Apparently, the current name reminds one of Russia too much. Weren’t we told that the word Rus has as much relationship to Russia as Romania does to Rome?
The word Rus is an antiquated word for Russia. The current name Russia is a hellenism which has been adopted by European languages, including Russian somewhere in the Middle Ages. In the Early Middle Ages however, the Arabs referred to the Varangians that sailed the rivers of Russia as Rhos, clearly adopting the nomenclature of the people they wrote about.
The division of Rus, into what we now know as Russia, Ukraine and Belarus has its origins in a centuries long occupation of the lands of Rus by Lithuania and Poland, which has created a creole culture that formed the basis for the national movements of the Belarusians and Ukrainians. And while the Ukrainians have found a way to do away with their previous ethnonym, which was Little Russians, the Belarusians did not. Nevertheless, I still not know whether changing the ethnonym was a win for the Ukrainians.
Gabrielius Landsbergis, the foreign minister of Lithuania thinks the name of Belarus needs a little tweak. He said so the other day in a meeting with the Belarusian opposition leader, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Translated from Shariy.net:
The name that we use for our neighboring country should not evoke the notion that Belarus is a part of Russia, which developed during the years of occupation. Belarus means White Rus not Russia, and this should be reflected in the name we use. If the Belarusians express the wish, we will change the name we employ, just like we changed the name of Georgia to Sakartvelo.Gabrielius Landsbergis
Perhaps the EU should start calling Georgia: “Sakartvelo”. But perhaps this works for Baltic languages. The Czechs would finds this funny.