Belarus

Date:  2015-07-11  Author: admin    Source:Wikipedia

Republic of Belarus
 
Belarus, officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe[5] bordered by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuaniaand Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include BrestHrodna (Grodno),Homiel (Gomel)Mahilyow (Mogilev) and Vitsebsk (Vitebsk). Over forty percent of its 207,600 square kilometres (80,200 sq mi) is forested, and its strongest economic sectors are service industries and manufacturing.
Until the 20th century, the lands of modern-day Belarus belonged to several countries, including thePrincipality of Polotsk, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and theRussian Empire. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, Belarus became a founding constituent republic of the Soviet Union and was renamed as the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR). Much of the borders of Belarus took their modern shape in 1939 when some lands of the Second Polish Republicwere incorporated into it after the Soviet invasion of Poland and were finalized after World War II.The nation and its territory were devastated in World War II, during which Belarus lost about a third of its population and more than half of its economic resources. The republic was redeveloped in the post-war years. In 1945, the Belorussian SSR became a founding member of the United Nations, along with the Soviet Union and the Ukrainian SSR.
The parliament of the republic declared the sovereignty of Belarus on 27 July 1990, and during thedissolution of the Soviet Union, Belarus declared independence on 25 August 1991. Alexander Lukashenko has been the country's president since 1994. Despite objections from Western governments, Lukashenko has continued Soviet-era policies, such as state ownership of the economy. According to some organizations and countries, elections have been unfair, and political opponents have been violently suppressed. In 2000, Belarus and Russia signed a treaty for greater cooperation, with some hints of forming a Union State. Despite its proximity to the rest of Europe and the West, Belarus'Democracy Index rating continuously ranks the lowest in Europe, and the country is labeled as "Not Free" by Freedom House and "Repressed" in the Index of Economic Freedom. For this reason, the country is often referred to as the 'Last Dictatorship in Europe'.
Over 70% of Belarus's population of 9.49 million resides in urban areas. More than 80% of the population is ethnic Belarusian, with sizable minorities of Russians, Poles and Ukrainians. Since a referendum in 1995, the country has had two official languages: Belarusian and Russian. The Constitution of Belarusdoes not declare an official religion, although the primary religion in the country is Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The second most popular, Roman Catholicism, has a much smaller following, although both Orthodox and Catholic versions of Christmas and Easter are celebrated as national holidays.
Belarus lies between latitudes 51° and 57° N, and longitudes 23° and 33° E. It is landlocked, relatively flat, and contains large tracts of marshy land. According to a 2005 estimate by the United Nations, 40% of Belarus is covered by forests. Many streams and 11,000 lakes are found in Belarus. Three major rivers run through the country: the Neman, the Pripyat, and the Dnieper. The Neman flows westward towards the Baltic sea and the Pripyat flows eastward to the Dnieper; the Dnieper flows southward towards the Black Sea.
The highest point is Dzyarzhynskaya Hara (Dzyarzhynsk Hill) at 345 metres (1,132 ft), and the lowest point is on the Neman River at 90 metres (295 ft).[60] The average elevation of Belarus is 525 feet (160 m) above sea level. The climate features mild to cold winters, with average January temperatures ranges from −4 °C (24.8 °F) in southwest (Brest) to −8 °C (17.6 °F) in northeast (Vitebsk), and cool and moist summers with an average temperature of 18 °C (64.4 °F). Belarus has an average annual rainfall of 550 to 700 mm (21.7 to 27.6 in). The country is in the transitional zone between continental climates and maritime climates.
Natural resources include peat deposits, small quantities of oil and natural gas, granite, dolomite (limestone),marl, chalk, sand, gravel, and clay. About 70% of the radiation from neighboring Ukraine's 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster entered Belarusian territory, and as of 2005 about a fifth of Belarusian land (principally farmland and forests in the southeastern provinces) continues to be affected by radiation fallout. The United Nations and other agencies have aimed to reduce the level of radiation in affected areas, especially through the use of caesium binders and rapeseed cultivation, which are meant to decrease soil levels of caesium-137.
Belarus borders five countries: Latvia to the north, Lithuania to the northwest, Poland to the west, Russia to the north and the east, and Ukraine to the south. Treaties in 1995 and 1996 demarcated Belarus's borders with Latvia and Lithuania, but Belarus failed to ratify a 1997 treaty establishing the Belarus-Ukraine border. Belarus and Lithuania ratified final border demarcation documents in February 2007.
From 5,000 to 2,000 BCE, Bandkeramik cultures predominated. In addition, remains from the Dnieper-Donets culture were found in Belarus and parts ofUkraineCimmerians and other pastoralists roamed through the area by 1,000 BCE, and by 500 BCE, Slavs had taken up residence, which was circumscribed by the Scythians who roamed its outskirts. Asiatic barbarians, among whom were the Huns and Avars, swept through c. 400–600 CE, but were unable to dislodge the Slavic presence. The region that is now Belarus was first settled by Baltic tribes in the 3rd century. Around the 5th century, the area was taken over by Slavic tribes. The takeover was partially due to the lack of military coordination of the Balts but the gradual assimilation of the Balts into Slavic culture was peaceful in nature.
Upon the death of Kievan Rus' ruler Yaroslav I the Wise, the state split into independent principalities. These Ruthenian principalities were badly affected by a Mongol invasion in the 13th century, and many were later incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Of the principalities held by the Duchy, nine were settled by ancestors of the Belarusian people. During this time, the Duchy was involved in several military campaigns, including fighting on the side of Poland against the Teutonic Knights at the Battle of Grunwald in 1410; the joint victory allowed the Duchy to control the northwestern borderlands of Eastern Europe.
On 2 February 1386, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland were joined in a personal union through a marriage of their rulers. This union set in motion the developments that eventually resulted in the formation of thePolish–Lithuanian Commonwealthcreated in 1569. The Russians, led by Ivan III of Moscow, began military conquests in 1486 in an attempt to reunite the lands of Kievan Rus', specifically the territories of Belarus and Ukraine.
The union between Poland and Lithuania ended in 1795 with the partitioning of Poland by Imperial Russia, Prussia, and Austria. During this time, the territories of Belarus were acquired by the Russian Empire under the reign of Catherine II and held until their occupation by German Empire during World War I.
During the negotiations of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Belarus first declared independence under German occupation on 25 March 1918, forming the Belarusian People's Republic. Immediately afterwards, the Polish–Soviet Warignited, and Belarus found itself torn between resurgent Poland and Soviet Russia. A part of Belarus under Russian rule emerged as the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1919. Soon thereafter it merged to form theLithuanian–Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. The contested lands were divided between Poland and the Soviet Union after the war ended in 1921, and the Belorussian SSR became a founding member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1922. The western part of modern Belarus remained part of Poland.
In the 1920s, agricultural reforms that culminated in the Belarusian phase of Soviet collectivization were set in motion. In the 1930s, the implementation of the Soviet five-year plans for the national economy led to rapid industrialization.
In 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Poland, marking the beginning of World War II. Much of northeastern Poland, which had been part of the country since the Peace of Riga two decades earlier, was annexed to the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, and now constitutes West Belarus. The Soviet-controlled Belarusian People Council officially took control of the territories, whose populations consisted of a mixture of Poles, Ukrainians, Belarusians and Jews, on 28 October 1939 in Białystok. Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. The Brest Fortress, which had been annexed in 1939, at this time was subjected to one of the most destructive onslaughts that happened during the war. Statistically, BSSR was the hardest-hit Soviet republic in World War II and remained in Nazi hands until 1944. During that time, Germany destroyed 209 out of 290 cities in the republic, 85% of the republic's industry, and more than one million buildings. Casualties were estimated to be between two and three million (about a quarter to one-third of the total population), while the Jewish population of Belarus was devastated during the Holocaust and never recovered. The population of Belarus did not regain its pre-war level until 1971. It was also after this conflict that the final borders of Belarus were set by Stalin when parts of Belarusian territory were given to recently-annexed Lithuania.
After the war, Belarus was among the 51 founding countries of the United Nations Charter and as such it was allowed an additional vote at the UN, on top of the Soviet Union's vote. Vigorous postwar reconstruction promptly followed the end of the war and Belorussian SSR became a major center of manufacturing in western USSR, creating jobs and attracting ethnic Russians. The borders of Belorussian SSR and Poland were redrawn and became known as theCurzon Line.
Joseph Stalin implemented a policy of Sovietization to isolate the Belorussian SSR from Western influences.[53] This policy involved sending Russians from various parts of the Soviet Union and placing them in key positions in the Belorussian SSR government. The official use of the Belarusian language and other cultural aspects were limited by Moscow. After Stalin's death in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev continued his predecessor's cultural hegemony program, stating, "The sooner we all start speaking Russian, the faster we shall build communism."
In 1986, the Belorussian SSR was significantly exposed to nuclear fallout from the explosion at the Chernobylpower plant in neighboring Ukrainian SSR.
In June 1988, archaeologist and leader of the Christian Conservative Party of the BPF Zyanon Paznyak discoveredmass graves of victims executed in 1937–41 at Kurapaty, near Minsk. Some nationalists contend that this discovery is proof that the Soviet government was trying to erase the Belarusian people, causing Belarusian nationalists to seek independence.
In March 1990, elections for seats in the Supreme Soviet of the Belorussian SSR took place. Though the pro-independence Belarusian Popular Fronttook only 10% of the seats, the populace was content with the selection of the delegates. Belarus declared itself sovereign on 27 July 1990 by issuing the Declaration of State Sovereignty of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic. With the support of the Communist Party, the country's name was changed to the Republic of Belarus on 25 August 1991. Stanislav Shushkevich, the chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Belarus, met withBoris Yeltsin of Russia and Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine on 8 December 1991 in Belavezhskaya Pushcha to formally declare the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
national constitution was adopted in March 1994 in which the functions of prime minister were given to the president of Belarus. Two-round elections for the presidency on (24 June 1994 and 10 July 1994) catapulted the formerly unknown Alexander Lukashenko into national prominence. He garnered 45% of the vote in the first round and 80% in the second, defeating Vyacheslav Kebich who received 14% of the vote. Lukashenko was re-elected in 2001in 2006 and again in 2010.
 
 
Belarus is a presidential republic, governed by a president and the National Assembly. The term for each presidency is five years. Under the 1994 constitution, the president could serve for only two terms as president, but a change in the constitution in 2004 eliminated term limits. Alexander Lukashenko has been the president of Belarus since 1994. In 1996, Lukashenko called for a controversial vote to extend the presidential term from five to seven years, and as a result the election that was supposed to occur in 1999 was pushed back to 2001. The referendum on the extension was denounced as a "fantastic" fake by the chief electoral officer,Viktar Hanchar, who was removed from office during the campaign. The National Assembly is a bicameral parliament comprising the 110-member House of Representatives (the lower house) and the 64-member Council of the Republic (the upper house).
The House of Representatives has the power to appoint the prime minister, make constitutional amendments, call for a vote of confidence on the prime minister, and make suggestions on foreign and domestic policy. The Council of the Republic has the power to select various government officials, conduct an impeachment trial of the president, and accept or reject the bills passed by the House of Representatives. Each chamber has the ability to veto any law passed by local officials if it is contrary to the constitution.
The government includes a Council of Ministers, headed by the prime minister and five deputy prime ministers. The members of this council need not be members of the legislature and are appointed by the president. The judiciary comprises the Supreme Court and specialized courts such as theConstitutional Court, which deals with specific issues related to constitutional and business law. The judges of national courts are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Council of the Republic. For criminal cases, the highest court of appeal is the Supreme Court. The Belarusian Constitution forbids the use of special extrajudicial courts.
As of 2007, 98 of the 110 members of the House of Representatives are not affiliated with any political party, and of the remaining 12 members, 8 belong to the Communist Party of Belarus, 3 to the Agrarian Party of Belarus, and 1 to the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus. Most non-partisans represent a wide scope of social organizations such as workers' collectives, public associations, and civil society organizations, similar to the composition of the Soviet legislature.
Neither the pro-Lukashenko parties, such as the Belarusian Socialist Sporting Party and the Republican Party of Labour and Justice, nor the People's Coalition 5 Plus opposition parties, such as the Belarusian People's Frontand the United Civil Party of Belarus, won any seats in the 2004 elections. Groups such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) declared the election "un-free" because of the opposition parties' poor results and media bias in favor of the government.
In the 2006 presidential election, Lukashenko was opposed by Alaksandar Milinkievič, who represented a coalition of opposition parties, and by Alaksandar Kazulin of the Social Democrats. Kazulin was detained and beaten by police during protests surrounding the All Belarusian People's Assembly. Lukashenko won the election with 80% of the vote; the Russian Federation and the CIS deemed the vote open and fair while the OSCE and other organizations called the election unfair.
After the December completion of the 2010 presidential election, Lukashenko was elected to a fourth straight term with nearly 80% of the vote in elections. The runner-up opposition leader Andrei Sannikov received less than 3% of the vote; independent observers criticized the election as fraudulent. When opposition protesters took to the streets in Minsk, many people, including most rival presidential candidates, were beaten and arrested by the state militia. Many of the candidates, including Sannikov, were sentenced to prison or house arrest for terms typically over four years. Six months later amidst an unprecedented economic crisis, activists utilized social networking to initiate a fresh round of protests characterized by wordless hand-clapping.
Belarus and Russia have been close trading partners and diplomatic allies since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Belarus is dependent on Russia for imports of raw materials and for its export market. The union of Russia and Belarus, a supranational confederation, was established in a 1996–99 series of treaties that called for monetary union, equal rights, single citizenship, and a common foreign and defense policy. However, the future of the union has been placed in doubt because of Belarus's repeated delays of monetary union, the lack of a referendum date for the draft constitution, and a dispute over the petroleum trade.
On 11 December 2007, reports emerged that a framework for the new state was discussed between both countries. On 27 May 2008, Belarusian President Lukashenko said that he had named Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin the "prime minister" of the Russia-Belarus alliance. The significance of this act was not immediately clear; some incorrectly speculated that Putin would become president of a unified state of Russia and Belarus after stepping down as Russian president in May 2008.
Belarus was a founding member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS); however, recently other CIS members have questioned the effectiveness of the organization. Belarus has trade agreements with several European Union member states (despite other member states' travel ban on Lukashenko and top officials), including neighboring Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. Incidentally, the travel bans imposed by the European Union have been lifted in the past in order to allow Lukashenko to attend diplomatic meetings and also to engage his government and opposition groups in dialogue.
Bilateral relations with the United States are strained because the U.S. Department of State supports various anti-Lukashenko non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and also because the Belarusian government has made it increasingly difficult for U.S.-based organizations to operate within the country. Diplomatic tension remained tense, and in 2004, the United States passed the Belarus Democracy Act, which authorized funding for pro-democracy Belarusian NGOs, and proscribed loans to the Belarusian government, except for humanitarian purposes. Despite this political friction, the two countries do cooperate on intellectual property protection, prevention of human trafficking, technology crime, and disaster relief.
Sino-Belarusian relations have improved, strengthened by the visit of President Lukashenko to China in October 2005. Belarus also has strong ties with Syria, considered a key partner in the Middle East. In addition to the CIS, Belarus is a member of the Eurasian Economic Community, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, the international Non-Aligned Movement since 1998, the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the UN since its founding in 1945. As an OSCE member state, Belarus's international commitments are subject to monitoring under the mandate of the U.S. Helsinki Commission.
 

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