1. KEY FACTS

Official Name The Republic of Belarus

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko (1994 - present )

Prime Minister of Belarus Mikhail Myasnikovich (2010)

Total land area of Belarus 207,600 km²

Population – 9.463,8 million (on 1 January 2013)

Life expectancy at birth – 72.2 years

Urban population – 76.3%

The capital: Minsk – 1.901,1 million inhabitants

Regional centres of Belarus (January 2013):

Brest  – 326,4 inhabitants

Vitebsk  – 369,4 inhabitants

Gomel  – 515 inhabitants

Grodno  – 352,5 inhabitants

Mogilev  – 366,8 inhabitants

Ethnicity :

Belarusian – 83.4%

Russian – 8.2%

Polish – 3.1%

Ukrainian – 1.7%

Jewish  – 0.13%

Others – 3.5 %(Source: 2009 census)

Official languages: Belarusian, Russian

National holiday Independence Day, 3 July

Currency of Belarus Belarusian rouble (Br)

 

2. GEOGRAPHICAL POSITION OF BELARUS

Belarus is situated in the centre of Europe and has international borders with five countries: Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia

Climate and weather in Belarus

Belarus has a moderate continental climate with cool humid winters and warm summers

Average temperatures vary across Belarus. In January average temperatures are from -4.5°C to -8°C. In July the average temperature is +17°C to +18.5°C.

When is the best time to travel?

Belarus rarely experiences the extremes of temperature and it is a nice place to visit the whole year around. The best time for the trip over here depends on your personal priorities. If you don’t mind cold weather or just want to experience famous Russian frosts and see snow, the right option will be winter months (December, January, February).

If you want to relish warmer days and sunny weather, you should choose the middle of the year (May, June, July).

 

3. RELIGION IN BELARUS

Orthodox is the principal religion of Belarus.

There are over 1000 Orthodox churches in Belarus and the increasing number of cloisters is being revived. Many famous monuments and architectural attractions of the country are inspired by the Orthodox tradition. 

Other religions

· Roman Catholics (almost 400 churches)

· Protestants (over 500 communities including Lutherans, Mormons, Baptists, Calvinists)

· Jews (more than 40 Hebrew communities)

· Muslims (27 communities and nine mosques)

There are up to 25 religious confessions in Belarus, the number of religious communities amounts to more than 3.3 thousand (1 January, 2012).

Religious freedom and tolerance

are  guaranteed by the Constitution of Belarus. The Government protects different Belarusian religious groups and churches and guards against the influence of religious sects.

 

4. EDUCATION IN BELARUS

Belarus has a well-regarded education system including pre-school education (not compulsory), school education (compulsory) and higher education (classical university, major university or academy, institute, higher college). Most courses run for 5 years and students can choose to study full time, at evening classes or by correspondence. Grants are available for full-time students and scholarships are awarded to very gifted students.

 

5. CULTURE OF BELARUS

Belarus enjoys a rich cultural and artistic heritage that dates back many centuries and includes significant schools of art and architecture which produced many unique musical and literary works.

All survived masterpieces are now officially protected by the state and showcased to all people so that they can enjoy these works in museums and libraries. Classic works of Belarusian music and drama are regularly staged in concert halls and theatres all around the country.

Modern-day art culture in Belarus is equally varied and dynamic. There are numerous art exhibitions, musicals, theatrical performances and cinema festivals – all of which are easily accessible not only to Belarusians but to visitors as well.

Museums

The largest collection of works of art are in the National Museum of Art, which actively promotes national art. Exhibitions of local artists are regularly held here. Other prominent museums across the country are the Vitebsk Art Museum, Mogilev regional Art Museum and the Polotsk art gallery.

Marc Chagall, one of the most famous Belarusians, was born in Vitebsk in 1887 and founded an art school in the city. The Chagall Art Center opened in 1997 in Vitebsk. Nowadays, the museum and a monument to him can be also found there.

Music in Belarus


Most people in Belarus can play at least one musical instrument and music in the country boasts a mixture of styles and influences today. Traditional and folk music still has a big following in Belarus.

Modern pop music is increasingly popular in Belarus. Belarus has been an enthusiastic participant of the Eurovision Song Contest since 2004

Music festivals are very popular in Belarus. The international arts festival Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk has become the symbol of the festival movements of Belarus. Popular performers from all over the world are taking part in the festival.

Theatres in Belarus

Belarus theatre evolved from folk rituals and travelling minstrels. Today the country boasts a diverse range of theatre and drama:

- puppet theatres can be found in most towns and are very popular with children and adults
- professional theatre companies are active across Belarus, many of them date back to the early 20th century
- ballet has been very popular in Belarus since the 18th century and most towns have their own ballet; the National Academic Bolshoi Theatre of Ballet of the Republic of Belarus has an excellent reputation.

Literature in Belarus

Books and literature have played an important role among the cultural arts of Belarus for centuries.

Famous writers and poets from Belarus are: Simeon Polotsky, Yanka Kupala, Yakub Kolas, Maxim Bogdanovich, Vasil Bykov.

The turbulent history of the country is reflected in the recurring themes of war, occupation and suffering in Belarusian literature throughout the ages.

The National Library in Minsk, opened in June 2006 in a new hi-tech building, is the copyright library for the Republic of Belarus. A real source of national pride, it houses the largest collection of Russian-language books outside of Russia.

 

6. BELARUSIAN OFFICIAL HOLIDAYS

 15 March - Constitution Day (It marks the day of 1994 when Belarus established its new Constitution).

2nd Sunday in May - Day of the National Emblem and Flag of Belarus (This holiday is dedicated to the main symbols of the country which embody the ideas of national unity and are the major attributes of sovereignty and independence in Belarus).

Other holidays

1 January: New Year

7 January: Orthodox Christmas

23 February: Fatherland Defenders and Armed Forces day of the Republic of Belarus – a day that pays tribute to servicemen past and present, and recognises all men too.

8 March: Women’s Day – This day was established following the revolution in 1917. In modern Belarus 8 March is a celebration of love and respect toward women.

1 May: Labour Day (Worker’s Day) - International Labour Day is one of the most popular holidays in Belarus. There are lots of concerts and public entertainment programs.

7 November: October Revolution Day

25 December: Catholic Christmas

National holidays when all offices are closed:

•1 January: New Year

•7 January: Orthodox Christmas

•8 March: Women’s Day

•9th day after Orthodox Easter: Radonitsa

•1 May: Labour Day

•9 May: Victory Day

•3 July: Independence Day

•7 November: October Revolution Day

•25 December: Catholic Christmas

 

7. BELARUSIAN CUISINE

Belarusian cuisine has evolved over many centuries. Nowadays cuisine is a mix of two key factors:

• the people’s relationship with the land and local produce

• influences from neighbouring countries and migrant settlers

For these reasons you’ll find out that food in Belarus is quite similar to the cuisines of Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Poland. The European community has also contributed much to modern-day food in Belarus.

Belarusian typical dishes are mainly made of vegetables and cereals, especially:

• potatoes

• beetroot

• mushrooms

• berries

• barley

Potatoes deserve a special mentioning as they have formed the basis of many national dishes for hundred years.

Popular Belarusian appetizers and starters:

Salads:

• cabbage salad

• beetroot salad

• tomatoes, cucumbers and garden radish salad

Soups:

- beetroot soup or red soup  (borshch)
- chicken bouillon
- cabbage soup (shchy)
- chilled soup (khaladnik)

Cold appetizer :

• meat rolls,

• balyk,

• ham,

• dipping sauces and etc.

Popular main courses in Belarus

Most of them are potato based and often stuffed or delivered with vegetables, mushrooms or meat.

- potato dumplings

- hashbrown pancakes or thick potato pancakes (draniki)

- baked grated potato pie (babka)

Other popular dishes in Belarus include:

pork stew (machanka)

stuffed chicken

chopped beef sausage (zrazy)

local ravioli (pelmeni)

meat or cabbage pasties (pirozhki)

Belarusian  desserts

Berries and dairy products form the basis of most desserts in Belarus.

• fruit (strawberries, bilberries, cranberries)

• ice-cream, whipped cream

• sweet cakes

Vodka in Belarus

Vodka (harelka) is the main strong drink consumed in Belarus. It is usually consumed on special occasions and holidays.

Other popular drinks in Belarus

Beer, red wine from various countries and champagne (a sparkling wine) are also popular in Belarus.

Kvas is a traditional drink in Belarus, made from fermenting bread baked with wheat, rye or barley.

Kompot is a popular homemade juice, usually made of red berries, stewed in sugar and a large quantity of water.  It is served cold.