Belarusians (Belarusian: , romanized: bie?arusy, Russian: , romanized: byelorusy); also Byelorussians (from the Byelorussian SSR), are an East Slavicethnic group who are native to modern-day Belarus and the immediate region. There are over 9.5 million people who proclaim Belarusian ethnicity worldwide, with the majority residing either in Belarus or the adjacent countries where they are an autochthonous minority.
Belarusians are an East Slavicethnic group who populate the majority of the Belarus. Belarusian minority populations live in countries neighboring Belarus: in Ukraine, in Poland (especially in the Podlaskie Voivodeship), in the Russian Federation and in Lithuania. At the beginning of the 20th century Belarusians constituted a minority in the regions around the city of Smolensk in Russia.
Significant numbers of Belarusians emigrated to the United States, Brazil and Canada in the early 20th century. During Soviet times (1917-1991), many Belarusians were deported or migrated to various regions of the USSR, including Siberia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
Since the breakup of the USSR in 1991 several hundred thousand have emigrated to the Baltic states, the United States, Canada, Russia, and EU countries.
The two official languages in Belarus are Belarusian and Russian. Russian is the most spoken language, principally by 72% of the population, while Belarusian is only used by 11.9% in everyday life. According to a study, in varying degrees, the vast majority of residents speak the Belarusian language: 29.4% are fluent, being able read and write it, 52.5% can speak and read the language, 8.3% can understand it but can't speak or read it, while a further 7% are able to understand the parts of Belarusian language that are similar to Russian. Belarusian is a language of the East Slavic group.
The name Belarus can be literally translated as White Ruthenia that is a historical region in the east of modern Republic of Belarus, known in Latin as Ruthenia Alba (English: White Rus). This name was in use in the West for some time in history, together with White Ruthenes, White Russians (though not to be confused with the political group of White Russians that opposed the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War) and similar forms. Belarusians trace their name back to the people of Rus'.
The term Belarusians was promoted mostly during the 19th century by the Russian Empire. For instance, this can be traced by editions of folklorist researches by Ivan Sakharov, where in the edition of 1836 Belarusian customs are described as Litvin, while in the edition of 1886 the words (Lithuania) and ?- (Lithuanian-Russians/Ruthenians) are replaced by respectively ? (Byelorussia) and (Byelorussians).
Many scholars believe that the ancestors of the modern Belarusians settled in the region of what is now Belarus between the sixth and eighth centuries. Three early Slavic tribes (the Dregovich, Krivichi, and Radimich) settled there.
Between 1791 and 1917 much of Belarus, with its Christian and Jewish populations, was acquired by the Russian Empire in a series of military conquests and diplomatic maneuvers, and was made part of a region known as the Pale of Settlement.