“World War II and the Devastation of Belarus: A Tale of Tragedy and Triumph”


Nationalist and revolutionary movements in Belarus had been obvious at least since the Russian Revolution of 1905, when peasants joined the rebellion against the tsar. This was the beginning of the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. In the midst of World War I and the Russian Civil War, which followed the Revolution of 1917, a Belarusian state was only partially established.

Revolution Movement in Belarus

 An autonomous Belarusian Democratic Republic was proclaimed in 1918, despite the German army controlling the majority of the area at the time. However, the Bolsheviks announced the creation of the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (S.S.R.) on January 1, 1919, following the withdrawal of German forces from the battlefield.

The republic’s geographical integrity was swiftly compromised; starting in April of that year, newly reconstituted Polish troops moved eastward to the Byarezina River until being repulsed in 1920. The Treaty of Riga (signed on March 18, 1921) put an end to hostilities between Russia and Poland and partitioned Belarus following the lines of the First Partition of Poland.


One of the four founding republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which was founded on December 30, 1922, was the Belorussian SSR. The Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic’s Polotsk, Vitebsk, Orsha, and Mogilyov regions, which had sizable Belarusian populations, were transferred to the Belorussian S.S.R. in 1924. Gomel and Rechitsa (Belarusian: Rechytsa) were transferred in 1926.

Nationalism was forbidden in the Soviet Union starting during Joseph Stalin’s rule, and the Belorussian SSR was tightly governed along with the other constituent republics. In Minsk and other important towns, new industries were formed with the start of the first Five-Year Plan in 1928. Many intellectuals, dissidents, and others were killed during purges in the Belorussian S.S.R. in the 1930s.


II World War

The U.S.S.R. attacked Poland from the east after the German invasion of Poland in 1939 and the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact between Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union and Adolf Hitler’s GermanyIt divided eastern Europe between the areas of influence of Germany and the Soviet Union. Up until the Bug River and the Biaystok region, which is home to a sizeable Belarusian population, were under Soviet military control. The Treaty of Riga restored western Belarusian territory to the Belorussian SSR after it had been ceded to Poland.

Despite the Brest fortress garrison’s persistent and valiant resistance, the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 overran the Belorussian SSR. Heavy fighting occurred throughout the republic in 1944 as the Germans withdrew, with key engagements taking place close to Vitebsk, Borisov (Belarusian: Barysaw), and Minsk. Widespread destruction and casualties resulted from German occupation and retreat; the death toll in Soviet Belarus has been estimated at nearly one-fourth of the total population. A deal signed by the USSR and Poland at the end of the war gave the Soviet Union control of western Belarus.


Mass deportations of Polish people were carried out. The Belorussian SSR was allocated a seat in the General Assembly after the United Nations was founded in 1945, despite the fact that it was a member state of the USSR.

Rebuilding war damage was a primary goal of the first postwar Five-Year Plan, which it substantially accomplished. The largest towns then experienced increased industrialisation and an acceleration in their growth. By the beginning of the 1970s, Minsk had a million residents. Numerous small towns saw a fall in population, as did numerous rural areas.

About a quarter of Belarus’ neighboring Ukraine was contaminated with long-lived radioactive elements as a result of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in 1986. Several places in Belarus had to be evacuated due to the contamination, some of which had not been populated for more than 20 years since the catastrophe. As a result of the incident, Belarusians are now more likely to develop cancer, particularly thyroid cancer in children. The need for government spending to remedy the accident’s effects on the environment and public health persisted into the twenty-first century. (See Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for further information on the Soviet era, which lasted from 1922 to 1991.)


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