If Russia remains an enigma for many foreigners who find it hard to work out its people, politics, mentality and language, Belarus has been even more of an unknown quantity.
It is a relatively small country, with the population of less than 10 million people, and the majority of them are ethnic Belarusians while ethnic Russians account for only less than 10%. Despite that, the country has two official languages: Belarusian and Russian. The two are similar but separate languages and it’s quite unusual to find a Belarusian citizen who can’t speak Russian. Even so, in friendly chats I had with some Belarusians I learnt that many of them regret having failed to keep their authentic origin, calling themselves “Ivans who can’t remember their own ancestors”. With history taking over people’s ways and traditions and the two nations very closely interlinked in culture anyway, it’s very difficult to change anything when it’s too late and out of their control.
The name Belarus literally means “White Rus”. And while many Russians will claim that “Rus” stands for Russia here, there is another theory: “Rus” refers to Eastern Slavic lands which now cover mostly Belarus and Ukraine.
As someone who works in the Russian translation business, I can say that while a substantial proportion of UK trade is with Russia, Belarus is finding its way in international business too, despite a controversial political climate.
Most of the Belarusian economy remains “controlled by the state” and heavily relies on Russia as its main partner for various imports, including energy. However, more and more British consultancy firms are keen to develop links in Belarus, especially in the construction and interior design industry. In the last couple of years we have had three different clients pitching for business in Belarus and not just in construction related to hospitality, but residential developments, too. Some of Talk Russian’s customers have been successful in penetrating the Belarusian market even by exporting such basic goods as cosmetics and baby products.
Belarusian goods have a great reputation in Russia, too. I’ve been told Muscovites love Belarusian dairy products and even clothes, something highly competitive in trendy Moscow.
My husband has been to Belarus this year and says locals are very friendly, like most Slavic people, and the views in some of the pictures look beautiful too. A lot to explore in Belarus, for sure.
[Tip: If you need to speak to a Russian translator, please call us on 0207 0436940 or email email@example.com]