Ministry now to use the name ‘Belarus’ in Norwegian

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From this point forward, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will use the name ‘Belarus’ instead of ‘Hviterussland’ when referring in Norwegian to the Eastern European country. The decision to change the name used in Norwegian takes effect on the International Day of Solidarity with Belarus.

‘We believe it is right to make this change in solidarity with the Belarusian pro-democracy movement,’ said Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre. In Norway, there has been a tradition of designating specific Norwegian-language names for countries. In the English language, on the other hand, it is a country’s own name for itself that is usually the official name. 

The Prime Minister has met the leader of the pro-democracy movement, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya himself. She has urged the international community to use ‘Belarus’ in preference to ‘White Russia’ and its equivalent in other languages, such as ‘Hviterussland’ in Norwegian.

The International Day of Solidarity with Belarus is 29 May.

‘I am pleased that we are able to announce the decision to change the name we use today and to show our solidarity with the forces of democracy in Belarus,’ Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt said.

Ms Huitfeldt telephoned Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and informed her of the decision.

‘She was very pleased about it and thanked us,’ the Foreign Minister said. The date of 29 May is also the second anniversary of the arrest of Tsikhanouskaya’s husband, the civil rights activist Siarhei Tsikhanouski.

Highlighting a clear distinction between ‘Belarus’ and ‘Belarusian’ on the one hand and Russia and Russian on the other is symbolically important to the Belarusian pro-democracy movement, which faces increasing adversity in Belarus.

‘Creating names that closely reflect the original language is a common way of designating foreign place names in Norwegian. Although there are historical and linguistic arguments for writing Hviterussland or Kviterussland, the question is ultimately a political one,’ Ms Huitfeldt said.

The new Norwegian-language designation by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is consistent with changes adopted in Sweden and Denmark in 2019 and 2021, respectively.