Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

The complex story of the Belarusian language and its flexible deployment of three different alphabets deserves to the better known. Early Belarusian texts in the Arabic script (called kitabs) are a remarkable part of Europe's cultural heritage.

article summary —

The Belarusian language is something of an enigma. In the first year or two after the break-up of the Soviet Union, the language had a huge boost with the media and state institutions promoting the use of Belarusian in the affairs of newly independent Belarus. Unsurprisingly, this generated a degree of angst among those elements of the population who spoke or wrote Belarusian only falteringly. In May 1995, a referendum in Belarus restored the status of Russian as an official language - nominally on a par with Belarusian, but in practice Russian is overwhelmingly dominant, and language activists have highlighted their fears for the future of Belarusian which has now been relegated to second place. A much reported comment by the country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, allegedly deriding Belarusian as being ill-suited to great thoughts, has done nothing to promote the language.

Yet Belarusian happens to have a rather intriguing history.

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About the authors

hidden europe

and Susanne Kries manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers. They delight in discovering the exotic in the everyday.

This article was published in hidden europe 28.