Belarusian Genetics: Abstracts and Summaries

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The Belarusian people live east of Poland, southeast of Lithuania and Latvia, west of Russia, and north of Ukraine. Belarusians are closely related to their Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian neighbors.

The modern Belarusian language has been written in Cyrillic and Latin alphabets.

50.98 (nearly 51) percent of Belarusian men possess the R1a Y-DNA haplogroup and its offshoots. This genetic type spread throughout many areas of eastern Europe with the migration of members of the Indo-Europeans from the Ukrainian-Russian steppe. A significant version is R1a1. R1a-Z280 is an especially common branch among the Belarusians. R1a-M458 is most often found among Belarusians living in western and southwestern Belarus.

Other Y-DNA haplogroups found among Belarusians include G, I1a, I1b, and N3.

Major studies of Belarusians

Alena Kushniarevich, Larysa Sivitskaya, Nina Danilenko, Tadeush Novogrodskii, Iosif Tsybovsky, Anna Kiseleva, Svetlana Kotova, Gyaneshwer Chaubey, Ene Metspalu, Hovhannes Sahakyan, Ardeshir Bahmanimehr, Maere Reidla, Siiri Rootsi, Jüri Parik, Tuuli Reisberg, Alessandro Achilli, Baharak Hooshiar Kashani, Francesca Gandini, Anna Olivieri, Doron M. Behar, Antonio Torroni, Oleg Davydenko, and Richard Villems. "Uniparental Genetic Heritage of Belarusians: Encounter of Rare Middle Eastern Matrilineages with a Central European Mitochondrial DNA Pool." PLoS ONE 8:6 (June 13, 2013): e66499. This study of ethnic Belarusians comprised of 565 Y-DNA samples and 267 mtDNA samples from 6 sub-regions of Belarus. (These figures are lower than the 576 Y-DNA and 292 mtDNA samples they reported on in their poster presentation five years prior, so there must be some reason these 36 people were later omitted from the study.) About 80% of the tested Y-DNA samples belong to one of these three haplogroups: R1a, I2a, and N1c. This is not surprising, say the scientists, because these are also found in their Ukrainian, Russian, Lithuanian, and Latvian neighbors. R1a is the most frequently encountered in Belarusians and also found in other Slavs. N1c is also frequent among Baltic-speaking peoples. I2a indicates "gene flow from the north-western Balkans". The Y-DNA haplogroups J2 and E1b1b1a, common to Anatolia, the Caucasus, and the southern Balkans, were found among small percentages of Belarusian men. The mtDNA of Belarusians "encompasses a full range of West Eurasian haplogroups", according to the abstract. Two rare mtDNA haplogroups of Middle Eastern origin, N1a3 and N3, were found among some Belarusians. The Belarusians have hardly any East Eurasian ancestry; the Y-DNA haplogroup Q and the mtDNA haplogroups M, C, D, and G are very infrequently found among them.

Alena Kushniarevich, Larysa Sivitskaya, Nina Danilenko, Richard Villems, and Oleg Davydenko. "Genetic portrait of modern Belarusians: mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome perspective." A poster presentation in HGM2008 Poster Abstracts: 3. Genome Variation Diversity and Evolution from HUGO's 13th Human Genome Meeting, Hyderabad, India, September 27-30, 2008. Abstract:

"To explore the genetic structure of modern Belarusians and to trace their paternal and maternal history the high resolution analysis of non-recombining portion of Y-chromosome (NRY) and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) polymorphism was performed. In total 576 NRYs and 292 mtDNAs were analyzed. Samples were selected from DNA-bank of native Belarusians on conditions that they: represent all six ethno geographical regions of present-day Belarus, descend from unrelated healthy individuals and allow the analysis of both sex-associated genetic loci. Analysis of NRY diversity was performed by hierarchical typing of 26 informative biallelic markers according to established phylogeny. Phylogenetic state of mtDNAs was determined by sequencing of HVSI region (16020-16400 nps) following RFLP analysis of coding region diagnostic sites. Revealed composition of paternal and maternal gene pools is typical for East Europeans. Distinctive features of mtDNA pool of Belarusians are: predominance of limited number of haplogroups, high diversity of maternal genetic lineages, and minor (3%) presence of Asiatic type of mtDNA (D-lineages). About 88% of mtDNA diversity is determined by R-descendents: family HV which includes haplogroup H (37%), HV-group (4%), V (6%), U-branch (23%) and cluster JT (17%). Paternal gene pool of Belarusians is characterized in its turn by domination of only three genetic lineages - haplogroups R1a (51%), I1b (16%) and Finno-Ugric haplogroup N3 (9%) covering thus about 76% of total Y-chromosome diversity; the rest falls to R1b, I1a, I1c and E, J lineages. Components of Y-chromosomal and mtDNA gene pools of modern Belarusians reflect multiple gene flows separated in time, dominating source of which was southern or south-eastern European region. Analysis of distribution of mtDNA and Y-chromosomal components among six subpopulations has revealed that genetically Belarusians are low structured population. A separation of subpopulations along the south-north line, which is demonstrated particularly in distribution of Y chromosomal lineages R1b, I1a and I1b, N3 and G-chromosomes, has been noted; east-west gradient is insignificant. In sense of mtDNA diversity Belarusians show relatively high level of homogeneity. Belarusians demonstrate the highest genetic affinity with two other Eastern Slavs - Russians and Ukrainians in context of their genetic history; presence of Finno-Ugric N3 chromosomes points to common genetic roots of Balts and East Slavs."

Miroslava V. Derenko, Boris Abramovich Malyarchuk, Galina A. Denisova, Maria A. Perkova, Urszula Rogalla, Tomasz Grzybowski, Elza K. Khusnutdinova, Irina Dambueva, and Ilia Zakharov. "Complete Mitochondrial DNA Analysis of Eastern Eurasian Haplogroups Rarely Found in Populations of Northern Asia and Eastern Europe." PLoS ONE 7(2) (February 21, 2012): e32179. Excerpts:

"[...] The results of our study provided an additional support for the existence of limited maternal gene flow between eastern Asia/southern Siberia and eastern Europe revealed by analysis of modern and ancient mtDNAs previously [...] It is noteworthy that another eastern Asian specific lineage, C5c1, revealed exclusively in some European populations (Poles, Belorussians, Romanians), shows evolutionary ages within frames of 6.611.8 kya [thousand years ago] depending on the mutation rates values [12]. [...] Prehistoric migrations associated with the distribution of the pottery-making tradition initially emerged in the forest-steppe belt of northern Eurasia starting at about 16 kya and spread to the west to reach the south-eastern confines of eastern European Plain by about 8 kya [60] could be suggested as a potential cause for eastern Asian mtDNA haplogroups appearance in Europe. [...]"

Note 12's source is: Miroslava V. Derenko, Boris Abramovich Malyarchuk, Tomasz Grzybowski, Galina A. Denisova, Urszula Rogalla, Maria A. Perkova, Irina Dambueva, and Ilia Zakharov. "Origin and post-glacial dispersal of mitochondrial DNA haplogroups C and D in northern Asia." PLoS One 5: e15214.

Garrett Hellenthal, George B. J. Busby, Gavin Band, James F. Wilson, Cristian Capelli, Daniel Falush, and Simon Myers. "A Genetic Atlas of Human Admixture History." Science 343:6172 (February 14, 2014): pages 747-751. Companion website. 8 Belarusian samples were sourced from Behar et al. 2010.

Be sure to visit our Ukrainians page for a study by Rebala, et al. (2007) that includes Belarusian samples from three areas in Belarus.

Here are two more studies that also, in part, discuss Belarusian DNA, including the R1a-R1a1 Y-DNA grouping:

  • Marijana Pericic, et al., "High-resolution phylogenetic analysis of southeastern Europe traces major episodes of paternal gene flow among Slavic populations" in Molecular Biology and Evolution 22(10) (2005): pp. 1964-1975.

  • Doron M. Behar, et al., "Multiple Origins of Ashkenazi Levites: Y Chromosome Evidence for Both Near Eastern and European Ancestries" in the American Journal of Human Genetics 73 (2003): pp. 768-779.

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  • Culture Smart! Belarus by Anne Coombes

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