National question and Empire government's policy in Belarus
The process of including of the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania into Russian Empire lasted for some decades and touched all the spheres of its society. The national policy of the tsar authorities in Belarus in the late eighteenth and in the first half of the nineteenth century is analyzed in the article.
The government of the Empire had a faint idea about the peoples which inhabited this territory. It was necessary to get information about their economical state, beliefs, customs and traditions, history, etc. to provide unification of the annexed areas. The government could implement the policy of russification only through Russian functionaries, teachers, missionary work of the Orthodox clergy. But it was lack of educated persons in Russia itself and local functionaries were not in a hurry to fulfill the orders of the government. The Empire authorities seem to get notion about national structure of Belarusian-Lithuanian society only before 183040s.
In that time both in Russian and in Polish the term «nation» was more or less identified with that of «people» though the sense of the first was more closely connected with notion «state». In Europe criteria of qualification of «people» as «nation» were the following: its historical connection with contemporary state or state which existed for some long period before, presence of educated elite speaking its native language, and ability of this state to occupy new territories. In this respect the existence of Polish, Russian, and Lithuanian peoples-nations in the national structure of Belarus and Lithuania does not provoke any discussions. At the same time, the authorities took religion as a universal criterion according to which the Belarusians were attributed to «Poles» and «Lithuanians» (adherents of Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic and Calvinist confessions) or «Russians» (the Orthodox and Old Believers).
Belarusian peasants didn't interested the authorities in the sense of policy. Only the revolts which raised «the Polish question» caused appropriate reaction of government which started to provide the policy of russification. The policy in relation to Jews was rather of religious character because transition from Judaism to Christianity released them from different restrictions. Those of Tartars-Moslems who confirmed their noble origin possessed all the rights of gentry.
So, we may conclude that in the whole volume the national policy in Belarusian-Lithuanian provinces was not provided during the period under study in spite of some aspects of this kind activity of the Empire government.