Before Belarus gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, the language was only known in English as Byelorussian or Belorussian, transliterating the Russian name, белорусский язык belorusskiy yazyk, or alternatively as White Ruthenian (/ruːˈθiːniən/) or White Russian. Following independence, it has acquired the additional name Belarusian.]
In the first Belarus Census of 1999, the Belarusian language was declared as a “language spoken at home” by about 3,686,000 Belarusian citizens (36.7% of the population). About 6,984,000 (85.6%) of Belarusians declared it their “mother tongue”. Other sources, such as Ethnologue, put the figure at approximately 2.5 million active speakers.
According to a study done by the Belarusian government in 2009, 72% of Belarusians speak Russian at home, while Belarusian is actively used by only 11.9% of Belarusians. Approximately 29.4% of Belarusians can write, speak, and read Belarusian, while 52.5% can only read and speak it.