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Belarusian belongs to the Indo-European family. It is linguistically between Russian and Ukrainian, with transitional dialects to both. Prior to Belarus gaining its independence from the Soviet Union in 1992, the language was called "Byelorussian" or "Belorussian" (in accordance with the ethnicity and country names: Byelorussians, Byelorussia, the latter being a transliteration from the Russian language ). It belongs to the group of the East Slavonic languages , and shares many grammatical and lexical features with other members of the group. Its predecessor was the Old Belarusian language (up to the 19th cent., conventionally). In Belarus , the Belarusian language is declared as a "language spoken at home" by about 3,686,000 people (36.7% of the population) as of 1999. 74% of the ethnic groups from the former USSR speak it as first language.
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