People in Belarus
9.5 million people live in Belarus. The majority of
them live in a city, namely 79 out of 100 people. Minsk
is the largest city with just under two million
inhabitants. Gomel, Mahiljou, Vitebsk, Hrodna and Brest
are other large cities with at least 300,000
The birth rate is low with 1.5 children and so the
population has been falling since 1993. In 1989 more
than ten million people lived in the country. The
population is also getting older.
Most of the residents are Belarusians, namely 83
percent. The largest minority are Russians with 8.3
percent. Poles and Ukrainians are represented with 3.1
and 1.7 percent.
Languages in Belarus
Belarusian and Russian are the two official languages
in the country. However, the majority of 75 percent
speak Russian on a daily basis. The language of
instruction is also Russian. Only twelve percent speak
Belarusian every day. Then there is a mixture of both
languages. This mixed language is called Trassjanka.
Belarusian developed from a common language with
Russian and Ukrainian. To a certain extent, the speakers
understand each other. Like these two languages,
Belarusian is also written in the Cyrillic alphabet. But
there is also the letter ў and again three letters that
occur in Russian are missing (и, щ and ъ).
Spelling follows the sounds in Russian. While in
Russian an unstressed o is pronounced like a, in
Belarusian it is actually written with a. Water is
written in Russian вода, in Belarusian вада. But the
words are pronounced the same ( wadá ). However, the
sounds h and g are both represented by the letter г.
Hence, Gomel and Homel are names for the same city.
Belorussian also differs from Russian by a few
borrowings from Polish, i.e. its western neighbor. The
vocabulary also shows some other differences.
Religions in Belarus
82 percent of the population belong to the Russian
Orthodox Church. The remainder are divided between Roman
Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and Jewish communities.