Here is an interview on a opposition Belarussian TV channel with an Ukrainian officer. One host is speaking Russian, the other speaks Belarussian and the guest speaks Ukrainian.

There is no translation, so I think they assume their target audience should understand. The guest seems to understand the Belarussian-speaking host. But for me, as a native Russian speaker, the interview is uncomprehensible.

So, I wonder whether Belarussians and Ukrainians understand each other better than Russians understand them?

2 Answers 2


When it goes for speaking/understanding Slavic languages, most Russians know only Russian and have practically never been exposed to other Slavic languages, especially spoken ones, while most Belarusians know both Belarusian and Russian, all the Ukrainians know both Ukrainian and Russian, so when you know 2 of the 3 closely related languages it's easier for you to understand the 3rd one. Also note that Ukrainian and Belarusian are closer to each other than each of them to Russian. On Ukrainian TV, if Belarusian is spoken by somebody, it's never translated to Ukrainian, Belarusian is almost completely understandable for Ukrainians, especially in the style used on TV.


I am a native Russian speaker who grew up in Belarus, but have lived in the US for 40+ years. I studied Belarusian as second language in school for a few years before my parents and I left the Soviet Union, but spoke (and still speak) Russian at home.

I watched the interview and would say that I understood virtually everything that the Belarusian-speaking anchor said and about 90% of what the Ukrainian-speaking guest said. So I think it's fair to say that prior exposure to Belarusian makes it much easier to passively understand Ukrainian (at least the kind of basic stuff that the guest here was talking about) compared to only knowing Russian.

Also, because this is an opposition channel, the audience it likely to have a much higher degree of Belarusian fluency than the average person in Belarus because speaking fluent Belarusian is considered patriotic in opposition circles. That may be another reason why no translation has been provided.

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