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Belarus


Belarus highlights

Belarus, formerly known as Byelorussia or Belorussia, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital and most populous city is Minsk. Over 40% of its territory is forested. Its major economic sectors are service industries and manufacturing. Until the 20th century, different states at various times controlled the lands of modern-day Belarus, including Kievan Rus', the Principality of Polotsk (11th to 14th centuries), the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Russian Empire.





Last updated on: 1 September 2020

Belarus description

Belarus, formerly known as Byelorussia or Belorussia, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe. It is bordered by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital and most populous city is Minsk. Over 40% of its territory is forested. Its major economic sectors are service industries and manufacturing. Until the 20th century, different states at various times controlled the lands of modern-day Belarus, including Kievan Rus', the Principality of Polotsk (11th to 14th centuries), the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Russian Empire.

In the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution, different states arose competing for legitimacy amidst the Civil War, ultimately ending in the rise of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (Byelorussian SSR) which became a founding constituent republic of the Soviet Union in 1922. Belarus lost almost half of its territory to Poland after the Polish–Soviet War (1919–1921). Much of the borders of Belarus took their modern shape in 1939, when some lands of the Second Polish Republic were reintegrated into it after the Soviet invasion of Poland, and were finalized after World War II.

During WWII, military operations devastated Belarus, which lost about a quarter of its population and half of its economic resources. The republic was redeveloped in the post-war years. In 1945, the Byelorussian SSR became a founding member of the United Nations, along with the Soviet Union and the Ukrainian SSR.

The parliament of the republic proclaimed the sovereignty of Belarus on 27 July 1990, and during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Belarus declared independence on 25 August 1991. In 2000, Belarus and Russia signed a treaty for greater cooperation, forming the Union State.

Alexander Lukashenko has served as the country's first president since 1994. Due to his manners of ruling (authoritarian style), during his presidency Belarus has been labeled "Europe's last dictatorship" by some Western journalists.

Belarus has four UNESCO-designated World Heritage Sites: the Mir Castle Complex, the Nesvizh Castle, the Belovezhskaya Pushcha (shared with Poland), and the Struve Geodetic Arc (shared with nine other countries).

Belarusian cuisine shares many similarities with cuisines of other Eastern, Central and Northeastern European countries, based predominantly on meat and various vegetables typical for the region.

Belarusian cuisine consists mainly of vegetables, meat (particularly pork), and bread. Foods are usually either slowly cooked or stewed. Typically, Belarusians eat a light breakfast and two hearty meals later in the day. Wheat and rye breads are consumed in Belarus, but rye is more plentiful because conditions are too harsh for growing wheat. To show hospitality, a host traditionally presents an offering of bread and salt when greeting a guest or visitor.

Belarus cuisine has predominantly Slavic roots. Along with a Ruthenian influence, it is also linked with Lithuanian and Polish because of the long intermingling of these three peoples; first within the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (11th-15th centuries) and later within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (16th-17th centuries). Though the Belarusian nobility, like the Polish elite, borrowed much from Italian, German, and French cuisines, this influence hardly made itself felt in the diet of the peasant majority. Still, some of the borrowed dishes spread throughout the society, such as lazanki (a mixture of flour dumplings and stewed meat, related to Italian lasagna) and, above all, various dishes made of grated potatoes, typical for German cuisine.

The political upheavals of the 20th century completely wiped out the former privileged classes and many traditional upper and middle class dishes went down the path of oblivion. The very idea of a separate Belarusian cuisine was treated with suspicion. Only after World War II did it occur to the communist authorities that the proclaimed "flourishing of national culture" should also be evident in the cuisine.

Modern Belarusian cuisine is still heavily influenced by its recent Soviet past, and many local restaurants feature Russian or Soviet dishes rather than true specialties of local cuisine.

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