The Belarusian language (Беларуская мова, BGN/PCGN: byelaruskaya mova, Scientific: belaruskaja mova, łac.: biełaruskaja mova) is the language of the Belarusian people. It is the official language of Belarus, along with Russian, and is spoken abroad, chiefly in Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. Prior to Belarus gaining its independence from the Soviet Union in 1992, the language was known in English as Byelorussian or Belorussian, transliterating the Russian name, Белорусский язык, or alternatively as White Russian or White Ruthenian. Following independence, it was also called Belarusan.
Belarusian is one of the East Slavic languages, and shares many grammatical and lexical features with other members of the group. Its predecessor stage is known as Old Belarusian (14th to 17th centuries), in turn descended from Old East Slavic (10th to 13th centuries).
According to the 1999 Belarus Census, the Belarusian language is declared as a “language spoken at home” by about 3,686,000 Belarusian citizens (36.7% of the population) as of 1999. About 6,984,000 (85.6%) of Belarusians declared it their “mother tongue”. Other sources put the “population of the language” as 6,715,000 in Belarus and 9,081,102 in all countries.
According to a study done by the Belarusian government in 2009, 72% of Belarusians speak Russian at home, while Belarusian is used by only 11.9% of Belarusians. 29.4% of Belarusians can write, speak and read Belarusian, while only 52.5% can read and speak it. According to the research, one out of ten Belarusians does not understand Belarusian.
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