The durable political crisis connected with the anarchy in Rzecz Pospolita and the fact that the country fell under the influence of neighbouring states resulted in still more serious problems. Stanislav August Poniatovski, the last king of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania (1764-1795), strove to strengthen the central power but faced an opposition which was looking for support from the outside. Taking this opportunity, as well as appealing to the unequal position of Orthodox believers and Protestants as compared with Catholics within Rzecz Pospolita, Russia, Prussia and Austria organised the first division of Rzecz Pospolita (1772) under which the eastern part of Belarus became part of the Russian empire.
In order to save the country, the Four-Year Seim of 1788-1792 adopted a Constitution on May 3, 1791, according to which central power was strengthened, the rights of citizens were extended, and state custody over serfs was introduced. Pursuant to the second division of Rzecz Pospolita (1793) Russia acquired the central part of Belarus. The growth of patriotic spirits resulted in a resurrection headed by T.Kostiuszko, which Russia suppressed by sending its troops. In 1795 the third division of Rzecz Pospolita took place, under which the western lands of Belarus became part of Russia, while Rzecz Pospolita seized to exist as a state. Belarus was subjected to territorial-administrative division according to the Russian pattern, Russian taxes and duties were introduced.
During the war of Russia against the French aggression the territory of Belarus was the main theatre of the war action, the country sustained huge material losses, its population significantly decreased.
After the 1812 war, democratic ideas spread amidst the national liberation movement in Belarus. In 1830-1831 a national liberation uprising burst out for the restoration of Rzecz Pospolita within the boundaries of 1772. Following the suppression of the uprising the political and economic status of shliahta and Catholicism was undermined and the so-called examen of shliahta, i.e. checking of the documents testifying to the nobility (shliahta) origin, was initiated. Catholic churches and monasteries were closed, the estates of the uprising participants were confiscated. The Vilno University was closed, and the 1588 Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was invalidated.
In 1861 the peasants' reform was introduced which extinguished serfdom in Russia, including the North-west Region (official name of Belarus at the time).
In 1863-1864 a national liberation uprising against tsarism broke out in Poland, Belarus and Lithuania. On the territory of Belarus the uprising was headed by K.Kalinovski. In his struggle he sought support of peasants and advocated a full transfer of land to them, he also fought for self-determination of Belarus and Lithuania. In 1862-1863 the first Belarus clandestine newspaper Muzhitskaya Prauda was published. Following the suppression of the uprising, a regime of emergency laws was introduced in Belarus, which was maintained until the beginning of the 20th century.
A new growth of the democratic and national liberation movement in late 19th - early 20th century created the conditions for the revival of Belarusian culture and statehood. In 1903 the Belarusian Socialist Gromada, the first political party, was founded, which advocated the overthrow of absolutism and the creation of the Russian Federative Democratic Republic with a free self-determination and cultural and national autonomy of nations.
When Russia entered World War I, martial law was declared in Belarus. The western part of Belarus was occupied by German troops until September 1915. After absolutism had been overthrown as a result of the February 1917 Revolution, the political life in Belarus was revived.
Following the armed uprising in Petrodrad, the Soviet power was proclaimed in Minsk, too.
On January 1919 the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed in Smolensk. However, already in February 1919, taking into account the political situation, the Lithuanian-Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic was created with the capital in Vilno.
On July 1920, following the withdrawal of German occupants, the second proclamation of the BSSR took place.
During the pre-war period about one thousand industrial enterprises were built, almost 900 enterprises were reconstructed in Belarus; the industrial development rate in the Republic was higher than in the USSR. Sciences, national culture and arts were developed. However, the mass political repression delivered a heavy blow on all population strata.
Upon the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, the Belarusian territory was occupied by the German fascist troops within two months. Mass guerrilla movement spread across the occupied Republic, which involved about 400 thousand people, and another 400 thousand people were enlisted as guerrilla reserve. There functioned clandestine party bodies, patriotic and anti-fascist organizations. Under the pretext of fighting guerrillas, the Fascists carried out 140 punitive actions in Belarus, in the course of which hundreds of villages were burnt, often together with their inhabitants. The memorial complex Hatyn (Logoisk District) built on the place of a village burnt together with its inhabitants is dedicated to the memory of victims of Fascism.
In June-July 1944 the Soviet troops liberated Belarus in the course of the Belarusian campaign. As a result of the war, Belarus sustained huge losses, one out of each four people perished, all towns, major and middle-size enterprises were destroyed, more than 9 thousand villages were burnt. About 380 thousand people were taken to Germany by force.
The admission of the BSSR to the United Nations Organization proved to be the recognition by the world community of the contribution of Belarusian people into the defeat of Hitler's Germany and the huge losses in their struggle with fascism.
By the end of the 1970's Belarus turned from an agrarian republic into a developed industrial and agrarian republic maintaining multilateral co-operation with the republics of the USSR and Socialist Community countries.
As a result of the Chernobyl accident in April 1986, numerous districts of Gomel and Mogilev and, partially, Grodno, Brest and Minsk Oblasts were contaminated with radio-nuclides. On July 27, 1996 the Supreme Soviet of the BSSR adopted the Declaration of State Sovereignty of Belarus. In August 1991 it was given the status of a constitutional law. On September 19, 1991 the BSSR was given the name of the Republic of Belarus. In December 1991, in Viskouli (Belovezhskaya Pushcha), the heads of states and governments of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus signed the document denouncing the Union treaty of 1922. The USSR seized to exist. The Republic of Belarus became an independent sovereign State.
On March 15, 1994 the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Belarus adopted a new Constitution in which Belarus is proclaimed a unitary democratic State with the rule of law.
On July 10, 1994 Alexander Lukashenko was elected the first President of the Republic of Belarus.
The new version of the 1994 Constitution with amendments and additions was adopted pursuant to the referendum of November 24, 1996.
In March 1996 the Republic of Belarus signed an agreement on a closer economic co-operation and the creation of a customs-free zone with Kazakhstan, Kyrghyzstan and the Russian Federation, in April 1996 an agreement was signed with the Russian Federation on a more profound economic integration and the creation of a Commonwealth of the two States.
The national holiday of the Republic of Belarus is Independence Day which is celebrated on July 3.