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World War I (1914-1921), from the very beginning of the war (August 1914), in which Russia fought Germany, Belarus was turned into a front zone with the presence of about 1.5 million Russian troops. Russian soldiers also became a deciding factor in the ensuing political developments. At the start of the war, more than one million civilians were either evacuated or driven away by force from western Belarus before it became a battleground in the summer and fall of 1915. Toward the end of that year, one-third of Belarusian territory was occupied by the Germans. After further territorial gains in February 1918, including the city of Miensk, the Germans left the country only at the end of 1918. Under the German occupation, Belarusian political and cultural life was centered in Vilnia. There, a number of cultural and political organizations were active and the newspaper Homan (Clamor) continued the cause of Naša Niva. About 100 Belarusian primary schools were opened in the Vilnia district, and a teachers' college was organized in the town of Śvisłač. Meanwhile, on the Russian side of the front, the first All-Belarusian Congress took place in Miensk in December 1917 and launched the process of the formation of the Belarusian Democratic Republic (BDR). In February 1918, the German troops made a deep advance to the east and forced the Soviet government to sign a separate truce under harsh conditions. The March 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk left Belarus divided, which prompted the Council of the BDR in German-occupied Miensk to declare the independence of Belarus on March 25, 1918. Germany did not recognize the act of independence and hindered the activities of the BDR government. The war caused terrible devastation in Belarus in terms of human dislocation and material losses. Nearly 1.5 million refugees were displaced from their homes, while Russian and German troops flooded the area. Most industrial enterprises were destroyed, and over 140,000 buildings, including historical and cultural centers, were burned or demolished. During the 1914-1917 period, the amount of tillable land decreased by 72 percent, and the harvesting of grain was reduced by almost one-third. The withdrawal of German troops from Belarus at the end of 1918 was followed by the Russo-Polish military conflict (1919-1920). This conflict resulted in the partition of Belarus into the Belarusian SSR within the Soviet Union (since 1922) and West Belarus, which was placed under Polish rule, according to the Treaty of Riga. While the Riga treaty was negotiated, the Słucak Uprising took place in southern Belarus in November-December 1920, adding to the devastation and loss of life.

Historical Dictionary of Belarus   Historical Dictionary of Belarus
Галоўная старонка   Галоўная старонка
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