Friday, March 13, 2020

Nearly Half of Schools in Belarus Use Belarusian But Only 20 Percent of Pupils Go to Them

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 7 – Those who claim that Belarus is currently undergoing “soft Belarusianization” point to the fact that 45.5 percent of all schools in that country conduct classes in the national language, but those who argue the contrary note that most of these are small schools in rural areas and that only 20 percent of Belarusian pupils are enrolled in them.

            Ten days ago, the Belarusian education ministry announced that almst half f the schls in Belarus conducted their lessons in Belarusian, apparently to underline that “soft Belarusianization” was taking place (

            But according to other sources in the same  ministry, only 11.1 percent of all pupils at the start of the 2018/2019 school year were actually being instructed in Belarusian ( and

            The Zloy minobr telegram channel which keeps track of the Belarusian educational system has sought to determine how there could be such a gap between 11 percent and 45 percent and has now presented its findings (

            In 2018, there were a total of 2813 schools f which 1220 were in cities and 1593 were in rural areas. Schools in which Belarusian was the language of instruction numbered 1282, 45.5 percent of the total.  But of those Belarusian language schools, 1207 were in rural areas, and only 75 inn the cities. The urban Russian language schools number 1145.

            What this means, the telegram channel says, is that “almost all rural schools are Belarusian-language ones, and almost all urban schools are Russian-language ones.” The latter are far larger and at present, five times as many Belarusians in cities study in Russian language schools than in Belarusian language schools for the country as a whole.

            But that is not the end of the story, it continues. “In the six years between 2012 and 2018, the number of schools in Belarus declined by 615. There were 3428; only 2813 remained. Those with Russian language of instruction declined by only 133 during that period; those with Belarusian fell by 482.

            These trends may be called many things, but they hardly qualify as even the “soft” Belarusianization some like to talk about.

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