For many people, Belarus, located in Eastern Europe, still for some reason remains “terra incognita” (“unknown land”). However, in this country there is a beautiful nature with dense centuries-old forests inhabited by bison, deer, wild boars, wolves, foxes and beavers; there are thousands of beautiful lakes, as well as hundreds of ancient architectural monuments, castles, monasteries and museums with unique historical artifacts. This means that an inquisitive traveler will be pleased with the exploration of Belarus, the last “terra ingonita” of Eastern Europe…
Geography of Belarus
The Republic of Belarus is located in Eastern Europe. In the west it borders with Poland, in the northwest with Lithuania, in the north with Latvia, in the east and northeast with Russia, and in the south with Ukraine. The total area of this country is 207,600 sq. km. More than 40% of the territory of Belarus is occupied by forests, where valuable tree species (pine, spruce, oak, birch, aspen and alder) mainly grow.
Capital of Belarus
According to itypejob.com, the capital of Belarus is the city of Minsk, which now has a population of about 1.9 million people. The first settlements on the territory of modern Minsk appeared in the 9th century, and in the annals (“The Tale of Bygone Years”) this city was first mentioned under 1067. Now Minsk is the largest political, economic, scientific and cultural center of Belarus.
There are 2 official languages in the Republic of Belarus – Belarusian and Russian. The Belarusian language belongs to the East Slavic languages. Its formation began in the 9th-10th centuries AD. The formation of the Belarusian (Old Belarusian) language was completed in the 14th century. In 1922, the orthography of the Belarusian language was reformed, after which it became even closer to the Russian language.
Religion in Belarus
The majority of the population of Belarus professes Orthodox Christianity. However, there are many Catholics and atheists in the country. In addition, Protestants, Jews and Uniates live in Belarus. In general, now in this Eastern European country there are more than 20 different religious concessions.
According to computerminus.com, Belarus is a presidential republic, which is governed by the President and the Parliament – the National Assembly.
The National Assembly consists of the House of Representatives (110 deputies) and the Council of the Republic (64 members). The House of Representatives has the right to appoint the Prime Minister and introduce bills. In turn, the Council of the Republic has the right to choose officials, and can also approve or reject bills adopted by the House of Representatives. The Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus is headed by the Prime Minister.
Climate and weather in Belarus
The climate in Belarus is temperate continental with mild and humid winters, warm summers and rainy autumns. The average temperature in January is from -4C to -8C, and in July – from +17C to +19C. As for precipitation, on average in Belarus they fall 600–700 mm annually.
Rivers and lakes of Belarus
There are about 20 thousand rivers and their tributaries in Belarus, as well as about 11 thousand lakes. The largest rivers are the Dnieper, Pripyat, Neman and Western Bug. The largest lake is Naroch (about 80 sq. km.).
It should also be noted the most beautiful Braslav lakes, located in the Vitebsk region. Now a national park has been created on their territory. This park is home to 30 fish species, 189 bird species, 45 mammal species, 10 amphibian species and 6 reptile species.
History of Belarus
On the territory of Belarus, the remains of Homo erectus (“upright man”) and Neanderthals were found. This means that people lived here at least 100 thousand years ago. Scientists have proved the existence of the Milograd, Pomeranian and Dnieper-Donetsk archaeological cultures on the territory of Belarus.
Around 1000 B.C. Cimmerians and other pastoralists roamed the area. In 500 BC Slavic tribes settled on the territory of modern Belarus, which later became its autochthonous population. Even the Huns and Avars in 400-600 AD. could not force the Slavs to leave these lands.
In the 9th century AD. Slavic tribes of Dregovichi, Krivichi and Radimichi lived in Belarus. With the formation of Kievan Rus, the first Belarusian administrative units appear – the principalities of Polotsk, Turov and Smolensk.
In the XIII-XVI centuries Belarus was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Russia and Zhemoytsky, and from 1569 to 1795 – part of the Commonwealth (Poland).
After the collapse of the Commonwealth (this happened at the end of the 18th century), the Belarusian lands became part of the Russian Empire.
During the First World War, Belarusian lands were occupied by German troops, and after the end of hostilities in 1919, the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic was proclaimed.
In 1922, the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic became part of the USSR.
During World War II, the strongest partisan movement against the Nazi troops unfolded in Belarus. During the war, German soldiers destroyed almost all Belarusian cities, and also burned more than 3 thousand villages.
In 1986, there was an accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which became a national tragedy for Belarusians.
In 1991, after the collapse of the USSR, the independence of Belarus was proclaimed.
Culture of Belarus
The Republic of Belarus is located on the border between Eastern and Western Europe. Therefore, Belarusian culture was influenced by both Russians, Ukrainians, and Lithuanians and Poles. The traditions of the Belarusian culture correspond to the historical “layers”. So, at first, the culture of Kievan Rus had a significant influence on Belarusian culture, then – Lithuania and Poland, and from the 18th century – Russia and, partly, Ukraine.
The first cities on the territory of modern Belarus appeared in the early Middle Ages (the most ancient of them are Polotsk and Vitebsk). In the 10th century, the first Orthodox Belarusian church, the St. Sophia Cathedral, was built in Polotsk.
In the middle of the 16th century, the Baroque style began to dominate in the architecture of Belarus (this lasted for two centuries). At this time, a large number of Catholic monasteries were built in Belarus.
The first Belarusian literary works appeared in the XII-XIII centuries – “The Life of St. Euphrosyne of Polotsk” and “The Life of Abraham of Smolensk”.
In the 16th century, the humanist and educator, the founder of book printing in Eastern Europe, Francysk Skaryna, had a great influence on the development of Belarusian literature.
The founder of modern Belarusian literature is Vincent Dunin-Martsinkevich, who lived in 1808-1884.
In the second half of the 20th century, the main theme in Belarusian literature was World War II. The most famous Belarusian writers and poets of that time are Pimen Panchenko, Arkady Kuleshov, Kuzma Chorny, Ivan Shamyakin, Mikhas Lynkov, Ales Adamovich, Ryhor Borodulin, Vasil Bykov, Ivan Melezh and Yanka Bryl.
It should also be noted that more than 30 international, national and regional music festivals are now held annually in Belarus. The most famous of them are “Belarusian Musical Autumn”, “Minsk Spring”, “Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk”, the chamber music festival “Muses of Nesvizh”, as well as the festival of ancient and modern music in Polotsk.
The cuisine of Belarus was formed under the influence of the culinary traditions of Russia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine. Belarusian cuisine mainly consists of vegetables, meat (most often pork) and potatoes.
The most popular Belarusian dishes are Belarusian borscht, Minsk holodik (cold beetroot soup), fish stewed with potatoes in a pot, zharenka (fried meat with mushrooms), Belarusian meatballs, dumplings with meat, stuffed beets, potato dumplings and potato pancakes.
In the Belarusian forests you can find a lot of mushrooms, so it is not surprising that they are part of the traditional local dishes (stewed mushrooms, mushrooms with cheese, mushrooms baked with potatoes and cabbage rolls with mushrooms).
Tourists are advised to try in Belarus a traditional local alcoholic drink – Belovezhskaya Pushcha tincture, with a strength of 43 degrees. In the West, for some reason, they are sue that it is made from 100 different herbs. In addition, tourists there can try (best in small quantities) local wheat vodka.
Sights of Belarus
Since the history of Belarus began a very long time ago, it is clear that this country should have many attractions. However, many monuments of architecture, history and culture were destroyed during the Second World War. Nevertheless, tourists in Belarus will not be bored, because. there are still a lot of sights left.
The Top 5 most popular attractions in Belarus, in our opinion, include:
- Mir Castle. Mir Castle is located in the Grodno region near the village of Mir. The castle was built in the 14th century on the site of a feudal estate.
- Nesvizh Castle. This castle was built in the middle of the XIV century in the city of Nesvizh in the Minsk region. It belonged to the Radziwill princes for a long time. In 2005 Nesvizh Castle was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Bialowieza Forest. In the middle of the 15th century, the National Park “Belovezhskaya Pushcha” became a close object of attention of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, who banned the hunting of large game in it. Now in Belovezhskaya Pushcha the age of some trees reaches 350 years, and oaks – even 600 years. Pine, oak, ash, spruce, etc. grow in this reserve. Bison still live in Belovezhskaya Pushcha.
- Struve geodesic arc. The Struve geodetic arc is a network of stone cubes buried in the ground in order to determine the parameters of the Earth, its shape and size. This arc passes through the territory of 10 states (including the territory of Belarus). In the middle of the 19th century, the Russian astronomer Vasily Struve measured the geodesic arc.
- Novogrudok castle. This castle was built at the end of the 13th century on the slopes of the Castle Hill near the town of Novogrudok. At one time, Novogrudok Castle was considered the most fortified fortress in Belarus. Unfortunately, now the castle is in a not very good condition.
Cities and resorts
The most ancient city of Belarus is Polotsk. Historians believe that it was founded in the 9th century. Now the population of Polotsk is only about 85 thousand people.
At the moment, the largest Belarusian cities are Minsk (about 1.9 million people), Brest (about 320 thousand people), Grodno (about 350 thousand people), Gomel (about 500 thousand people), Mogilev (more than 365 thousand people).. people) and Vitebsk (more than 370 thousand people).
We advise tourists to bring handicrafts from Belarus as souvenirs (clay pots, straw figurines), crystal glasses, linen tablecloths and towels, nesting dolls, vodka and balms, cranberries in powdered sugar, wooden painted spoons and trays.
In Belarus, shops are open from Monday to Saturday from 09:00 to 20:00. In big cities, many shops are open daily, and some – 24 hours a day.
Mon-Fri: from 9.00 to 18.00
Citizens of Ukraine do not need a visa to enter Belarus, it is enough for them to present their Ukrainian passport at customs.
The Belarusian ruble (international designation BYR or Br) is the official currency of Belarus. Banknotes of the following denominations are used in the country: 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000, 5000, 10000, 20000, 50000 and 100000 rubles.
Coins are commemorative only.
You can import foreign currency into Belarus without restrictions (the amount of more than 10 thousand dollars is subject to declaration). It is possible to import animals and plants into Belarus only if there are medical and veterinary certificates.
It is forbidden to bring firearms, military equipment, drugs, poisons, radioactive and explosive substances into Belarus.
Useful phone numbers and addresses
Embassy of Belarus in Ukraine:
Address: Kiev, st. M. Kotsiubinsky, 3
Phone: (044) 537-52-00
Fax: (044) 537-52-13
E-mail: [email protected]
Embassy of Ukraine in Belarus:
Address: 220002, Minsk, st. Starovilenskaya, 51
Phone: (8 10 37517) 283 19 90
Fax: (8 10 37517) 283 19 80
E-mail: [email protected]
Ministry of Emergency Situations – 101
Police – 102
Ambulance – 103
KGB Helpline – 172
Time in Belarus
Belarus is in the same time zone as Ukraine. This means that if in Minsk, for example, in the summer it is 09:00 am, then in Kyiv it is also 09:00 am.
Tipping in Belarus is usually 10% of the bill. However, in Minsk and in some other cities, tips can be as high as 15%. Tipping porters is usually 1-2 dollars.
No specific vaccinations are required to enter Belarus. Tourists need medical insurance for at least 5,000 euros.
In the summer in the forests of Belarus there is a danger of infection with tick-borne encephalitis. Therefore, while walking in the forest, hands and feet should be covered with clothes, use insect repellents, and upon returning from the forest, check for ticks.
During your stay in Belarus, drink only bottled water. Avoid buying untested berries and mushrooms.