Belarus, historically referred to as “White Russia” or “White Ruthenia,” is a landlocked country on the eastern part of Europe. It is bordered by Russia on the northeast, Lithuania and Latvia on the northwest, Poland on the west, and Ukraine on the south. Its capital, Minsk, is located along the Niamiha and Svislach rivers. Other major cities are Brest, Gomel (Homiel), Vitebsk (Vitsebsk), Mogilev (Mahilyow), and Grodno (Hrodna).
Belarus is relatively flat and composed mostly of marshy lands. In a 2005 estimate by the United Nations, 40% of Belarus’s land area is covered with forests, which is why agriculture and manufacturing are the country’s strongest economic sectors. The forests are also perfect for tourists who want to commune with nature.
Though the country is surrounded by land, it boasts several majestic rivers and 11,000 picturesque lakes. Three major rivers – the Neman, Dnieper and Pripyat rivers – interconnect and course through Belarus , with the Neman River flowing westward to the Baltic Sea, the Pripyat River to the east, and the Dnieper River southward to the Black Sea.
Near the end of 2011, the population of Belarus was estimated at 9.5 million. About 82.5% follow the Eastern Orthodox Church, 14% adhere to the Roman Catholic doctrine, and 2% are Protestant. Other religions include Autocephalous Orthodoxy, Judaism, Islam, and Hare Krishna. However, free practice of religion is restricted, with the Belarusian Orthodox Church (BOC) as the only officially acknowledged Orthodox denomination.
Belarus has two official languages – Belarusian and Russian. Just like in several other countries in Eastern Europe, not many people in Belarus speak English, so it’s wise to have a Belarusian or Russian dictionary with you at all times when you are visiting the country.
Before you travel to Belarus, be sure to pack clothes for a cool climate, because it can get quite cold. If you are bringing electronic gadgets, make sure they are compatible with type C, E, or F sockets and that they run on 220 to 240 volts. Otherwise, bring an adapter or a voltage regulator/converter.
To ensure your safety, please check travel advisories before heading out to this country.