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The Republic of Belarus (Belarusian: Белару́сь, Russian: Белару́сь (former: Белору́ссия)) is a landlocked nation of Eastern Europe with the capital Minsk. Belarus borders Poland on the west, Lithuania on the northwest, Latvia on the north, Russia on the east, and Ukraine on the south.

Рэспу́бліка Белару́сь
Respublika Biełaruś
Flag of Belarus Coat of Arms of Belarus
(In detail) (In detail)
National motto: none
Official languages Belarusian, Russian
Capital Minsk
President Aleksandr Lukashenko
Prime Minister Sergey Sidorsky
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 84th
207,600 km²
 - Total (2003)
 - Density
Ranked 75th
 - Total (2001)
 - GDP/head
Ranked 74th
$13 billion
 - Declared
 - Recognised
From Soviet Union
July 3, 1990
August 25, 1991
Currency Belarusian Rouble
Time zone
 - in summer
UTC +2
UTC +3
National anthem Мы, беларусы
Internet TLD .by
Calling Code 375


The spellings Belorussia and Byelorussia are transliterations of the name of the country from Russian and are no longer widely used.

Historically, in English, Belarus was sometimes referred to as "White Russia" or "White Ruthenia", a literal though not entirely correct translation of its name (see White Russia). This literal translation is also used in a number of other languages, e.g., Germanic languages ("Wei▀russland" in German, "Wit-Rusland" in Dutch), "Λευκορωσία" in Greek, "Baltkrievija" in Latvian and "Baltarusija" in Lithuanian. The name "Byelorussia" is considered derogatory by some, as it reminds them of Russian and Soviet imperialism and policies of russification (the full title of the Russian tsar was "Emperor of All the Russias - Great, Minor, and White").


Main article: History of Belarus

The present Slavic population of Belarus settled there between the 6th and the 8th century. The Early East Slavs gradually came in contact with the Varangians and were organized under the Rus', notably in the principality of Polatsk in modern-day northern Belarus.

By the 13th century, the state of Rus was gravely impacted by the Mongol invasion and the Belarusian territories were consolidated under the Lithuanians as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Rus' and Samogitia. The city of Navahradak in today's western Belarus was at one point the capital of this state.

In 1569 the duchy became part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth under the collaboratively elected kings of Poland that were also crowned grand dukes of Lithuania. It remained part of it until 1795, when it was acquired by Imperial Russia.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, at the end of the German occupation during World War I, on March 25, 1918 Belarusians declared their independence for the first time, but Belarus National Republic (Беларуская Народная Рэспубліка) was short-lived and didn't manage to remain independent. In modern Belarus, Lukashenka's official historians ignore BNR and the date of the independence proclamation, but democratic opposition and simple Belarusians celebrate March 25 every year both, publicly and in private.

In 1919 Byelorussian SSR was declared, one of the founding members of the Soviet Union.

In the Second World War, Belarus was occupied by Nazi Germany between 1941 and 1944. Another notable harsh period in Belarusian history was the Chernobyl accident of 1986.

Belarus declared independence from the Soviet Union on July 27 1990.

On December 8, 1991, the leaders of Russia (Boris Yeltsin), Ukraine (Leonid Kravchuk), and Belarus (Stanislav Shushkevich) republics met in Belarus, in Belavezhskaya Pushcha, to issue a declaration that the Soviet Union was dissolved and replaced by the Commonwealth of Independent States.


Main article: Politics of Belarus

Belarus is a republic governed by a President and a bicameral Parliament (National Assembly or Natsyyanal'ny Skhod). The judiciary is headed by a Supreme Court and a Constitutional Court.

Western media, politicians and political scientists usually consider Belarus as Europe's last dictatorship due to the authoritarian rule of president Lukashenko. Notably, Belarus is the only European country without full membership in the Council of Europe.

During the rule of the current administration in Belarus there were several cases of persecution, disappearance and mysterious deaths of prominent opposition leaders and independent journalists. Pavel Sheremet, a journalist criticizing the Lukashenko regime, was continuously persecuted for miscellaneous reasons. Dmitri Zavadsky, an opposition journalist, has disappeared. Anatoli Majsenia, chief of anti-presidential Center for Strategic Initiatives, died in automobile crash that looked like staged accident.

See also:

Administrative subdivision

Main article: Subdivisions of Belarus

At the higher administrative level, Belarus is divided into 6 voblasts and one municipality (horad, i.e., "city"); the latter one is the capital of Belarus.

Voblasts are further subdivided into rayons (usually translated as districts).


Main article: Geography of Belarus

Map of Belarus

Although landlocked, it has 11,000 lakes. Three major rivers run through it: the Neman River, the Pripyat River, and the Dnepr River. Belarus is relatively flat and marsh-rich. The largest marsh territory is Polesie. Its highest point at Dzyarzhynskaya Hara (Dzyarzhynsk Hill), 346 m, and its lowest point on the Neman river, 90 m.

The natural resources of Belarus are forests, peat deposits, small quantities of oil and natural gas, granite, dolomitic limestone, marl, chalk, sand, gravel, and clay.

See also:


Main article: Economy of Belarus

President Lukashenko launched the country on the path of "market socialism" in 1995. In keeping with this policy, Lukashenko re-imposed administrative controls over prices and currency exchange rates and expanded the state's right to intervene in the management of private enterprise. In addition to the burdens imposed by high inflation, businesses have been subject to pressure on the part of central and local governments, e.g., arbitrary changes in regulations, numerous rigorous inspections, and retroactive application of new business regulations prohibiting practices that had been legal.

Further economic problems are two consecutive bad harvests, 1998-1999, and persistent trade deficits. Close relations with Russia, possibly leading to a political union, color the pattern of economic developments. For the time being, Belarus remains self-isolated from the West and its open-market economies.


Main article: Demographics of Belarus

Belarus is primarily inhabited by Belarusians, and some Russians, Poles, Ukrainians and others.

Most demographic indicators resemble other European countries, notably with both the population growth rate and the natural growth rate in the negative.

According to various estimates, 60-70% of Belarusians consider themselves Russian Orthodox, about 15-20% are Catholics, and 5-10% are Protestants or other religions. There is a considerable amount of atheists.

Historically the Belarusians enjoyed a variety of religions: Russian Orthodox, Catholicism, Protestantism. Since president Lukashenka came to power, the Russian Orthodox Church in Belarus was given more official support. This was particularly evident in tax breaks that allowed the Church to become a large-scale exporter of tax-free vodka and cigarettes. A new religion law was passed in Belarus that does not have the support of the Catholics and the Protestants as well as other believers, who complain that it discriminates them, giving many preferences to Russian Orthodox Church. (See also Kalvaryja.)


Main article: Culture of Belarus

See also:

Symbols from earlier history

The images show the white-red-white flag (бел-чырвона-белы сцяг) and The Chase (Паго́ня, Pahonya) coat of arms. These historical symbols were adopted as the symbols of the Belarus National Republic and as the official national symbols of the Republic of Belarus from the time it got its independence in July 1991 and until the Referendum of 1995. The coat of arms is similar to that of Lithuania (Vytis).

Miscellaneous topics

External links

  • President's official site

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Last updated: 02-05-2005 00:30:42
Last updated: 03-13-2005 10:35:26