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Belarus Index

Belarusian culture is the product of a millennium of development under the impact of a number of diverse factors. These include the physical environment; the ethnographic background of Belarusians (the merger of Slavic newcomers with Baltic natives); the paganism of the early settlers and their hosts; Byzantine Christianity as a link to the Orthodox religion and its literary tradition; the country's lack of natural borders; the flow of rivers toward both the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea; and the variety of religions in the region (Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Judaism, and Islam).

An early Western influence on Belarusian culture was Magdeburg Law--charters that granted municipal self-rule and were based on the laws of German cities. These charters were granted in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries by grand dukes and kings to a number of cities, including Brest, Hrodna, Slutsk, and Minsk. The tradition of self-government not only facilitated contacts with Western Europe but also nurtured self-reliance, entrepreneurship, and a sense of civic responsibility.

In 1517-19 Frantsishak Skaryna (ca. 1490-1552) translated the Bible into the vernacular (Old Belorussian). Under the communist regime, Skaryna's work was vastly undervalued, but in independent Belarus he became an inspiration for the emerging national consciousness as much for his advocacy of the Belorussian language as for his humanistic ideas.

From the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries, when the ideas of humanism, the Renaissance, and the Reformation were alive in Western Europe, these ideas were debated in Belorussia as well because of trade relations there and because of the enrollment of noblemen's and burghers' sons in Western universities. The Reformation and Counter-Reformation also contributed greatly to the flourishing of polemical writings as well as to the spread of printing houses and schools.

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when Poland and Russia were making deep political and cultural inroads in Belorussia by assimilating the nobility into their respective cultures, the rulers succeeded in associating "Belorussian" culture primarily with peasant ways, folklore, ethnic dress, and ethnic customs, with an overlay of Christianity. This was the point of departure for some national activists who attempted to attain statehood for their nation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The development of Belorussian literature, spreading the idea of nationhood for the Belorussians, was epitomized by the literary works of Yanka Kupala (1882-1942) and Yakub Kolas (1882- 1956). The works of these poets, along with several other outstanding writers, became the classics of modern Belorussian literature by writing widely on rural themes (the countryside was where the writers heard the Belorussian language) and by modernizing the Belorussian literary language, which had been little used since the sixteenth century. Postindependence authors in the 1990s continued to use rural themes widely.

Unlike literature's focus on rural life, other fields of culture--painting, sculpture, music, film, and theater--centered on urban reality, universal concerns, and universal values.

Data as of June 1995

BackgroundAfter seven decades as a constituent republic of the USSR, Belarus attained its independence in 1991. It has retained closer political and economic ties to Russia than any of the other former Soviet republics. Belarus and Russia signed a treaty on a two-state union on 8 December 1999 envisioning greater political and economic integration. Although Belarus agreed to a framework to carry out the accord, serious implementation has yet to take place. Since his election in July 1994 as the country's first president, Aleksandr LUKASHENKO has steadily consolidated his power through authoritarian means. Government restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, peaceful assembly, and religion remain in place.
LocationEastern Europe, east of Poland
Area(sq km)total: 207,600 sq km
land: 202,900 sq km
water: 4,700 sq km
Geographic coordinates53 00 N, 28 00 E
Land boundaries(km)total: 3,306 km
border countries: Latvia 171 km, Lithuania 680 km, Poland 605 km, Russia 959 km, Ukraine 891 km

Coastline(km)0 km (landlocked)

Climatecold winters, cool and moist summers; transitional between continental and maritime

Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: Nyoman River 90 m
highest point: Dzyarzhynskaya Hara 346 m
Natural resourcesforests, peat deposits, small quantities of oil and natural gas, granite, dolomitic limestone, marl, chalk, sand, gravel, clay
Land use(%)arable land: 26.77%
permanent crops: 0.6%
other: 72.63% (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)1,310 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)58 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 2.79 cu km/yr (23%/47%/30%)
per capita: 286 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazardsNA
Environment - current issuessoil pollution from pesticide use; southern part of the country contaminated with fallout from 1986 nuclear reactor accident at Chornobyl' in northern Ukraine
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - notelandlocked; glacial scouring accounts for the flatness of Belarusian terrain and for its 11,000 lakes
Population9,648,533 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 14.3% (male 707,550/female 667,560)
15-64 years: 71.3% (male 3,337,253/female 3,540,916)
65 years and over: 14.5% (male 446,746/female 948,508) (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 38.6 years
male: 35.6 years
female: 41.6 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)-0.378% (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)9.71 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)13.86 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)0.38 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Urbanization(%)urban population: 73% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 0% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.47 male(s)/female
total population: 0.87 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 6.43 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.45 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.36 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 70.63 years
male: 64.95 years
female: 76.67 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)1.24 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Belarusian(s)
adjective: Belarusian
Ethnic groups(%)Belarusian 81.2%, Russian 11.4%, Polish 3.9%, Ukrainian 2.4%, other 1.1% (1999 census)

Religions(%)Eastern Orthodox 80%, other (including Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim) 20% (1997 est.)
Languages(%)Belarusian, Russian, other

Country nameconventional long form: Republic of Belarus
conventional short form: Belarus
local long form: Respublika Byelarus'
local short form: Byelarus'
former: Belorussian (Byelorussian) Soviet Socialist Republic
Government typerepublic in name, although in fact a dictatorship
Capitalname: Minsk
geographic coordinates: 53 54 N, 27 34 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Administrative divisions6 provinces (voblastsi, singular - voblasts') and 1 municipality* (horad); Brest, Homyel', Horad Minsk*, Hrodna, Mahilyow, Minsk, Vitsyebsk
note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers
Constitution15 March 1994; revised by national referendum of 24 November 1996 giving the presidency greatly expanded powers and became effective 27 November 1996; revised again 17 October 2004 removing presidential term limits

Legal systembased on civil law system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage18 years of age; universal
Executive branchchief of state: President Aleksandr LUKASHENKO (since 20 July 1994)
head of government: Prime Minister Sergey SIDORSKIY (since 19 December 2003); First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir SEMASHKO (since December 2003)
cabinet: Council of Ministers
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; first election took place 23 June and 10 July 1994; according to the 1994 constitution, the next election should have been held in 1999, however, Aleksandr LUKASHENKO extended his term to 2001 via a November 1996 referendum; subsequent election held 9 September 2001; an October 2004 referendum ended presidential term limits and allowed the president to run in a third election, which was held on 19 March 2006; prime minister and deputy prime ministers appointed by the president
election results: Aleksandr LUKASHENKO reelected president; percent of vote - Aleksandr LUKASHENKO 82.6%, Aleksandr MILINKEVICH 6%, Aleksandr KOZULIN 2.3%; note - election marred by electoral fraud

Legislative branchbicameral National Assembly or Natsionalnoye Sobranie consists of the Council of the Republic or Soviet Respubliki (64 seats; 56 members elected by regional councils and eight members appointed by the president, to serve four-year terms) and the Chamber of Representatives or Palata Predstaviteley (110 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: Palata Predstaviteley - last held 28 September and 3 October 2008 (next to be held fall of 2012); international observers determined that despite minor improvements the election ultimately fell short of democratic standards; pro-LUKASHENKO candidates won every seat
election results: Soviet Respubliki - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; Palata Predstaviteley - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA

Judicial branchSupreme Court (judges are appointed by the president); Constitutional Court (half of the judges appointed by the president and half appointed by the Chamber of Representatives)

Political pressure groups and leadersAssembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs [Sergey MATSKEVICH]; Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions [Aleksandr YAROSHUK]; Belarusian Helsinki Committee [Aleh HULAK]; Belarusian Organization of Working Women [Irina ZHIKHAR]; BPF-Youth [Franak VYACHORKA]; Charter 97 [Andrey SANNIKOV]; For Freedom [Aleksandr MILINKEVICH]; National Strike Committee of Entrepreneurs [Aleksandr VASILYEV, Valery LEVONEVSKY]; Perspektiva kiosk watchdog NGO [Anatol SHUMCHENKO]; Vyasna ("Spring") human rights center; Women's Independent Democratic Movement [Ludmila PETINA]; Young Belarus (Malady Belarus); Youth Front (Malady Front) [Dmitriy DASHKEVICH]
International organization participationBSEC (observer), CBSS (observer), CEI, CIS, CSTO, EAEC, EAPC, EBRD, FAO, GCTU, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, NAM, NSG, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)
Flag descriptionred horizontal band (top) and green horizontal band one-half the width of the red band; a white vertical stripe on the hoist side bears Belarusian national ornamentation in red; the red band color recalls past struggles from oppression, the green band represents hope and the many forests of the country

Economy - overviewBelarus has seen little structural reform since 1995, when President LUKASHENKO launched the country on the path of "market socialism." In keeping with this policy, LUKASHENKO reimposed administrative controls over prices and currency exchange rates and expanded the state's right to intervene in the management of private enterprises. Since 2005, the government has re-nationalized a number of private companies. In addition, businesses have been subject to pressure by central and local governments, e.g., arbitrary changes in regulations, numerous rigorous inspections, retroactive application of new business regulations, and arrests of "disruptive" businessmen and factory owners. A wide range of redistributive policies has helped those at the bottom of the ladder; the Gini coefficient is among the lowest in the world. Because of these restrictive economic policies, Belarus has had trouble attracting foreign investment. Nevertheless, government statistics indicate GDP growth has been strong in recent years, reaching 10% in 2008, despite the roadblocks of a tough, centrally directed economy with a high rate of inflation. Belarus receives discounted oil and natural gas from Russia and much of Belarus' growth can be attributed to the re-export of Russian oil at market prices. Trade with Russia - by far its largest single trade partner - decreased in 2007-08, largely as a result of a change in the way the Value Added Tax (VAT) on trade was collected. Russia has introduced an export duty on oil shipped to Belarus, which will increase gradually through 2009, and a requirement that Belarusian duties on re-exported Russian oil be shared with Russia - 80% was slated to go to Russia in 2008, and 85% in 2009. Russia also increased Belarusian natural gas prices from $47 per thousand cubic meters (tcm)in 2006 to $100 per tcm in 2007, and to $128 per tcm in 2008, and plans to increase prices gradually to world levels by 2011. Russia's recent policy of bringing energy prices for Belarus to world market levels may result in a slowdown in economic growth in Belarus over the next few years. Some policy measures, including improving energy efficiency and diversifying exports, have been introduced, but external borrowing has been the main mechanism used to manage the growing pressures on the economy. Belarus felt the effects of the global financial crisis in late 2008 and reached agreement with Russia in November for a $2 billion stabilization loan and with the IMF for a $2.5 billion stand-by agreement in January 2009. In line with IMF conditionality, Belarus devalued the ruble approximately 20% in January 2009 and has tightened some fiscal and monetary policies. Belarus's economic growth is likely to slow in 2009 as it faces decreasing demand for its exports, and will find it difficult to increase external borrowing if the credit markets continue to tighten.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$114.3 billion (2008 est.)
$103.9 billion (2007 est.)
$96.06 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$60.3 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)10% (2008 est.)
8.2% (2007 est.)
9.9% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$11,800 (2008 est.)
$10,700 (2007 est.)
$9,800 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 8.5%
industry: 41.2%
services: 50.3% (2008 est.)
Labor force4.869 million (2007)

Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 14%
industry: 34.7%
services: 51.3% (2003 est.)
Unemployment rate(%)1.6% (2005)
note: officially registered unemployed; large number of underemployed workers
Population below poverty line(%)27.1% (2003 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: 3.6%
highest 10%: 22% (2005)
Distribution of family income - Gini index27.9 (2005)
21.7 (1998)
Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)31.9% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budgetrevenues: $25.15 billion
expenditures: $25.97 billion (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)14.8% (2008 est.)
8.4% (2007 est.)

Stock of money$4.872 billion (31 December 2008)
$4.065 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money$8.784 billion (31 December 2008)
$6.823 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit$18.42 billion (31 December 2008)
$12.16 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares$NA
Economic aid - recipient$53.76 million (2005)

Agriculture - productsgrain, potatoes, vegetables, sugar beets, flax; beef, milk
Industriesmetal-cutting machine tools, tractors, trucks, earthmovers, motorcycles, televisions, synthetic fibers, fertilizer, textiles, radios, refrigerators

Industrial production growth rate(%)12% (2008 est.)

Current account balance-$5.063 billion (2008 est.)
-$3.042 billion (2007 est.)
Exports$33.04 billion (2008 est.)
$24.33 billion (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities(%)machinery and equipment, mineral products, chemicals, metals, textiles, foodstuffs
Exports - partners(%)Russia 32.2%, Netherlands 16.9%, Ukraine 8.5%, Latvia 6.6%, Poland 5.5%, UK 4.4% (2008)
Imports$39.16 billion (2008 est.)
$28.4 billion (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities(%)mineral products, machinery and equipment, chemicals, foodstuffs, metals
Imports - partners(%)Russia 59.8%, Germany 7.1%, Ukraine 5.4% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$2.687 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$3.952 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external$15.15 billion (31 December 2008)
$12.49 billion (31 December 2007)

Exchange ratesBelarusian rubles (BYB/BYR) per US dollar - 2,130 (2008 est.), 2,145 (2007), 2,144.6 (2006), 2,150 (2005), 2,160.26 (2004)

Currency (code)Belarusian ruble (BYB/BYR)

Telephones - main lines in use3.718 million (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular8.693 million (2008)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: Belarus lags behind its neighbors in upgrading telecommunications infrastructure; state-owned Beltelcom is the sole provider of fixed-line local and long distance service; fixed-line teledensity of roughly 35 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular telephone density of about 90 per 100 persons; modernization of the network progressing with roughly two-thirds of switching equipment now digital
domestic: fixed-line penetration is improving although rural areas continue to be underserved; 3 GSM wireless networks are experiencing rapid growth; strict government controls on telecommunications technologies
international: country code - 375; Belarus is a member of the Trans-European Line (TEL), Trans-Asia-Europe (TAE) fiber-optic line, and has access to the Trans-Siberia Line (TSL); 3 fiber-optic segments provide connectivity to Latvia, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine; worldwide service is available to Belarus through this infrastructure; additional analog lines to Russia; Intelsat, Eutelsat, and Intersputnik earth stations (2008)
Internet country code.by
Internet users3.107 million (2008)
Airports65 (2009)
Pipelines(km)gas 5,250 km; oil 1,528 km; refined products 1,730 km (2008)
Roadways(km)total: 94,797 km
paved: 84,028 km
unpaved: 10,769 km (2005)

Ports and terminalsMazyr
Military branchesBelarus Armed Forces: Land Force, Air and Air Defense Force (2009)
Military service age and obligation(years of age)18-27 years of age for compulsory military service; conscript service obligation - 18 months (2005)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 2,491,643
females age 16-49: 2,528,779 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 1,720,049
females age 16-49: 2,069,898 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 60,009
female: 56,834 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)1.4% of GDP (2005 est.)
Disputes - internationalBoundary demarcated with Latvia and Lithuania in 2006; 1997 boundary delimitation treaty with Ukraine remains unratified over unresolved financial claims, preventing demarcation and diminishing border security

Electricity - production(kWh)29.92 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 99.5%
hydro: 0.1%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0.4% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)30.54 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports(kWh)5.062 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)9.406 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Oil - production(bbl/day)32,950 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)184,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)303,900 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)444,800 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves(bbl)198 million bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production(cu m)152 million cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)21.75 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)2.832 billion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)0.2% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS13,000 (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths1,100 (2007 est.)
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99.6%
male: 99.8%
female: 99.4% (1999 census)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 15 years
male: 14 years
female: 15 years (2006)
Education expenditures(% of GDP)6.1% of GDP (2006)

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