Did Belarusians ever have an independent state prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union?
Belarus has a start-stop history. Between 12th and 17th centuries Belarus was the core of the Belarusian-Lithuanian state called the Grand Duchy of Litva. It was a multiethnic state and the old Belarusian was the only official language. Litva stopped its existence after most of its territory was conquered by Russia in 1794.
The renewal of Belarusian statehood became possible only after the fall of the Russian monarchy in February 1917. On March 25, 1918, the Council of the All-Belarusian Congress in Minsk proclaimed the independence of the Belarusian People’s Republic (BPR).
Belarusian People’s Republic was recognized by Germany, Austria, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Poland, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Armenia, Georgia, and Turkey. However, the new Belarusian state was short-lived; it was liquidated by Soviet Russia with the help of the Red Army in 1919. Some leaders of the Belarusian People’s Republic emigrated to the West and established a Belarusian government in exile. March 25, the Independence Day of the Belarusian Democratic Republic, is now celebrated by the Belarusian national democratic opposition as Freedom Day.
The contemporary Belarus gained its independence in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union.