Short stories of Belarus
100–35 thousand years ago. First attempts to settle on the territory covering today’s Belarus were made 100–35 thousands years ago. 22–14 thousands years ago, people had to move southwards because of the approaching glacier.
9–6 thousands years ago. In the Mesolithic epoch, the land of Belarus was fully lived in. There appeared instruments of labour made from silicon plates, and the bow. Religious faiths originated (paganism).
The end of the 5th–3rd millennia BC. During the Neolithic Period people started extracting flint. Primitive trade, agriculture and cattle breeding started.
The end of the 3rd – beginning of the 1st millennium BC. At the end of the 3rd millennium Indo-Europeans came to Belarus. Under the influence of Indo-European culture the transition to the Bronze age occurred. Cattle breeding and agriculture were spreading further and copper and bronze articles appeared as the result of trade. In the late tribal community, the first signs of property differentiation could be found.
8th–6th centuries BC – 8th century AD. During the Iron Age, people started manufacturing iron articles. Slavic tribes settled on the territory of Belarus and came into contact with Baltic tribes. As the result of this interaction the communities of the Krivichi, the Dregovichi and the Radimichi, predominantly Slavic, were formed.
9th–12th centuries AD. The first state formation came into being on the territory populated by the Krivichi-the Principality of Polotsk, with its center in the city of Polotsk, whose history dates back to 862 AD. The first Prince of Polotsk mentioned in the written documents is Rogvolod, who ruled at the end of the 10th century. The Principality of Polotsk came to the apex of its might and power under the rule of Prince Vseslav Charodey. At the end of the 10th century, the Principality of Turov, with its center in the town of Turov, was formed. Periodically both the Principality of Polotsk and the Principality of Turov, as many other Belarusian territories, were subjected to the authority of the Princes of Kiev but, as the process of feudal fragmentation started, they got rid of Kiev's rule. However, they failed to maintain their territorial integrity and broke up into smaller principalities.
The 10th–12th centuries was the time of the feudal system formation, which at first combined some features of feudalism, primitive communal and slave-owning systems. At the end of the 10th century, Christianity of Byzantine tradition spread across Belarusian territories and spurred the development of culture, the rise of architecture and the development of fine arts and writing.In the first half of the 13th century, the formation of the Belarusian language began.
The first half of the 13th–14th centuries. Under the threat of the crusaders' and Mongol-Tatars' aggression (the latter conquered the eastern and southern parts of Rus (ancient Russia)), the north-western territories of Belarus situated around Novogrudok united with the territories of the neighbouring Baltic tribes into one state-the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Mindovg became the head of the new state and in 1353, pursuing political goals, he became king and embraced Catholicism, which he soon abandoned. Novogrudok became the first capital of the Duchy and was superseded by Vilnya (modern Vilnius) in 1323. Even though the Baltic elite had more political power in the new state, the numerically prevalent Slavic population predetermined the administrative set up, the socio-economic and cultural development of the Grand Duchy. The Old Belarusian language was the official language of the country, which contributed greatly to the annexation of new East-Slavic territories. Mindovg's successors, by means of treaties, usurpation and arranged dynastic marriages, subjected all Belarusian territories to their authority. Later some Ukrainian territories were also annexed to the Duchy.
1385. The fact that the territory of the Grand Duchy was populated not only by Christians but also by Lithuanian pagans became an ideological pretext for the Teutonic Order and its subdivision the Livonian Order (the former German Order of Knights of the Sword) to start military aggression against the Grand Duchy. In order to eliminate this pretext and to find allies to curb crusaders' aggression, the Grand Duke Jagaylo, whose political status in the country was rather shaky, signed the Krevo Union with the Kingdom of Poland, according to which Jagaylo succeeded to the Polish Throne. However, in return for this Jagaylo had to join all his lands to the Kingdom of Poland and convert Lithuanian pagans to Catholicism. Catholics in their turn were given special privileges, which caused tensions between Orthodox and Catholic believers and displeased the adherents of political independence of the Grand Duchy. Jagaylo’s cousin Vitovt became the leader of the opposition. In alliance with crusaders and his local supporters, he waged war against the King of Poland. Having won the war, Vitovt became the Grand Duke of Lithuania and granted independence to the Grand Duchy.
1392-1430. Under Vitovt’s rule the Grand Duchy of Lithuania reached the apex of its power. Vitovt made every effort to strengthen his authority through inner reforms aimed at centralization of his power and through active multifaceted foreign policy targeted at the victory over crusaders and annexation of new eastern territories. He was also engaged in diplomatic activities hoping to acquire the title of king. As the result of Vitovt’s activities, the Grand Duchy expanded greatly and gained considerable international authority. The Battle of Gruenwald contributed greatly to the growing authority of the Grand Duchy since in this battle the joint forces of Poland and the Grand Duchy crushed the Teutonic Order.
1430-1432. Vitovt’s policy continued by his successor Svidryhaila, who was striving to convert the Grand Duchy of Lithuania into a kingdom.
1440-1492. Under the rule of Kazimir Jagellon, who was elected King of Poland in 1447, the dynastic union between Poland and the Grand Duchy was re-established. In 1468 Kazimir introduced the first Belarusian statute book. Since the Grand Duchy had not had a grand duke for a substantial period of time, the Ducal Council – the Pany-rada-rose to authority and in the late 15th – early 16th century and became the supreme body of state power. Since Kazimir simultaneously carried out the functions of both the grand duke and the king of Poland, the Grand Duchy lost its initiative in foreign affairs and in the process of East-Slavic territories consolidation. This initiative was taken over in the late 15th century by the Grand Principality of Moscow, which soon claimed all the territories of Ancient Rus. During the wars of 1492–1522 the Principality of Moscow conquered a number of eastern territories, among which were some territories of the Grand Duchy. These lands were partially won back in 1534–1537.
Mid. 16th century. By the mid 16th century the state system of the Grand Duchy had been shaped and its basic principles were reflected in the Statutes of 1529 and 1566. The state, which was divided into pavets (districts) and voyevodstvos (counties), was ruled by the Grand Duke and the Pany-rada. The Soym (the Parliament) became the feudal barons' representative institution, representatives for which were elected in each district.
1558–1583. The fight for superiority in the Eastern Baltic region spurred the beginning of the Livonian War between the Grand Duchy and the Russian state. The failures of the Grand Ducal army, one of which was the capture of Polotsk by Russians, resulted in the establishment of the Lyublin Union (1569), according to which a new federative state was formed-the Rzecz Pospolita – with a joint ruler, who was elected by the nobility (shlyahta, or gentry) and the Seym (the Parliament). The Grand Duchy had preserved its administrative set up, its army, coat of arms and state seal but it had lost a considerable part of its territories, which were annexed by the Kingdom of Poland. At that point the territory of the Grand Duchy was limited to Belarusian and Lithuanian lands. The political Union helped the new state successfully finish the war, win back the lost territories and establish dominance in Livonia.
1609-1618. The lands around Smolensk and the city itself, which were lost to Russia in the early 16th century, were gained back in the early 17th century. In the 15–16th centuries feudalism reached the highest degree of its development on the territory of Belarus. Due to the growing demand on agricultural products in Europe, feudal barons started farming on vast plots of land, which were cultivated by serfs. Serfdom was officially recognized in the Statute of the Grand Duchy in 1588. At this time a rapid growth of cities could be observed, which in the late 14th century were granted an autonomous status according to the Magdeburg privilege. Handicraft flourished and a number of guilds and merchant corporations were established.
1596. Propagation of Renaissance and Reformation in the Belarusian lands in the 16th century. Long-lasting religious tolerance existed in that state until the end of the 16th century, when counter-Reformation followed, directed against both Protestant and Orthodox believers. It resulted in the signing of the Brest Church Union, which recognized supremacy of the Pope of Rome and Catholic doctrines at the Orthodox Church of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, with its ceremonial rites remaining intact.
Till 1696. The Orthodox population stood up against the Brest Union introduction. This resistance, together with the difficult economic situation of peasants and city workers, provoked the beginning of an anti-feudal war (1648–1651, 1654–1667), which was unleashed by the Zaporozhian Cossacks. Russia did not miss the chance to use this period of political unrest for its own benefit and started a new war on the territory of the Rzecz Pospolita, as a result of which the bigger part of Belarus was lost to Russia. However, in some time the Russian army suffered a number of defeats and Russia had to sign the Andrusov Armistice (1696), according to which Belarusian lands (except Smolensk) were returned to the Rzecz Pospolita. The war brought about a severe crisis in economics and had a negative impact on the demographic situation. The population of Belarus decreased twofold, the development of cities was seriously hindered, the process of Polonization (the propagation of Polish culture) accelerated and affected such social classes as the shlyahta (the nobility) and the social stratum of city-dwellers. The Belarusian language lost its status of the official language and was replaced by Polish. The shlyahta's privileged status caused tension and instability in the country.
1700–1721. In 1700 the Rzecz Pospolita, in alliance with Russia, engaged in the Northern War with Sweden, which turned the Belarusian territories into a battlefield. The situation was aggravated by numerous inner conflicts between different groups of noblemen supporting different aspirants to the crown. The war led to another economic crisis, which was overcome only in the mid 18th century. At this point the economy of Belarus recovered from the depression, which gave rise to capitalistic tendencies.
1772–1793. The consequences of the lingering political crisis in comparison with those of the economic one were more grave and profound. As a result of this crisis the Rzecz Pospolita was overwhelmed by anarchy and threatened by the growing dominance of the neighbouring states. The last King of Poland and Grand Duke of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Stanislav August Ponyatovski attempted to restore the centralized authority but soon had to face the opposition seeking support abroad. Using these circumstances and the fact that the Orthodox and Protestant populations in Rzecz Pospolita were discriminated against Catholics, Russia, Prussia and Austria dismembered the Rzecz Pospolita in three parts. As a result of this partitioning, the eastern part of Belarus was absorbed by the Russian Empire. In order to keep the country intact, the Four-year Sejm (1788-1792) adopted on 3 May 1791 a constitution, which proclaimed the Rzecz Pospolita a unitary state and reinforced the centralized authority, granted new rights to the petty bourgeoisie and put serfs under the guardship of the state. In reply to this Russia, on the formal invitation of the conservative representatives of shlyahta, deployed troops on the territory of the Rzecz Pospolita and conducted the second partition of the state, as a result of which the central part of Belarus was also annexed by Russia.
1794. The awakening to nationhood culminated in the uprising under the leadership of Tadeush Kostyushko, which was quelled by the Russian army.
1795. In 1795 the third partition of the Rzecz Pospolita took place, which resulted in the annexation of the western parts of Belarus. The Rzecz Pospolita ceased to exist.
1830–1831. 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 Rzecz Pospolita as it was before 1772. The revolt provoked “shlyahta 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).
1861. In 1861 peasantry reforms were implemented, which stipulated serfdom abolition in the Russian Empire including the North-western region (as Belarus was called at that time).
1863–1864. 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-ties. In Belarus the uprising was coordinated by K. Kalinovsky, 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.
First half of the 1880's. Activities 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, concretised 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.
1897. In 1897 the Bund-all-Jewish labour union was created in Lithuania, Poland and Russia. The Bund played a vital role in the development of the Belarusian labour movement on the turn of the 20th century.
1898. In 1898 the 1st Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party took place in Minsk.
1903. The Belarusian Socialistic Gromada became the first political party in Belarus. It took an active part in the revolution of 1905–1907. The Gromada 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 Gromada insisted that the right for autonomy with a local Seym in Vilnya be granted to Belarus.
1905–1907. The First Russian Bourgeois-Democratic Revolution took place.
1906–1917. The Russian Prime Minister Peter 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.
1914. The First World War broke out in 1914, which resulted in the declaration of martial law on the territory of Belarus.
1915, September. German troops occupied Western Belarus.
1917, February. The tsarist autocracy was overthrown as a result of the February Revolution
1917, October-November. The October Revolution in Russia, including Belarus.
1918, February–December. Minsk occupied by German troops.
1918–1920, December–July. Minsk occupied by Polish troops. Proclamation (in Smolensk) of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR) with its capital in Minsk (1st of January 1919). Setting up of the Provisional Workers' and Peasants' Soviet Government headed by D. Zhilunovich. Adoption (February 2–3, 1919) of the first BSSR Constitution at the first All-Byelorussian Congress of Soviets of Workers', Peasants' and Red Army Deputies. The congress made an appeal to all the peoples on recognition of independence of Belarus and establishment of diplomatic relations with it. The BSSR Central Executive Committee (CEC) formed. The joint session of the CEC of the Lithuanian SSR and the CEC of the BSSR in Vilnya decided to create the Lithuanian-Byelorussian SSR that comprised the territories of Minsk and Vilnya provinces (February-July, 1919).
1920, July 31. “The Declaration of the Independence of the BSSR” was adopted.
1921. Transition to NEP – the New Economic Policy, which contributed greatly to the restoration of farming and had a positive effect on the development of industry.
1921, March 18. The Riga Peace Treaty between the RSFSR, Ukraine and Poland was signed in 1921, according to which Western Byelorussia was annexed by Poland. The territory of Byelorussia was limited only to 6 povets of Minsk province with the total population of 1,544,000 people.
1922, December 30. In 1922 the 1st Congress of the Soviets of the USSR signed the Declaration of and the Treaty on the Creation of the USSR. The BSSR joined the Union on equal terms with RSFSR (Russia), USSR (Ukraine) and TSSR (Transcaucasian SSR).
1924. The first enlargement of the territory of Byelorussia took place in 1924 – Vitebsk, Gomel and Smolensk provinces become Byelorussian territories again.
1924-the end of the 20's. Pursuing the policy of Belarusization: the Belarusian language was becoming a most important means of communication. The 14th Congress of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) (1925, 18–31 December) adopted the policy of industrialization. During the pre-war period in Byelorussia, about 1,000 enterprises were built and 860 reconstructed. The rate of industrial growth was higher than average in the USSR.
1926. In 1926, the second enlargement of Byelorussia took place. Gomel and Rechitsa districts were joined to Byelorussia. As a result of the two enlargements, the population of the country at the beginning of 1927 grew to 5 million people.
1927, April 11. In 1927, the 2nd Constitution of the BSSR was adopted. The new Constitution stipulated that all authority in the country should belong to the Soviets of Workers', Peasants' and Soldiers' Deputies.
1937, February 19. In 1937, a new Constitution of the BSSR was adopted. The Supreme Soviet of the BSSR gained power of the supreme government body. At this point Stalin's mass repressions in the USSR reached an unprecedented level.
1939, September 17. In 1939, the territories of Western Byelorussia were reunited with the BSSR, which resulted in the population growth to 11 million people.
1941, June 22. On 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. This invasion resulted in the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, which started with the heroic defence of the Brest fortress.
1941, July 3–26. The defence of Mogilev.
1941, the end of August. The whole territory of Byelorussia was occupied by the Nazis, which provoked the rise of a mass partisan underground resistance movement.
1943, March 22. Byelorussia suffered greatly from the nazi genocide. The village of Khatyn (Logoysk district) was burnt together with its inhabitants. Many other villages suffered the same fate during the Second World War.
1943, July 30. The members of underground organizations undertook the Osipovichi sabotage, the most significant sabotage of the Second World War. The partisans demolished 4 trains with ammunition and “Tiger” tanks.
1943, August 7. The liberation of Byelorussia from the Nazis started in 1943.
1943, November 26. The troops of the Byelorussian Front liberated the first regional center – Gomel.
1944, June 23 – August 28. In the morning of 23 June 1944, one of the largest military operations of the Great Patriotic War began-the Byelorussian Offensive, known under the code name of “Bagration”. This operation brought liberation of Byelorussia from the invaders. In the course of the Second World War Byelorussia suffered major losses. Every 4th citizen of the republic was killed. The cities were shattered, large-scale and medium-scale industrial enterprises were demolished, more than 9000 villages were burnt. About 380,000 people were sent to Germany as slave labour. Many of these people, upon their return home, were thrown into Stalin's concentration camps.
1944, July 3. On 3 July 1944, the 1st and 3rd Byelorussian Fronts liberated Minsk, the capital of the BSSR.
1945, April 27. Byelorussia admitted to the U.N.O. as one of its founder states. The whole world community acknowledged the contribution the Byelorussian people had made into the victory over Nazi Germany and paid homage to those who had died in the fight against nazism.
1950–1960's. In economic terms, the post-war years were very difficult for the BSSR. Considerable funding was allocated from the central, the USSR, budget. The following plants and factories were built: Minsk Automobile Works, Minsk Tractor Plant, Road-Making Machines Plant in Zhodino, Oil Refinery in Novopolotsk, Chemical Fertilizer Plant in Grodno, Tire Plant in Bobruysk, Synthetic Fiber Factory in Soligorsk, and others.
1986, April 26. On 26 April 1986, Byelorussia was struck by the Chernobyl disaster, as a result of which vast territories of Gomel, Mogilev and some territories of Grodno, Brest and Minsk regions were contaminated with radioactive elements. Thousands of kilometres of land were made unfit for farming and living on and turned into “dead zones”.
1990, July 27. “The Declaration of National Independence of the BSSR” was signed at a regular session of the Supreme Soviet of the BSSR on 27 July 1990. On 25 August 1991, it acquired the status of a constitutional law.
1991, September 19. The BSSR was renamed the Republic of Belarus ("Belarus" in shortened names and compounds). In translations into foreign languages this name is transcribed in accordance with the Belarusian pronunciation.
1991, December 8. The leaders of the Republic of Belarus, Russian Federation and Ukraine signed an agreement on the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
1991, December 10. The Supreme Soviet of Belarus ratified the agreement as of 8 December 1991 and annulled the agreement signed in 1922 on the establishment of the USSR.
1994, July 10. On 10 July 1994 Lukashenko A.G. was elected the first President of Belarus.
1996, April 2. On 2 April 1996 in Moscow, the President of Belarus A.G.Lukashenko and the President of the Russian federation Boris Yeltsin signed the treaty on the creation of the Commonwealth of Belarus and Russia.
1997, April 2. On 2 April 1997 in Moscow, the Treaty on the Creation of the Union Between Belarus and Russia was signed and on 23 May 1997 the Union Statute was adopted.
1999, December 8. On 8 December 1999 in Moscow, the Treaty on the Establishment of the Union State of Russia and Belarus and the Program of Actions were signed.
2001, September 9. Lukashenko A.G. was elected President for the second term of office.
2006, March 19. Lukashenko A.G. was elected President for the third term of office.