Belarus

The history of Belarus, or, more correctly of the Belarusian ethnicity, begins with the migration and expansion of the Slavic peoples throughout Eastern Europe between the 6th and 8th centuries. East Slavs settled on the territory within present-day Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, assimilating local Baltic and steppe nomads already living there, early ethnic integrations that contributed to the gradual differentiation of the three East Slavic nations. These East Slavs were pagan, animistic, agrarian people whose economy included trade in agricultural produce, game, furs, honey, beeswax and amber.

The modern Belarusian ethnos (people of the same race or nationality who share a distinctive culture) was probably formed on the basis of the three Slavic tribes — Kryvians, Drehovians, Radzimians as well as several Baltic tribes. During the 9th and 10th centuries, Scandinavian Vikings established trade posts on the way from Scandinavia to the Byzantine Empire. The network of lakes and rivers crossing East Slav territory provided a lucrative trade route between the two civilizations. In the course of trade, they gradually took sovereignty over the tribes of East Slavs, at least to the point required by improvements in trade. The Rus’ rulers invaded the Byzantine  Empire on few occasions, but eventually they allied against the Bulgars. The condition underlying this alliance was to open the country for Christianization and acculturation from the Byzantine Empire. The common cultural bond of Eastern Orthodox Christianity and written Church Slavonic  fostered the emergence of a new geopolitical entity, Kievan Rus’ — a loose-knit network of principalities, established along preexisting trade routes, with major centers in Novgorod (currently Russia), Polatsk (in Belarus) and Kiev (currently in Ukraine) — which claimed a sometimes precarious preeminence among them.

Between the 9th and 12th centuries, the Principality of Polotsk (northern Belarus) emerged as the dominant center of power on Belarusian territory, with a lesser role played by the principality of TuraÅ­ in the south. It repeatedly asserted its sovereignty in relation to other centers of Rus’, becoming a political capital, the episcopal see (the ecclesiastical domain of authority of a bishop) of a bishopric (an area, historically most common within the Holy Roman Empire, where a bishop held the secular authority) and the controller of vassal territories among Baltic people in the west. The city’s Cathedral of the Holy Wisdom (1044–66), though completely rebuilt over the years, remains a symbol of this independent-mindedness, rivaling churches of the same name in Novgorod and Kiev, referring to the original Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.

In the 13th century, the fragile unity of Kievan Rus’ disintegrated due to nomadic incursions from Asia, which climaxed with the Mongol Blue Horde‘s sacking of Kiev (1240), leaving a geopolitical vacuum in the region. The East Slavs splintered into a number of independent and competing principalities. Due to military conquest and dynastic marriages the Belarusian principalities were acquired by the expanding Lithuania, beginning with the rule of Lithuanian King Mindaugas (1240–63). From the 13th to 15th century, Baltic, Belarusian and  Ukrainian lands were consolidated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Lithuanians’ smaller numbers and lack of their own  written language in this medieval state gave the Ruthenians (present-day Belarusians and Ukrainians) a very important role in shaping Lithuanian political, religious and cultural life, and further assimilation between the Slavs and Balts occurred. This period of political breakdown and reorganization also saw the rise of written local vernaculars in place of the literary and liturgical Church Slavonic language, a further stage in the evolving differentiation between the Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian languages.

A vibrant Ruthenian culture flourished, mostly in major present-day Belarusian cities. Despite the legal usage of the Old Ruthenian language (the predecessor of both modern Belarusian and Ukrainian languages) which was used as a chancellery language in the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the literature was mostly non-existent, outside of several chronicles. The first Belarusian book printed with the first printing press in the Cyrillic alphabet was published in Prague, in 1517, by Francysk Skaryna, a leading representative of the renaissance Belarusian culture. Soon afterwards he founded a similar printing press in Polatsk and started an extensive work of publishing the Bible and other religious works there. Apart from the Bible itself, until his death in 1551 he published 22 other books thus laying the foundations for the evolution of the Ruthenian language into the modern Belarusian language.

With time, the ethnic pattern did not evolve much. Throughout their existence as a separate culture, Ruthenians formed in most cases rural population, with the power held by local szlachta (people of noble class) and boyars ( a person of the highest rank of aristocrats next to only princes), often of Lithuanian, Polish or Russian descent. As in the rest of Central and Eastern Europe, the trade and commerce was mostly monopolized by Armenians and Jews, who formed a significant part of the urban population. Since the Union of Horodlo (seep page 3) of 1413, local nobility was assimilated into the traditional clan system by means of the formal procedure of adoption by the szlachta (noble class in Poland). Eventually it formed a significant part of the szlachta. Initially mostly Ruthenian and Orthodox, with time most of them became polonized. This was especially true for major magnate families (noble or high society clans), whose personal fortunes and properties often surpassed those of the royal families and were huge enough to be called a state within a state. Many of them founded their own cities and settled them with settlers from other parts of Europe. Indeed there were Scots, Germans and Dutch people inhabitating major towns of the area, as well as several Italian artists who had been “imported” to the lands of modern Belarus by the magnates.

Contrary to Poland, in the lands of the Grand Duchy, the peasants had little personal freedom in the Middle Ages. However, with time, the magnates and the gentry gradually limited the few liberties of the serfs (unfree peasants), at the same time increasing their taxation, often in labour for the local gentry. This made many Ruthenians flee to the scarcely populated lands, Dzikie Pola (Wild Fields), the Polish name of the Zaporizhian Sich, where they formed a large part of the Cossacks (militaristic communities). Others sought refuge in the lands of other magnates or in Russia.

Also, with time the religious conflicts started to arise. The gentry with time started to adopt Catholicism while the common people by large remained faithful to Eastern Orthodoxy. Initially the Warsaw Compact (seen as the formal beginnings of religious freedom) of 1573 codified the preexisting freedom of worship. However, the rule of an ultra-Catholic King Sigismund III Vasa was marked by numerous attempts to spread the Catholicism, mostly through his support for counterreformation and the Jesuits. Possibly to avoid such conflicts, in 1595 the Orthodox hierarchs of Kiev signed the Union of Brest, breaking their links with the Patriarch of Constantinople and placing themselves under the Pope. Although the union was generally supported by most local Orthodox bishops and the king himself, it was opposed by some prominent nobles and, more importantly, by the nascent Cossack movement. This led to a series of conflicts and rebellions against the local authorities.

From 1569, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth suffered a series of Tatar invasions, the goal of which was to loot, pillage and capture slaves into jasyr. The borderland area to the south-east was in a state of semi-permanent warfare until the 18th century. Some researchers estimate that altogether more than 3 million people, predominantly Ukrainians but also Russians, Belarusians and Poles, were captured and enslaved during the time of the Crimean Khanate.

Both economical and cultural growth came to an end in mid-17th century with a series of violent wars against Tsardom of Russia, Sweden, Brandenburg and Transylvania, as well as internal conflicts, known altogether as The Deluge (see page 3). The misfortunes were started in 1648 by Bohdan Chmielnicki, who started a large-scale Cossack uprising in the Ukraine. Although the Cossacks were defeated in 1651 in the battle of Beresteczko, Khmelnytsky sought help from Russian tsar, and by the Treaty of Pereyaslav Russia dominated and partially occupied the eastern lands of the Commonwealth since 1655. The Swedes invaded and occupied the rest in the same year. The wars had shown internal problems of the state, with some people of the Grand Duchy supporting Russia while others supporting the Swedes. Although the Swedes were finally driven back in 1657 and the Russians were defeated in 1662, most of the country was ruined. It is estimated that the Commonwealth lost a third of its population, with some regions of Belarus losing as much as 50%. This broke the power of the once-powerful Commonwealth and the country gradually became vulnerable to foreign influence. Subsequent wars in the area (Great Northern War and the War of Polish succession) damaged its economy even further. In addition, Russian armies raided the Commonwealth under the pretext of the returning of fugitive peasants. By mid-18th century their presence in the lands of modern Belarus became almost permanent. The last attempt to save the Commonwealth’s independence was a Polish–Belarusian–Lithuanian national uprising of 1794 led by Tadeusz KoÅ›ciuszko, however it was eventually quenched.

World War I was the short period when Belarusian culture started to flourish. German administration allowed schools with Belarusian language, previously banned in Russia; a number of Belarusian schools were created until 1919 when they were banned again by the Polish military administration.

During the World War II, the Nazis attempted to establish a puppet Belarusian government, Belarusian Central Rada, with the symbolics similar to BNR. In reality, however, the Germans imposed a brutal racist regime, burning down some 9,000 Belarusian villages, deporting some 380,000 people for slave labour, and killing hundreds of thousands more civilians. Local police took part in many of those crimes. Almost the whole, previously very numerous, Jewish populations of Belarus that did not evacuate was killed.

After the end of War in 1945, Belarus became one of the founding members of the United Nations Organisation. Joining Belarus was the Soviet Union itself and another republic Ukraine. In exchange for Belarus and Ukraine joining the UN, the United States had the right to seek two more votes, a right that has never been exercised. The Belarusian economy was completely devastated by the events of the war. Most of the industry, including whole production plants were removed either to Russia or Germany. Industrial production of Belarus in 1945 amounted for less than 20% of its pre-war size. Most of the factories evacuated to Russia, with several spectacular exceptions, were not returned to Belarus after 1945. During the immediate postwar period, the Soviet Union first rebuilt and then expanded the BSSR’s economy, with control always exerted exclusively from Moscow. During this time, Belarus became a major center of manufacturing in the western region of the USSR. Huge industrial objects like the BelAZ, MAZ, and the Minsk Tractor Plant were built in the country. The increase in jobs resulted in a huge immigrant population of Russians in Belarus. Russian became the official language of administration and the peasant class, which traditionally was the base for Belarusian nation, ceased to exist.

On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl accident occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine situated close to the border with Belarus. It is regarded as the worst nuclear accident in the history of nuclear power. It produced a plume of radioactive debris that drifted over parts of the western Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and Scandinavia. Large areas of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia were contaminated, resulting in the evacuation and resettlement of roughly 200 000 people. About 60% of the radioactive fallout landed in Belarus. The effects of Chernobyl accident in Belarus were dramatic: about a quarter of the territory of Belarus formerly populated by a fifth of the Belarusian population now requires permanent radioactive monitoring.

History of Christianity in Belarus

Belarus was the 2nd Slavonic State to translate and publish the Bible in its native language. Francisk Skaryna translated and printed the Bible in Belarussian from in 1517 – 1519 (see page 6).

19th century: That was the time of national and religious persecution of Belarusians by the Russian Empire that lasted above 200 years. After the forcible union with Russia due to the last division of the territory of Belarus in 1795 almost all the Catholic convents and educational centers were closed between 1830-1870. In 1839 the Church Union was abolished. The population was being forcibly converted into the Orthodox religion. The period of cruel national and religious persecution began. In 1869 the diocese of Minsk was abolished: at first its territory became part of the diocese of Vilnius, then in 1883 it joined the diocese of Mohilev. Czarist regime interfered by all means with religious life of Catholics.

After the revolution in 1905 Catholic Church activity had revived for some time. Some parishes reappeared as well as the diocese of Minsk in 1917. But in the 1920s religious policy was changed again and the territory of Belarus was divided between Poland and Russia in 1921, the activity of the archbishopric of Mohilev and the bishopric of Minsk was completely paralysed. In 1923 Archbishop Tseplak was condemned and repressed. In 1926-1936 P. E. Nevio performed head functions of the archbishopric of Mohilev. In 1921 the bishop of Minsk Zigmund Lazinsky was arrested and had to leave for the western Belarus that was part of Poland then. Later Bp. Zigmund Lazinsky became head of the diocese of Pinsk created on the basis of the western part of the former diocese of Minsk. The wave of repressions against the Catholic Church and the clergy was at its high in 1939. Almost all the temples were closed and there wasn’t a single priest in the 10 formally unclosed temples. A great number of priests had been slain, others had been constantly persecuted. The Belarusian language was eliminated from religious use.

During the World War II Belarus was occupied by Germany during which the Catholic Church was partly revived, but after the war repressions became even stronger. After Stalin’s (see page 6) death the persecution of Catholics was reduced but didn’t cease. Nevertheless in such difficult conditions religious life was little by little reviving.

Belarus today:

The Constitution of Belarus does not declare an official religion, although the primary religion in the country is Russian Orthodox  Christianity.

There are about 1.7 million Catholics in the country (around 17% of the total population).

 Home worship is prohibited in Belarus.

Greek Catholic as well as several Protestant churches have been prohibited to register with official authority.

There are more than 500,000 Protestants in Belarus (5 % of the population).

Baptists affiliated to the Baptist World Alliance number more than 11,000 as of 1998.

There were 170 pentecostal congregations in 1993.

Lutherans belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Other States.

There was a hungerstrike as a reaction to limitation of Christian religious liberty.

 There is a women’s Christian-Democratic Movement of Belarus.

The Roman Catholic Church in Belarus is part of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope and curia in Rome.

Roman Catholicism was a traditionally dominant religion of Belarusian nobility and of a large part of the population of West Belarus.

Nowadays there are about 1.7 million Catholics in the country – around 17% of the total population. Most of these belong to the Latin Rite dioceses. A minority are of Byzantine Rite, forming the particular Belarusian Greek Catholic Church, which is in union with the Holy See and follows the  Byzantine Slavonic ritual.

Many Latin-Rite Catholics belong to the Polish minority in Belarus. The Greek Catholics are mostly ethnic Belarussians, with some Ukrainians.

Important Christian Figures

Franciszak Skaryna, a leading Renaissance scholar and humanist, was borne in the north Belarusian city of Polack on the river Dzvina. in 1486. His father, Lukasz, was a merchant.

After leaving his native city as a youth, Skaryna matriculated at the arts faculty of Cracow university, and in 1504 he graduated as a Bachelor of Arts. He evidently pursued his studies with some success for in 1509 he was filling a post of Secretary to Jan, King Of Denmark, at his Court in Copenhagen. From thence he traveled from Germany to Italy, and in 1512 he took Doctor’s degree in medicine at Paddua University.

Little is known of Skaryna’s life from 1512 to 1517, but it is surmised that he devoted the years to the study of the techniques of printing and engraving, possibly in Venice, Nuremberg, and Ausburg. He must also have begun to prepare his monumental work, the translation of the Bible, the greater part of which he printed and published in Prague from 1517-19. Skaryna then returned to Vilna where from 1525-27 he published the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles, and a collection of prayers entitled Malaja Padarozhnaja Knizhica( Little Itinerary Book). He died in or about the year 1540.

Joseph Stalin (December 18, 1878  – March 5, 1953) was General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union‘s Central Committee from 1922 until his death in 1953. In the years following Lenin’s death in 1924, he rose to become the authoritarian leader of the Soviet Union.

Stalin launched a command economy, replacing the New Economic Policy of the 1920s with Five-Year Plans and launching a period of rapid industrialization and economic collectivization. The upheaval in the agricultural sector disrupted food production, resulting in widespread famine, such as the Soviet famine of 1932-1933, known in Ukraine as the  Holodomor.

During the late 1930s, Stalin launched the Great Purge (also known as the “Great Terror”), a campaign to purge the Communist Party of people accused of corruption or treachery; he extended it to the military and other sectors of Soviet society. Targets were often executed, imprisoned in Gulag labor camps or exiled. In the years following, millions of ethnic minorities were also deported.

In 1939, the Soviet Union under Stalin signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany, followed by a Soviet invasion of Poland, Finland, the Baltics, Bessarabia and northern Bukovina. After Germany violated the pact in 1941, the Soviet Union joined the Allies to play a vital role in the Axis defeat, at the cost of the largest death toll for any country in the war. Thereafter, contradicting statements at allied conferences, Stalin installed communist governments in most of Eastern Europe, forming the Eastern bloc, behind what was referred to as an “Iron Curtain” of Soviet rule. This launched the long period of antagonism known as the Cold War.

Stalin’s careful control of the media helped him to foster a cult of personality. However, after his death his successor, Nikita Kruschev, denounced his legacy, initiating the period known as de-Stalinization.

Isaac Edward Salkinsohn (1820June 5, 1883), was a Jew who converted to Christianity, and lived during the Jewish Enlightenment. He was famous as a translator into Hebrew. He was noted for his loyalty to the original text, while preserving the spirit of the Hebrew language, which he characterized as a biblical and liturgical language.

Salkinsohn was born as a Jew in the village of Shklov, in Belarus, in 1820. His father was a scholar, well known throughout the area, even though he was not a rabbi. When Salkinsohn was still a small child, his mother died and his father remarried. Salkinsohn, who was the youngest of his mother’s children, suffered greatly under his new stepmother, but was very close with his father. At the age of 17, he left his father and decided to run away to Mahilyow. After news of an impending army conscription he moved to a nearby village, in the house of the barkeeper. In the village he became friendly with the hazzan and helped him deal with religious issues. While there, an interest in secular studies and general enlightenment was kindled in Salkinsohn. Meanwhile, the barkeeper planned to marry his granddaughter to Salkinsohn. When Salkinsohn learned of this, he revealed it to the hazzan, who helped him sneak away and get to Vilnius, then called Vilna and later London. In London Salkinsohn met Christian missionaries and converted in 1849. He was appointed a Presbyterian pastor in 1856 (some say 1859) and began working as a missionary in 1864. In 1876 he was sent as a missionary to Vienna and preached in the Anglican church there.

Salkinsohn represented two opposite sides for educated Jewry of the period. On one hand, he was making the great Western novels accessible to most Jews, and was a beautiful translator, but on the other hand, he had converted and was encouraging them to do the same. He had his share of enemies: not only did people warn against him and released slander against him, but there also were many who egged others on against his friend, Peretz Smolenskin. For many Jews of the period, even though they enjoyed his translations, it was hard to praise a Jew who had converted to Christianity, and one who translated not only literary works, but undoubtedly Christian works.

Six years after he reached Vienna, on the 5th of June, 1883, Isaac Salkinsohn died, aged 63.

Politics in Belarus

The office of President of Belarus is the head of state of Belarus. The office was created in 1994 with the passing of the Constitution of Belarus by the Supreme Soviet. This replaced the office of Chairman of the Supreme Soviet as the head of state. The tasks of the president including executing foreign and domestic policy, defend the rights and general welfare of citizens and residents and to uphold the Constitution. The president is mandated by the Constitution to serve as a leader in the social affairs of the country and to act as its main representative abroad.

The term for the president is five years, but due to a 1996 referendum, the election that was supposed to occur in 1999 was pushed back to 2001. Under the 1994 constitution, the president could only serve for two terms as president, but due to a change in the constitution, term limits were eliminated. During the course of the office, three elections were held in 1994, 2001 and 2006. The next election is set to occur in 2011. Alexander Lukashenko has been the only person who has served as president since the elections in 1994. During his first two terms as President, Lukashenko restructured the Belarusian economy by introducing economic integration with the Russian Federation and building strong ties with countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Alexander Lukashenko was born on August 30th, 1954 in the settlement of Kopys in the Vitebsk voblast of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. Lukashenko’s family is of Ukrainian origin. Lukashenko grew up without a father in his childhood, leading him to be taunted by his schoolmates for having an unmarried mother. He graduated from the Mogilev Pedagogical Institute in 1975 and the Belarussian Agricultural Academy in 1985. He served in the Border Guard (frontier troops) from 1975 to 1977 and in the Soviet Army from 1980 to 1982. In 1990, Lukashenko was elected as a Deputy in the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Belarus. He was the only deputy of the Belarusian parliament who voted against ratification of the December 1991 agreement that dissolved the Soviet Union and set up the Commonwealth of Independent States in its place. Having acquired a reputation as an eloquent opponent of corruption, Lukashenko was elected in 1993 to serve as the chairman of the anti-corruption committee of the Belarusian parliament. In late 1993 he accused 70 senior government officials of corruption, including stealing state funds for personal purposes. A new Belarusian constitution enacted in early 1994 paved the way for the first democratic presidential elections in July. Six candidates stood, including Lukashenko, who campaigned as an independent on a populist platform of “defeat[ing] the mafia.” Lukashenko won 45.1% of the vote. Lukashenko won the second round of the election on 10 July with 80.1% of the vote.

 During his first term (1994-2001), in May 1995, one of the first votes under Lukashenko occurred. Not only were the national symbols of the country changed, it also gave Lukashenko the ability to disband the Supreme Soviet by decree. In the summer of 1996, 70 deputies of the 199-member Belarusian parliament signed a petition to impeach Lukashenko on charges of violating the Constitution. Shortly after that a referendum was held on 24 November 1996 in which 4 questions were offered by Lukashenko and 3 questions offered by a group of Parliament members. The vote passed, but faced international and internal condemnation. On 25 November, it was announced that 70.5% of voters, on an 84% turnout, had approved an amended constitution that greatly increased Lukashenko’s power. The United States and the European Union, however, refused to accept the legitimacy of the referendum. By most accounts, the new constitution turned his presidency into a legal dictatorship. After the referendum, Lukashenko convened a new parliamentary assembly from those members of the parliament who were loyal to him.

For his second term (2001 – 2006), elections were held on 9 September 2001 with Vladimir Goncharik and Sergei Gaidukevich as his opponents. During the campaign, Lukashenko promised to raise the standards of farming, social benefits and increase industrial output of Belarus. Lukashenko won in the first round with 75.65% of the vote. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said the process “failed to meet international standards”, despite not having observed the election, and in spite of the statement by Gerard Stoudmann of the OIDHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) of the OSCE that there was “no evidence of manipulation or fraud”. Russia, by contrast, publicly welcomed Lukashenko’s re-election. Russian President Vladimir Putin phoned Lukashenko and offered a message of congratulations and cooperation. In 2004, a referendum was passed that eliminated presidential term limits, allowing Lukashenko to stand again for office in 2006. Economically, Belarus grew under Lukashenko, but much of this growth was due to Russian oil which was imported at below market prices and then refined before being sold on to Europe.

After Lukashenko confirmed he was running for re-election in 2005, opposition groups began to seek a single candidate. On 16 October 2005, on the Day of Solidarity With Belarus, the political groups Zubr and Third Way Belarus encouraged all of the opposition parties to rally behind one candidate to oppose Lukashenko in the 2006 election. Their chosen candidate was Alaksandar Milinkievič, who was running against Lukashenko and other candidates. Lukashenko reacted by saying that anyone going to opposition protests would have their necks wrung “as one might a duck”. On 19 March 2006 exit polls showed Lukashenko winning a third term in a landslide, amid opposition claims of vote-rigging and fear of violence. Despite that, the crowd of demonstrators rallying after the election was the biggest the opposition had mustered in years, with nightly protests and demonstrations in Minsk. The turnout at the biggest protest on election night was about 10,000.

Various election observers differed on the Belarus vote. In contrast with most other observers, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe declared on 20 March 2006 that the “presidential election failed to meet OSCE commitments for democratic elections.” Lukashenko “permitted State authority to be used in a manner which did not allow citizens to freely and fairly express their will at the ballot box… a pattern of intimidation and the suppression of independent voices… was evident throughout the campaign.” In contrast, the ‘Commonwealth of Independent States’ observers declared the Belarus presidential election open and transparent. Some Russian nationalists, such as Dmitry Rogozin and the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, have stated that they would like to see Lukashenko become President of Russia in 2008. Lukashenko spoke and said he will not run for the Russian presidency; if his health is still good, he might run for reelection in 2011.

Sergey Sidorsky was born March 13, 1954 in Gomel, BSSR. He is currently the Prime Minister of Belarus. He was appointed Acting Prime Minister on July 10, 2003 to replace the dismissed Gennady Novitsky, and was confirmed as permanent Prime Minister on December 19, 2003.

Sergei Sergeevich Sidorsky was born on 13 March 1954 in Gomel. In 1976, he graduated from the Belarusian Institute of Railway Engineers (Faculty of Electrical Engineering). He began his working life as an electrical fitter, electrician. From 1976 to 2002 he worked for Gomel in various departments as a foreman, head of department, general manager, deputy and first deputy chairman, and director.

He became Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus in 2002 until 2003. He  became First Deputy Prime Minister, Acting Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus in December 2003 and currently still is Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus.

Sergei is a honoured Workman of the Industry of the Republic of Belarus, a Doctor of Engineering Sciences. An Academician, International Engineering Academy. He is also an expert in vacuum-plasma technologies and author of more than 40 scientific publications and monographs.

Sidorsky is married and has two daughters. He speaks German.

Did You Know??!!

>Capital city: Minsk. There are about 2 million inhabitants in Minsk

>Belarus is an ancient Slavonic country situated in the East of Europe. It occupies the territory of 207,600 sq. km. and is populated by 10.3 million people. Belarus stretches 650 km from the West to the East and 560 km from the North to the South. It has 6 regions, about 4000 rivers and 1 1000 lakes. The largest rivers are the Dnieper, the Western Dvina, the Nieman, the Bug; the biggest lake is Naroch.

>Belarus is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered by Russia to the north and east, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the north. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno (Hrodna), Gomel (Homiel), Mahilyow (MahiloÅ­) and Vitebsk (Viciebsk).

>Today the Republic of Belarus is a well -developed agro-industrial sovereign state. Many world recognised goods are manufactured here, e.g. BELARUS tractors. MAZ lorries, BELAZ heavy-duty trucks, ATLANT refrigerators and freezers, More than 1,400 Belarussian enterprises produce a wide range of products both for home and international markets – motorcycles and bicycles, TV and radio-sets, various agricultural machines, potash fertilisers and chemical fibres.

>Despite of all historic hardships the Belarussian nation has preserved its language and culture.

>Belarus maintains stable economic, relations with 80 countries of the world.

>The Belarussian manpower is considered to be of high educational level by European standards. It has 8 of the Republic’s universities, 29 higher educational facilities and 400 vocational and specialised colleges and schools.

>Alongside with well-educated and tolerant people, the Belarussian nature is considered to be a great treasure. The country is especially beautiful in summer when travellers can gaze at picturesque landscapes. The endless woodlands, deep rivers and lakes, vast fields and meadows of fragrant grass have always been an enjoyable sight for residents and visitors. The Belarussian forests can be compared to a treasury. There one can find various kinds of mushrooms and berries, nuts and beautiful flowers.

>At present the people of 123 nationalities call Belarus their homeland. Out of these 78% are Belarussians. 13 % – Russians, 4% – Poles, 3% – Ukrainians, 1 % – Jews. All of them live in good neighbourhood and peace because they love their country, their history, and  traditions which allow for Catholic and Orthodox churches, a Jewish synagogue and a Moslem mosque to stand facing each other in the same square or street.

>The Belarussian Generosity and hospitality are recognised worldwide.

>Currency: The Belarussian roubles, no coins, notes: 100, 200, 500, 1000, 5000, 20 000, 50 000, 100 000

>National flower Flax (Linum usitatissimum)

>In total, Belarus lost a quarter of its pre-war population in World War II, including practically all its intellectual elite. About 9 200     villages and 1.2 million houses were destroyed. The major towns of Minsk and Vitsebsk lost over 80% of their buildings and city infrastructure. For the defence against the Germans, and the tenacity during the German occupation, the capital Minsk was awarded the title Hero City after the war. The fortress of Brest was awarded the title Hero-Fortress.

>Forty percent of the country is forested, and its strongest economic sectors are agriculture and manufacturing.

>Until the 20th century, the Belarusians lacked the opportunity to create a distinctive national identity because for centuries the lands of modern-day Belarus belonged to several countries, including the Duchy of Polatsk, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Russian Empire.

>Most of Belarus’s population reside in the urban areas surrounding Minsk and other oblast (regional) capitals.

>More than 80% of the population are native Belarusians, with sizable minorities of Russians, Ukrainians and Poles.

>Since a referendum in 1995, the country has had two official languages: Belarusian and Russian.

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