Early commentators on the newly independent Belarusian state of the 1990s indicated that there was something lacking in Belarusian identity. The people did not seem to respond powerfully to the new symbols of the state, use of the national language intermingled with Russian, and economic concerns appeared to trump popular concerns with promoting Belarusian language or culture. Other former Soviet states were embracing ethnic national ideals, and as such, many assumed that Belarus should follow a similar path. However, as an examination of the history of the Belarusian territory demonstrates, a national ideal based on ethnicity was problematic in Belarusian society, and as such, the ethnic notions of Belarusian identity forwarded by some Belarusian elites failed to appeal to the masses. Instead, Belarus seems better suited to a more inclusive civic identity than an exclusive ethnic one. This research examines the nature of contemporary Belarusian identity, with particular attention to the civic versus ethnic aspects of that identity. We argue that although Belarusian identity is obviously in flux and subject to heavy debate, it is currently demonstrating more civic aspects than ethnic ones. This finding is based on original survey data obtained in Belarus in 2009 and 2010.

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