The culture of Belarus is the product of a millennium of development under the impact of a number of diverse factors. These include the physical environment; the ethnographic background of Belarusians (the merger of Slavic newcomers with Baltic natives); the paganism of the early settlers and their hosts; Byzantine Christianity as a link to the Orthodox religion and its literary tradition; the country's lack of natural borders; the flow of rivers toward both the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea; and the variety of religions in the region (Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Judaism, and Islam).
The Republic of Belarus, located at the crossroad of trans–European transport and communication corridors “West–East” and “North–South”, has an exclusively rich natural, historical and cultural potential favourable for international tourism. Belarus is a country with an ancient and rich history and unique culture. It has a significant number of historical towns and cities — Novogrudok, the first capital of the Great Principality of Lithuania, Russia and Jemoit; Polotsk — the historical capital of the Principality of Polotsk with its valuable architectural monuments like the Sofia’s Cathedral and Saviour Transfiguration Church with unique frescoes of the 11th century; Turov and Grodno — centres of Slavic principalities of the 9th and 12th centuries; Mstislavl — the centre of large waywodeship of the 16th century. Many towns and cities have preserved ancient temples and cloisters, palaces and castles of magnates of Rzecz Pospolita and of the Russian Empire, as well as valuable architectural, historical and cultural monuments.
In spite of the fact that Christianity has existed in Belarus for more than ten centures, ancient rituals and traditions connected with pagan times continue to live within the people. Even now huge boulders with strange pictures are found ir remote corners and forest thickets of the country. They were worshiped by belarusian pagans. Yet the most surprising thing is that some of the traces of sacrifices at those places are related to… the present days! Paganism is still present in popular festivals. The most colourful of them are Kolyady and Kupalie.
As for soups we recommend you “kholodnik” (especially in summer) and nutritious “zatirka”, but the king of the local cuisine is certainly potatoes. Belarusians are able to prepare most unthinkable dishes out of it! First of all, of course, it is “draniki” — rather peculiar pancakes made of grated potatoes, that can also have stuffing: mushrooms, meat, berries. The one, who hasn’t tasted “draniki”, can not say he/she has visited Belarus. Potatoes may also be stuffed, stewed in a pot, baked in an oven, with mushrooms, vegetables and bacon — no need to continue, because in Belarus there exist even potatoe jams! We hope you understand now, why neighbouring nations sometimes call Belarusians “bulbashi” (from the Belarusian word for potatoes — “bulba”). But don’t think that the local menu is limited only with this vegetable – restaurants and cafes offer dishes to any taste. Belarusians are also curious about exotic cuisines, therefore Chinese, Mexican, Caucasian and other restaurants are quite frequent in Minsk.
First of all you should understand a concept of a "market" or "bazaar", which is a very popular place to buy everything from food to home appliances. I cannot tell you where it came from, probably it is a local tradition, or an outcome of some economic peculiarities, but most shopping in this country is made in the markets. So it was until this year (2005) when the capital city of Minsk saw launching of first hypermarkets and discounters.
Belarus is one of the cheapest options for travelling in the world. Its price level is most similar to the one in Tajikistan and Iran and close to the one in The Philippines. This can be party explained by its location in Eastern Europe, which is, generally, not an expensive part of the world for travellers. When compared to the other European countries, Belarus is the cheapest option for tourists. Close to this price level in the region are Ukraine and Moldova, while neighbor Russia and Poland will require more serious travel budgets.
Belarus ( ; Беларусь, bʲɛlaˈrusʲ Беларусь, Белоруссия, [Belarus', Belorussiya]), officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno (Hrodna), Gomel (Homiel), Mogilev (Mahilyow) and Vitebsk (Vitsebsk). Over forty percent of its is forested,
and its strongest economic sectors are agriculture and manufacturing.
Until the 20th century, the lands of modern day Belarus belonged to several countries, including the Principality of Polotsk, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Russian Empire. As a result of the Russian Revolution, Belarus became a founding constituent republic of the Soviet Union and was renamed as the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. The borders of Belarus took their modern shape in 1939 when lands that were part of the Second Polish Republic were incorporated into after the Soviet invasion of Poland. Клоков В. Я. Великий освободительный поход Красной Армии. (Освобождение Западной Украины и Западной Белоруссии). -Воронеж, 1940. Минаев В. Западная Белоруссия и Западная Украина под гнетом панской Польши. —М., 1939. Трайнин И. Национальное и социальное освобождение Западной Украины и Западной Белоруссии. —М., 1939. —80 с. Гiсторыя Беларусi. Том пяты. —Мiнск, 2006. —с. 449–474 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 UN, along with the Soviet Union and the Ukrainian SSR.
The parliament of the republic declared the sovereignty of Belarus on 1990, and during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Belarus declared independence on 1991. Alexander Lukashenko has been the country's president since 1994. Under his lead and despite objections from Western governments, Soviet-era policies, such as state ownership of the economy have been continued. 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.
Most of Belarus's population of 9. 49 million reside in the urban areas surrounding Minsk and other oblast (regional) capitals. More than 80% of the population are native Belarusians, 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 Belarus does not declare an official religion, although the primary religion in the country is Russian Orthodox Christianity. The second most popular, Roman Catholicism, has a much smaller following by comparison, but both Orthodox and Catholic Christmas and Easter are officially celebrated as national holidays. Belarus also has the highest Human Development Index among members of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
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