/byel'euh roohs", bel'-/, n.
official name of Byelorussia.

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Introduction Belarus
Background: After 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; Belarus has agreed on the framework for implementation of the accord. Geography Belarus -
Location: Eastern Europe, east of Poland
Geographic coordinates: 53 00 N, 28 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 207,600 sq km water: 0 sq km land: 207,600 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Kansas
Land boundaries: total: 2,900 km border countries: Latvia 141 km, Lithuania 502 km, Poland 407 km, Russia 959 km, Ukraine 891 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: cold winters, cool and moist summers; transitional between continental and maritime
Terrain: generally flat and contains much marshland
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Nyoman River 90 m highest point: Dzyarzhynskaya Hara 346 m
Natural resources: forests, peat deposits, small quantities of oil and natural gas, granite, dolomitic limestone, marl, chalk, sand, gravel, clay
Land use: arable land: 29.76% permanent crops: 0.69% other: 69.54% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 1,150 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: NA Environment - current issues: soil pollution from pesticide use; southern part of the country contaminated with fallout from 1986 nuclear reactor accident at Chornobyl' in northern Ukraine Environment - international party to: Air Pollution, Air
agreements: Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - note: landlocked; glacial scouring accounts for the flatness of Belarusian terrain and for its 11,000 lakes; the country is geologically well endowed with extensive deposits of granite, dolomitic limestone, marl, chalk, sand, gravel, and clay People Belarus
Population: 10,335,382 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 17.3% (male 914,579; female 876,346) 15-64 years: 68.6% (male 3,443,859; female 3,643,628) 65 years and over: 14.1% (male 482,624; female 974,346) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.14% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 9.86 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 13.99 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: 2.78 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.5 male(s)/ female total population: 0.88 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 14.12 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 68.28 years female: 74.56 years (2002 est.) male: 62.3 years
Total fertility rate: 1.31 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.28% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 14,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 400 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Belarusian(s) adjective: Belarusian
Ethnic groups: Belarusian 81.2%, Russian 11.4%, Polish, Ukrainian, and other 7.4%
Religions: Eastern Orthodox 80%, other (including Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim) 20% (1997 est.)
Languages: Belarusian, Russian, other
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 98% male: 99% female: 97% (1989 est.) Government Belarus
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Belarus conventional short form: Belarus local short form: none former: Belorussian (Byelorussian) Soviet Socialist Republic local long form: Respublika Byelarus'
Government type: republic
Capital: Minsk Administrative divisions: 6 voblastsi (singular - voblasts') and one municipality* (harady, singular - horad); Brestskaya (Brest), Homyel'skaya (Homyel'), Horad Minsk*, Hrodzyenskaya (Hrodna), Mahilyowskaya (Mahilyow), Minskaya, Vitsyebskaya (Vitsyebsk); note - when using a place name with the adjectival ending 'skaya' the word voblasts' should be added to the place name note: voblasti have the administrative center name following in parentheses
Independence: 25 August 1991 (from Soviet Union)
National holiday: Independence Day, 3 July (1944); note - 3 July 1944 was the date Minsk was liberated from German troops, 25 August 1991 was the date of independence from the Soviet Union
Constitution: 30 March 1994; revised by national referendum of 24 November 1996 giving the presidency greatly expanded powers and became effective 27 November 1996
Legal system: based on civil law system
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Aleksandr LUKASHENKO (since 20 July 1994) head of government: Prime Minister Gennadiy NOVITSKIY (since 1 October 2001); Deputy Prime Ministers Andrei KOBYAKOV (since 13 March 2000), Aleksandr POPKOV (since 10 November 1998), Sergei SIDORSKY (since NA September 2001), Vladimir DRAZHIN (since NA September 2001) cabinet: Council of Ministers election results: Aleksandr LUKASHENKO reelected president; percent of vote - Aleksandr LUKASHENKO 75.6%, Vladimir GONCHARIK 15.4% 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 LUKASHENKO extended his term to 2001 via a November 1996 referendum; new election held 9 September 2001 (next election to be held by September 2006); prime minister and deputy prime ministers appointed by the president
Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament or Natsionalnoye Sobranie consists of the Council of the Republic or Soviet Respubliki (64 seats; 56 members elected by regional councils and 8 members appointed by the president, all for 4-year terms) and the Chamber of Representatives or Palata Pretsaviteley (110 seats; members elected by universal adult suffrage to serve 4-year terms) election results: party affiliation data unavailable; under present political conditions party designations are meaningless elections: last held October 2000 (next to be held NA 2004)
Judicial branch: Supreme 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 parties and leaders: Agrarian Party or AP [Semyon SHARETSKY, chairman]; Belarusian Communist Party or KPB [Viktor CHIKIN, chairman]; Belarusian Ecological Green Party (merger of Belarusian Ecological Party and Green Party of Belarus) [leader NA]; Belarusian Patriotic Movement (Belarusian Patriotic Party) or BPR [Anatoliy BARANKEVICH, chairman]; Belarusian Popular Front or BNF [Vintsuk VYACHORKA]; Belarusian Social-Democrat Party or SDBP [Nikolay STATKEVICH, chairman]; Belarusian Social-Democratic Party or Hromada [Stanislav SHUSHKEVICH, chairman]; Belarusian Socialist Party [Vyacheslav KUZNETSOV]; Civic Accord Bloc (United Civic Party) or CAB [Stanislav BOGDANKEVICH, chairman]; Liberal Democratic Party or LDPB [Sergei GAYDUKEVICH, chairman]; Party of Communists Belarusian or PKB [Sergei KALYAKIN, chairman]; Republican Party of Labor and Justice or RPPS [Anatoliy NETYLKIN, chairman]; Social-Democrat Party of Popular Accord or PPA [Leanid SECHKA]; Women's Party or "Nadezhda" [Valentina POLEVIKOVA, chairperson] Political pressure groups and NA
leaders: International organization CCC, CEI, CIS, EAPC, EBRD, ECE,
participation: IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, NAM, NSG, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO (observer) Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Valeriy V. TSEPAKLO chancery: 1619 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009 consulate(s) general: New York FAX: [1] (202) 986-1805 telephone: [1] (202) 986-1604 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Michael
US: KOZAK embassy: 46 Starovilenskaya St., Minsk 220002 mailing address: use embassy street address telephone: [375] (17) 210-12-83 FAX: [375] (17) 234-7853
Flag description: red horizontal band (top) and green horizontal band one-half the width of the red band; a white vertical stripe on the hoist side bears the Belarusian national ornament in red Economy Belarus -
Economy - overview: Belarus 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 enterprise. In addition to the burdens imposed by high inflation and persistent trade deficits, businesses have been subject to pressure on the part of 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. Close relations with Russia, possibly leading to reunion, color the pattern of economic developments. For the time being, Belarus remains self-isolated from the West and its open-market economies.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $84.8 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 4.1% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $8,200 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 13% industry: 42% services: 45% (2000) Population below poverty line: 22% (1995 est.) Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: 5.1%
percentage share: highest 10%: 20% (1998) Distribution of family income - Gini 21.7 (1998)
index: Inflation rate (consumer prices): 46.1% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 4.8 million (2000) Labor force - by occupation: industry and construction NA%, agriculture and forestry NA%, services NA%
Unemployment rate: 2.1% officially registered unemployed (December 2000); large number of underemployed workers
Budget: revenues: $4 billion expenditures: $4.1 billion, including capital expenditures of $180 million (1997 est.)
Industries: metal-cutting machine tools, tractors, trucks, earthmovers, motorcycles, television sets, chemical fibers, fertilizer, textiles, radios, refrigerators Industrial production growth rate: 5.4% (2001 est.) Electricity - production: 24.66 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 99.51% hydro: 0.08% other: 0.41% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 26.78 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 300 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 4.15 billion kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: grain, potatoes, vegetables, sugar beets, flax; beef, milk
Exports: $7.5 billion (f.o.b., 2001)
Exports - commodities: machinery and equipment, mineral products, chemicals, textiles, foodstuffs, metals
Exports - partners: Russia 51%, Ukraine 8%, Poland 4%, Germany 3% (2000)
Imports: $8.1 billion (f.o.b., 2001)
Imports - commodities: mineral products, machinery and equipment, chemicals, foodstuffs, metals
Imports - partners: Russia 65%, Germany 7%, Poland 3% (2000)
Debt - external: $770 million (2001 est.) Economic aid - recipient: $194.3 million (1995)
Currency: Belarusian ruble (BYB/BYR)
Currency code: BYB/BYR
Exchange rates: Belarusian rubles per US dollar - 1,590 (yearend 2001), 1,531.000 (November 2001), 876.750 (2000), 248.795 (1999), 46.127 (1998), 26.020 (1997); note - on 1 January 2000, the national currency was redenominated at one new ruble to 2,000 old rubles
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Belarus Telephones - main lines in use: 2.313 million (1997) Telephones - mobile cellular: 8,167 (1997)
Telephone system: general assessment: the Ministry of Telecommunications controls all telecommunications through its carrier (a joint stock company) Beltelcom which is a monopoly domestic: local - Minsk has a digital metropolitan network and a cellular NMT-450 network; waiting lists for telephones are long; local service outside Minsk is neglected and poor; intercity - Belarus has a partly developed fiber-optic backbone system presently serving at least 13 major cities (1998); Belarus's fiber optics form synchronous digital hierarchy rings through other countries' systems; an inadequate analog system remains operational international: 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); three 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 Radio broadcast stations: AM 28, FM 37, shortwave 11 (1998)
Radios: 3.02 million (1997) Television broadcast stations: 47 (plus 27 repeaters) (1995)
Televisions: 2.52 million (1997)
Internet country code: .by Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 23 (2002)
Internet users: 180,000 (2001) Transportation Belarus
Railways: total: 5,523 km broad gauge: 5,523 km 1.520-m gauge (875 km electrified) (2000 est.)
Highways: total: 98,200 km paved: 66,100 km (includes some all- weather gravel-surfaced roads) unpaved: 32,100 km (these roads are made of unstabilized earth and are difficult to negotiate in wet weather) (1990)
Waterways: NA km; note - Belarus has extensive and widely used canal and river systems
Pipelines: crude oil 1,470 km; refined products 1,100 km; natural gas 1,980 km (1992)
Ports and harbors: Mazyr
Airports: 136 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 33 over 3,047 m: 2 2,438 to 3,047 m: 19 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 under 914 m: 11 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 103 over 3,047 m: 3 2,438 to 3,047 m: 10 1,524 to 2,437 m: 11 914 to 1,523 m: 14 under 914 m: 65 (2001) Military Belarus
Military branches: Army, Air Force (including air defense), Interior Ministry Troops, Border Guards Military manpower - military age: 18 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 2,744,267 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 2,149,873 (2002
service: est.) Military manpower - reaching military males: 86,396 (2002 est.)
age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $156 million (FY98)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 1% (FY01)
GDP: Transnational Issues Belarus Disputes - international: boundary demarcation with Latvia and Lithuania is pending European Union funding
Illicit drugs: limited cultivation of opium poppy and cannabis, mostly for the domestic market; transshipment point for illicit drugs to and via Russia, and to the Baltics and Western Europe

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Country, eastern Europe.

Area: 80,200 sq mi (207,600 sq km). Population (2004 est.): 9,828,000. Capital: Minsk. The population is mainly Belarusian, with Russian and Ukrainian minorities. Languages: Belarusian, Russian (both official). Religion: Eastern Orthodoxy (predominant). Currency: ruble. The northern part of the country is crossed by the Western Dvina (Dzvina) River; the Dnieper (Dnyapro) flows through eastern Belarus; the south has extensive marshy areas along the Pripet (Prypyats') River; the upper course of the Neman (Nyoman) flows in the west; and the Bug (Buh) forms part of the boundary with Poland in the southwest. The chief settlements, in addition to Minsk, are Homyel, Mahilyow, and Vitsyebsk. The economy is predominantly agricultural. Belarus is a republic with two legislative houses; its president is head of state and head of government. While Belarusians share a distinct identity and language, they never previously enjoyed political sovereignty. The territory that is now Belarus underwent partition and changed hands often; as a result, its history is entwined with its neighbours'. In medieval times the region was ruled by Lithuanians and Poles. Following the Third Partition of Poland, Belarus was ruled by Russia. After World War I the western part was assigned to Poland, and the eastern part became Soviet territory. After World War II the Soviets expanded what had been the Belorussian S.S.R. by annexing more of Poland. Much of the area suffered radioactive contamination from the Chernobyl accident in 1986, which forced many to evacuate. Belarus declared its independence in 1991 and later joined the Commonwealth of Independent States. Amid increasing political turmoil in the 1990s, it moved toward closer union with Russia, though it continued to struggle economically and politically at the start of the 21st century.

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▪ 2009

207,595 sq km (80,153 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 9,675,000
Head of state and government:
President Alyaksandr H. Lukashenka, assisted by Prime Minister Syarhey Sidorski

      The year 2008 in Belarus was dominated by turbulent foreign relations between Belarus and Russia, the EU, and the U.S. and by parliamentary elections that were held on September 28. In addition, the U.S. sanctions imposed (Nov. 13, 2007) on the oil-processing firm Belnafttakhim were expanded in the spring owing to the refusal of Belarus to release all designated political prisoners. On March 12, U.S. Ambassador Karen Stewart left the country, and at Belarus's behest the respective embassies in Minsk and Washington, D.C., were reduced to a skeleton staff of five people.

      The departure of diplomatic personnel coincided with the violent dispersal of the traditional opposition rally held on March 25, which in 2008 marked the 90th anniversary of the Belarusian National Republic. The authorities offered some recognition of that occasion by publishing in the newspaper Sovetskaya Belorussiya a debate among historians as to its significance. The political row with the U.S. was partially resolved when Belarus released former presidential candidate Alyaksandr Kazulin from Vitsebsk penal colony on August 16 and four days later freed the last two political prisoners, Syarhey Parsyukevich and Andrei Kim.

      The political opposition was divided over how to approach the parliamentary elections. In contrast to the 2006 presidential elections, it split into four distinct groupings: the United Democratic Forces (comprising the Popular Front, the United Civic Party, the Party of Communists, and one wing of the Social Democrats); the movement “For Freedom” under former presidential candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich, which remained unregistered by the state; the Euro-alliance led by Mikola Statkevich and including Charter 97 led by Andrei Sannikau; and the rival branch of the Social Democrats under Stanislau Shushkevich, a former chairman of the parliament. Of the 448 candidates who ran for office, however, 334 had no party affiliation.

      The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which sent 450 monitors to Belarus, was denied access to about one-third of polling stations and reported several cases in which results were falsified. The OSCE declared that overall the election could not be considered “free and fair.” According to the Central Election Commission, the turnout was 75.3%, but the opposition delegates—some of whom had proposed boycotting the election—did not win any seats. On the evening of September 28, Kazulin, Milinkevich, and other leaders held a protest in Kastrichnitskaya Square in central Minsk.

      Despite the controversial nature of the election, the EU subsequently, on October 13, lifted a travel ban (for a trial six-month period) on Lukashenka and 35 members of his government. The move followed Lukashenka's refusal to assist Russia in its conflict with Georgia and Belarus's lack of recognition for an independent Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two breakaway regions in Georgia.

      The Belarusian economy performed well. In the period January–September 2008, GDP rose by 10.7% (the annual projected rate was 8–9%), industrial output increased by 30.2%, and agriculture improved 8.6% compared with 2007. Nonetheless, during a period of international economic uncertainty, Belarus was forced to negotiate a new $2 billion loan from Russia, and Moscow continued to demand that Belarus begin using the Russian ruble as a common currency.

David R. Marples

▪ 2008

207,595 sq km (80,153 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 9,692,000
Head of state and government:
President Alyaksandr H. Lukashenka, assisted by Prime Minister Syarhey Sidorski

      The year 2007 began in Belarus with a fractious dispute with Russia over natural gas prices. Belarus agreed to pay Gazprom $100 per 1,000 cu m for imported Russian gas, more than double the 2006 rate. Moreover, it was agreed that the price would rise each year to reach the European rate (at that time about $265) by 2011. On January 12, after a three-day closure of the Druzhba pipeline, Minsk and Moscow also signed an agreement on oil transit. The tax Belarus was paying on oil imported from Russia was reduced from $180 to $53 per ton, though it was to pay an additional tariff on exports of products from Belarusian enterprises that were produced from imported Russian oil.

      Despite the energy problems, economic performance was not affected. Over the first nine months of the year, GDP rose by 8.4% compared with the same period the previous year, maintaining pace with an official estimate of 8–9%. Industrial output rose by 8.2% and consumer goods by 7.3%. The national birth rate also reportedly increased by 8.8%, while the mortality rate dropped by 4.2% compared with 2006—the first such positive indicator in 12 years.

      At the meeting of the Second Congress of Democratic Forces, which was held on May 26–27 at the Minsk Automotive Factory's Palace of Culture, a system of cochairs was instituted to replace the sole leadership of Alyaksandr Milinkevich. In anticipation of an economic crisis, the group also launched a “national round-table” campaign that would undertake discussions with the government. The congress approved a 44-member Political Council and concluded with the election of four cochairs (Anatol Lyabedzka, Syarhey Kalyakin, Vintsuk Vyachorka, and Anatol Lyaukovich), who represented the main opposition political parties. A proposed fifth chair was designated for Milinkevich, but he opted to lead a Movement for Freedom that would focus on street protests.

      Such protests continued throughout the year, though the number of participants remained small. At commemorations on March 25 of the 89th anniversary of the Belarusian Democratic Republic, antigovernment demonstrators turned out in force. The government attempted to divert attention from the event by offering alternative activities—a Russian ballet and a concert. The anniversary of the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was commemorated after Milinkevich visited the affected zones in late April, and on October 14 a large pro-EU rally with about 7,000 participants took place; most of the opposition groups cooperated. The authorities permitted the event, but numerous activists were arrested beforehand on various pretexts (the most common were for “petty hooliganism” and “swearing in public”).

      The government of Pres. Alyaksandr H. Lukashenka did not relax its authoritarian hold. In May, Human Rights Watch issued a report that noted the wide gap between pledges made by the Belarusian government and the actual situation in the country. As a result of this and other reports, Belarus's bid for membership in the UN Human Rights Council was denied. On July 17 Lukashenka dismissed KGB chief Stsyapan Sukharenka, replacing him with Yury Zhadobin. The appointment followed a spy scandal in which four Belarusians and a Russian were arrested, allegedly for working with Polish intelligence forces, although it was unclear whether the two events were related.

David R. Marples

▪ 2007

207,595 sq km (80,153 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 9,726,000
Head of state and government:
President Alyaksandr H. Lukashenka, assisted by Prime Minister Syarhey Sidorski

 The year 2006 in Belarus was dominated by a contentious and violent presidential election campaign. Four candidates were registered for the March 19 election: Pres. Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Liberal Democratic Party leader Syarhey Haidukevich, Alyaksandr Kazulin of the Social Democratic Party, and the leader of the United Democratic opposition, Alyaksandr Milinkevich. Kazulin was arrested and beaten while trying to register the all-Belarusian People's Assembly, and all leading officials of the United Democratic camp suffered periods of arrest, usually 15-day terms for “petty hooliganism.” On March 2 Milinkevich called a meeting of his supporters in Minsk's Freedom Square, which attracted more than 10,000 people before the square was blocked by riot police. In the official election results, Lukashenka received 83% (5,501,249 out of 6,630,653 votes cast); Milinkevich 6%; Haidukevich 3.5%; and Kazulin 2.2%. Voter turnout was 92.6%. Available surveys, however, suggested that Lukashenka's standing was inflated. The announced results sparked a mass protest in Minsk's October Square, but the authorities broke it up in the early hours of March 24. At the Independence Day commemoration on March 25, police used tear gas and mock grenades to disperse another large crowd. Among those arrested was Kazulin, who subsequently received a prison sentence of 51/2 years at a trial in mid-July. On April 8 Lukashenka was inaugurated for a third term as president of Belarus. For his part, on December 12 Milinkevich was honoured with the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought.

      Following a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg on April 10, a one-year, renewable visa ban was imposed on Lukashenka and 30 leading government officials, including KGB head Stepan Sukhorenka; Prosecutor-General Pyotr Miklashevich; the head of state television and radio, Alyaksandr Zimouski; Minister of Justice Viktor Holovanau; Minister of Information Uladzimir Rusakevich; and Minister of Education Alyaksandr Radkau. The United States imposed a similar ban, which was later extended to include the judge and prosecutor in the Kazulin trial.

      On Dec. 27, 2005, Russia and Belarus signed a contract according to which in 2006 the Russian energy company Gazprom would supply to Belarus 21 billion cu m of gas at a price of $46.68 per 1,000 cu m—four to five times lower than the world price level. Over the summer, however, Gazprom announced plans to double prices in 2007. Lukashenka declared that his country refused to consider prices for gas higher than those paid by Germany, especially since Belarusian troops constituted almost the entire force on the border with NATO. He also stressed that Belarus did not agree with Russia's amendments to the draft plan for the Russia-Belarus Union.

      Belarus's GDP grew by 10.1% in the first half of 2006, with industrial output rising by 12.6% and agricultural production by 6.9%. Official figures indicated a relatively low inflation rate of 2.5% in the period January–April 2006.

David R. Marples

▪ 2006

207,595 sq km (80,153 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 9,776,000
Head of state and government:
President Alyaksandr H. Lukashenka, assisted by Prime Minister Syarhey Sidorski

 The year 2005 saw significant moves by the political opposition to prepare for the Belarusian presidential elections of 2006. Following nationwide meetings to nominate 839 delegates to the Congress of Democratic Forces of Belarus, and after delays in obtaining a building for the event, the congress was opened on October 1 at the Palace of Culture of the Minsk Automobile Factory. Initially there were four candidates to oppose incumbent Pres. Alyaksandr Lukashenka: Stanislau Shushkevich, Syarhey Kalyakin, Anatol Lyabedzka, and Alyaksandr Milinkevich. After Shushkevich withdrew from the contest, Milinkevich, a 58-year-old moderate leader of Polish ancestry and a former physics professor at Hrodna State University, defeated Lyabedzka in the second round by 399 votes to 391.

      The vote was a triumph for the opposition, which was excluded from using the official media and suffered harassment and arrest of its members. On May 31, for example, Mikola Statkevich, an opposition leader from the Social Democratic Party, and Pavel Severinets, a leader of the youth wing of the Popular Front, received terms of three years of hard labour for having violated Article 342 of the Criminal Code, on group activities that violate civic order.

      Relations with Poland featured large in Belarus in 2005. In March Tadeusz Kruczkowski, the leader of the Belarusian Union of Poles (BUP), was replaced by Andzelika Borys. The Ministry of Justice overturned the action in May, against the wishes of the country's 400,000-strong Polish minority. In mid-July Belarus and Poland each expelled diplomats from the other country, and on July 27 Borys was detained overnight after a raid on the BUP headquarters. Several Polish journalists reporting the event were arrested. On July 28 Poland recalled its ambassador to Belarus, while the Belarusian government accused Poland of heading an international plot to overthrow the Lukashenka regime.

      The Belarusian government had been especially sensitive to all opposition following the Orange Revolution in neighbouring Ukraine in late 2004. On March 25 it brutally broke up a Day of Freedom march organized by opposition leader Andrey Klimau, and it also responded harshly to a rally by youth leaders on the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster; 32 people were arrested, including 14 from Russia and 5 from Ukraine. In March and May the government faced strikes from entrepreneurs who were protesting against a value-added tax of 18% on all imports from Russia. On April 16 the Supreme Court ordered the closure of the Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Research (NISEPI) on the grounds that it was not operating out of its official headquarters. NISEPI had disputed the official results of the October 2004 referendum on the president's running for a third term in office. Narodnaya Volya, the country's only major independent newspaper, was forced off the streets from October 1, after pressure was brought to bear on its distributors. In December the parliament approved legislation, submitted by Lukashenka, that criminalized protests and other acts that “discredited” the government.

      Economic figures for the year 2005 indicated a 9.2% rise in GDP and a 10% rise in industrial output. Relations with Russia were complicated by further delays in the plans to issue a common currency and over the basis of the Russia-Belarus Union.

David R. Marples

▪ 2005

207,595 sq km (80,153 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 9,828,000
Head of state and government:
President Alyaksandr H. Lukashenka, assisted by Prime Minister Syarhey Sidorski

      The year 2004 in Belarus was dominated by a controversial referendum on whether to amend the constitution to allow Pres. Alyaksandr Lukashenka to run for a third term in office; presidential elections were scheduled for 2006. On September 7 the president announced that on Oct. 17, 2004, the day of the parliamentary election, a referendum would be held on the following question: “Do you allow the first President of the Republic of Belarus, Alyaksandr Hryhorevich Lukashenka, to participate in the presidential election as a candidate for the post of the President of the Republic of Belarus and do you accept Part 1 of Article 81 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus in the wording that follows: ‘The President shall be elected directly by the people of the Republic of Belarus for a term of five years by universal, free, equal, direct and secret ballot?'”

      After a campaign dominated by the state-backed media and harassment of opposition figures, most of whom had been debarred from participation in the parliamentary election at the registration stage, a reported 90.2% of the population took part in voting; 79.4% reportedly voted “yes” to the referendum questions. The opposition, which had argued that Lukashenka could now remain in power indefinitely, held several days of street protests after the election and cited a Gallup Poll taken at election time that indicated that only 48.4% of respondents had intended to support the motion (50% of the entire electorate had to approve the motion for it to pass). The new parliament of 110 deputies was likely to be equally compliant. No opposition figure won a seat, and only the Liberal Democrats and Communists were represented.

      The year was marked generally by repressive actions on the part of the authorities. In April, Mikhail Marynich, a former minister of foreign economic relations, was arrested for illegal storage of firearms, and criminal charges were brought against him in August. Marynich, a founder of the European Choice faction and a leading opposition member, was additionally charged with stealing computers from the Business Initiative group, though these computers were supposedly a gift from the U.S. embassy in Minsk. On July 28 the authorities closed the European Humanities University, the only university in Belarus outside state control. The action was the culmination of a lengthy campaign to remove the rector, Anatol Mikhailau, a renowned scholar.

      From the government's perspective, a key event of the year was the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Minsk from Nazi German occupation, which was marked by a military parade on July 3.

      Economically, Belarus continued to enjoy high growth rates as a result of its close links to Russia. GDP grew by 11.1% in the first 11 months of the year, and industrial production rose by 15.7%—overfulfilling the respective target figures of 9% and 9–10%. The best performers were ferrous metallurgy, mechanical engineering and metalworking, pulp and paper, and fuel industries.

David R. Marples

▪ 2004

207,595 sq km (80,153 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 9,881,000
Head of state and government:
President Alyaksandr G. Lukashenka, assisted by Prime Ministers Henadz Navitski and, from July 10 (acting until December19), Syarhey Sidorski

      The year 2003 began promisingly in Belarus. The reopening in January of the Minsk office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe led to the lifting of visa bans on Pres. Alyaksandr Lukashenka and seven cabinet members by the United States and the European Union in mid-April.

      Politics centred on the possibility of President Lukashenka's running for a third term in office and holding a referendum to amend the constitution to permit him to do so. Almost 60% of Belarusians polled reportedly opposed this proposal. Lukashenka rearranged the cabinet in July, blaming Prime Minister Henadz Navitski for the lamentable state of agriculture and food supply and replacing him and two other ministers. Though GDP rose by 5.3% between January and August (as compared with the levels of 2002) and industrial output by 6.5%, the figure for agriculture was –5.1%. Inflation, though falling, remained the highest among the former Soviet states, at as much as 25%.

      Internally, the regime remained repressive. There was a severe clampdown on the demonstrations of the activist opposition group For a Better Life and for the commemoration on March 25 of the Republic of Belarus's 85th anniversary. On July 7 the Foreign Ministry informed the American academic-exchange organization IREX that it would be shut down, allegedly for financial violations. The reputable business newspaper Belaruskaya Delovaya Gazeta was closed on May 28 for three months, also for having transgressed the law, and numerous smaller newspapers and NGOs ceased to exist as a result of government actions.

      In March, Belarus and Russia produced a draft Constitutional Act for a Russia-Belarus Union, which would feature a rotating chairmanship of the Supreme State Council and a single flag, emblem, and state currency. In June, however, Lukashenka distanced himself from the concept of a state currency that would be issued in Moscow under Russian supervision. He also shied away from selling Belarusian assets to Russian companies. The Russian giant Gazprom offered a sum of $600 million–$800 million for Beltransgaz, Belarus's main gas pipeline operator, whereas Lukashenka was hoping for a figure closer to “market prices” at $2.5 billion–$5 billion.

      Relations with the U.S. were also complex, particularly after the U.S.-led war in Iraq (with accusations against Belarus of low-level military support for Saddam Hussein) and the passage by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 16 of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for 2004 and 2005, which anticipated the issuance of $40 million for NGOs and the independent media to help promote democracy in Belarus. If signed into law, the act would also reintroduce a travel ban on Belarusian officials and cut off all official assistance to the government.

      The death of internationally renowned writer Vasil Bykau (Vasily Bykov) on June 22 provided a moment of poignancy and controversy. (See Obituaries (Bykau, Vasil Uladzamiravich ).) Thousands attended the funeral, but the government refused to acknowledge a writer who had spent his final years abroad rather than live under an authoritarian regime.

David R. Marples

▪ 2003

207,595 sq km (80,153 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 9,933,000
Head of state and government:
President Alyaksandr G. Lukashenka, assisted by Prime Minister Henadz Navitski

      The year 2002 was most uncomfortable for Pres. Alyaksandr Lukashenka (who was reelected in September 2001) as a result of his differences with Russian Pres. Vladimir V. Putin. Their disputes centred on the Russia-Belarus Union, the establishment of which had long been a goal of Lukashenka's.

      In June Putin publicly condemned the “Soviet” (i.e., federal) model for the union, pointing out that, because the Belarusian economy was only 3% the size of Russia's, the two sides could hardly be regarded as equals. Two months later Putin proposed either a unified state or a union formed according to the principles of the European Union. He suggested a timetable for the former option that included a referendum in May 2003, elections to a unified parliament in December 2003, and a presidential election in March 2004. Lukashenka, however, sought an agreement based on the Union State Treaty that he and Russian Pres. Boris Yeltsin had signed in 1999 that would preserve the sovereignty of of both states. The Belarusians also rejected a Russian proposal for a single currency that would have been issued and controlled in Moscow. Putin, however, stood pat.

      Internationally, Belarus was still under fire for its continuing repressions of members of the political opposition and for its apparent attempts to evict from Minsk the Advisory and Monitoring Group of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). On July 11 the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Berlin sharply criticized Belarusian policies, calling for the introduction of free and fair elections and an end to Belarus's international isolation and voicing its concern over alleged assassinations of political opposition members and the funneling of weapons to terrorists.

      During the 2001 presidential election campaign, Belarusian Trade Union Federation leader Uladzimir Hancharyk had mounted a credible challenge to Lukashenka, the incumbent. Following an extraordinary trade union congress on Sept. 18–19, 2002, the president brought the federation under government control, changed its name to Trade Union Federation of Belarus, and installed as its new head Leanid Kozyk, formerly the deputy chairman of the presidential administration. In similar fashion Mikhail Myasnikovich, former head of the same administration, was made rector of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences. Belarus's cycle of public protests and harsh official retribution continued, most notably on April 20, when about 85 people were detained after an opposition rally in central Minsk.

      In 2002 the government arbitrarily raised the minimum wage to an average of $100 per month, even while more than 40% of factories were reported to be operating at a loss (the comparable figure in 2001 was 35.6%). Moreover, it was estimated that the number of unemployed would reach 230,000 by 2003 as a result of the laying off of managers, skilled personnel, and schoolteachers in a drive for austerity. Gross domestic product grew by 4.7% in the first half of the year (the target was 7–7.5%), but inflation remained higher than in neighbouring states, and it was feared that it could reach 40% for the year.

David R. Marples

▪ 2002

207,595 sq km (80,153 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 9,986,000
Head of state and government:
President Alyaksandr G. Lukashenka, assisted by Prime Ministers Uladzimir Yarmoshyn and, from March 14 (acting until October 10), Henadz Navitski

      The year in Belarus was dominated by a controversial presidential election campaign and the vote on Sept. 9, 2001, which resulted in a victory for incumbent Pres. Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Initially 22 candidates filed applications, including prominent opposition leaders Zyanon Paznyak, exiled leader of the Conservative Christian Party of the Belarusian Popular Front; Mikhail Marinich, the Belarusian ambassador to Latvia, Estonia, and Finland; and Natalya Masherova, daughter of a former Communist Party leader. The Central Election Commission accepted only four candidates, but several political parties banded together to nominate a single opposition candidate, trade unionist Uladzimir Hancharyk.

      Despite promises made to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the government did not allow a democratic election process. Opposition candidates were permitted two prerecorded 30-minute broadcasts on television but were otherwise deprived of a voice in the media. During the campaign, Lukashenka threatened to expel the OSCE's chief observer and place restrictions on opposition rallies. About 15% of the electorate voted early, and government workers were threatened with dismissal unless they voted for the president. The results were predictable. With a reported turnout of 83.9%, 75.6% voted for Lukashenka, while Hancharyk was second with 15.6%. The OSCE refused to recognize the election as democratic, and the United States described it as “meaningless,” although Russia accepted the results.

      Russia continued to spend about $1 billion annually to support the Belarusian economy through debt relief, cheap supplies of oil and gas, and purchases of Belarusian goods that would be unlikely to find a market elsewhere. In the first half of 2001, Belarus reported a rise of 3% in gross domestic product and of 4.1% in industrial production. At the same time, although exports rose by 3.9% between January and July, imports decreased by 11.4%. In June the World Bank approved a loan of $22.6 million for Belarus to improve heating, lighting, and insulation in schools, hospitals, and orphanages, the first such loan in seven years.

      Human and political rights continued to be a major concern in Belarus. The opposition Magic printing press was closed down on January 9. Notable incarcerations included that of 60-year-old parliamentary deputy and journalist Valery Shchukin, who was beaten by the police and imprisoned for three months for having attempted to attend a press conference. Two foreigners were accused, Cold War style, of espionage: German citizen Christopher Letz, who was sentenced to seven years in prison in July but was subsequently pardoned, and Angelo Antonio Piu, an Italian businessman, who was sentenced to four and a half years in a high-security prison in September along with a Belarusian “accomplice.” Lukashenka's continuing dependence on the secret service was illustrated by the promotion of Ural Latypau, who had served as secretary of the State Security Council since November 2000, to the position of chief of staff in September.

David R. Marples

▪ 2001

207,595 sq km (80,153 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 9,989,000
Head of state and government:
President Alyaksandr G. Lukashenka, assisted by Prime Ministers Syarhey Linh and, from February 18 (acting until March 14), Uladzimir Yarmoshyn

      The year 2000 in Belarus was dominated by political conflict centred on the parliamentary elections of October 15. On January 31 the upper chamber, the Council of the Republic, passed a new electoral code. The opposition, using the forum of the Coordinated Council of Democratic Forces, objected to the acceptance of the code without debate. Further, it insisted, in line with requests from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), that international recognition of the election results be predicated on these and other conditions: application of international electoral standards, apportioning of real authority to the existing parliament, an end to political persecution, and access by the opposition to the official media.

      None of these conditions was met, and the opposition divided over whether to participate. The Liberal Democrats and the Communists opted in, while some 58 opposition figures resolved to participate in the elections on an individual basis. Of this number, however, only 17 were permitted by the electoral commission to stand. Neither the OSCE's “limited technical assessment mission,” the European Union, nor the U.S. recognized the elections as democratic. Official results over two rounds indicated turnouts of 60.6% and 52%, respectively, and 97 of the 110 seats were filled by October 29.

      The year was marked by attacks on the unofficial press and opposition figures. Though a Freedom March-2 took place peacefully in Minsk on March 15, conflict occurred during a demonstration 10 days later commemorating the anniversary of the founding of the Belarusian Democratic Republic in 1918. Members of the Belarusian Popular Front and about 40 journalists (including Russian TV crews) were detained and beaten. Facing international protests, Pres. Alyaksandr Lukashenka dismissed Interior Minister Yury Sivakau, replacing him with Mikhail Udovikau. A U.S. Helsinki Commission hearing in March condemned Belarus for its infringements on human rights.

      Prime Minister Syarhey Linh was dismissed on February 18, and Russian-born Uladzimir Yarmoshyn was appointed to replace him. A week later Belarus and Russia signed an agreement to coordinate their foreign policy in 2000 and 2001. In April Lukashenka announced plans for a 300,000-strong joint army with Russia in the face of the eastward expansion of NATO. The Belarusian national bank also approved in February a draft agreement to develop a single currency using the Russian ruble in Belarus. In general, however, the new Russian president, Vladimir Putin, appeared reluctant to expand the current terms of the Russia-Belarus Union.

      Lukashenka in April reiterated his reliance on the collective farm system despite a disastrous harvest in 1999. Severe May frosts again depleted the sown area of grain. The Belarusian Federation of Trade Unions announced in April that 47% of Belarusians were living below the official poverty line. Although gross domestic product rose by 4% (compared with 1999) in the first half of 2000, these gains were offset by an approximately 54% rise in consumer prices as well as foreign debts of $290 million (mostly owed to Russia for imports of gas). In January the exchange rate for the Belarusian rubel was fixed at the street rate (about 1,020 to the dollar), which ended the system of multiple exchange rates.

David R. Marples

▪ 2000

207,595 sq km (80,153 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 10,164,000
Head of state and government:
President Alyaksandr G. Lukashenka, assisted by Prime Minister Syarhey Ling. President Lukashenka's term ended on July 20 according to the constitution, which Lukashenka nullified in 1996.

      Prolonged political conflict and confrontation—both between the government of Pres. Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the opposition and within the best-known opposition party, the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF)—marked 1999 in Belarus.

      In January the Council of Democratic Forces was convened in Minsk, in part to coordinate opposition to the president. They decided to hold oppositional presidential elections on May 16, five years after Lukashenka's original election. Two candidates emerged: BPF leader Zyanon Paznyak, who lived in exile in Poland, and former premier Mikhail Chyhir. The latter was arrested in March, charged with grand larceny in April, and given a three-month prison sentence, which thus ensured that he could not mount an election campaign.

      The election resolved little. Although Viktar Hanchar, the chairman of the election committee, maintained that the turnout was over 50%, few believed these figures. Paznyak withdrew on May 13, objecting to preelection voting procedures organized by Hanchar. Lukashenka emerged from the campaign relatively unscathed, his popularity bolstered by his strong stand against the NATO attack on Yugoslavia and a personal meeting he had with Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade on April 14–15.

      When Lukashenka's mandate as president expired in July, the opposition proclaimed Semyon Sharetsky, former speaker of the parliament, president. Fearing arrest, Sharetsky promptly fled to Lithuania, where he declared his intention to form a government-in-exile.

      The BPF held its congress in late July, when an almost equal split in the leadership vote between Paznyak and Vintsuk Vyachorka was recorded. In late October the BPF elected Vyachorka, ending the 10-year leadership of Paznyak.

      The Lukashenka regime continued to attract world attention because of its infringements on human rights. Several key figures “disappeared” in 1999, including Tamara Vinnikava, former head of the national bank, in April; Gen. Yury Zakharenka, former interior minister, in May; and Hanchar and Anatoly Krasovsky—both prominent oppositionists—in September. The latter event undermined a continuing “dialogue” between the government and the opposition being held under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Naviny, a leading opposition newspaper, was forced to close in September.

      The country continued to suffer from the repercussions of the Russian financial collapse of August 1998. Although a small growth was recorded in industry (around 2%), all other indexes suggested acute economic decline. Real wages were about $35 per month and pensions $15. The black-market rate for exchange of the rubel had risen to 700,000 to the dollar by early October. Further, a catastrophic harvest necessitated grain imports of around 1.6 million metric tons.

      After years of negotiations Belarus and Russia on December 8 agreed in principle to form an economic and political confederation modeled to some extent on the European Union.

David R. Marples

▪ 1999

      Area: 207,595 sq km (80,153 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 10,235,000

      Capital: Minsk

      Head of state and government: President Alyaksandr G. Lukashenka, assisted by Prime Minister Syarhey Ling

      Belarus in 1998 experienced a year of political tension and economic problems and became increasingly isolated from the West. Pres. Alyaksandr G. Lukashenka imposed new penalties on those who opposed him, including a possible four-year jail sentence for "insults" to the president. Consequently, the year was marked by court cases against those detained in demonstrations, particularly members of the Belarusian Popular Front, whose acting chairman, Lyavon Barcheusky, and deputy chairman, Yury Khadyka, were incarcerated briefly in April. In general, however, there were fewer antigovernment demonstrators than in the past; the 10,000 on March 22 to commemorate the declaration of independence in 1918 was by far the largest.

      The president announced that parliamentary elections would be held in the year 2000 and presidential elections in 2001, according to the amended—but in violation of the former—constitution. Late in the year most leftist parties were united in a Popular Patriotic Union, one goal of which was to push for a referendum on confidence in the president in June 1999, in lieu of a presidential election in 1999 as warranted by the 1994 constitution.

      During the year Belarus suffered its most severe economic and financial crisis to date. Though official figures provided a picture of impressive economic growth (a rise in gross domestic product of about 12%), the Ministry of Economy acknowledged that the nation was badly in need of foreign loans. Belarus continued to trade by barter rather than money, and the currency was in a free fall against the U.S. dollar. Though the official exchange rate was held at 50,400 rubels to the dollar, the Interbank currency exchange was offering 350,000 rubels to the dollar by early September. Banking came increasingly under governmental control as Lukashenka removed the chairman of the national bank, Hennady Aleynikov, and replaced him with a close ally, former first deputy prime minister Pyotr Prokopovich. Because its economy was closely tied to that of Russia, Belarus also suffered from the financial crisis in Russia that began in the summer of 1998.

      The government in 1998 pursued a dual foreign policy: first to try to make clear the nature of the Russia-Belarus Union and to promote closer relations with other former Soviet republics, and second to expand ties and military cooperation with Iran, Syria, Egypt, India, and China. In the former category the main question was the resolution of the issue of dual citizenship and the powers designated to the Union Parliament.

      Relations with the rest of the world were strained. During part of the year the Minsk office International Monetary Fund was closed, but by late November it had reopened. In June the Belarusian government tried to evict the ambassadors of 22 countries from their residences at the Drazdy complex, near Minsk, ordering them to leave their homes by June 10. On June 18 the Drazdy complex was declared to be the property of the presidential administration, and on the following day the diplomats were locked out. On June 22 the ambassadors of the U.K., Greece, France, Germany, and Italy were ordered home for consultations, and the U.S. soon followed suit. Lukashenka subsequently declared that alternative accommodations would soon be found for the ambassadors.


▪ 1998

      Area: 207,595 sq km (80,153 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 10,360,000

      Capital: Minsk

      Head of state and government: President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, assisted by Prime Minister Syarhey Ling (acting in that position until his confirmation on February 19)

      Political turbulence again characterized the year in Belarus. Pres. Alyaksandr Lukashenka continued to consolidate his authority through a series of dubious constitutional changes begun in November 1996, after he won a heavily manipulated referendum.

      The chief political event of 1997 was the union with Russia, declared on April 2 and ratified by both countries on June 11. Apparently, Russia had some reservations from the start, however, and the original 18-page document drawn up by the Belarusian side was reduced to 3 pages by the Russian delegation. Moscow seemed especially wary about a merger of the two currencies and assumption of Belarusian debts. Lukashenka, too, later distanced himself somewhat from the union, and by September he was saying that Belarus would always retain its sovereign status.

      Acts of political repression and breaches of human rights in Belarus continued to elicit international concern. Virtually every major political figure in opposition was subjected to harassment; in one particularly egregious example, Tamara Vinnikava, head of the National Bank of Belarus, was arrested in January and held in solitary detention, isolated and ill, without having been brought to trial. She was finally released in early November. On March 16 the head of the Belarusian Soros Foundation was deported, and that same month the Belarusian state security organization began to audit all nongovernmental organizations.

      On March 23 the first secretary of the U.S. embassy was declared persona non grata for having taken part in an "illegal" demonstration on that day; the U.S. retaliated by expelling a Belarusian diplomat and recalling Ambassador Kenneth Yalowitz. At least six journalists were attacked and beaten by militia on April 2 during a demonstration against union with Russia; about 100 people were detained. Russia was outraged by and formally protested the Belarusian government's detention in July of Russian television journalists; one journalist had previously been expelled. As a measure of the seriousness with which Russia took these incidents, a planned visit there by President Lukashenka had to be called off when his airplane was refused permission to enter Russian air space. Yeltsin later made it clear that the visit was contingent on the release of Russian journalist Pavel Sheremet (who was released on October 7 on condition that he remain in Belarus).

      A fact-finding delegation from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was sent to Minsk in April following two months of bitter street confrontations between Lukashenka and his opponents. The Soros Foundation and Citihope International later closed their offices in Minsk.

      Zyanon Paznyak, a resident of the United States, was reelected leader of the Belarusian Popular Front, the main opposition force, at the party's fifth congress in June. President Lukashenka sought to counter its growing popularity among young people, however, by establishing a Belarusian Patriotic Union of Youth (comparable to the former Komsomol), led by Usevalad Yancheuski, a 22-year-old student of Belarusian State University.

      Government figures indicating economic recovery, a growth rate of 2.6% in 1996, and spectacular growth in 1997 were illusory and based on the inclusion of unsold stocks accumulating in warehouses. Still, foreign investments continued, and a new Ford automotive plant opened near Minsk during the year. Belarus remained in debt to Russia for oil and gas supplies, while it continued to operate a budget deficit of almost 5% of gross domestic product.

      The exchange rate for the Belarusian rubel had fallen to 28,000 to the U.S. dollar by September, compared with 11,500 in 1996. Prices rose by 141% in the first quarter of 1997, the highest rate in the former Soviet Union.


▪ 1997

      A landlocked republic of Eastern Europe, Belarus borders Latvia on the north, Russia on the north and east, Ukraine on the south, Poland on the west, and Lithuania on the northwest. Area: 207,595 sq km (80,153 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 10,322,000. Cap.: Minsk. Monetary unit: Belarusian rubel, with (Oct. 11, 1996) an official rate of 19,165 rubli = U.S. $1 (30,191 rubli = £ 1 sterling). President in 1996, Alyaksandr Lukashenka; prime minister, Mikhail Chyhir.

      Belarus in 1996 was a country that experienced high political tension instigated mainly by an authoritarian leader's attempt to increase his powers. One observer termed Belarus "the black sheep of Europe" because it continued to cling to its Soviet past, rejecting market reforms and clamping down on opposition to the president. Thus, the power struggle persisted between Pres. Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the Supreme Soviet (parliament), backed by the Constitutional Court, which continued to overrule presidential decrees.

      On April 2 Belarus signed an agreement with Russia that formed an "integrated political and economic community" with a joint legislature and a common foreign policy and economic space. By the end of 1997, it was projected, the two countries would jointly conduct investment, customs, and taxation policies. Both sides hoped other former Soviet states would adhere to the union.

      Antigovernment (or anti-Lukashenka) demonstrations had taken place in Minsk, however. The first incident was on March 24 after it was announced that the agreement would be signed; riot police dispersed a crowd of about 30,000 protesters. A further 20,000 took to the streets on the day of the signing. The culmination came on April 26, however, when an estimated 50,000 congregated in the capital city to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. Though the demonstration began peacefully, it turned violent. Over 200 were arrested, including several prominent members of the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF) and 17 members of the Ukrainian Rukh and paramilitary UNA-UNSO parties. In September BPF leaders Zyanon Paznyak and Syarhei Naumchyk were granted political asylum in the U.S.

      On November 24 Lukashenka won a heavily manipulated referendum that allowed him to introduce a new constitution, extending the presidential term of office from four to six years, creating an upper assembly (one-third of whose members he would appoint), reducing the parliament to 110 seats, and creating a new Constitutional Court, 50% of whose members would be presidential appointees. In effect, a presidential dictatorship was created in Belarus. Even the national holiday was changed from July 27 (independence day) to July 3 (the day the capital city of Minsk was liberated from German occupation in 1944).

      The economy was strained: more than 70% of the population was declared to be living below the poverty line; the Belarusian rubel began to drop sharply against the U.S. dollar by the summer; and inflation was held in check only by the withholding of wages from many workers.


▪ 1996

      A landlocked republic of Eastern Europe, Belarus borders Latvia on the north, Russia on the north and east, Ukraine on the south, Poland on the west, and Lithuania on the northwest. Area: 207,595 sq km (80,153 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 10,332,000. Cap.: Minsk. Monetary unit: Belarusian rubel, with (Oct. 6, 1995) an official rate of 11,500 rubli = U.S. $1 (18,180 rubli = £ 1 sterling). Chairman of the Supreme Soviet in 1995, Myachaslau Hryb; president, Alyaksandr Lukashenka; prime minister, Mikhail Chyhir.

      In Belarus 1995 was dominated by a power struggle between Pres. Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the Supreme Soviet, in which the former was successful in virtually every sphere. Belarus moved closer toward full integration with Russia while becoming an authoritarian state ruled increasingly by presidential decree.

      On January 6-24 a customs union was created between Belarus and Russia, and an agreement on economic cooperation in 1995 was signed. On February 21 Belarus and Russia signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation, permitting Russia to continue to deploy strategic and military forces on Belarusian territory, promising Russian aid in combating the effects of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, and regulating the supply of Russian energy resources to Belarus.

      In February the president proposed a national referendum on the state flag, symbols, and languages, to be held on the same day as the new parliamentary elections, May 14. On April 11-12, 18 Belarusian Popular Front (BPF) deputies held a hunger strike within the Supreme Soviet to protest the referendum. The strike ended violently when the deputies were physically removed from the building and beaten by presidential troops.

      The parliament subsequently agreed to four referendum questions: on the elevation of Russian to state-language status, the establishment of a new state flag and state symbols, economic integration with the Russian Federation, and amendments to the constitution permitting the president to dissolve the parliament in cases of violations of the constitution. Large majorities supported each of these proposals.

      The two rounds of elections were characterized by low voter turnout (especially in Minsk, with 52.4% and 38.5%) and presidential pressure against opponents, especially the BPF, which lost all its seats in the parliament. Because a minimum voter turnout of 50% was required, the new parliament contained only 119 deputies (well below the 174 needed for a quorum in the 260-seat assembly), including 44 Independents, 25 Agrarians, and 23 Communists. A constitutional crisis resulted when the president refused to accept the right of the old parliament to amend the election laws. A new round of elections on November 29 raised the number of deputies to 139, still short of a quorum. An additional round of elections in December brought the number to 198, sufficient for a quorum.

      The economy remained in a critical state. Although inflation was reduced to less than 5% per month and the Belarusian rubel was stabilized at a rate of 11,600 rubli to the U.S. dollar, prices outpaced wages, bankrupt factories continued to operate, and privatization was minimal.

      On September 15 Stanislau Bahdankevich, chairman of the National Bank of Belarus and one of the few proponents of monetarism and economic reform within the Belarusian hierarchy, resigned from office. Two days earlier he had negotiated an agreement with the International Monetary Fund allocating Belarus a credit of $300 million in five stages. Unfavourable international attention was attracted in September when a Belarusian helicopter gunship shot down a hydrogen racing balloon and killed the two U.S. pilots. (DAVID R. MARPLES)

▪ 1995

      A landlocked republic of Eastern Europe, Belarus borders Latvia on the north, Russia on the north and east, Ukraine on the south, Poland on the west, and Lithuania on the northwest. Area: 207,595 sq km (80,153 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 10,404,000. Cap.: Minsk. Monetary unit: Belarusian rubel, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 5,854 rubels = U.S. $1 (9,312 rubels = £ 1 sterling). Chairmen of the Supreme Soviet in 1994, Stanislau Shushkevich and, from January 28, Myachaslau Hryb; president from July 20, Aleksandr Lukashenka; prime ministers, Vyachaslau Kebich and, from July 21, Mikhail Chyhir.

      Relations with Russia, both political and economic, dominated 1994 in Belarus. On April 12 an agreement on a monetary union was reached by Prime Minister Vyachaslau F. Kebich and his Russian counterpart Viktor S. Chernomyrdin. The treaty encompassed a single pricing system and fixed exchange rate between the two currencies. Monetary union was opposed by the powerful chairman of the Belarusian national bank, Stanislau Bahdankevich, and denounced by the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF) because of Russian recalcitrance and concerns about the emission of a single currency by the Russian central bank. By October the ailing Belarusian rubel (zaichik) had been declared the only legal tender in the republic.

      The economy remained in crisis. From January to June gross domestic product dropped 31%, while inflation was about 30%. Several factories stopped work. In August prices were freed and rose to 10-30 times their former level. On August 12 the zaichik was devalued by a factor of 10, and wages were lowered accordingly. Privatization encompassed only 4% of all state enterprises by November. Though Belarus remained hopeful that an International Monetary Fund loan of $308 million would be forthcoming, a presidential decision to lower prices to the levels of November 1 and a huge budget deficit of $1.2 billion (one-third of which was owed to Russia for imports of gas) placed the loan in some doubt.

      The republic experienced some dramatic political changes in 1994. The communist-dominated parliament, in January, established an anticorruption committee under the chairmanship of Aleksandr Lukashenka (see BIOGRAPHIES (Lukashenka, Aleksandr Hrygorevich )) that mounted sustained attacks on the republic's parliamentary chairman Stanislau Shushkevich and his supporters. On January 26 (shortly after the visit of U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton to Minsk), Shushkevich lost in a no-confidence vote in the parliament by 209-36. He was forced to resign and was replaced by Myachaslau Hryb. The pro-Communist prime minister, Vyachaslau Kebich, survived a similar vote.

      Parliament adopted a new constitution in March that replaced the 1977 U.S.S.R. constitution and created a presidency with the main executive power and a 260-seat parliament. There followed a frenzied and bitter election campaign, with six candidates nominated by the May 15 deadline. Lukashenka received 45% of the vote on June 23, followed by Kebich, the favoured candidate, with 17%. In the run-off election on July 10, Lukashenka, whose campaign combined pro-Russian rhetoric with his anticorruption drive, took 80.1% of the vote.

      The new president appointed a 45-year-old banker, Mikhail Chyhir, as his premier but retained some of Kebich's appointees. Lukashenka's relations with Russia, despite pre-election rhetoric, remained more distant than those of his predecessor, Kebich. In August he met with Russian Pres. Boris Yeltsin, and among issues discussed was the continued presence of 30,000 Russian troops in the republic guarding strategic missiles. In September Lukashenka established a National Security Council and phased out village councils, and in October he doubled the minimum wage to 20,000 rubels (around $3). On November 12, after his convalescence for spinal problems, Lukashenka declared a state of emergency to halt the drastic price rises that had occurred in his absence. (DAVID R. MARPLES)

▪ 1994

      A landlocked republic of Eastern Europe, Belarus borders Latvia on the north, Russia on the north and east, Ukraine on the south, Poland on the west, and Lithuania on the northwest. Area: 207,600 sq km (80,200 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 10,353,000. Cap.: Minsk. Monetary unit: Belarusian rubel, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 2,330 rubels = U.S. $1 (3,530 rubels = £ 1 sterling). Chairman of the Supreme Soviet in 1993, Stanislau Shushkevich; prime minister, Vyacheslau Kebich.

      In 1993 Belarus embarked on a difficult transitional path to economic reform that was highlighted by significant drops in output and labour productivity. The Supreme Soviet, elected in 1990 and composed mainly of former Communists, forestalled any significant moves toward a market economy.

      One crucial and unresolved economic problem was reliance on energy imports from Russia (comprising 90% of Belarus' oil and gas supplies), which were curtailed periodically throughout the year because of unpaid debts. In 1993 a heated but unresolved debate was held on the question of whether Belarus should revive its nuclear energy program, abandoned in 1988. New Belarusian rubel banknotes printed in Germany were not yet in circulation. Instead, the zaichik (named after the hare on the rubel bill) had been in use since May 1992. In July, when Russia began to recall Russian ruble banknotes, the Belarusian rubel dropped in value, and by August it had fallen to 50% of the Russian ruble. In late August the official rubel-to-ruble exchange rate was fixed at 2:1, and on November 24 the zaichik was declared the sole legal currency. A bilateral Russian-Belarusian commission met on December 17 to stabilize the exchange rate and prepare for currency union.

      Political life was dominated by the conflict between Prime Minister Vyacheslau Kebich and Supreme Soviet Chairman Stanislau Shushkevich, primarily over the question of joining a military and security union with Russia. Belarus also agreed to enter an economic union in September and to form a monetary union with Russia (again over the protests of Shushkevich) in November. The most powerful grouping in Parliament was the reactionary Belarus Faction, which opposed economic reforms and favoured closer integration with Russia. A reflection of the conservative nature of the ruling government was the reactivation of the old Communist Party of Belarus early in 1993, now one of two Communist parties in the republic.

      In February Belarus voted to adhere to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and ratified the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I). Some 80 SS-25 ICBMs were under Russian control and were to be transferred to Russia by the end of 1994. In many spheres Belarus appeared to have entered the Russian orbit, although not without opposition. In the summer the Association of Belarusian Students picketed the Parliament building to demand a date for a referendum on fixing new parliamentary elections and to declare Belorussian the sole official language in the republic. In August a bomb was detonated in a central square of Minsk, ostensibly by a right-wing extremist faction that sought the restoration of the U.S.S.R.

      The Belarusian Popular Front, which formed a political party to contest the 1994 elections, bitterly contested Parliament's course and accused it of failing to deal with major issues. The declining economy saw a large rise in joblessness, with projections as high as 700,000 unemployed by the start of 1994. The consequences in Belarus of the 1986 Chernobyl atomic power plant disaster in neighbouring Ukraine were another concern; for example, the number of thyroid cancers among children was rising dramatically, and as much as 40% of the republic's territory was contaminated by radioactive cesium. (DAVID R. MARPLES)

* * *

also spelled  Byelarus,  formerly  Belorussia,  or  Byelorussia,  officially  Republic of Belarus,  Belarusian  Respublika Byelarusʾ,  also called  White Russia,  
Belarus, flag of  country of eastern Europe. Until it became independent in 1991, it was the smallest of the three Slavic republics that formed part of the Soviet Union. On the northwest Belarus adjoins Latvia and Lithuania, while Russia lies to the northeast and east, Ukraine to the south, and Poland to the west. The capital is Minsk.

      While Belarusians share a distinct ethnic identity and language, they never previously enjoyed unity and political sovereignty. Belarusian history is thus less an isolable national narrative than a study of regional forces, their interplay, and their effects on the Belarusian people. The territory that is now Belarus underwent partition and changed hands repeatedly; as a result, much of the history of Belarus is inseparable from that of its neighbours.

Richard Antony French

The land (Belarus)

 The topography of Belarus was largely shaped by glaciation during the Pleistocene Epoch (1,600,000 to 10,000 years ago). Much of the country consists of flat lowlands separated by low, level-topped hills and uplands. The highest point, Dzyarzhynsk Mountain, is only 1,135 feet (345 metres) above sea level, and more than half the surface area of Belarus lies below 660 feet. The higher areas are formed by ridges of glacial morainic material dating from the Valday glaciation, the last advance of Pleistocene ice in eastern Europe. The largest of the ridges, the Belarusian Ridge, extends northeastward from the Polish border on the southwest to north of Minsk, where it widens into the Minsk Upland before turning eastward to link up with the Smolensk-Moscow Upland. Running transverse to the main Belarusian Ridge, the Ashmyany Upland, consisting of terminal moraines from the same glacial period, lies between Minsk and Vilnius in neighbouring Lithuania. The surfaces of its ridges tend to be flat or gently rolling and covered by light, sandy podzolic soils; they are largely cleared of their original forest cover.

      Separated by the morainic ridges lie wide lowlands, which are mostly poorly drained and marshy and contain many small lakes. To the north of the main line of morainic hills are two broad plains; the north of the republic comprises the Polatsk Lowland, and the northwestern corner, near Hrodna, the Nyoman Lowland. South of the Belarusian Ridge the wide and very flat Central Byarezina Plain gently slopes southward to merge imperceptibly with the even more extensive Pripet Marshes (Belarusian: Palyessye, “Woodlands”). A waterlogged area in the basin of the Pripet (Prypyats') River, a main tributary of the Dnieper (Dnyapro), the Pripet Marshes extend southward into Ukraine and occupy a structural trough. The trough is filled with outwash sands and gravels deposited by the meltwaters of the last Pleistocene glaciation. The minimal variation in relief makes the Pripet Marshes the largest area of swamp in Europe.

Drainage and soils
      Belarus has about 20,800 streams, with a total length of about 56,300 miles (90,600 kilometres), and some 10,800 lakes. The greater part of the republic lies in the basin of the Dnieper (Dnieper River), which flows across Belarus from north to south on its way to the Black Sea, and of its major tributaries, the Byarezina and Pripet on the right bank and the Sozh on the left. In the north the Polatsk Lowland is drained by the Western Dvina (Dzvina) River to the Baltic Sea, to which also flows the Neman (Nyoman) in the west. The extreme southwest corner of Belarus is drained by the Mukhavyets, a tributary of the Bug (Buh) River, which forms part of the border with Poland and flows to the Baltic Sea. The Mukhavyets and Pripet are linked by a ship canal, thereby connecting the Baltic and Black seas. The rivers are generally frozen from December to late March, after which occur about two months of maximum flow. The largest lakes are Narach, Asvyeyskaye, and Drysvyaty.

      About three-fifths of Belarus is covered by podzolic soils. On the uplands these soils are mainly clay loams developed on loess subsoils, which can be productive with the use of fertilizers. The plains and lowlands have mostly sandy podzols of low fertility interspersed with swampy clays, which have a high humus content and can be very fertile when drained.

      Belarus has a cool continental climate moderated by maritime influences from the Atlantic Ocean. Average January temperatures range from 25° F (−4° C) in the southwest to 18° F (−8° C) in the northeast, but thaw days are frequent; correspondingly, the frost-free period decreases from more than 170 days in the southwest to 130 in the northeast. Maximum temperatures in July are about 63° to 66° F (17° to 19° C). Rainfall is moderate, though higher than over most of the East European Plain, and ranges from 21 inches (533 millimetres) on the lowlands to 28 inches on the higher morainic ridges. Maximum rainfall occurs from June to August.

Plant and animal life
      The natural vegetation of the country is mixed deciduous and coniferous forest. In the north, conifers, notably pine and spruce, tend to predominate; southward the proportion of deciduous trees, such as oak and hornbeam, increases. Silver birch is common everywhere, especially as the first colonist on burned or disturbed areas. Over the centuries, the clearing of forest land for agricultural use has removed the greater part of the primeval forest, especially the deciduous trees, which prefer richer soils. In particular, the forest of the uplands had largely been removed by the late 16th century.

      The Belovezhskaya (Polish: Białowieża) Forest (Belovezhskaya Forest), on the western border with Poland (into which it extends), is the largest surviving area of primeval mixed forest in Europe, encompassing more than 460 square miles (1,200 square kilometres). Preserved for centuries as the private hunting forest of first the Polish kings and later the Russian tsars, it was made a nature reserve (and later a national park) on both sides of the frontier. The rich forest vegetation that once covered much of Europe survives here, dominated by trees that have grown to exceptional heights. The forest is the major home of the European bison, or wisent, which had become extinct in the wild following World War I but was reintroduced using zoo animals. Elk, deer, and boar also are found there and in other forests of Belarus, together with small game, hare, squirrels, foxes, badgers, marten, and, along the rivers, beaver. Birds include grouse, partridge, woodcock, snipe, and duck, and many of the rivers are well stocked with fish.

      The accident at the Chernobyl (Chernobyl accident) nuclear power plant in Ukraine in April 1986 resulted in a number of immediate and long-term consequences for the environment of Belarus, which bore the brunt of the radioactive fallout that resulted. About one-fourth of its surface area was affected. In addition to the radiation-tainted land, water, plants, and livestock, the human medical and psychological costs of the accident included an increase in birth defects and cancer (particularly of the thyroid) and a declining birth rate, at least partly in response to fears of those defects.

Settlement patterns
      The population density of Belarus is relatively low. Much of the country, particularly the Pripet Marshes, is sparsely populated, the greatest concentrations being in the central uplands and the southwest. During the period of Soviet rule, the process of industrial growth steadily increased the urban proportion of the population, from only one-fifth at the end of World War II to more than two-thirds by the 1990s. Correspondingly, the number of urban places (including settlements of town type) more than doubled. Chief among the more than a dozen cities with populations greater than 100,000 is the rapidly growing capital, Minsk. Most of the increase in urban population has resulted from migration from rural areas, leaving many declining or moribund villages.

Mikhail Ivanovich Rostovtsev Anthony Adamovich Richard Antony French

The people
      Ethnic Belarusians (Belarus) make up more than three-fourths of the country's population. Russians, many of whom migrated to the Belorussian S.S.R. in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, form the second largest ethnic group. Most of the remainder of the population are Poles and Ukrainians, with a small number of Latvians, Lithuanians, and Tatars. Before World War II, however, Jews constituted the second largest group in the republic (and more than half the urban population); the genocide of European Jewry and postwar emigration nearly eliminated Jews from the republic. Both Belarusian (Belarusian language) and Russian are official languages. Belarusian, which is central to the concept of national identity, is an East Slavic language that is related to both Russian and Ukrainian, with dialects that are transitional to both. It is written in a Cyrillic alphabet and has loanwords from both Polish and Russian, which is reflective of the region's history. An older form of Belarusian was the official language of the grand duchy of Lithuania, of which present-day Belarus was an important component. Most Belarusians who profess a religion adhere to Eastern Orthodoxy. There is, however, a sizable minority of Roman Catholics, and the Eastern-rite (Uniate) church is experiencing something of a revival after centuries of persecution under tsarist Russia and the Soviet government.

      After World War II Belarus exhibited a fairly high birth rate, largely as the result of a postwar baby boom. A steep decline followed in the 1960s, and thereafter a more gradual decline ensued. At the same time, life expectancy slowly decreased. As a result, the natural growth of the population slowed and then declined by the mid-1990s, as did the overall increase in population (notwithstanding a net in-migration balance). Moreover, fertility rates also fell.

Richard Antony French

The economy
      Devastation during World War II nearly wiped out agriculture and industry in the Belorussian S.S.R., and the intensive postwar drive to restore the economy resulted in a large industrial sector that depended on the other Soviet republics, particularly Russia (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), for energy and raw materials. The dissolution of the Soviet Union not only dramatically increased the cost of those raw materials but also reduced the traditional market for Belarusian manufactured goods. As a result, production decreased in Belarus during the early 1990s. Moreover, the movement toward a market economy in Belarus was slower than that of other former Soviet republics, with only a small percentage of state-run industry and agriculture privatized in the years following independence. Largely in response to this economic upheaval, Belarus sought closer economic ties with Russia.

      The republic is generally poorly endowed with mineral resources. The government is attempting to accelerate the development of its raw-material base, but Belarus remains dependent on Russia for most of its energy and fossil-fuel requirements. In the 1960s, petroleum was discovered in the southeastern part of the republic, near Rechytsa. Production, which peaked in 1975, had fallen to one-fourth of that total by the 1990s, when it stabilized.

      Belarus does possess, however, one of the world's largest reserves of potash (potassium salts)—discovered in 1949 south of Minsk and exploited from the 1960s around the new mining town and fertilizer-manufacturing centre of Salihorsk. Although exports of potash to other former Soviet republics declined significantly in the 1990s, exports to other countries remained at a high level. The country also is a world leader in the production of peat, which is especially abundant in the Pripet Marshes. In briquette form it is used as fuel. Among the other minerals recovered are salt, an important deposit of which, near Mazyr, was opened in the 1980s; building materials, chiefly limestone and, near Hrodna, quartz sands for glassmaking, both used locally; and small deposits of gold and diamonds.

      Military production was of high industrial priority during the Soviet era, and the transition to primarily civilian production was difficult. Nevertheless, mining and manufacturing remain the major component of the Belarusian economy and account for roughly half the gross domestic product (GDP), with the processing of minerals and hydrocarbons playing an important role. A large facility for producing potash fertilizers is located at Salihorsk. There are oil refineries in the Polatsk area and at Mazyr in the south. Both are served by branches of a major pipeline originating in western Siberia, but the facilities at Mazyr also process local oil from Rechytsa. There also is a large petrochemical plant at Polatsk that produces polyolefins. At Hrodna nitrogenous fertilizers are made using natural gas piped from Dashava in Ukraine.

      Heavy industry is less developed in Belarus. There is some engineering, concentrated chiefly in Minsk, where heavy-duty trucks and tractors are manufactured, and in its satellite town, Zhodzina, which produces large-capacity dump trucks. Dump trucks are also made in Mahilyow. Other engineering products include machine tools, such as metal-cutting equipment. Precision manufacturing was developed during the 1970s and '80s, notably of such consumer goods as radios and television sets, watches, bicycles, and computers. Other industries are small-scale, and products are mostly for local consumption. They include timber processing, furniture making, match and paper making, textile and clothing manufacture, and food processing.

 The agricultural sector in Belarus (which employs about one-fifth of the labour force but constitutes a diminishing proportion of the GDP) is dominated by large state and collective farms. Private holdings were permitted for household use during the Soviet era, but while their number increased dramatically following independence they remained small in size. Most of Belarus has soils of only moderate fertility, but the better-drained uplands can be productive with fertilizer application. Most of the country has mixed crop and livestock farming, with a strong emphasis on flax growing. (During the late Soviet era the Belorussian S.S.R. produced about one-fourth of the U.S.S.R. total.) Grain, chiefly barley, rye, and oats, and potatoes are the other main field crops, of which a large percentage is used for animal feed. Cattle and pig raising are also important. Considerable areas of the swampy lowlands have been drained since the late 19th century, with much of the reclaimed land being used for fodder crops. Dairying and truck farming are locally important in the vicinity of Minsk. Nearly one-third of Belarus is covered by forests, which are exploited for the production of wood and paper products.

      Independent Belarus restructured its Soviet-style banking system into a two-tier system consisting of the National Bank of Belarus and a growing number of commercial banks, most of which are either joint-stock or limited-liability companies. The republic introduced its own currency, the Belarusian rubel, in 1992. A securities market and stock exchange were also established that year.

      During much of the Soviet period, the republic was a net exporter, with the bulk of its trade conducted with other Soviet republics, principally Russia and Ukraine. Independent Belarus became a net importer, however, when the price of previously inexpensive raw materials and energy from Soviet sources rose to meet world market levels. Nonetheless, Russia, Poland, and Ukraine remain the republic's main trading partners, with trade increasing with Germany. Chief exports include trucks, tractors, refrigerators, television sets, energy products, fertilizer, and meat and dairy products. Major imports include petroleum, natural gas, rolled metal, rubber, paint, and consumer goods.

      Nearly all electricity is generated at thermal power stations using piped oil and natural gas; however, there is some local use of peat, and there are a number of low-capacity hydroelectric power plants.

      Belarus has a good railway network, headed by major interregional railways that crisscross the country: east-west between Berlin, Warsaw, and Moscow; north-south between St. Petersburg and Kiev (Ukraine); and northwest-southeast between the Baltic countries and Ukraine. There is an east-west trunk road through Minsk, but other roads are poor. Rivers and the Dnieper-Bug Canal also serve as transportation routes. Minsk has good air connections, including international flights.

Administration and social conditions

      A new constitution entered into force in Belarus in March 1994. Characterizing the republic as a “democratic, social state,” that document guaranteed a broad range of rights and freedoms and pledged the state to create the conditions for full employment. It was based on the separation of legislative, executive, and judicial powers. Under the 1994 constitution, deputies were elected by universal adult suffrage to five-year terms to the government's highest legislative body, the Supreme Soviet, which confirmed the budget, called for national elections and referenda, and was responsible for domestic, foreign, and military policy. Following the passage of a referendum (of questionable legitimacy) in November 1996, however, the constitution was revised to greatly expand the powers of the president, Alyaksandr Lukashenka (Lukashenka, Alyaksandr Hrygorevich) (Lukashenko), while greatly diminishing those of a reconstituted parliament.

      There are three tiers of local government: the largest consists of six voblastsi (provinces) and one municipality (horad); they in turn are divided into rayony (sectors) and cities, with some larger cities further divided into rayony. Towns, villages, and settlements constitute the final tier.

      The judicial system comprises the Supreme Court and its lower courts, the Supreme Economic Court and its lower courts, and the Constitutional Court, whose 11 judges (elected by the Supreme Soviet) have the final ruling on the republic's basic law.

Political parties
      Long a monolithic ruling party, the Communist Party was banned in 1991 following the demise of the Soviet Union. It regrouped as the Party of Communists before reemerging under the name Communist Party of Belarus after the lifting of the ban in 1993. The Agrarian Party represents the interests of collective and state farms, while a variety of parties represent social democratic, liberal, market-oriented, and ecologically concerned constituencies. The Belarusian Popular Front has been at the forefront of the nationalist movement since its founding in 1989 but has had little electoral success.

      Under the former Soviet government the republic achieved universal literacy. Education is compulsory from ages 7 to 16. Institutions of higher learning include the Belarusian State University, the Homyel State University, the Hrodna State University, the Belarusian Agricultural Academy in Horki, and medical, pedagogical, technological, and agricultural institutes. The Belarusian Academy of Sciences maintains a nuclear reactor.

Health and welfare
      Health care improved in the republic after World War II, and the capacity of medical facilities increased. Nevertheless, inadequate training and technology contributed to a system that has failed to meet many basic medical needs in independent Belarus.

Cultural life
      Little survives in Belarus of the earliest period of settlement by eastern Slavs; a distinctively Belarusian culture began to emerge clearly only in the 16th century. In the later tsarist period, considerable efforts were made to suppress the Belarusian language and culture. Long periods of foreign control, first by the grand duchy of Lithuania and the kingdom of Poland, then by tsarist Russia and later by the Soviet Union, brought a series of outside influences, from the European Baroque and classical architectural styles to the cultural constraints of Socialist Realism.

      One of the oldest surviving monuments of architecture in the country is the Cathedral of St. Sophia in Polatsk, dating from the 11th century and built in the Eastern Orthodox style. The church of Barys and Hlyeb in Hrodna dates from the 12th century. Most of the other early buildings that remain, mostly as ruins, are the princely stone fortresses of the 12th to 16th century. One of the best-known of these is the 13th-century White Tower in Kamyanyets.

      The 17th century marked the appearance of the Baroque style, which was largely linked to the eastward movement of Roman Catholicism; it is exemplified by the design of the Jesuit, Bernardine, and Bridgettine churches in Hrodna. Belarusian craftsmen played a role in extending Baroque influence farther eastward into Russia, where it was adapted as the “Moscow Baroque” style. By the 18th century, classical styles predominated in Belarus, as seen in the Governor's Palace in Hrodna. The ravages of World War II destroyed a large segment of the country's architectural heritage, especially in Minsk. Because much of Minsk was reconstructed after the war, most of the architecture of the city centre reflects the grandiose Stalinist style with its classical borrowings.

      Literary activity in Belarus dates to the 11th century. In the 12th century St. Cyril of Turaw, venerated among Orthodox Slavs as “the second St. Chrysostom,” wrote sermons and hymns. In the 16th century Frantsysk Skaryna of Polatsk translated the Bible into Belarusian and wrote extensive explanatory introductions to each book. His editions, produced in Prague (1517–19) and Vilnius (1522–25), were the first printed books not only in Belarus but in the whole of eastern Europe. In the 17th century the Belarusian poet Symon Polatski (Symeon of Polatsk) was the first to bring Baroque literary style to Moscow.

      Modern Belarusian literature began in the first half of the 19th century with the work of Yan Chachot and Vincent Dunin-Martsinkyevich, who translated part of the Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz's epic Master Thaddeus into Belarusian. Literary classics of the early 20th century include works by the poets Maksim Bahdanovich, Ales Harun, Vladimir Zylka, Kazimir Svayak, Yanka Kupala, and Yakub Kolas and the prose writers Zmitrok Byadulya and Maksim Haretski. Many of these writers had been contributors to the influential Belarusian newspaper Nasha Niva (“Our Cornfield”), published in Vilnius during the period 1906–16. Of crucial importance for an understanding of the Belarusian cultural predicament in the face of war and revolution are Kupala's play The Locals (1922) and Haretski's short novel Two Souls (1919).

      Many outstanding poets and prose writers made their mark in the 1920s, including the poets Vladimir Dubovka and Yazep Pushcha, the novelist Kuzma Chorny, and the satirist and playwright Kandrat Krapiva. Pushcha's literary polemics with the second-rate poet Andrey Aleksandrovich at the end of the 1920s marked the beginning of political control over Belarusian cultural matters. Literature in the part of Belarus that was under Polish control until 1939 developed somewhat more freely. Two writers of note emerged from that area, Maksim Tank, author of the long poems Narach (1937) and Kalinowski (1938), and Natalla Arseneva, whose greatest poems are to be found in the collections Beneath the Blue Sky (1927), Golden Autumn (1937), and Today (1944). Other writers who stayed during the occupation and then went into exile are the poets Chvedar Illasyevich, Matvey Syadnov, and Larysa Genius.

      Most noteworthy of the writers to preserve and develop the Belarusian literary tradition in the 1940s and '50s are the poets Pimen Panchanka and Arkadi Kulyashov and the prose writers Yanka Bryl, Ivan Shamyakin, and Ivan Melezh. The 1960s marked the tentative beginnings of yet another national revival with the novels of Vasil Bykov and Uladzimir Karatkievich. Among younger writers, the poets Yawhyeniya Yanishchyts and Ales Razanov and the short-story writer Anatol Sys should be noted.

      Belarus has long had its own folk music, which was encouraged during the Soviet period and performed by a number of companies. There was also a considerable tradition of church music from the 16th century on. The development of classical music largely has been a feature of the period since World War II. Among the most notable composers has been Kulikovich Shchahlow, who like some of the writers went into exile after the war. Others include Yawhen Hlyebaw, composer of the opera Your Spring (1963) and the ballet Alpine Ballad (1967), and Yawhen Tsikotski, whose works include the operas Mikhas Padhorny (1939–57) and Alesya (1944). There is a conservatory of music in Minsk and a national philharmonic society.

Mikhail Ivanovich Rostovtsev Anthony Adamovich Richard Antony French

      The Belarusian region has a long history of human settlement. Archaeology has provided evidence of Upper Paleolithic cultures, and Neolithic (New Stone Age) remains are widespread. The area was one of the earliest to be inhabited by Slavs, who settled there between the 6th and the 8th centuries AD. The early Slavic tribes—the Dregovichi, Radimichi, Krivichi, and Drevlyane—had formed local principalities, such as those of Pinsk, Turaw (Russian: Turov), Polatsk (Polotsk), Slutsk, and Minsk, by the 8th to 9th century. These all came under the general suzerainty of Kievan Rus, the first East Slavic state, beginning in the mid-9th century. The regional economy was based on primitive, shifting agriculture on burned-over forestland, as well as on honey collecting and fur hunting. Trade developed along the rivers, particularly on the Dnieper, which from about 930 was part of the “water road” from Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire, via Kiev and Novgorod, to the Baltic Sea. Trading settlements multiplied, and many of the towns of present-day Belarus were founded by the end of the 12th century. Two of the earliest-mentioned towns of Slavic foundation, Polatsk and Turaw, first appear in historical documents in the years 862 and 980, respectively. Brest (formerly Brest-Litovsk) is first recorded in 1017 and Minsk in 1067.

Lithuanian and Polish rule
      The overthrow of Kiev by the Mongol invasion of 1240 brought about the dissolution of Kievan Rus. Many Belarusian towns were laid waste and became dependencies of the empire of the Golden Horde. Over the next 150 years the grand duchy of Lithuania (Lithuania, grand duchy of) expanded, absorbing much of the Belarusian population. Under Lithuanian rule, however, the conquered regions retained a large degree of autonomy. Throughout the 13th and 14th centuries the Lithuanian state grew, encompassing the city of Smolensk and the lands eastward to the neighbourhood of Moscow and southward to Kiev and the shores of the Black Sea. During this epoch of Lithuanian domination, the Belarusian language and nationality began to take shape.

      A personal union between the Lithuanian and Polish ruling houses commenced under the Jagiellon dynasty in 1386, when the Lithuanian grand duke Jogaila (Polish: Władisław II Jagiełło) married Queen Jadwiga of Poland. Roman Catholicism became the official religion of the grand duchy of Lithuania, but the peasantry remained overwhelmingly Orthodox. Between the Polish-Lithuanian realm and the rising power of Muscovy there developed an incessant and bitter struggle for land and influence. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Smolensk and Lithuania's easternmost lands were lost to Russia, although the Belarusian population remained largely under Lithuanian control. Three sets of laws, known as the Lithuanian Statutes, codified civil and property rights in Lithuanian-controlled lands in the 16th century. In 1557 a far-reaching agrarian reform plan was instituted, introducing the three-field crop rotation system of agriculture and changing the obligations of peasants to landowners. The system, initially imposed on crown estates, was rapidly adopted on the properties of the nobility; it remained in operation with little modification until the 20th century. The combined effects of the changes reduced the peasants, who previously had retained at least some freedom to migrate, to full serfdom.

      The Union of Lublin (Lublin, Union of) (1569) made Poland and Lithuania a single, federated state. Although Lithuania retained the title of grand duchy and its code of laws, its western province Podlasia, which had been heavily settled by Polish colonists, was ceded to Poland, as were the steppe lands and Kiev. Among the Belarusian population a mainly Polish-speaking Roman Catholic aristocracy developed, but the peasantry on the whole remained Orthodox. In 1596 the Union of Brest-Litovsk (Brest-Litovsk, Union of) signaled an attempt to unify the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches in the Polish-Lithuanian state, combining acknowledgment of papal supremacy with the Orthodox rites and traditions. The new Eastern-rite church made some limited headway, particularly among Belarusians and Ukrainians, but it constantly came under pressure from tsarist and later Soviet authorities, resulting in the conversion of some of its membership to Orthodoxy. The rule of the Polish landowners was often heavy and unpopular, and many Belarusians (especially those opposed to joining the Eastern-rite church) fled to the steppe lands that were home to the Cossacks. Large-scale Cossack-led revolts occurred in 1648–54, but the Belarusian lands remained under Poland until the reign of Catherine II (the Great) of Russia (1762–96). Economic development was slow, especially in the extensive Pripet Marshes. The Belarusian population was almost entirely engaged in agriculture, while trade lay in the hands of Poles and Jews.

Russian rule
      By way of the First Partition of Poland in 1772, Catherine the Great acquired the eastern portion of present-day Belarus, including the towns of Vitsyebsk (Russian: Vitebsk), Mahilyow (Mogilyov), and Homyel (Gomel). The Second Partition (1793) gave Russia Minsk and the central region, and in 1795 the Third Partition incorporated the remainder into the Russian Empire.

      Under Russian rule the area was divided administratively into the governorships (provinces) of Grodno (Belarusian: Hrodna), Minsk, Mogilyov, Vilnia (now Vilnius, Lithuania), and Vitebsk, and, until the formation of the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1919, Belarusian history was largely tied to the course of events in the Russian Empire and revolutionary Russia. Napoleon crossed the region in his advance on Moscow in 1812 and again during his retreat. One of the heaviest battles of Napoleon's Russian campaign took place as French troops retreated across the Byarezina (Berezina) River.

      In the 19th century small-scale industries largely based on local supplies began to grow in Belarusian towns. Among them were timber working, glassmaking, and, along the rivers, boatbuilding. Following the emancipation of the serfs in the 1860s, the tempo of industrialization increased somewhat, particularly with the coming of the railways beginning in the 1880s. Nevertheless, the generally poor economic conditions resulted in considerable emigration, especially from rural areas. In the 50 years before the Russian Revolution of 1917, nearly 1.5 million people left the provinces within which present-day Belarus is located. Most of the emigrants went to the United States or Siberia, with more than 600,000 emigrating to the latter between 1896 and 1915.

      The first attempt to establish a Marxist party in Russia took place in Minsk in 1898 when a small congress laid the foundation for the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. During World War I, heavy fighting between German troops and those of the Russian Empire took place in the province with considerable destruction. Following the Russian Revolution, in which a provisional government replaced the collapsed Russian monarchy only to be itself overthrown by Bolshevik revolutionaries, the new Soviet government of Russia signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (Brest-Litovsk, treaties of) with Germany and its allies on March 3, 1918. Under the terms of this short-lived treaty, Russia gave up part of present-day Belarus, along with Ukrainian and Baltic lands, to Germany. With Germany's subsequent defeat by Russia's Western allies, the terms of Brest-Litovsk were abrogated.

The emergence of the Belorussian S.S.R.
      Belarusian nationalist and revolutionary stirrings had been evident at least since the Russian Revolution of 1905, when peasants joined the uprising against the monarchy. The creation of a Belarusian state began in 1918 and proceeded with fits and starts amid the turmoil of World War I, the Russian Revolution of l917, and the ensuing civil war (1918–20). In 1918, while most of the region was occupied by the German army, an independent Belarusian Democratic Republic was declared. With the withdrawal of German troops after the war, however, the Bolsheviks announced the formation of the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic on January 1, 1919. The republic's territorial integrity was quickly breached; beginning in April of that year, troops of newly reconstituted Poland advanced eastward to the Byarezina River only to be thrown back again in 1920. Hostilities between Russia and Poland ended with the Treaty of Riga (signed March 18, 1921), which divided the area of Belarus between Poland and Soviet Russia along the lines of the First Partition of Poland. The Belorussian S.S.R. did grow to the east in 1924 when Russia transferred to the Belorussian S.S.R. the regions of Polotsk, Vitebsk, Orsha, and Mogilyov, which had large Belarusian populations. Gomel and Rechitsa (Belarusian: Rechytsa) followed in 1926. The Belorussian S.S.R. was one of four founding republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R., or Soviet Union), established on December 30, 1922. Beginning under the regime of Joseph Stalin, nationalism was discouraged in the Soviet Union, and the Belorussian S.S.R., like the other constituent republics, was closely controlled. With the commencement of the first five-year plan in 1928, new industries were established in Minsk and other leading towns. In the 1930s purges took the lives of many dissidents, intellectuals, and others in the Belorussian S.S.R.

      Following the German attack on Poland in 1939 and the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop nonaggression pact between Stalin's Soviet Union and Hitler's Germany, which divided eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence, the U.S.S.R. attacked Poland from the east. Soviet troops occupied the area up to the Bug River and including the Białystok region. Western Belarusian territory that had been surrendered to Poland in the Treaty of Riga was reinstated as part of the Belorussian S.S.R.

      The German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 overran the Belorussian S.S.R., although the garrison of the Brest fortress made a prolonged and courageous stand. During the German retreat in 1944, there was heavy fighting in many areas of the republic, with major battles near Vitebsk, Borisov (Barysaw), and Minsk. German occupation and retreat produced widespread devastation and loss of life. At the end of the war a treaty between the U.S.S.R. and Poland returned western Belarus to Soviet hands. The Polish population was forcibly deported en masse to Poland. With the establishment of the United Nations in 1945, the Belorussian S.S.R. was given a seat in the General Assembly in its own right despite its status as a constituent republic of the U.S.S.R.

      The first postwar five-year plan was devoted to the reconstruction of war damage, an aim that it largely achieved. Thereafter, further industrialization took place, with an increasingly rapid growth of the major towns. The population of Minsk reached a million by the early 1970s. Many small towns and the population of a number of rural areas correspondingly declined.

      The explosion of the Chernobyl (Chernobyl accident) nuclear power station in Ukraine in 1986 contaminated the greater part of the country with radioactive material and necessitated the creation of an immediate and permanent evacuation zone that included part of Belarus. The accident's legacy of tainted land and human birth defects, as well as the expenditure of government funds required to respond to those problems, continued into the 21st century. (For more information about the Soviet period [1922–91], see Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.)

The emergence of independent Belarus
      Following Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (Gorbachev, Mikhail)'s initiation of more moderate policies in the mid-1980s, the Belorussian S.S.R. acted somewhat less vigorously than other Soviet republics to break away from the Soviet Union, although there was a steady growth in national separatist feeling. Amid the crisis of central authority in the U.S.S.R. in the early 1990s, the Belorussian S.S.R. declared sovereignty (July 27, 1990) and independence (August 25, 1991). With the collapse of Communist Party rule and the dissolution of the Soviet Union (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) in the wake of the failed coup against Gorbachev, the Belorussian S.S.R. changed its name to the Republic of Belarus and joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

      Legislative elections in Belarus in 1990 had resulted in a Communist-dominated Supreme Soviet that delayed the implementation of a market economy and vacillated for some three years before adopting a new constitution (March 1994). That document created the office of president, to which the pro-Russian Alyaksandr Lukashenka (Lukashenka, Alyaksandr Hrygorevich) was elected in July 1994. Legislative elections followed in 1995; but, owing to the strictures of the Belarusian electoral system (to be seated, candidates had to capture 50 percent of the vote of a turnout of 50 percent of eligible voters), four rounds of voting were required before a quorum was reached in December 1995 (even then, more than 60 seats remained vacant). Many members of the legislature were independents; indeed the largest voting block was not a political party per se but a group that supported Lukashenka, who increasingly sought to dominate the Supreme Soviet. In a referendum in November 1996—the legitimacy of which was widely disputed—Lukashenka won approval for a constitutional change that granted him near-absolute power and extended his five-year term. The parliamentary opposition sought to impeach Lukashenka and to eliminate the office of president, but their efforts were countered by Lukashenka's signing of the revised constitution, which closed parliament and created a new legislative body (from which the opposition was excluded) with greatly reduced powers.

Richard Antony French
      In contrast with much of central and eastern Europe at the time, Lukashenka set Belarus on a course of isolation from the West, maintaining the economics of market socialism. Support for the government's efforts to establish close ties with Russia was widespread but not without opposition. In 1997–99 Belarus entered a political union with Russia that was initially negotiated with Boris Yeltsin (Yeltsin, Boris) but recast by his successor, Vladimir Putin (Putin, Vladimir), who lessened the burden his country had initially agreed to bear in the partnership. Although disputes arose between the two countries over the union's impact on issues such as defense and natural resources, the goal of a common currency, first broached in the early 1990s, was within reach midway through the following decade. With Belarus firmly hitched to Russia's fortunes, its economy responded accordingly—for example, stumbling in 1998 as a result of Russia's financial collapse. Though Russia had long been Belarus's main trading partner, the volume of their trade expanded in the early 21st century as Belarus experienced modest industrial growth.

      Many international observers were critical of the Belarusian government and of the essentially authoritarian role Lukashenka adopted from 1996 to 1997. Relations with the European Union were particularly strained. Widely considered the most repressive regime in Europe, Belarus staged undemocratic elections, suppressed political opposition, and silenced the press. Leaders of the political opposition often agitated from exile, while antigovernment figures who arose within Belarus were occasionally beaten, jailed, or "disappeared." Moreover, quality-of-life indicators were on the wane at the turn of the 21st century, with nearly half of the country living in poverty.


Additional Reading
A brief survey of important geologic features is offered in R.G. Garetsky et al., Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic: A Guidebook, trans. from Russian (1984). Soviet-oriented presentations of many features of physical and human geography concentrating on the mid-20th century are found in these illustrated booklets, all translated from Russian: V.P. Borodina et al., Soviet Byelorussia (1972); Anatoly Stuk and Yuri Sapozhkov, Byelorussia (1982); V. Borushko, Byelorussia: People, Events, Facts (1983); Mikhail Shimansky, Byelorussia (1986); V. Gulevich and Yu. Gurtovenko, Byelorussia: Years of Achievement (1987); and V. Gulevich, Byelorussia: Questions and Answers (1988). Western publications about Belarus include Nicholas P. Vakar, Belorussia: The Making of a Nation (1956), which includes a survey of traditions and their origins; Ivan S. Lubachko, Belorussia Under Soviet Rule, 1917–1957 (1972), a history of the first half of the Soviet period; Vladimir Seduro, The Byelorussian Theater and Drama (1955), a historical study; and John Sallnow, “Belorussia: The Demographic Transition and the Settlement Network in the 1980s,” Soviet Geography, 28(1):25–33 (January 1987). For historical background of the later Soviet period, see Michael S. Pap (ed.), Russian Empire: Some Aspects of Tsarist and Soviet Colonial Practices (1985), especially the article by Vitaut Kipel, “Byelorussia Under Russian Occupation: Past, Present, Future,” pp. 55–78; appropriate chapters in George W. Simmonds (ed.), Nationalism in the USSR & Eastern Europe in the Era of Brezhnev & Kosygin (1977); John Sallnow, Reform in the Soviet Union: Glasnost and the Future (1989); Bohdan Nahaylo and Victor Swoboda, Soviet Disunion: A History of the Nationalities Problem in the USSR (1990); and Vitaut Kipel and Zora Kipel (eds.), Byelorussian Statehood: Reader and Bibliography (1988). The period of independence is examined in Jan Zaprudnik, Belarus: At a Crossroads in History (1993).Richard Antony French

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