Etymology - Historically, the country was referred to in English as "White Russia", although this is a slight mis-translation. The correct translation is "White Ruthenia", which either describes the area of Eastern Europe populated by Slavic people or the various states that occupied the area. The first use of the term "White Russia" appeared in medieval literature in German and Latin. The Latin term for the area, Russia Alba, is derived from the area of present-day Albania, where the inhabitants had very white skin and dogs that could kill large animals. The only area that fit the Latin description was the Great Novgorod, but it was never called White Russia at all. Nonetheless, usage of the term 'White Russia' continues in many languages.
The first known use of the term "White Russia" to refer to Belarus was in the late sixteenth century by Englishman Sir Jerome Horsey. During the seventeenth century, Russian tsars used "White Rus'", asserting that they were trying to recapture their heritage from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Belarus was named "Belorussia" (Russian: Белоруссия) in the days of Imperial Russia, and the Russian tsar was usually styled "Czar of All the Russias — Great, Little, and White". "Belorussia" was the only Russian language name of the country (its names in other languages such as English being based on the Russian form) until 1991, when the Supreme Soviet of the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic decreed by law that the new independent republic should be called "Belarus" (Беларусь) in Russian and in all other language transcriptions of its name. The change was made to reflect adequately the Belarusian language form of the name. Accordingly, the name "Belorussia" was replaced by "Belarus" in English, and, to some extent, in Russian (although the traditional name still persists in that language as well); likewise, the adjective "Belorussian" or "Byelorussian" was replaced by "Belarusian" in English (though Russian has not developed a new adjective). Some Belarusians object to the name "Belorussia", as an unwelcome reminder of the days under Russian and Soviet rule. Officially, the full name of the country is the Republic of Belarus.
In 2002, an informal survey was conducted by the Web site pravapis.org to see which version of the name was used on a majority of Web sites. By using Google, Pravapis.org looked up various terms and it found that "Belarus", the official short form of the name, was used on 93% of Web sites checked. Other spellings used included "Belorussia", "Bielorussia" and "Byelorussia," which were used in 1%–2% of cases.
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