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Monday, May 2, 2011

Origin of Belarusians

Preliminary discussions of Belarusian ethnic origin (to be clarified with results of BGA analysis)

We will start with a version of Belarusian ethnic origin according to Jermalovich.

". Initially, the entire Belarusan ethnic area was inhabited by Baltic tribes. In the sixth-to-seventh centuries, Slavic tribes came from the west. The Slavs fused with the Balts to form a new Balto-Slavic nation - the ancestors of today's Belarusans. The prevalent language became Slavic - Old Belarusan - which retained many Baltic elements in its pronunciation and vocabulary. Baltic elements are still recognizable in the folklore (dances, songs, costumes, folk ornaments, etc.) and toponymics (place names) of the present-day Belarus.
The Slavs belonged to tree main tribes: the Kryvicy, who settled in northern and central Belarus, the Dryhvicy(Drehavicans), who settled in the south along the river Prypiac' and Radzimicy(Radzimicans) who settled in the upper Dniapro (Dnepr) region. Two other tribes, the Severianie and the Viacicy(Viaticens), settled further east and only parts of their former territories are now considered ethnically Belarusan."

These Slavic tribes all adopted Christianity in its Eastern Orthodox from the Kievan Rus. For some time they were also politically dependent from Kiev. However, the Kryvicy soon established their own state in the north - the Duchy of Polacak. Later, the duchies of Turau-Pinsk and Novaharodak were established in the south and Southwest respectively. The territory of the duchy of Novaharodak, which had been colonized by both the Kryvicy and the Dryhvicy, extended along the Nioman river between Horadzien (currently know as Hrodna or Grodno) in the west and Novaharodak in the east.
The duchy of Novaharodak was virtually surrounded by unassimilated Baltic tribes: the Jacviahi(Yatvegians) in the west (who were later belarusianized), the Nalscany in the north, the Litva in the east and Northeast, and the area called Aukstota in the south-eastern part of modern Lithuania. Another Baltic tribe, the Samogitians, who lived between Aukstota and the Baltic Sea, did not merge with the Slavs but remained a separate ethnic group. It was the Samogitians and the inhabitants of Aukstota who became the ancestors of today's Lithuanians.
Aukstota - which means highland in Lithuanian - is nowhere mentioned as such in the medieval chronicles and did not seem to be a political entity. Many of its place names contain the word aukstas, or high, while Samogitia, further to the west, means lowland. The city of Vilna (currently know as Vilnius) the present capital of Lithuania, is in Aukstota and Lithuanian scholars consider Aukstota to be the heart of the Lithuanian ethnic area. They claim that Aukstota was the location of the original Litva and that it was from here that Duke Mindouh (Mindaugas in modern Lithuanian) left to conquer the adjoining Duchy of Novaharodak and established the Grand Duchy of Litva.
However, the separate ethnic character of Litva is supported by the non-Slavic names of their leaders - Mindouh, Vojsalk, etc. Mr. Jermalovic feels that Litva referred to an unassimilated Baltic ethnic island.

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