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Belarus is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital and most populous city is Minsk.

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After the 1986 meltdown, radioactive fallout scattered across much of the northern hemisphere, while some 150,000 square kilometres in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine were contaminated, according to the IAEA. That contamination spread as far as 500 kilometers north of the site.

-- Rob Picheta, “Europe’s largest nuclear plant is under threat. But experts say a Chernobyl-sized disaster is unlikely “, CNN, August 19, 2022

The Belarusian failure therefore provides a useful test. Here we have an “ethnic group” which is the largest by far in the area in question. According to the Russian imperial census of 1897, more people spoke Belarusian in Vil’na province than all other languages combined. In Vil’na, Minsk, Grodno, Mogilev, and Vitebsk provinces, contiguous territories of historic Lithuania, speakers of Belarusian were three quarters of the population. In the twentieth century, this “ethnic group” did not become a modern nation. In combination with Lithuanian and Polish successes, this Belarusian failure helps us to perceive what national movements actually need.

    • Timothy D. Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999 (Yale University Press, 2003)

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