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Belarus travel guide - Travel S helper

Belarus

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Belarus, formally the Republic of Belarus, historically and colloquially known as Byelorussia, is a landlocked nation in Eastern Europe bordered to the northeast by Russia, to the south by Ukraine, to the west by Poland, and to the northwest by Lithuania and Latvia. Minsk is the capital; other important cities include Brest, Hrodna (Grodno), Homiel (Gomel), Mahilio (Mogilev), and Vitsebsk (Vitebsk). Over 40% of its 207,600 square kilometers (80,200 square miles) are wooded. Its most important economic sectors are the service and manufacturing industries. Until the twentieth century, the territories of modern-day Belarus were ruled by several governments, notably the Principality of Polotsk (11th to 14th centuries), the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Russian Empire.

Belarus declared independence as the Belarusian People’s Republic in the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution, which was conquered by Soviet Russia as the Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia, which became a founding constituent republic of the Soviet Union in 1922 and was renamed the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (Byelorussian SSR). After the Polish–Soviet War of 1919–1921, Belarus lost almost half of its territory to Poland. Much of Belarus’s current boundaries were established in 1939, when certain territories of the Second Polish Republic were reintegrated into it after the Soviet invasion of Poland, and were completed after World War II. During WWII, military activities ravaged Belarus, causing the country to lose about one-third of its people and more than half of its economic resources. In the postwar years, the republic was rebuilt. Belarus, together with the Soviet Union and the Ukrainian SSR, became a founding member of the United Nations in 1945.

On July 27, 1990, the parliament of the republic proclaimed Belarus’ sovereignty, and on August 25, 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Belarus declared independence.

Belarus and Russia signed a pact for increased cooperation in 2000, with indications of creating a Union State. Over 70% of Belarus’s population of 9.49 million lives in cities. More over 80% of the population is Belarussian, with significant minority of Russians, Poles, and Ukrainians. The nation has had two official languages since a vote in 1995: Belarusian and Russian. Belarus’s Constitution has no mention of an official religion, despite the fact that Eastern Orthodox Christianity is the country’s main religion. Despite the fact that the second most common religious organization, Roman Catholicism, has a considerably smaller following, Belarus celebrates both Orthodox and Catholic versions of Christmas and Easter as national holidays. Belarus is the only nation in Europe where the death penalty is still legal and practiced.

Geography and climate

Belarus is located between the latitudes of 51° and 57° N, and the longitudes of 23° and 33° E. Its length from north to south is 560 km (350 mi), while its length from west to east is 650 km (400 mi). It is landlocked, somewhat flat, and covered with marshy terrain. Forests cover about 40% of Belarus.

Belarus has several streams and 11,000 lakes. The nation is traversed by three main rivers: the Neman, the Pripyat, and the Dnieper. The Neman flows westward to the Baltic Sea, whereas the Pripyat flows eastward to the Dnieper, which flows south to the Black Sea.

The highest point is Dzyarzhynskaya Hara (345 m/1,132 ft), while the lowest point is on the Neman River (90 m) (295 ft). Belarus has an average elevation of 160 meters (525 feet) above sea level. Winters are moderate to chilly, with annual January low temperatures ranging from 4 °C (24.8 °F) in the southwest (Brest) to 8 °C (17.6 °F) in the northeast (Vitebsk), while summers are pleasant and damp, with an average temperature of 18 °C (64.4 °F). Belarus has an annual rainfall range of 550 to 700 mm (21.7 to 27.6 in). The nation is located in a transitional zone between continental and marine climates.

Peat deposits, minor amounts of oil and natural gas, granite, dolomite (limestone), marl, chalk, sand, gravel, and clay are all natural resources. Approximately 70% of the radiation from neighboring Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe in 1986 reached Belarusian territory, and approximately one-fifth of Belarusian land (mostly agriculture and woods in the southeastern areas) was damaged by radioactive fallout. The United Nations and other organizations have worked to lower radiation levels in impacted regions, particularly via the use of caesium binders and rapeseed cultivation, both of which are intended to reduce caesium-137 levels in soil.

Belarus is bounded on five sides by Latvia to the north, Lithuania to the northwest, Poland to the west, Russia to the north and east, and Ukraine to the south. Belarus’ boundaries with Latvia and Lithuania were defined by treaties in 1995 and 1996, respectively, however Belarus failed to ratify a 1997 treaty defining the Belarus-Ukraine boundary. In February 2007, Belarus and Lithuania approved complete boundary delineation papers.

Demographics

According to the National Statistical Committee, the population was 9.49 million people in January 2016. Belarusians of ethnic origin account for 83.7 percent of the country’s overall population. Russians (8.3 percent), Poles (3.1 percent), and Ukrainians are the next biggest ethnic groupings (1.7 percent ). Belarus has a population density of approximately 50 people per square kilometer (127 people per square mile); urban regions house 70% of the country’s total population. In 2015, the population of Minsk, the country’s capital and biggest city, was 1,937,900 people. Gomel is the second-largest city and the capital of the Homiel Voblast, with a population of 481,000 people. Mogilev (365,100), Vitebsk (342,400), Hrodna (314,800), and Brest are the other major cities (298,300).

Belarus, like many other European nations, has a negative population growth rate as well as a negative natural growth rate. Belarus’ population fell by 0.41 percent in 2007, and its fertility rate was 1.22, considerably below the replacement rate. Belarus has a net migration rate of +0.38 per 1,000 people, suggesting that immigration outnumbers emigration. As of 2006, 69.7 percent of Belarus’s population was between the ages of 14 and 64; 16 percent was under the age of 14, and 14.6 percent was 65 or older. Its population is likewise aging, with the median age of 37 expected to increase to between 55 and 65 by 2050. In Belarus, there are about 0.87 men for every female. The average lifespan is 68.7 years (63.0 years for males and 74.9 years for females). More than 99 percent of Belarusians aged 15 and above are literate.

Religion

According to official statistics, as of November 2011, 58.9 percent of all Belarusians practiced some kind of religion, with Eastern Orthodoxy (Belarusian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church) accounting for about 82 percent of them. Roman Catholicism is mainly prevalent in the western areas, while Protestantism comes in many varieties. Greek Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, and Neopaganism are also practiced by minorities.

Belarus’ Catholic minority, which accounts for about 9% of the nation’s population and is centered in the western portion of the country, particularly near Hrodna, is made up of Belarusians as well as the country’s Polish and Lithuanian minorities. President Lukashenko said in a media release on Belarusian-Vatican ties that Orthodox and Catholic Christians are the “two major confessors in our country.” According to a 2011 Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimate, the overall Roman Catholic population has fallen to 12% of religious adherents.

Belarus was formerly a significant European Jewish center, with 10% of the population being Jewish. However, since the mid-twentieth century, the number of Jews has been decreased by the Holocaust, expulsion, and emigration, such that they now constitute a very tiny minority of fewer than one percent of the population. The Lipka Tatars, who number approximately 15,000 people, are mostly Muslims. Belarus has no official religion, according to Article 16 of the Constitution. While the same provision guarantees religious freedom, religious groups considered detrimental to the government or social order may be banned.

Economy

Belarus was one of the world’s most industrially developed nations by percentage of GDP at the time of the Soviet Union’s breakup in 1991, as well as the wealthiest CIS member-state. In 2015, 39.3 percent of Belarusians worked for state-controlled businesses, 57.2 percent worked for private companies (in which the government owns 21.1 percent), and 3.5 percent worked for foreign companies. Russia is the country’s primary source of imports, notably petroleum. Potatoes and cow byproducts, especially meat, are important agricultural goods. Belarus’s major exports in 1994 were heavy equipment (particularly tractors), agricultural goods, and energy products. Belarus is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Community, and the Union with Russia.

However, industrial output fell in the 1990s as a result of reductions in imports, investment, and demand for Belarusian goods from its trading partners. GDP just started to increase in 1996, making the nation the fastest-recovering former Soviet republic in terms of economic recovery. GDP in 2006 was estimated to be $83.1 billion in purchasing power parity (PPP) dollars, or about $8,100 per capita. GDP grew by 9.9 percent in 2005, while inflation averaged 9.5 percent.

Belarus’s biggest commercial partner in 2006 was Russia, which accounted for almost half of total trade, with the European Union accounting for roughly a third of total trade. In 2015, 38 percent of Belarusian exports went to Russia, while 56 percent of purchased products came from Russia.

Belarus lost its EU Generalized System of Preferences status on 21 June 2007 due to its inability to safeguard worker rights, including enacting laws prohibiting unemployment or working outside of state-controlled industries, and tariff rates were increased to their previous most favored country levels. Belarus sought to join the World Trade Organization in 1993.

More over four million individuals work in the labor field, with women holding slightly more positions than males. In 2005, industrial enterprises employed almost a quarter of the population. Agriculture, manufacturing sales, trading products, and education all have high employment rates. According to official data, the unemployment rate in 2005 was 1.5 percent. There were 679,000 jobless Belarusians, with women accounting for two-thirds of the total. Since 2003, the unemployment rate has been declining, and the total rate of employment has been at its best since data were first collected in 1995.

Belarus’s currency was the Belarusian ruble until July 1, 2016. (BYR). The currency, which replaced the Soviet ruble, was established in May 1992. On December 27, 1996, the Republic of Belarus released its first coins. The ruble was reinstated in 2000 with new values and has been in use since then. Both Russia and Belarus, as members of the Union of Russia and Belarus, have considered adopting a unified currency similar to the Euro. As a result, it was proposed that the Belarusian ruble be phased out in favor of the Russian ruble (RUB) beginning on January 1, 2008. In August 2007, the National Bank of Belarus abandoned the peg of the Belarusian ruble to the Russian ruble.

In July 2016, a new currency, the new Belarusian ruble (ISO 4217 code: BYN), was launched, replacing the Belarusian ruble at a 1:10,000 exchange rate (10,000 old rubles = 1 new ruble). From July 1 to December 31, 2016, the old and new currencies will be in simultaneous circulation, while series 2000 notes and coins may be exchanged for series 2009 notes and coins from January 1 to December 31, 2021. This redenomination may be seen as an attempt to combat the high inflation rate.

Belarus’ financial system consists of thirty state-owned banks and one privatized bank. On May 23, 2011, the Belarusian ruble fell by 56% versus the US dollar. On the underground market, the devaluation was much worse, and financial catastrophe seemed near as people raced to swap their rubles for dollars, euros, durable goods, and tinned foods. Belarus sought an economic rescue package from the International Monetary Fund on June 1, 2011.

How To Travel To Belarus

Traveling by vehicle will bring you a long way since Belarus' infrastructure was substantially built following World War II. By European standards, gasoline is very inexpensive. 1L costs USD1 (as of April 2010). There is no need to browse around since all gasoline stations have the same government-mandated pricing....

Visa & Passport Requirements for Belarus

Visa requirements, basic informationSend a booking application to a travel agency, indicating the length of your stay (and which hotel will be reserved for you / your party). Note the names of tourists, their dates of birth, and their passport numbers in this application.The agency arranges for you (your...

Destinations in Belarus

Cities in BelarusMinsk is the capital and biggest city of Belarus, with a population of over 2 million people.Brest is a provincial city on the border with Western Poland, with outstanding architectural attractions.Polotsk - fascinating structures to visit in Belarus's oldest cityGomel (Homel) is Belarus's second biggest city, situated...

Accommodation & Hotels in Belarus

"Legal thievery." The majority of Minsk's hotels are secure. But beware of the Belarusian ruse. Because Belarusians are frightened of the authorities and therefore of committing a crime, certain unscrupulous hotels may engage in a particularly vexing kind of thievery using maids, frequently in collusion with reception staff. In...

Things To See in Belarus

The attractions of Belarus are poorly known to the ordinary tourist, yet it is precisely the off-the-beaten-path nature of this unknown nation that makes it unique to those who make it here. Much of the historic legacy was destroyed during World War II or as a result of post-war...

Food & Drinks in Belarus

Food in BelarusIn a nutshell, there are potatoes, pig, beef, and bread.You've come to the correct spot if you're searching for a national gourmet dinner. The majority of the goods and components are organic, and radiation levels in the food are continuously monitored to prevent contamination."Use fresh aurochs, and...

Money & Shopping in Belarus

Belarusian rubles are represented by the three letters BYR put before the price with no space in between.Within Belarus, Belarusian rubles (but not always Euros or US dollars) can be obtained from automatic bank machines (ATMs) for standard types of credit/debit cards, and US dollars and euros can be...

Internet & Communications in Belarus

Belarus has three main GSM providers:MTS, Velcom, LifeThey all provide no-contract GSM SIM cards and USB modems for Internet connection. In Belarus, cellular communications are extremely cheap and widely used. Each of these businesses operates a large number of shops in Minsk, Brest, and other regional cities. You will...

Language & Phrasebook in Belarus

The two official languages are Belarusian and Russian. Both languages are members of the Slavic language family and are closely related, with numerous similarities between them. Russian is the most commonly spoken language in the country. According to the official census of 2009, 53.2 percent of Belarusian people regarded...

Culture Of Belarus

Arts and literatureThe Belarusian government supports yearly cultural events such as Vitebsk's Bazaar, which features Belarusian performers, painters, authors, singers, and actors. Several state holidays, including Independence Day and Victory Day, attract large crowds and often involve displays like as fireworks and military parades, particularly in Vitebsk and Minsk....

History Of Belarus

Early historyFrom 5000 to 2000 BC, Bandkeramik cultures predominated. In addition, remains from the Dnieper-Donets culture were found in Belarus and parts of Ukraine. Cimmerians and other pastoralists roamed through the area by 1,000 BC, and by 500 AD, Slavs had taken up residence, which was circumscribed by the Scythians...

Stay Safe & Healthy in Belarus

Stay Safe in BelarusBelarus has a modest crime rate. Fortunately, crimes against foreigners are uncommon, but criminals have been known to use force if victims fight. Mugging and pickpocketing are common forms of street crime that occur most often near public transit, near hotels frequented by foreigners, and/or at...

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