White Ruthenia

White Ruthenia (Church Slavonic: Бѣла Роусь, romanized: Bela Rous';[citation needed] Belarusian: Белая Русь, romanizedBiełaja Ruś; Polish: Ruś Biała; Russian: Белая Русь, romanizedBelaya Rus'; Ukrainian: Біла Русь, romanizedBila Rus') alternatively known as Russia Alba, White Rus' or White Russia, is an archaism[1][2] for the eastern part of present-day Belarus, including the cities of Polotsk, Vitebsk and Mogilev.

White Ruthenia (in white) within the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as depicted by the French cartographer Henri Chatelain in a map from 1712


Russia Alba between Livonia Aquilonaris and Moscovie Pars from the map Carta Marina by Olaus Magnus, 1539

Many other variations of this name appeared on ancient maps; for instance, Russia Alba, Russija Alba, Wit Rusland, Weiß Reußen (Weißreußen), White Russia, Hviterussland, Hvíta Rússland, Weiß Russland (Weißrussland), Ruthenia Alba, Ruthénie Blanche and Weiß Ruthenien (Weißruthenien). The name was also assigned to various territories, often quite distant from that of present Belarus. For example, at one time the term was applied to Novgorod.[clarification needed]

White Russia (French: Russie Blanche) in white on a map by French cartographer Henri Chatelain in 1712. Black Ruthenia in black, Volhynia in red, and Podolia in yellow.

The 16th century chronicler Alexander Guagnini's book Sarmatiae Europeae descriptio wrote that Rus' was divided in three parts. The first part, under the rule of the Muscovite Grand Duke, was called White Russia. The second one, under the rule of Polish king, was called Black Russia. And the rest was Red Ruthenia. He also said Moscow was the center of White Russia and the Russian metropolitanate, and that the Grand Duke of Moscow was called the White Czar, especially by his subjects.

Sigizmundian Plan of Moscow, engraved in 1610, is the last city plan compiled (by the Poles) before the destruction of the city in 1612 and subsequent changes to the street network. Orientation: North is at the right, West at the top. (Moscovia urbs metropolis tutius Russiæ Albæ).
Map "States of the Grand Duke of Muscovy or of the Emperor of White Russia according to the latest relations" (French: Estats du Grandduc de Moscovie ou de l’Empereur de la Russie Blanche suivant les derniers relations), c. 1749 by Dutch cartographer Hendrik de Leth [nl]

Only by the late 19th century, the name was associated with the area of present Belarus. The origins of the name, which is attested from the 14th century, are unclear.[3] Vasmer's dictionary mentions the dichotomy of "white" land and "taxed" land in Domostroy and speculates that "white" Russia may have referred to the parts of Russia that were not subject to Tatar rule. Another speculation in Vasmer is that the color of the clothes of the White Russians (perhaps as well as the color of their hair) may have contributed to the name. Oleg Trubachyov calls both theories "complete fantasies".[citation needed]

According to Alfred Nicolas Rambaud:

The name of White Russia is given to the provinces conquered from the 13th to the 14th century by the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. These were the ancient territories of the Krivitches, Polotchans, Dregovitches, Drevlians, Doulebes, now forming the governments of Vitepsk, Mohilef, and Minsk.[4]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "White Russia". Oxforddictionaries.com. 2013. Archived from the original on 30 August 2017. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  2. ^ "White Russian". Oxforddictionaries.com. 2017. Archived from the original on 30 August 2017. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  3. ^ "untitled". starlingdb.org.
  4. ^ Rambaud, Alfred (1898). "2". History of Russia. Archived from the original on 2021-08-31. Retrieved 2021-08-31.


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