According to the 1933 census, White Russia counts 5,439,000 residents, against 5,246,400 in 1931, 4,983,000 in 1926, 3,724,000 in 1897; the population has therefore grown by about 50% in the last fifty years, which represents a little different rate from that recorded for the USSR as a whole. in 1927 (against 44.2%, for the USSR as a whole), but the mortality rate was also lower (14.1% as against 22.3% in the same year 1927), so that the active surplus results. of the highest, if not the highest, among that of the seven federated republics in the USSR., we have just 8,206 of Hebrews, 7.9% of Ukrainians and 2% of Poles. Conversely, not all White Russians live within the borders of the motherland, outside of which, indeed, their number is likely to be around 21 / 2 million are in Europe. Of these, the most conspicuous nucleus is located in the finitime areas that have become part of the Polish state, where it occupies two large border districts between Pripyat ′ and Niemen, and along the Dzisna, pushing west to the Augustów-Białystok-Brześć line. Overall, no less than 1.4 million White-Russians are established in Poland, about 650 thousand in the finite territories of the RSFSR (between upper Dnepr, Desna and Vyaz′ma), 80 thousand in Ukraine (on lower Pripyat ′), 40,000 in Lithuania (between Kaunas and the border), 5,000 in Latvia, etc.
The density of the population, which in the whole of the republic is 43 residents per sq. km. (therefore lower than that of central Russia and Ukraine), it fluctuates relatively little from area to area; from almost 20 on the lower Pripyat ′ it rises to about 35 in the extreme NW sector, to 40-45 along the median hilly belt, to touch and exceed 50 in the district that is center of Minsk, undoubtedly the most suitable for agricultural settlement. It is easy to ascertain the general adherence of these figures to the greater or lesser proportion of arable land, much smaller, of course, in the two depressed edges at the edge of the watershed, and especially in the southern one.
According to e Country Directory, the employment statistics assigns 18.5% in 1926, in 1933 22% of the total population to the urban population, figures that differ little, in substance, from those relating to the USSR as a whole.
Even in White Russia the basis on which the state economy rests is agriculture. The area used for this purpose in 1933 represented just 1/30 of the total surface; of the 3.8 million ha. more than two thirds of which made up it were dedicated to cereals, among which rye is at least as widespread as wheat. Potatoes (456 thousand ha.) And flax (140 thousand ha.) Are of considerable importance, which is grown here almost exclusively for the fiber and gives valuable products. The zootechnical patrimony is conspicuous, especially when compared with the low population density of the republic (3.5 million pigs and goats; 2.3 million pigs; 2.1 of cattle and 1.1 of horses), but, as for the rest of the USSR, in sharp decline compared to the figures of the immediate pre-war period.
The industrial transformation was quicker and more successful, here forced to operate on almost virgin land. Apart from the food industries, which more or less already exist (mills, breweries and sugar refineries), and those of tobacco, leather and paper, which have received greater impetus, the most conspicuous progress concerns the steel, metallurgy and mechanical industries, which are all represented in the five most important urban centers. The number of workers employed in state industries more than doubled in the five-year period 1928-1932, going from 39,386 to 82,760, while between 1928 and 1930 the capital invested in these enterprises rose from 24.8 to 43.9 million rubles, and the value of production from 171 to 302.1 million rubles.
With the new political arrangement following the war, trade, especially that of transit, has had a not insignificant development, passing through White Russia not only the great communication route that from Warsaw through Białystok and Baranowicze leads to Moscow, but also all those which link the Soviet capital to East Prussia, Lithuania and Latvia. Probably a large part of the numerical gain (in residents) that the major cities of the republic have recorded in the last five years – that is, the critical phase of the post-revolutionary settlement closed – is to be attributed to the increased volume and intensity of traffic with neighboring regions.
These urban settlements almost all correspond to historical centers, whose origins date back to the late Middle Ages (11th-13th centuries), and, despite the transformations they have undergone – especially as a result of fires – they still preserve quite well, at least in the nuclear part of the town, the oldest topography, with the central market-square, often square, the castle and the streets that diverge radially in several directions. The division into quarters is typical, of which the eccentrics have their own character: of those once inhabited by the Tatars, little more than the name remains, while the sectors occupied by the Jews remain tenaciously distinct, which usually form 2/5 (Polock and Mogilev 39%, Minsk 43%, Vitebsk 45%) to half (Bobrujsk 50%) of the urban population. Conspicuous, next to the White-Russian share, is,
According to the 1933 census, three of the urban centers exceeded 100,000 residents, first of all the capital, Minsk, which had 110,000 residents. in 1911 and 124 thousand in 1926. Vitebsk remained almost stationary in the same period (from 91 to 108 thousand residents), while Gomel ′ recovered after 1926 from the crisis that hit it after the war (98 thousand residents in 1911, 83,000 in 1926, 107,000 in 1933). Of the other cities, the most notable are Polock, Mogilev and Bobrujsk with over 50,000 residents. each, Borisov with about 40 thousand; other 8 centers follow with more than 10 thousand residents It should be noted that all these centers rise on streams, always occupying the highest right bank; some of the minors however developed from street villages.
The rural settlement presents only exceptionally scattered forms. The farmhouses, also made of wood, are usually arranged on both sides of the streets, grouping four by four within enclosed courtyards. The only brick part is the oven, usually located in the more sheltered internal sector of the house, in order to function at the same time as a stove in the cold season, in which it is always kept on. Equally characteristic is the internal storage room for food, and the roof with two rainers, also made of wood.