Volume 2 Fascicle 2 (December 1995)


Jury Turonak

Being widenning from the east and from the south colonization of the Ruthenians at the end of the 14-th century came near to the mo- dern belarusian-lithuanian border and in the suburbs of Vilnia has even overcome them. However, considerable territories to the east from this line where the Orthodox Rusins and the Lithuanians lived side by side had been still preserved. They were gradually belarusized. Though part of the Lithuanians accepted Orthodoxy most of them kept to paga- nism. According to Jagajla's order of 1387 all the Lithuanians in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania inspite of their belief <197> pagan or Ortho- dox <197> had to adopt Roman Catholicism. Thus ethnical heterogeneity especcially in the northwestern Belarus stimulated the advent of the same heterogeneity in religion, and Latin churches often appeared side by side with Greek.

It is not accidently that Catholic communities developed before the middle of the 16-th century in Belarus were mostly concentrated in the ethnically mixed north-western regions of Belarus, approximately bet- ween its western border and the Pruzany-Kleck-Miensk-Ikazn line. In the rest, east-western, part of Belarus more considerable development of the network of Roman Catholic communities began only after the fall of Reformation when most of noblemen of this region accepted Catholi- cism. However, confessional transformation of noblemen hasn't influen- ced the development of Latin Catholicism among peasantry and townsfolk of eastern Belarus and Palesse who belonged in the 17<197>18-th centu- ries to Uniate Church.

These factors determined a substantial differentiation in position of the Roman Catholic Church in both regions of Belarus. In the north-west Latin Catholicism which has arisen mostly on the soil of the baltic substratum was, so as Orthodoxy, an autochthonal religion of the parts of all social strata. In 1781 in this region (nearly 25% of the Belarus territory of today) there were almost 70% of all Roman Catholic communities and nearly 84% of the Latin catholics.

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