Brief Information

Belarusian is the national language of Belarusians. 

In Russia, Belarusians mostly live in European territory (mainly the Northwestern and Central Federal Districts), although diasporas also exist in southern Russia and beyond the Ural Mountains. 

According to the Russian census of 2010, 521 443 Belarusians live on the Russian territory, although some estimations suggest that this number is slightly higher and constitutes more than 550 000 people. 

Belarusian speakers, as the data of the same census suggests, comprise 173 980 people in Russia, from which 95 141 speak it as their native language. 

Self-name of the language — беларуская мова.

Two main dialects are noted in Belarusian: North-Eastern and South-Western dialects, these dialects are separated by transitional, or Middle Belarusian dialects. 

The traditional vocations of Belarusians are farming, cattle breeding, as well as beekeeping and gathering.  Most Belarusians believe in Orthodox Christianity.


Belarusian belongs to the Eastern subgroup of the Slavic language group of the Indo-European language family. The closest related languages – Russian and Ukrainian. 

Two main dialects are noted in Belarusian: North-Eastern dialects,  that includes Polesian and Vitebsk-Mogilev subdialects, and South-Western dialects, that includes Grodno-Baranovich and Slutsk-Mozyr subdialects. There are also transitional, or Middle Belarusian (sub)dialects, that separate two main dialects. The group of Polesian dialects is particularly noteworthy, as its grammatical and phonetic features bring it quite close to the Northern Ukrainian subdialects. 


In the territory of the Russian Federation, Belarusians mainly live in the following regions: Moscow, Moscow Oblast, St. Petersburg, Leningrad Oblast, Karelia, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug, Kaliningrad, Murmansk, Smolensk, Pskov, Rostov, Sverdlovsk, Tyumen regions, and also in Crimea, Krasnodar and Krasnoyarsk regions. There are also separate small groups in other subjects of the Russian Federation (see map).

Language contacts and multilingualism

According to the Russian census of 2010, 173,980 speak Belarusian in Russia, 124,625 of them are Belarusians. Belarusian is also spoken by Russians, Ukrainians, Jews (more than 500 people with knowledge of Belarusian). Belarusians have a knowledge of Russian, Ukrainian, Polish languages (more than 1 thousand people chose these languages as the ones known by them).

Language functioning

The state language of the Republic of Belarus.

The writing is based on the Cyrillic alphabet. In the 16th-19th centuries and somewhat later, Latin script with Polish modifications and Arabic script were also used, with which local Tatars transmitted Belarusian texts that have survived under the author’s names of Al-Kitabov, Khamailov, and Tefsirov (Аль-Китабов, Хамаилов, Тефсиров).


The modern Belarusian alphabet

А аБ бВ вГ г(Ґ) (ґ)Д д(Дж) (дж)(Дз) (дз)
Е еЁ ёЖ жЗ зІ іЙ йК кЛ л
М мН нО оП пР рС сТ тУ у
Ў ўФ фХ хЦ цЧ чШ шЫ ыЬ ь
Э эЮ юЯ я     

The standard Belarusian language had two main periods in its development: the period of Old Belarusian literary language (14th century – the middle of 18th century), which was represented by translated confessional (religious) literature, monuments of legal and documentary (business) writing, chronicles and  local chronicles, etc.; and the period of modern standard Belarusian (since the late 18th century), that was formed on the basis of vernacular speech. The works of Y. Kupala and Y. Kolas played an important role in its development. 

The modern standard Belarusian is formed on the basis of the Middle Belarusian dialects, which combine separate features found in the neighboring North-Eastern and South-Western dialects.

Language experts

Research centres

Center for Ukrainian and Belorussian Studies Faculty of History, Moscow Lomonosov State University

The center's research focuses primarily on historical and cultural issues.

Institute of Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

A comprehensive research of the history, culture, literature and languages of foreign Slavic peoples.

Core references

Grammatical descriptions: grammars, sketches

Birillo N. V., Bulakhov M. G., Sudnik M. R. Belorusskii yazyk; Yazyki narodov SSSR. T. 1. Indoevropeiskie yazyki. [Belarusian language; Languages of  nationalities in the USSR. Volume 1. Indo-European languages] – Nauka Publishers, Moscow, 1966. Pp. 154-193

Birillo N. V., Matskevich YU. F., Mikhnevich A. E., Rogova N. V., Somin A. A. (sci. editors: A. M. Moldovan, S. S. Skorvid, A. A. Kibrik) Belorusskii yazyk; Yazyki mira: Slavyanskie yazyki [Belarusian language; Languages of the world: Slavic languages] – Nestor-Istoriya Publishers, 2017. Pp. 576-624.

Atrakhovіch (Krapіva) K. K., Bulakhaў M. G. (red.) Gramatyka belaruskai movy. T. 1,2 [Belarusian grammar. Vol. 1, 2]. – Minsk, 1962, 1966.

Biryla M. V., Shuba P. P. Belaruskaya Gramatyka u dzvyukh chastkakh. [Belorusian grammar in two parts] – Navuka i tehkhnika Publishers, Minsk, 1985.

Pashkevich V. Fundamental Byelorussian. – Toronto: Byelorussian Community, 1978.



Noso­vich I. I. Slovar' belorusskogo na­rechiya. [The dictionary of the Belorussian dialect]  –  Saint Petersburg, 1870.

Lukashants A. A. (ed.) Russko-belorusskii slovar'. T. 1–3. [Russian-Belarusian dictionary. Vol. 1-3]  – Minsk, 2012.

Avanehsav R. І. (ed.) Dyyalektalagіchny atlas belaruskai movy, U 2-kh ch [The dialect atlas of the Belarusian language, In two parts] – Mіnsk, 1963.

Atrakhovіch (Krapіva) K. K. (ed.) Beeiaru­ska-ruski sloўnik [Belarusian-Russian dictionary] – Moscow, 1962.

Атраховіч (Крапіва) К. К. (ed.) Tlu­ma­chal'­ny sloўnik be­la­ru­skai mo­vy [Explanatory Dictionary of the Belarusian Language]. – Мinsk, 1977–1984. Vol. 1–5. (Кn. 1–6).

Бiрыла М. В.  Leksichny atlas belaruskikh narodnykh gavorak [Lexical Atlas of Belarusian Folk Dialects.] In 5 vol. – Minsk: Kamiteht geadezii pry Savetse Ministrau RB, 1993. 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998.

Ushkevich A., Zezulin A. Byelorussian-English English-Byelorussian Dictionary. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1992.

Selected papers on grammatical issues

Buly­ka A. M., ZhUuraўski A. I., Kram­ko I. I. Gista­rych­naya mar­falogiya be­la­ru­skai mo­vy [Historic Morphology of the Belarusian Language] – Minsk, 1979.

Burlyka І. R., Vygonnaya L. T., Losіk G. V., Padluzhny A. І. Fanetyka belaruskai lіtaturnai movy. [Phonetics of the Belarusian language – Mіnsk: Navuka і tehkhnіka, 1989.

Zhuraўskі A. І. Gіstoryya belaruskai lіtaraturnai movy: u 2 t. [The history of the Belarusian language in two volumes] –  Mіnsk, 1967. Vol. 1.

Kramko І. І., Yurehvіch A. K., Yanovіch A. І. Gіstoryya belaruskai lіtaraturnai movy. [The history of the Belarusian literature language] – Mіnsk, 1968. Vol. 2.

Работы по этнологии

Grinblat M. Y. Belorusy. Ocherki proiskhozhdeniya i ehtnicheskoi istorii. [Belarusians. Essays on Origin and Ethnic History.]  – Minsk, 1968.

Kar­skii E. D. be­lo­ru­sy. 2-e izd. [Belarusians. The 2nd edition] – Moscow, 1955–1956. Vyp. 1–3.

Nosevich V. L. Traditsionnaya belorusskaya derevnya v evropeiskoi perspektive. [The traditional Belarusian village in the European perspective] – Minsk, 2004.

Molchanova L. A. Material'naya kul'tura belorusov. [The material culture of Belarusians] – Minsk, 1968.

Bandarchyk, V. K. Gіstoryya belaruskai ehtnagrafіі XIX st. [The history of Belarusian ethnography] — Minsk, 1964.

Biryla M. V. Beeia­ru­skaya antrapanimiya. [Belarusian entrapment.] – Minsk, 1966–1982. Ch. 1–3.


Corpora and text collections

Belarusian N-corpora (Беларускі N-корпус)

Volume of the corpora: ~177 millions word tokens.

The corpora of Belarusian National Technical University

Volume of the corpora: more than ~177 thousand word tokens.

Параллельный корпус в составе НКРЯ

There are search options to use Belarusian, Russian or both languages at the same time. 

Other electronic resources

Электронная энциклопедия

Есть возможность поиска слова по словарям белорусского языка. 

Data for this page kindly provided by

Birillo N. V., Bulakhov M. G., Sudnik M. R. Belorusskii yazyk; Yazyki narodov SSSR. T. 1. Indoevropeiskie yazyki. [Belarusian language; Languages of  nationalities in the USSR. Volume 1. Indo-European languages] – Nauka Publishers, Moscow, 1966. Pp. 154-193.

Sudnik M. R. Belorusskii yazyk // Lingvisticheskii ehntsiklopedicheskii slovar' [Belarussian language: Linguistic and Encyclopedic dictionary]  / Glavnyi redaktor V. N. Yartseva. – Moscow, Sovetskaya ehntsiklopediya, 1990.