I've been to Belarus twice. I am a native English speaker from Southern USA. I speak Russian on a very basic level. The people of Belarus were amazing and very patient with me, but don't expect to find help readily available if you can't manage on your own.
And yes, the country is very beautiful, as well as rich with history and culture. I love Minsk as well, I can't wait to go back.
Белару́сь is more popular in Belarus itself (and since people from Belarus are more likely to talk about Belarus, you'll probably see it more often), Белору́ссия is more popular in Russia.
Республика Беларусь is the official name of the country. Still, we use Белоруссия as a short spoken variant in Russian. Same as "America" for the U.S., Белоруссия is not the official word for the country — but widely accepted as a colloquial form. I think, people from Belarus should be more comfortable saying Беларусь in speech. In Russia it is less common, but found. Admittedly, the Russian National Corpus has far more examples for Беларусь used as a brand of tractor in Soviet times.
Russian National Corpus has far more examples
I'm not sure how you counted, I've just opened НКРЯ, input «Беларусь» and counted results on the first 10 pages. I've got:
- 199 references to the country,
- 8 references to the tractor,
- 4 references to other things (2 hotels, 1 piano, 1 road).
Or did you only count usage in Soviet time? :? It would be understandable since Беларусь was not used much either in Soviet time or before, but I don't see how Soviet or pre-1917 usage is relevant.
Yep, I try to look a little intro the past, too. A number of native speakers in these discussions and in Russia are over 30. So the use before the nineties is very, very relevant to how people speak on average—people who grew up a while ago and have known about Belarus for decades. Old habits take time to change, especially when there is little reason to. On the other hand, if some usage appeared 40–50 years ago and grew popular, you can be pretty sure that by now even older speakers are rather accustomed to it (even if they do not use it themselves).
- actually, I am old enough to have witnessed how the word became more common. ЭВМ grew virtually extinct outside documents. Украина experienced some prepositional issues, too, AFAIR.
From what I can see in НКРЯ, using Беларусь for the name of the country with any notable frequency is a relatively recent innovation. Twenty years ago, it was not as common, and still is less common that calling the country Белоруссия.
I would expect the majority of the native Russian speakers from Russia to spell it with "O" - "Белорусь". Because no "белый/white" is ever spelled with "А" in the Russian language. (The English name never makes it understandable that the name of this country literally means "White Russia" in Russian. The Dutch name though is almost literal - "Wit-Rusland"). That is if the Russians use it at all. "Белоруссия" sounds more natural to me for example. It all depends a lot on the generation of course. "Белорусь" could be natural and organic for the Russian language too.
All the post USSR names of the former USSR republics are being created inside those republics and have nothing to do with the Russian language. It probably can sink in with time among future generations.
It is a clear case when language cannot be separated from POLITICS.
"White Russia" is exactly what it means in Russian
'White Russia' would be «Бе́лая Росси́я» in Russian. Belarus is not normally called that way, and this name would be pretty offensive to many Belarusians.
Belarus is sometimes poetically called «Бе́лая Ру́сь» 'White Ruthenia'. Ру́сь 'Ruthenia' is the name of an old country that used to include Belarusian, Ukrainian and Russian territories.
"White Russia" is a term that you find in history books written in English in the nineteenth century. Do you know what area they are likely to be referring to?
(I realise that the term may be offensive; I am just trying to understand the texts, not advocate their terminology.)
This is most likely a translation of «Белая Русь», so it doesn't sound offensive in English (unless you refer to the modern country this way).
Historically, «Белая Русь» referred to the eastern territories of modern Belarus plus Smolensk. Later, its meaning has extended to include the western territories of Belarus.
I don't know when this meaning extension was complete. In the turn of 18th-19th centuries, it probably wasn't: when Belarusian lands became a part of Russia, Western Belarus was included into Лито́вская губе́рния (Lithuanian Governorate), and Eastern Belarus was included into Белору́сская губе́рния (Belarusian / White Ruthenian / White Russian Governorate).
Technically speaking, Belarus can have a local variation ("Belarus Russian"). The Russian language is not, like, owned by Russia. I am fairly sure that Belarus does, in fact, have its regional norm—it is just that no one bothered to describe the unified standard and its difference from the one spoken in Moscow (though, people in Moscow do not speak a completely standard variation).
In reality Russian is not totally uniform, of course (just a lot more uniform than German or English). It is perfectly OK that some regions use "Беларусь", others use "булка хлеба", some use "тапок" and some "Я за тобой скучаю"—these words and expressions are de facto the local norm and native speakers do not notice that anything is off (unless a speaker from a different place tells them it does not sound right to them).
There is no contradiction between Белоруссия being Russia's Russian norm outside official documents and Беларусь being Belarus local norm. However, Standard "Russian Russian" is described in dictionaries in much detail. Ukrainian Russian, Belarus Russian or Far East Russian are only used..
The position of the Russian language in Russia is unique because it is the only official language throughout the whole country. There is no other such country. All other newly independent countries have done their best to get rid of the Russian language. Even Belarus spent 1990-1995 with Russian not being an official language but merely a language of interethnic communication. Russian in Ukraine without governmental support will most likely suffer serious decrease in quality. It can even be eliminated in the long run. The example of Swedish in Finland comes to mind and that is taking into account how much is done in Finland in order to preserve Swedish.
Something like Belarus Russian is possible in the future indeed. But it will require a separated course. I would enjoy trying Swiss German for example if Duolingo had it.
Russia with the Russian language
If you translate this phrase into Russian, you'll get «Россия с русским языком», which sounds much less convincing because русский (the name of the language) is not derived from Россия (the name of the country) in Russian. :)
And that makes sense, because Russian is not just a language of Russia.
Please, let's not start a political discussion here. It's a easy to start one, but do we need it?
We do not generally support people making unsubstantiated claims on this particular educational site.
You might use an activity thread of mine if you feel something's wrong in the course. I shall provide clarification whenever necessary to the best of my ability. Actually, you can consult any moderator (in theory) but I am not sure JanisaChatte is available. As for Larisa, she is primarily the moderator of the Englis course.
Many Russians think that Белоруссия is the correct variant, and Беларусь is an unjustified loanword from Belarusian. Many Russians want to avoild unjustified loanwords in Russian, so Беларусь would hurt their feelings.
Many Belarusians, on the other hand, think that Беларусь is the correct variant, and Белоруссия is an obsolete remnant from Soviet times. Many Belarusians want to break with the Soviet past, so Белоруссия would hurt their feelings.
You'll hurt someone's feelings regardless of the variant you use.
Maybe a compromise solution exists. But you can't reach compromises if you don't listen to the other side. If you say "I know what's correct; and you're teaching an incorrect variant", you're ignoring the other people's opinion. Because for many Russians, Беларусь is incorrect, and Белоруссия is correct. And compromises can't be reached if people ignore each others' opinions.
Белоруссия is our main variant since it is what most native speakers actually use (at least since the land was incorporated into the Russian Empire in the late 18th century century). It is the word you will find in a dictionary, too, so I am not sure which meaning of the word "wrong" applies here.
We also accept Беларусь, which is what Russian native speakers from Belarus might use. I see no problem with that, however it is way less popular (it's not like nobody outside Belarus knows the country), so it makes little sense to teach it.
The official name of the country is Республика Беларусь. At least now all native speakers of Russian agree that THIS one is too long, and no one uses it in speech. Official documents are a different matter. We also do not teach Российская Федерация. Strangely, no one complained yet.
@shady_arc (can't write an answer directly)
what most native speakers actually use
I doubt learners benefit from the theoretical number of speakers.
Russian people are much less likely to speak about Belarus, unlike Belarusians. The same is true for writing: Belarusians are much more likely to write about Belarus. So, although theoretical number of Russians is larger, it doesn't matter because for most of them Belarus is not a common subject.
So, if a learner starts talking about Belarus, they probably start it with Belarusians. And it makes sense to take that into account when creating learning materials.
It was taken into account, and that;s why we accept both. The word is common enough to be included. In reality, you won't find many people in Russia or, generally, outside Belarus, who use Беларусь, so it is not extremely authentic for this course. It's not like a speaker of Russian switches their place of origin and dialect whenever they speak about other countries.
(I cannot reply to the comments below, so I do it here)
Беларусь is not a loan word from Belarusian, it is the official name of the country in Russian.
The argument that it is in dictionaries doesn't work either. Of course it can be found there, because such name existed during USSR (as one of the republics). But that country collapsed almost 30 years ago. Now, there is only Беларусь. The same way you don't have Macedonia now, only Northern Macedonia.
And, of course, changing peoples minds about this is not easy. People used to the old name will use it because it is natural to them. But when you teach people, you should use the new, proper name not to propagte the problem further.