Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic

A part of Belarus under Russian rule emerged as the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (Byelorussian SSR) in 1919. Soon thereafter it merged to form the Lithuanian-Byelorussian SSR. The contested lands were divided between Poland and the Soviet Union after the war ended in 1921, and the Byelorussian SSR became a founding member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1922. The western part of modern Belarus remained part of Poland.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Soviet agricultural and economic policies, including collectivization and five-year plans for the national economy, led to famine and political repression.

In 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Poland, marking the beginning of World War II. The Soviets invaded and annexed much of eastern Poland, which had been part of the country since the Peace of Riga two decades earlier. Much of the northern section of this area was added to the Byelorussian SSR, and now constitutes West Belarus. The Soviet-controlled Byelorussian People’s Council officially took control of the territories, whose populations consisted of a mixture of Poles, Ukrainians, Belarusians and Jews, on 28 October 1939 in Białystok. Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. The Brest Fortress, which had been annexed in 1939, at this time was subjected to one of the most destructive onslaughts that happened during the war. Statistically, the Byelorussian SSR was the hardest-hit Soviet republic in World War II; it remained in Nazi hands until 1944. During that time, Germany destroyed 209 out of 290 cities in the republic, 85% of the republic’s industry, and more than one million buildings. The Germans’ Generalplan Ost called for the extermination, expulsion, or enslavement of most or all Belarusians for the purpose of providing more living space in the East for Germans.

Deaths are estimated to be over 1 million, the Jewish population of Belarus was devastated during the Holocaust and never recovered. The population of Belarus did not regain its pre-war level until 1971. It was also after this conflict that the final borders of Belarus were set by Stalin when parts of Belarusian territory were given to the recently annexed Lithuania

 

After the war

Belarus was among the 51 founding member states of the United Nations Charter and as such it was allowed an additional vote at the UN, on top of the Soviet Union’s vote. Vigorous postwar reconstruction promptly followed the end of the war and the Byelorussian SSR became a major center of manufacturing in the western USSR, creating jobs and attracting ethnic Russians. The borders of the Byelorussian SSR and Poland were redrawn, in accord with the 1919-proposed Curzon Line.

Joseph Stalin implemented a policy of Sovietization to isolate the Byelorussian SSR from Western influences. This policy involved sending Russians from various parts of the Soviet Union and placing them in key positions in the Byelorussian SSR government. After Stalin’s death in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev continued his predecessor’s cultural hegemony program, stating, “The sooner we all start speaking Russian, the faster we shall build communism.”

In 1986, the Byelorussian SSR was exposed to significant nuclear fallout from the explosion at the Chernobyl power plant in the neighbouring Ukrainian SSR.

In June 1988, the archaeologist and leader of the Christian Conservative Party of the BPF Zyanon Paznyak discovered mass graves of victims executed in 1937–41 at Kurapaty, near Minsk. Some nationalists contend that this discovery is proof that the Soviet government was trying to erase the Belarusian people, causing Belarusian nationalists to seek independence.

July 3, 1944, was also the liberation of Minsk, capital of Belarus from the Wehrmacht during the Minsk Offensive (code-named “Bagration”). The decision to celebrate Independence Day on July 3, the day of the liberation of Belarus from the Nazis, was made during a controversial national referendum held in 1996 proposed by President Alexander Lukashenko.

Since the waves of unrest began in Central and Eastern Europe, particularly in Poland, by 1991, the Independence Day was celebrated on July 27, the day of the Declaration of Sovereignty of Belarus. August 25, 1991, after the August events in Moscow; the Byelorussian SSR gave the Declaration of Sovereignty of the Republic the constitutional status of the law.

 

The Independence of the country

On September 19, 1991, the Permanent Representative of the Byelorussian SSR Hienadz Buraukin informed the office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations that it would officially be designated to simply known as “Belarus”.

On December 10, 1991, the Supreme Soviet of Belarus ratified the Belavezha Accords which formally declared the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Independence was formally received December 26, 1991, in connection with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Belarus is currently one of two post-Soviet country to not associate its Independence Day with the collapse of the USSR.

 

Controversy info about the independence

There is a public debate in Belarus regarding the appropriate date to be considered Independence Day. Since the early 1920s, various Belarusian political movements and the Belarusian diaspora have been celebrating Independence Day on March 25 as the anniversary of the 1918 declaration of independence by the Belarusian Democratic Republic. The date is still widely celebrated by members of the democratic opposition in Belarus and by the diaspora as Freedom Day. Some opposition politicians like Siarhei Navumchyk and Zianon Pazniak criticize July 3 as the Independence Day and suggest August 25 as the alternative.