This article deals with the process of Belarusian national mobilization and the practical challenges encountered by national activists in eastern Belarus during 1917, when the February Revolution opened up new opportunities to engage in national politics. This article is based on the premise that Belarusian national activists faced two chief sets of obstacles after the February Revolution. First, legacies of the imperial policies of Russification during the second half of the 19th century influenced the development of modern Belarusian nationalism. Second, local identity among the Belarusian population still prevailed over the national. In this period, people still felt more comfortable avoiding clear-cut national identities, often professing their belonging to a certain region or even their settlement, rather than 'imagining' themselves as members of a separate nation. Partly this was a remnant of pre-modern times, and partly also a pragmatic, defensive strategy of survival.