East Slavic language of Belarus, spoken by some 10.2 million people worldwide. Belarusian features begin to appear in Church Slavonic manuscripts from the 14th century (see Old Church Slavonic language). The chancery language of the grand duchy of Lithuania, used in the 15th–16th centuries, contains a substantial Belarusian element, mixed with Church Slavonic, Ukrainian, and Polish. Belarusian was not fully elaborated as a modern literary language until the early 20th century, when orthographic norms for writing it in Cyrillic were established. It has long struggled to maintain itself against Russian, particularly in Belarusian urban centres, where there is a high degree of Russification and Belarusian-Russian bilingualism.
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