The BNR Rada as the oldest Belarusian democratic advocacy group

The BNR Rada in exile has several important practical functions as a legal safeguard of the first democratic Belarusian statehood, as a representation of Belarus in the Free World and as an association of politically active Belarusian communities in different countries. Below we are publishing answers to several questions that the BNR Rada has received from the public.

1. How did you manage to keep the uninterrupted tradition of statehood intact for so many years?

The tradition of the Belarusian Democratic Republic was preserved through years of effort and work of the Belarusian diaspora. Hundreds of concerned and politically active people, even in exile, remained faithful to Belarus and spent their energy, time and money on Belarusian activism. The constitutional regulations of the BNR Rada, adopted in 1917-1918, allowed for the co-optation of new members. This allowed the Rada to refresh its membership over the subsequent decades.

BNR Rada has traditionally relied on the organizations of the Belarusian diaspora in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Belarusian communities in the Czech Republic and Poland also play a significant role. Separate members of the Rada also live in other countries.

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The BNR Rada states that democratic elections, respect of human rights and freedom of speech are the only way to consolidate the Belarusian nation and to end the decades-long international isolation of Belarus in the face of a potential threat to the country’s independence.


The past weeks have seen an activated public discussion of threats to the independence of Belarus from the Russian Federation. Considering the analysis of the situation, and:

– Stating that it is in the national interest of Belarus to reform its economy and to quit all Russian-dominated integrational structures and, in the long-term perspective, to build equal, market-based, friendly and mutually respectful relations with a future democratic Russia;

– Considering that the union treaty with today’s Russia does not respect the will of the Belarusian people, which is interested in having good and close relations with all its neighbours, including Ukraine and the countries of the European Union;


The Constituent Charters of Belarus of 1918

The three Constituent Charters issued by the Rada BNR in February and March of 1918 have declared Belarus an independent democratic state. This has been the reestablishment of a sovereign Belarusian state after more than 100 years of Russian rule.

First Constituent Charter

To the people of Belarus

Our native land has found itself in a new and difficult situation. The fate of the regime that was here previously is not known. We face the possible occupation of our land by German troops.

We must take our fate into our own hands. The Belarusan people must assert their right to full self-determination, and the national minorities their right to national and personal autonomy.

The rights of nation should find realization by means of a Constituent Assembly convened on democratic principles.

However, even before convening the Constituent Assembly, all power in Belarus should belong to the peoples residing therein.

The Executive Committee of the Council (Rada) of the First All Belarusan Congress, supplemented by representatives of the revolutionary democracy of the national minorities and fulfilling the goals imposed upon it by the Congress, declares itself to be the Provisional Authority in Belarus to govern the land and to convene as soon as possible an All-Belarusan Constituent Assembly based on universal voting rights for the entire adult population without distinction of nationality, religion, or sex.

The Provisional National Authority in the land, having assumed the tasks of defending and strengthening the revolutionary achievements, will carry out these tasks through the National Secretariat of Belarus, which has been established and which, from this date on, has assumed the exercise of its responsibilities. The names of the members of the Secretariat will be published later.

The Executive Committee of the Council of the First All-Belarusan Congress
Given in Miensk, Belarus, February 21 (8), 1918.

Second Constituent Charter

To the people of Belarus

During this World War in which some powerful states have been destroyed and others liberated, Belarus has awakened to national life. After three and a half centuries of subjugation, the Belarusan nation again declares to the entire world that it is alive and will remain alive. The Great National Assembly the All-Belarusan Congress of December 5-17, 1917, concerned about the fate of Belarus, confirmed a republican government within its territory. Carrying out the will of the Congress and defending the national rights of the people, the Executive Committee of the Council (Rada) of the Congress, decrees the following concerning the political structure of Belarus and the rights and freedoms of her citizens and peoples:

  1. Belarus, within the borders of the numerical majority of the Belarusan people, is declared to be a Democratic Republic.
  2. The fundamental laws of the Belarusan Democratic Republic will be confirmed by the Constituent Assembly of Belarus, convened on the principles of a universal, equal, direct, secret, and proportional voting law without regard to sex, nationality, or religion.
  3. Until such time as the Constituent Assembly of Belarus convenes, the legislative authority in the Belarusan Deratic Republic shall belong to the Council of the All-Belarusan Congress, augmented by representatives of the national minorities of Belarus.
  4. The executive and administrative authority in the Belarusan Democratic Republic shall belong to the National Secretariat of Belarus which shall be appointed by the Council of the Congress and be responsible thereto.
  5. Within the borders of the Belarusan Democratic Republic freedom of speech, press, assembly, and the right to strike and organize unions are proclaimed; as well as unconditional freedom of conscience, and the inviolability of the individual and of residence.
  6. Within the borders of the Belarusan Democratic Republic all peoples have the right to national and personal autonomy; and equal rights for all the languages of the peoples of Belarus are proclaimed.
  7. Within the borders of the Belarusan Democratic Republic the right to private ownership of land is abolished. The land is to be given over without payment to those who till it. Forests, lakes, and natural resources are declared to be the property of the Belarusan Democratic Republic.
  8. Within the borders of the Belarusan Democratic Republic a working day of a maximum of eight hours is established.

Proclaiming all these rights and freedoms for the citizens and peoples of the Belarusan Democratic Republic, we, the Executive Committee of the Council of the Congress pledge to guard the legal order of life in the Republic, ensure the interests of all the citizens and peoples of the Republic, and preserve the rights and freedoms of the working people. We shall also apply all oui, strength to convene the Constituent Assembly of Byelorussia in the very near future.

We call on all faithful sons of the Belarusan land to assist us in our difficult and responsible labors.

The Executive Committee of the Council of the First All-Belarusan Congress
Given in Miensk, Belarus, March 9, 1918.

Third Constituent Charter

A year ago the peoples of Belarus, together with the peoples of Russia, threw off the yoke of Russian tsarism, which had oppressed Belarus most of all and, without asking the people, precipitated our land into the conflagration of war which totally destroyed Belarusan cities and villages.

Now we, the Council (Rada) of the Belarusan Democratic Republic, have’cast off from our native land the last vestige of national dependence which the Russian tsars imposed by force upon our free and independent land.

From this time on, the Belarusan Democratic Republic is proclaimed an independent and free state. The peoples of Belarus themselves, under the aegis of their Constituent Assembly, shall determine the future national relations of Belarus.

By virtue of this, all former national relations lose their force relations which made it possible for a foreign government to sign the Treaty of Brest for Belarus, thus destroying the Belarusan people by partitioning their land.

By virtue of this, the government of the Belarusan Democratic Republic will establish relations with interested parties by proposing to them a review of that part of the Treaty ol Brest which concerns Belarus and the signing of peace treaties with all belligerent states.

The Belarusan Democratic Republic should include all those lands where the Belarusan people constitute a numerical majority, namely: the Mahileu region, the Belarusan parts of the regions of Miensk, Horadnia (including the cities of Horadnia, Bielastok, and others), Vilnia, Viciebsk, Smalensk, and Charnihau, as well adjacent parts of neighboring gubernias, inhabited by Belarusans.

The Belarusan Democratic Republic confirms all those rights and freedoms of the citizens and peoples of Belarus which were proclaimed by the Constituent Charter of March 9, 1918.

Proclaiming the independence of the Belarusan Democratic Republic, its Council expresses the hope that all freedom-loving peoples will assist the Belarusan people to achieve fully their political and national ideals.

The Council (Rada) of the Belarusan Democratic Republic
Given in Miensk, Belarus, on March 25, 1918.

Commemoration of Boris Nemtsov in Washington, D.C.

29 February, Washington, D.C.: Viačasłaŭ Bortnik, member of the Presidium of the BNR Rada, took part in a public commemoration of Boris Nemtsov, the Russian democratic opposition leader murdered five years ago:

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Rep. John W. Wydler, 1966: “let us reaffirm to the Byelorussian people that their hopes have not been forgotten by the free world”

Rep. John W. Wydler (R, New York) was one of several US Congresspeople who made a statement in the US House of Representatives in 1966, on the anniversary of the declaration of independence by the Belarusian Democratic Republic.


Mr. Speaker, just 48 years ago, after centuries of enslavement and oppression, the Byelorussian people declared to all mankind they were a free and independent people. This declaration followed on the heels of the Russian Communist revolution and the downfall of the Romanovs. The reality of freedom was short lived, for before a full year had passed, the Russian Red Army marched through the countryside and Byelorussia was again under Russian control.

Rahel, the medieval Christian chronicler, wrote many years ago:

“To have freedom is only to have that which is absolutely necessary to enable us to be what we ought to be and to possess what we ought to possess.”

Today Byelorussia is not free. The Byelorussians have no way to assert their own national identity. They cannot be what they want to be, or possess that which they want to possess. They are being denied their own individual history, culture and national pride. They are clearly and simply a ward of the Kremlin.

As freemen who do not take our freedoms and liberties for granted, we are a link between the principles of freedom and self-determination and those who aspire to be free and guide their own destiny. On this 48th anniversary of Byelorussian independence, let us reaffirm to the Byelorussian people that their hopes have not been forgotten by the free world.

Source: Congressional Record

Independence of Belarus faces imminent threat – joint statement by KEY BELARUSIAN democratic ORGANIZATIONS and BNR Rada

On November 23, 2019, the BNR Rada has held a meeting with representatives of the main Belarusian democratic political parties and organizations, which are signatories to the joint 2012 Memorandum ‘On measures to safeguard the independence of Belarus’.

Following a discussion of the current situation surrounding the possible signing of documents between the official regime in Minsk and the Russian Federation that could lead to a further integration between Belarus and Russia and to the surrender the independence of Belarus, the participants of the meeting have decided to issue the following statement.

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“These heroes unite our three nations” – address by President Survilla

Address by President Ivonka Survilla at the reburial of the insurgents of 1863-1864 in Vilnia/Vilnius on 22 November 2019.

My dear fellow Belarusians,

Our dear Polish and Lithuanian neighbours and friends,

Today we are witnessing a great historical event. Finally, the heroes of our three nations, the rebels who gave their lives for the freedom of all of us, will find their rest.

Kastuś Kalinoŭski and his comrades have become an inspiration for the Belarusian national liberation movement. Kalinoŭski became a symbol of the struggle of the Belarusian people for freedom, for national and social liberation. “Who do you love? I love Belarus” – this was the code-word of Kalinoŭski’s insurgents. This motto has given an impulse that led to the birth of our modern nation. This phrase remains our code-word, our motto today.

It is a great honour to be the witnesses of the long-awaited honourable funeral of these people. A great honour to pay our respect to their memory.

These heroes unite our three nations: Belarusians, Lithuanians and Poles. Many of them were born on the territory of modern Belarus. They all were patriots of our common historical motherland, the ancient Lithuania. And they have found their rest in a city where all of us – Belarusians, Lithuanians, and Poles alike – are at home: in Vilnia (Vilnius, Wilno).

55 years after their heroic death, the struggle of these insurgents has led to the creation of the independent Belarusian Democratic Republic, Lithuanian Republic and Poland.

The struggle of Kastuś Kalinoŭski and his comrades is a powerful example to us. Even having murdered these men, the enemies have not killed our will to fight for freedom. And decades later, our nations have won, because they were led by the desire to live free.

The independence of Belarus is again threatened today. But with the belief in our truth, which Kalinoŭski has many times mentioned in his articles, we will win. Belarus will be a free and democratic country, as are now our dear neighbours, the Lithuanian Republic and Poland, with whom we are glad to be together on this special day.

An eternal glory and eternal memory to our heroes! Government-in-exile compares European Games in Belarus with Olympic Games in Nazi Germany

Belarus’ 100-year-old exiled government, which still fights to return democracy to “the last dictatorship of Europe”, takes stand against President Alexander Lukashenka’s exploitation of the European Games as a political event.

The media coverage of international sporting events is often colored by the fact that publications have spent a fortune buying TV rights to the events and sent journalists and photographers to cover them.

This year’s biggest Olympic sports event in Europe – the European Games in Minsk, which the state-owned Danish public service media company DR has purchased the broadcasting rights to – is no exception.

Last week’s Danish media coverage of the European games in Belarus, which is called “Europe’s last dictatorship”, has largely been influenced by the Danish reporters’ focus on the Danish athletes’ sporting ups and downs during the games.

On the other hand, criticism of the authoritarian host nation, which for 25 years has been ridden hard by president Alexander Lukashenka, a former Soviet military officer, has been absent in the media just as democracy is absent in Belarus, as Lukashenka’s critics believe.

Continue reading Government-in-exile compares European Games in Belarus with Olympic Games in Nazi Germany

The Third Constituent Charter of the Council (Rada) of the Belarusian Democratic Republic

The Third Constituent Charter is the key document passed by the BNR Rada. The Charter was approved on the night from 24 March to 25 March 1918 and declared Belarus an independent state.

Since then, 25 March is celebrated as the Independence Day of Belarus, or Freedom Day (Дзень Волі).

Below an English translation of this historical document.

Continue reading The Third Constituent Charter of the Council (Rada) of the Belarusian Democratic Republic

Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic. Official website