White Ruthenia
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White Ruthenia

White Ruthenia (Church Slavonic: ? , Bela Rous;[] Belarusian: ?, Bie?aja Ru? ; Polish: Ru? Bia?a; Russian: ?, Belaya Rus; Ukrainian: ? ?, Bila Rus) alternatively known as Russia Alba, White Rus' or White Russia, is an archaism[1][2] for the eastern part of present-day Belarus, including the cities of Polack (Polotsk), Viciebsk (Vitebsk), and Mahilo? (Mogilev).


Russia Alba between Livonia Aquilonaris and Moscovie Pars from the map Carta Marina by Olaus Magnus, 1539

Many other variations of this name appeared on ancient maps; for instance, Russia Alba, Russija Alba, Wit Rusland, Weiß Reußen (Weißreußen), White Russia, Hviterussland, Hvíta Rússland, Weiß Russland (Weißrussland), Ruthenia Alba, Ruthénie Blanche and Weiß Ruthenien (Weißruthenien). The name was also assigned to various territories, often quite distant from that of present Belarus. For example, at one time the term was applied to Novgorod.[clarification needed]

The 16th century chronicler Alexander Guagnini's book Sarmatiae Europeae descriptio wrote that Rus' was divided in three parts. The first part, under the rule of the Moscovite Grand Duke, was called White Russia. The second one, under the rule of Polish king, was called Black Russia. And the rest was Red Ruthenia. He also said Moscow was the center of White Russia and Russian metropolitanate, and that Grand Duke of Moscow was called the White Czar, especially by his subjects.

Sigizmundian Plan of Moscow, engraved in 1610, is the last city plan compiled (by the Poles) before the destruction of the city in 1612 and subsequent changes to the street network. Orientation: North is at the right, West at the top. (Moscovia urbs metropolis tutius Russiæ Albæ).
Map "The Grand Duchy of Moscow or the Kingdom of White Russia on the latest reports" (Estats du Grandduc de Moscovie ou de l'Empereur de la Russie Blanche suivant les derniers relations), approximately 1749 years cartographer Hendrik de Leth (Netherlands)

Only by the late 16th century, the name was associated with the area of present Belarus. The origins of the name, which is attested from the 14th century, are unclear.[3] Vasmer's dictionary mentions the dichotomy of "white" land and "taxed" land in Domostroi and speculates that "white" Russia may have referred to the parts of Russia that were not subject to Tatar rule. Another speculation in Vasmer is that the color of the clothes of the White Russians (perhaps as well as the color of their hair) may have contributed to the name. Oleg Trubachyov calls both theories "complete fantasies".[]

According to Alfred Nicolas Rambaud:

The name of White Russia is given to the provinces conquered from the 13th to the 14th century by the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. These were the ancient territories of the Krivitches, Polotchans, Dregovitches, Drevlians, Doulebes, now forming the governments of Vitepsk, Mohilef, and Minsk.[4]

See also


  1. ^ "White Russia". Oxforddictionaries.com. 2013. Retrieved 2017.
  2. ^ "White Russian". Oxforddictionaries.com. 2017. Retrieved 2017.
  3. ^ Vasmer's Etymological Dictionary?
  4. ^ Rambaud, Alfred (1898). "2". History of Russia.


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External links

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