Belarus is an Eastern European country, located in the north of the region. With a population of around 9.5 million, Belarus is a very ethnically diverse nation. Throughout most of its history, Belarus has been under the rule of other countries and kingdoms, which explains the high number of languages spoken in the country today.

Along with the two official languages, Belarus is home to several minority languages as well. The official languages include Belarusian and Russian, while the minority languages include Polish, Ukrainian, and Eastern Yiddish.

Belarusian, along with Russian, is one of the two official languages in Belarus. Old Belarusian is considered to be one of the oldest versions of the Belarusian language, which belongs to the East Slavic language family and is a descendant of Old East Slavic. The Soviet unification which started after the Second World War caused Russian to become the principal form of communication. After Belarus gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Belarusian became more popular and was the only official language for a while, until public protest led to the inclusion of Russian as a state language. In the years since, the interest in preserving Belarusian in the country has declined considerably.

In fact, in the years between 1999 and 2009, the use of Belarusian by families at home dropped from 36.7% to 11.9%. Today, fluency in Belarusian is noted among 29.4% of the population, while 52.5% can only speak and read it. There have been language support groups established at an attempt to revive literacy in Belarusian.

Russian is the most widely spoken language in Russia, and one of the two official languages aside from Belarus. After the Belarusian referendum of 1995 during which 88.3% of the voters expressed support for an equal legal status for both Belarusian and Russian, Russian was reinstated as an official language in the country. Since then, an increased use of Russian throughout the country has been observed. In the years between 1999 and 2009, the number of people claiming to speak Russian at home increased from 58.6% to 69.8% in 2009.

A mix of Russian and Belarusian called Trasianka can also be heard in certain parts of the country. Trasianka is the result of the influence of the socially dominant language on the local language, and became particularly common after rural Belarusian-speaking migrants began to move into Russian-speaking cities.


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