Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Belarus (Belarusian: Белару́сь, Russian: Белару́сь (formerly: Белору́ссия), Polish: Białoruś) 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. The country is formally named the Republic of Belarus (Рэспу́бліка Белару́сь; Respublika Biełaruś)
Origin and history of the name
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" (a literal though not entirely correct translation of its name) or "White Ruthenia". 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. Belarusian territories were the core of newly created Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The city of Navahradak in today's western Belarus was the first capital of this state. This duchy as well included a number of territories of Rus' and Samogitia. There was no discrimination against any of nations or religions nor any major tension between them and people of them all dominated in their own regions.
The Grand Duchy stretched across much of Eastern Europe from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea in 15th century. Since February 2, 1386, when Grand Duke Yahaila was crowned the King of Poland, Grand Duchy was joint with Poland in a personal union under one monarch. In 1569 Poland and Grand Duchy formally merged into the new state of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This union remained in force until the May Constitution of 1791, which abolished all the subdivisions of the states and merged into Kingdom of Poland. However, the new state was annexed soon afterwards by Imperial Russia, Prussia and Austria in the effect of the Partitions of Poland of 1795.
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, Lukashenko's official historians disregard the date of the independence proclaimed by BNR, but many Belarusians celebrate March 25 every year both publicly and in private.
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.
Western media, politicians and political scientists have increasingly labelled Belarus as Europe's last dictatorship due to the authoritarian rule of president Lukashenko. Notably, Belarus is one of only two countries in Europe barred from full membership in the Council of Europe (the other being Kazakhstan), and the only one in Europe to be named on the United States' "outposts of tyranny" list.
During the rule of the current administration in Belarus there have been 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 the anti-presidential Center for Strategic Initiatives, died in an automobile crash that looked like a staged accident. Mikhail Marinich, leader of the opposition, was jailed.
Main article: Subdivisions of Belarus
(Administrative centers are given in parentheses.)
Main article: Geography 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. Belarus' highest point is Dzyarzhynskaya Hara (Dzyarzhynsk Hill), 345 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.
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 pressures emanating from both 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. A lot of profitable businesses that were privatized during early 90's have now been nationalized or taken under over by the Presidential administration, businesses describe the current situation as "creeping nationalization."
Further economic problems are two consecutive bad harvests, 1998-1999, and persistent trade deficits. Close economic relations with Russia remain extremely important for Belarus economy. For the time being, Belarus remains self-isolated from the West and its open-market economies.
Main article: Demographics of Belarus
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 Roman Catholics, and 5-10% are Protestants or of other faith. There are a considerable number of atheists.
For example, by the end of the 18th century 70% of Belarusians were Greek Catholics, 15% - Catholics, 7% - Judaists, and only 6% - Russian Orthodox. In 1839 though Russian empire eliminated Greek Catholic (Uniate) church on Belarusian lands and forcefully turned all of their believers into Russian Orthodox faith.
Since president Lukashenko in 1994 has come to power, the Russian Orthodox Church in Belarus has been favoured by the government. This has been particularly evident in tax breaks that have allowed the Church to become a large-scale exporter of tax-free vodka and cigarettes. A new religion law was passed in 2003 against the will of Catholics, Protestants as well as other believers. They complain that it discriminates against them, giving preference to the Orthodox Church in many areas.
(See also Kalvaryja cemetery, an old Catholic cemetery in Minsk).
Main article: Culture of Belarus
- Belarusian language
- Music of Belarus
- Belarusians, list of Belarusians
- Belarusian media
- Public holidays in Belarus
- Art in Belarus
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).
- Communications in Belarus
- Transportation in Belarus
- Belavia (national airlines)
- Military of Belarus
- Belarus (tractor)
- BelKA, the first satellite of independent Belarus
- President's official site
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