A linguistic commission has advised against changing the name of the State of Belarus in Lithuanian.
In Lithuanian, the country is called ‘Baltarusija’, literally ‘White Russia’. Belarusian opposition figure Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who is currently residing in Vilnius, has asked that it be called ‘Belarusia’ or ‘Baltarusia’, saying this would better reflect her country's national identity and distinctiveness from Russia.
Last week, a temporary sub-commission under the State Commission of the Lithuanian Language (VLKK) looked into the proposal, but said it would not agree with the rules of the Lithuanian language.
According to the sub-commission, the current name is derived from the word that refers to the Belarusian nation, ‘baltarusiai’, and uses the ending which is typical for country names in Lithuanian.
“The name ‘Baltarusia’ should not be approved as a non-systematic form variant,” the VLKK said in a statement.
Most members of the sub-commission believe that, alternatively, Lithuanians could adopt the words ‘gudai’ and ‘Gudija’ to refer to Belarusians and Belarus.
In January, prompted by Tikhanovskaya, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis asked the VLKK to consider changing the Lithuanian name of Belarus, saying he wanted to start a discussion among historians and linguists.
According to Landsbergis, the discussion would be a “meaningful contribution to the formation of the identity of the Belarusian people”.
In her letter to Landsbergis, Tikhanovskaya asked to “replace the official Lithuanian name ‘Baltarusija’ with a form that would be more similar to the one used in the Belarusian language”.
“By changing the name of the country, Lithuania would show respect for the sovereignty of its neighbour and would support the linguistic and cultural identity of the Belarusian people,” according to Tikhanovskaya.
Several years ago, the VLKK agreed to include ‘Sakartvelas’ as one of the options to refer to the Caucasian nation of Georgia. In Lithuanian, the country has been called ‘Gruzija’, a name adopted from the Russian language.
Lithuania's Foreign Ministry recently endorsed ‘Sakartvelas’ as the official designation of Georgia in Lithuanian.