in the development of the Belarusian labor movement on the turn of the 20th century. In 1898 the 1st Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party took place in Minsk. In 1903 the Belarusian Socialistic Hramada became the first political party in Belarus. It took an active part in the revolution of 1905-1907. The Hramada opposed tsarism, promoted replacement of capitalism with socialism and supported the creation of the Russian Federative Democratic Republic with the right for different nationalities to self-determination and autonomous national development. The Hramada insisted that the right for autonomy with a local Sejm in Vilnya be granted to Belarus.

Belarusian national movement upheaval at the beginning of the 20th century led to the revival of Belarusian culture national traditions. The talented writers such as J. Kupala, J.Kolas, M.Bogdanovich, Tsetka and others, whose works later became classics of the Belarusian Literature, worked at that time. Newspaper "Nasha Niva" contributed to the advocacy of Belarusian culture.

Following the defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War and the Revolution of 1905, strikes and peasant disorders erupted throughout the Russian Empire; to stem the unrest the tsar granted, and then extended, civil liberties. Russian authorities were forced to relax their repressive policies on non-Russian ethnic groups, prompting a national and cultural flowering in Belorussia. The ban on the Belorussian language (and other nonRussian languages) was lifted, although there were still restrictions on its use; education was expanded, and peasants began to attend school for the first time; Belorussian writers published classics of modern Belorussian literature; and the weekly newspaper Nasha Niva (Our Cornfield), published by the Belorussian Socialist Party, lent the name nashanivism to this period (1906-18) of Belorussian history.

From 1906 to 1917 the Russian Prime Minister P.Stolypin carried out a bourgeois reform of allotment land tenure in the Russian Empire. The main goals of the reform were to destroy the communion farming, to give land to peasants as private property and to resettle peasants owning no land or insufficient land to Siberia. More than 335,000 people left Belarus in 1907-1914.

The outbreak of the Great War in 1914 turned Belorussia into a zone of strict martial law, military operations, and great destruction. In September 1915 German troops occupied Western Belarus. Large German and Russian armies fought fiercely and caused the expulsion or departure of more than 1 million civilians from the country. The Russian government's inept war efforts and ineffective economic policies prompted high food prices, shortages of goods, and many needless deaths in the war. Discontent in the cities and the countryside spread, leading to strikes, riots, and the eventual downfall of the tsarist government.

The tsarist autocracy was overthrown as a result of the February Revolution in 1917, which was followed by the October Revolution in Russia, including Belarus. 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.

Minsk was occupied by German troops from February to December 1918, and occupied by Polish troops from 1918 to 1920.




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Page last modified: 25-09-2012 17:58:40 ZULU