An epidemic of renaming has spread to Scandinavia
In late May, Norway’s foreign minister announced that Belarus’ official name in Norwegian would be changed. Instead of the traditional Hviterussland (literally Belaya Rus or Belaya Russa), the form Belarus will be used.
The decision was made shortly after Norwegian government officials met with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a former Belarusian presidential candidate in the 2020 elections. unnecessary, (and, of course, negative) ie. of course negative associations with Russia.
Similar decisions have already been made by two other Scandinavian countries – Denmark in 2021 and Sweden in 2019, and the decision of the Swedish government was officially welcomed by the Ambassador of Belarus to this country Dmitry Mironchik.
Finland intends to follow the same path, whose president also supported the replacement of the historic Finnish name Valko-Venäjä with Belarus.
This epidemic of name changes that has engulfed Scandinavia is remarkable in its own way. After all, before the question of how to properly call Belarus was only about Russian and how the country is called in other languages, it did not matter to anyone.
The Belarus or Belarus dispute dates back to 1991, when the Byelorussian SSR became officially known as the Republic of Belarus. Until 1991, the “Belarus” format was considered normative for the Russian language, while “Belarus” was considered an exclusively Belarusian-language version.
With the acquisition of independence, the systematic replacement of the old name Belarus, used in the Soviet and pre-revolutionary periods, began on a daily basis.
Belarusian society has gradually become accustomed to the idea that the name Belarus is incorrect and insulting, and that only Belarus should be spoken and written.
And if the state confines itself to quiet bureaucratic procedures, removing the “wrong” name from signs, placards and official forms, the nationalist opposition organizes regular noisy actions against “Belarus”.
Moreover, these actions are addressed not so much by the Belarusians themselves, but by Russia, where the name “Belarus” is still used both officially and on a daily basis.
On the eve of the political crisis of 2020, when a “soft Belarusization” campaign was launched in Belarus, businesses also joined the fight against the country’s “wrong” name.
For example, the Korean carmaker Hyundai, often called Hyundai in informal communication in both Belarus and Russia, ran an advertising campaign under the slogan “Belarus, not Belarus! Hyundai, not Hyundai!” “.
Where did this discrepancy come from and why did it become so painful?
First of all, we note that both Belarus and Belarus are derivatives of the toponym Belaya Rus.
As a result of the division of ancient Russia between different political entities, its individual parts began to acquire specific definitions related to color or size over time.