General issues: Republic 1992-Present
Country name on general issues: Belarus
- Beylorussian peoples republic in exile 1920
- Occupation issues WWI:
- Oberbefehlshaber Ost 1915-1918
- German 10th Army 1918
- Polish I Corps 1918
- Occupation issues WWII:
- Reichskommissariat Ostland 1941-1944
- Reichskommissariat Ukraine 1941-1944
Currency: 1 Ruble = 100 Kopeks 1992-1994, 1 Belarus Ruble = 100 Kopeks 1994-Present
Population: 9 570 000 in 2016
Political history Belarus
Belarus as part of the Russian empire and during WWI
Belarus is located in eastern Europe. The Belarusians are a Slavic people of which the majority resides in Belarus, while significant minorities reside in neighboring countries. What today constitutes Belarus, became part of the Russian empire in the 18th century. Belarusian nationalism developed in the 19th century. During WWI, in 1915, the most western part of Belarus was occupied by Germany and brought under military administration as part of the area administered by the Oberbefehlshaber Ost.The Oberbefehlshaber Ost was the supreme commander of the German forces on the Russian front during WWI. For a map of the area controlled by the Oberbefehlshaber Ost, please refer to the map of Germany 1914-1938. In February 1918, Germany advanced to occupy almost all of Belarus. The occupied territory was under military administration by the German 10th Army. In part of the occupied territory, some of the administrative responsibilities were delegated to the Polish I Corps.The Polish I Corps was a Polish unit that was originally formed within the Russian army. After the 1917 October Revolution that brought the Bolsheviks to power in Russia, the Polish I Corps changed sides and operated under German command. In March 1918, Germany and Russia signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, by which Russia ceded Belarus to be part of the German sphere of influence. Subsequently, with German support, Belarus declared independence as the Beylorussian peoples republic – claiming those territories in which Belarusians formed the majority of the population.At the time, the territory claimed by the Beylorussian peoples republic was only roughly outlined – a map of the territory was first published by the government in 1919.For the name of the historical entities, preceding today’s republic of Belarus, different spellings are found. In this profile the choice is to use Beylorussia, adjective Beylorussian. The Beylorussian peoples republic was short lived. When Germany capitulated in November 1918, ending WWI, German forces withdrew and Bolshevik Russian forces invaded Belarus to regain the territory in December 1918. With Russian support, the Beylorussian Soviet socialist republic – Beylorussian SSR – was established in January 1919. The government of the Beylorussian peoples republic went into exile.
Belarus in the Interwar period and during WWII
Belarus would next be a major theater in the 1919-1921 Polish-Soviet War that ended in Polish victory. By way of the Treaty of Riga, signed by Poland and Russia in March 1921, Poland gained the western part of Belarus. In December 1922, the Beylorussian SSR became one of the founding members of the Soviet Union. In 1922, the territory of the Beylorussian SSR comprised only a small part of modern day Belarus. The territory was expanded, in 1924 and 1926, by the transfer of parts of the Russian S.F.S.R.The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the largest of the founding members of the Soviet Union. In 1939, in the advent of WWII, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, defining the spheres of interest in eastern Europe. Subsequently, the Soviet Union invaded Poland and annexed large parts of eastern Poland, part of which were attached to the Beylorussian SSR. Abrogating the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941 and occupied the Beylorussian SSR. Subsequently, the westernmost part of Belarus was annexed to Germany. The central parts were brought under civil administration as part of the Reichskommissariat Ostland and the Reichskommissariat Ukraine. The easternmost part remained under military administration throughout the war.The Reichskommissariat Osland included the Baltic states and parts of Poland and Belarus. The Reichskommissariat Ukraine included parts of Belarus, Poland and Ukraine. For a map of the area administered by the Reichskommissariat Ostland and the Reichkommissariat Ukraine, please refer to the map of Germany 1938-1945. As the tables turned in WWII, the Soviet Union regained Belarus in 1944. The borders were newly defined in 1944 and constitute the borders as we know them today.
The Beylorussian SSR and the independent republic of Belarus
As a member of the Soviet Union, the Beylorussian SRR would – although de jure an independent state – de facto be governed from the Kremlin. After an initial period, in the 1920’s, in which the Beylorussian SSR was allowed to retain some of its national identity, a period of Sovietization followed that would last until the liberalization in the Soviet Union in the 1980’s. While, in the late 1980’s, in other parts of the Soviet Union the call for independence was voiced by the population, in Belarus the majority of the population favored continuation of the Soviet Union. As the dissolution of the Soviet Union became inevitable, independence was declared as the republic of Belarus in 1991.
The first years of the republic of Belarus saw democratization. In 1994, Alexander Lukashenko was elected president. Lukashenko established an increasingly authoritarian regime that is in power until today. In its foreign policy, Belarus is closely affiliated to the Russian Federation and is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent Nations.The Commonwealth of Independent Nations was established in 1991 as a platform for continued cooperation between former Soviet republics after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Currently, nine out of 15 former Soviet socialist republics are members of the Commonwealth.
Economy and demographics
After the establishment of the Beylorussian SSR, private holdings were nationalized and collectivized in the 1920’s. The economy became a planned economy. Being a largely agricultural country in the 1920’s, industry was developed from the 1930’s. In the post war years, industry was further developed to make the Beylorussian SSR one of the most industrialized countries in the world by the 1980’s. After independence, Belarus saw a short period of market oriented reforms. Lukashenko, since 1994, turned back most of these reforms and the larger part of the economy state run until today. The Belarus economy is closely tied to the Russian economy. Belarus qualifies as a High Development Country in the United Nations Index of Human Development. The population is 84% Belarusian – ethnic Russians form the largest minority at 8% of the population.
Postal history Belarus
Prior to independence
Prior to the establishment of an independent postal service by the republic of Belarus in 1992, the general issues used in Belarus were those of Russia, the Soviet Union and, between 1921 and 1939 in western Belarus, Poland. While in exile, the Beylorussian peoples republic issued stamps in 1920. As country designation the stamps have ‘БНР’ – the abbreviation of ‘Беларуская Народная Рэспубліка’ for ‘Beylorussian peoples republic’.One set is listed in the Yvert & Tellier catalog. The Beylorussian SSR did not issue stamps.
During WWI, in the western part of Belarus administered by the Oberbefehlshaber Ost, stamps of Germany, without overprint, were used from 1915. These were superseded in 1916 by the issues of the Oberbefehlshaber Ost – German stamps overprinted ‘Postgebiet Ob. Ost'Postal area Ob. Ost. In 1918, the German 10th Army operated a postal service for civilians in the area under its administration. Basic stamps were issued reading – in Russian – ‘Control stamp’ and the denomination in German currency.Listed in the Michel catalog. The Polish I Corps also operated a postal service for civilians in 1918. Two sets of stamps were issued – both sets overprinted Russian stamps.Listed in the Michel, Stanley Gibbons and Yvert & Tellier catalogs.
Throughout WWII, German stamps were valid for use in the occupied territories. In the areas administered by the Reichskommisariat Ostland and the Reichskommissariat Ukraine, German stamps were superseded by the issues of the Reichskommisariat – German stamps overprinted ‘Ostland’ and ‘Ukraine’ respectively.
The republic of Belarus issued its first stamps in March 1992. Stamps of the Soviet Union were valid for use until January 1993. Belarus issues a blend of stamps with designs of national interest and stamps aimed at the thematic collectors market.