Belarusian is the official language of Belarus, but it is also spoken in Poland, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Moldavia, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It is spoken by over 7 million people. Together with Russian and Ukrainian, it is part of the oriental sub-group of Slavic languages.
Belarusian is strongly influenced by Polish and has many similarities with Lithuanian. It also shares morph-syntactical characteristics with Russian and Ukrainian, as well as using the Cyrillic alphabet, although there are some graphical and phonetic differences.
For historical reasons, Belarusian has two transcription systems: Cyrillic (kirylicaj) and Roman (lacinka) although the latter is rarer. This alphabet, which was in wide use until the Twenties, disappeared almost completely from print in the Fifties. Today it is more widely used in the west of the country and among emigrant authors.