Description of Belarus
Belarus White Rus is a landlocked, sovereign
country in Eastern Europe that was part of the Union of Soviet
Socialist Republics (USSR) until 1991. It borders Lithuania and
Latvia to the north, with the Russian Federation, to the south with
Ukraine and to the west with Poland. The capital is Minsk. Until the
twentieth century, Belarusians lacked the opportunity to create a
distinctive national identity because for centuries the lands of
present-day Belarus belonged to several ethnically different
countries, including the Principality of Pólatsk, the Grand Duchy of
Lithuania and the Republic of the Two Nations After the brief
existence of the Belarusian National Republic (1918-1919), Belarus
became a constituent republic of the USSR, the Byelorussian Soviet
The definitive unification of Belarus,
within its modern frontiers, took place in 1939, when
Russian-Belarusian lands held by the Second Polish Republic
(1918-1939) were annexed to the Soviet Union under the terms of the
Ribbentrop Pact. Molotov: The territory of this country was
devastated in the Second World War, during which Belarus lost about
a third of its population and more than half of its economic
resources.The Republic was rehabilitated in the years after the war
The Parliament of the Republic declared the sovereignty of
Belarus on July 27, 1990, and after the collapse of the Soviet
Union, Belarus declared independence on August 25, 1991. Aleksandr
Lukashenko has been president of the country since 1994. During his
presidency Lukashenko has implemented policies similar to those of
the Soviet era, such as state ownership of the economy, despite the
objections of Western governments. Since 2000, Belarus and Russia
signed a treaty for greater cooperation with some touches of the
formation of a State of the Union.
The majority of the
population of Belarus (almost 10 million) live in urban areas around
Minsk or in the capitals of the other provinces, more than 80% of
the population are Belarusian natives, the rest are made up of
minorities of Russians, Polish and Ukrainian. 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 main religion in the country is Christianity,
mainly Russian Orthodox (the second most popular Christian branch,
Catholicism, has a much smaller follow-up in comparison). Belarus is
a completely flat country (it does not exceed 300 meters above sea
level), divided into three distinct geographical zones: the northern
one, populated by lakes; the central wooded plateau and the southern
part, very swampy and uninhabited, called Swamps of Prípiat.
Travel Destinations in Belarus
Babruysk Fortress is a historic citadel situated
in a Belarus city of Babruysk. It was constructed between 1810 and
Berestye is an abandoned medieval Slavic settlement that
gave rise to a city of modern day Brest, Belarus. It is one of
the best preserved archeological sites in the country.
Old Brest Fortress became a symbol of heroic resistance of
Soviet soldiers against Nazi German army.
Halshany Castle is yet another residence
constructed by the rich family of Sapieha in the 17th century.
Hajciunishki Manor is a historic private residence
situated in a mouth of the river Voishelk in a village of Hajciunishki
Kreva Castle is a medieval citadel situated in the
Kreva village in Belarus. It was constructed in the 14th century by
the orders of Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas.
Kosava is a historic Belarussian town in the
Ivatsevichy Raion, Brest Province of Belarus. It is famous
birthplace of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, Polish resistance fighter.
Lida Castle was constructed in the
14th century by Grand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania after several
successful military campaigns.
Minsk is the largest city in Belarus and also
serves as the capital of the country.
Narachanski National Park
Narachanski National Park is a nature preserve around
lake Narach. It was established on July 28 1999 to protect a
biosphere around the lake and its wetlands.
Mir or Mirsky Castle Complex is a medieval castle located
in a Hrodna voblast of Belarus. It is one of
the largest and best preserved citadels in the country.
Navahrudak Castle was constructed by Grand Duchy of Lithuania as
a defense of the Eastern borders from Russian duchies.
Nesvizh Castle is an UNESCO World Heritage Site situated near a
town of Nesvizh in the Minsk Oblast of Belarus.
The residence was constructed in 1770s
by the orders of Aleksander Michał Sapieha. Today it is abandoned
and left in ruins.
Geography of Belarus
The Republic of Belarus is a country in Eastern Europe. It
shares a border with Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and
Poland. It is a former Soviet Republic that gained its
independence in 1991 upon dissolution of USSR. The country is
largely a flat country. The highest point is located in the
Belarusian Ridge at the height of 345 meters above sea level.
The country has not access to the sea.
Political system in Belarus
Belarus is a republic. The head of the state is the president.
In case of Belarus president Lukashenka has a wide amount of
powers. The legislative body of the country is the National
Weather in Belarus
The climate in Belarus is moderately continental. It get about
550- 700 mm of precipitation each year. Snow reaches a depth of
1- 1.2 meters.
Language of Belarus
The official languages in Belarus is Belarusian and Russian.
Russia is more widely spoken in all large areas. English is
fairly common in tourist areas.
Religion of Belarus
Most of Belarusians belong to Eastern Orthodox at 70%. Another
20% belong to Roman Catholic Church.
Banks are usually open from Monday to Friday from 9-9:30am to 5-
5:30pm. Most stores in the country work from 9am to 8- 9pm with
a lunch hour during the day. Larger supermarkets usually close
at 10- 11pm.
One emergency service
Citizens of the
following countries/territories do not need a visa: Argentina (90
days) Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brazil (90 days) Cuba (30 days), Ecuador
(30 days), Georgia, Israel (90 days per 180 days), Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, Macao (30 days), Macedonia (with a private invitation or
tourist voucher), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro (30 days with a
private invitation or tourist voucher), Qatar (30 days), Russia,
Serbia (30 days), Tajikistan, Turkey (30 days), United Arab Emirates
(30 days), Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela (90 days).
up-to-date list of visa-exempt countries and territories can be
found on the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Citizens of 74 countries, including Australia, Canada, Ireland,
New Zealand, the UK, and the US (see list), do not need a visa for
stays in Belarus of up to 30 days, subject to a limit of 90 days per
calendar year, provided they meet the following requirements:
they enter and they leave the country via flights to and from
Minsk National Airport
they have medical insurance valid in
Belarus preferably purchased from a kiosk next to passport control
at the airport for €1/day (bring euros or dollars with you to
they are not flying directly from or to a city in
they have cash or proof of funds of at least 25€ per day
of stay (not enforced for travelers from developed countries)
Visa-free entry only applies to visitors entering and leaving
through the border checkpoint at Minsk National Airport, and, unless
noted elsewhere, visa-free entry does not apply to travelers
entering or exiting by train, bus, or car, or entering by plane at a
different airport than Minsk. The cheapest flights to/from Minsk
National Airport are usually to/from Vilnius.
is not granted to holders of diplomatic, service or special
passports and to travelers flying to Minsk from Russia or flying
from Minsk to Russia. These flights are considered domestic because
of the absence of border control between Belarus and Russia.
Citizens of Vietnam, Haiti, Gambia, Honduras, India, China, Lebanon,
Namibia, Samoa must also have a valid multi-entry visa to one of the
EU countries or to the Schengen Area. They also have to produce a
stamp that they used this visa to enter the EU as well as return
flight tickets from Minsk before the visa-free period expires.
Arrival and departure days are each considered as full days.
Foreigners can also travel visa-free for 10 days to a visa-free
zone that includes Brest and Grodno, provided they obtain permission
from a travel agency. See this page for details.
can also travel visa-free for 3 days to Belovezhskaya Pushcha
National Park in western Belarus. To do this, you should "book
tourism services" in advance and fill in a online form, after which
a simplified visa will be sent to you by e-mail. Bring a printout of
the visa and a passport and enter the park from Poland through the
Pererov-Belovezha border checkpoint.
Whether or not they need a visa, foreigners visiting Belarus must
register with the local Migration and Citizenship Department within
a period of 5 business days and get a registration card that is held
until you leave the country. If you are staying in a hotel, this
will be arranged by the hotel and the hotel will provide the
registration card at check-in. Do not lose these papers.
Getting a visa if you need one
Visa on arrival
at Minsk National Airport
Belarusian visas can be obtained at
Minsk National Airport (IATA: MSQ) by nationals of countries with no
consular offices of the Republic of Belarus for €90 or for €180 for
citizens of countries with a Belarusian consulate. Standard
documents including a letter of invitation have to be provided in
advance. See Particulars of issuance of entry visas at the «National
Visa from a Belarusian Embassy
apply for a visa at a Belarusian Consulate or Embassy. The list can
be found on the Foreign Affairs Ministry website.
be valid for one, two, three, or unlimited entries. They are to be
used within the period indicated therein. A visa will take a full
page of your passport so make sure you have at least one page free.
Visa fees and processing times
Tourist visa fees are
approximately €60 for all categories of visa, for processing in 5
business days, or double the price for a 2 business day turnaround.
Fees change so check with your local embassy for the current costs.
Japanese and Serbian passport holders are exempted from visa
Difficulties when applying for a visa by mail
Applying for a Visa for Belarus can be a very customer unfriendly
experience. If you cannot apply for a visa in person, you SHOULD use
the help of a Visa Processing Agency even though it will involve
It is common that someone follows all
application protocols for getting a visa but still gets denied due
to a small technical error, such as a problem with the form of money
order or a slight error in a filling out a form.
Communication with the embassies/consulates in Kensington (London,
England), Vilnius (Lithuania), Moscow (Russia) can be poor
especially by e-mail, post and via telephone. In addition, there
have been reports of e-mail queries going unanswered and express
Visa applications not being processed in the 48 hour period. They
may call you with an update on an application but the communication
can be poor or unclear with the caller not identifying themselves.
In order to get a visa you will also need
a passport and an invitation, other papers depending on the type of
visa you apply for. There is a compulsory state medical insurance
for visitors to Belarus if you do have a policy valid in Belarus.
Insurance costs 1€ a day. Even if you have valid insurance, if your
document does not EXPLICITLY say it works in Belarus, officials in
the airport will ask you to pay.
To get a Belarusian business
visa a foreigner has to present an invitation of any Belarusian
legal entity officially registered in the Republic of Belarus. The
invitation is to be written on letterhead paper and should contain
name, personal and passport details as well as purpose and duration
of visit. The invitation is to be signed and bear official seal of
the inviting organization. Embassies or consulates (with the
exception of Consular office at the National airport) can often
except invitations received by fax. Multiple business visa is
obtainable against payment of USD300 from Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, Consular department upon presentation of all required
documents (contact phone + 375 17 222 26 61).
To get a
short-term visa for private purposes (visiting Belarusian relatives,
friends, other private matters) with a validity of 30 days, maximum
for 1-, 2- or multiple entries for citizens of the EU as well as
nationals of several other countries, such as Australia, Andorra,
Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, Croatia, Chile, Iceland, Israel, Norway,
Swiss Confederation, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Uruguay,
Republic of South Africa and Japan, no visa support documents shall
be required (letter of invitation etc. documents). However, the
consulate may decide you do need a letter of invitation anyway. So
don't be too confident that you can get a Visa without documents.
For example, Canadian citizens are not guaranteed to get a short
term visa for private purposes without a letter of invitation. Short
term visas are available from Minsk airport, consulates and
To get a visa for private purposes a foreigner who
is planning to stay in the country for more than 30 days has to
present the invitation issued for a Belarusian resident by his
citizenship and migration office. The original invitation should be
handed over to the embassy/consulate or Consular office at the
National airport in this case, any fax or photocopy is excluded.
Multiple private visa is issued upon presentation of the original
invitation to foreigners, visiting their close relatives. Very often
Belarusian consulates grant private visas to the nationals of
migration secure countries without any invitation papers.
Visas can be valid for one, two, three or multiple entries. They are
to be used within the period indicated therein.
provide letters of invitation, apartments, airport transfers etc.
Any good search engine should provide links. Avoid belarusrent.com,
however. Reports have been received of them taking money through
paypal, though not delivering on services and refusing refunds.
Extensions of visas and visa-free stays
In case of emergency
such as hospitalization, it is possible to extend a visa or the
visa-free stay upon the request to a local Migration office. An exit
visa should be issued and a traveler will be allowed to leave the
country through any border checkpoint by road, railway, or air.
If needed, private or business visas can be extended up to 90
days by the Minsk city citizenship and migration office (contact
phone + 375 17 231-3809) or Regional citizenship and migration
office in Hrodna, Brest, Minsk, Mahilyou, Homel upon presentation of
all the required documents.
Expired visas and required exit
If you have an expired visa, an exit permit will be
required to leave the country. They are issued by Minsk city
passport and visa office or Regional passport and visa offices in
Hrodna, Brest, Minsk, Mogilev, Homel.
European airlines have flights to Minsk National Airport,
approximately 40 km from Minsk, including Belavia, Lufthansa,
Austrian Airlines, Lot Polish Airlines, Air Baltic, and Czech
The only national airline, Belavia offers
competitively-priced direct flights. Flights to/from Vilnius costs
as low as €40 and little advance purchase is required.
The Upper Paleolithic in Belarus includes the
sites of Yurovichi and Berdyzh.
The formation of the first
political associations on the Belarusian lands dates back to the VI
– IX centuries. This process is closely related to the settlement of
the Slavs. As a result of the merger of the cultures of the newly
arrived Slavs and local Balts, alliances of tribes arose, among them
the Krivichi, Dregovichi, Radimichi, Yatvyag, Lithuania and some
others, which became the forerunners of the first state formations.
Old Russian state
By the end of the 9th century, the
appearance of the Rurikovich state, known as the Old Russian State
or Kievan Rus, was attributed. An important role in the formation of
the state belongs to the trade route "from the Varangians to the
Greeks", part of which passed through the territory of modern
Belarus. The rulers of Russia waged a fierce struggle with the local
tribal princely dynasties, and repeated military campaigns were
undertaken that strengthened the international position of the Old
Russian state. Around 988, the Grand Duke Vladimir was baptized in
Russia, already in 992 the diocese was founded in Polotsk, and in
1005 - in Turov,
In the XI century, the Principality of
Polotsk emerged from dependence on Kiev, the most famous ruler of
which was Vseslav. By the middle of the XII century, Kievan Rus
entered into a state of fragmentation and actually broke up into one
and a half dozen individual Russian principalities. As a result of
the Mongol invasion of 1237-1240, many Russian lands were completely
devastated. It is assumed [by whom?] That the invasion slightly
affected modern Belarusian lands.
In the Grand Duchy of
In the 1240s, as a result of the subordination of a
number of Lithuanian and Russian lands by Prince Mindovg, the Grand
Duchy of Lithuania arose. His education took place in difficult
military and political conditions: from the east and south there was
a threat from the Mongols, from the west - the crusaders. In 1251,
Mindovg was baptized, and two years later the royal crown. After the
crusaders were defeated at the Battle of Durba in 1260, Mindovg
broke with the Christian faith, returning to paganism, and resumed
the struggle with the Teutonic and Livonian orders.
beginning of the XIV century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a
multi-ethnic multi-confessional state with its capital in Vilnius
(now Vilnius), including Lithuania, part of Russia and Zemaitija.
The Grand Dukes of Lithuania waged frequent wars with the Crusaders
and Tatars. The most successful of the princes were Gediminus,
Olgerd and Vitovt, significantly expanding the territory of the
state due to conquests and diplomacy. The domestic policy of the
Grand Dukes of Lithuania was based on the principles of "the right
In 1385, the Union of Krev was concluded,
according to which the Grand Duke of Lithuania Jagiello also became
the king of Poland, pledging to baptize the remaining pagan
Lithuanian lands. Unable to maintain power in Lithuania, Jagiello
ceded it to his cousin Vitovt, during whose almost forty-year rule
the Grand Duchy of Lithuania reached its highest power.
1529, the Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was published - a
set of laws containing the legal basis of the state. In 1566 and
1588, the Statute was revised.
In the Commonwealth
1569, during the Livonian War, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was
forced to conclude the Union of Lublin with the Polish Kingdom. As a
result of the union, a federal state, known as the Commonwealth, was
created. At the same time, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was not
liquidated and retained a certain independence. The processes of
polonization of the local elite intensified, gradually adopting the
Polish language and culture. In 1697, the language of office work
finally became Polish, which replaced the officially used West
Russian language, referred to in Belarusian historiography as Old
Catholicism was the state religion of the
Commonwealth, while the majority of the population of modern
Belarusian territories remained Orthodox. In 1596 the Union of Brest
was concluded, as a result of which the majority of Orthodox
hierarchs of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania recognized the authority
of the pope and Catholic dogmas with the condition that the Orthodox
ritual was preserved. Although the union provoked active resistance
of many Orthodox, by the end of the 18th century the majority of the
inhabitants of the modern territory of Belarus were Uniates, while
the representatives of the upper class were mostly Catholics.
In the second half of the XVII-XVIII centuries, the Commonwealth
gradually weakened and became politically dependent on the Russian
Empire, which ultimately led to the division of the state between
Russia, Prussia and Austria. The territory of the Grand Duchy of
Lithuania became part of the Russian Empire.
In the Russian
The lands of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania entered
the Russian Empire as several provinces, which were collectively
called the North-Western Territory. When comparing the results of
two revisions - pre-war 1811 and post-war 1815 - a decrease in the
population on Belarusian lands by 6% was noted.
In the early
1820s, there were often severe crop failures in the North-Western
Territory that led to mass starvation. To a large extent, potatoes
saved the peasants from the mass death, which became one of the main
After the Polish uprising of 1830, including the
western part of the Northwest Territory, the Russian authorities
began to pursue a policy of Russification of the region in order to
abolish Polish influence. In 1839, the Uniate Church in the Russian
Empire was liquidated. In 1840, the Statute of the Grand Duchy of
Lithuania was canceled. After the uprising of 1863, the policy of
Russification in the region was significantly strengthened.
In the middle of the XIX century, the Belarusian national movement
began to take shape, Belarusian literature was emerging. In the same
period, the scientific study of the region, organized by the Russian
authorities, begins. As a result of socio-economic modernization,
industry began to develop, and demographic growth was observed.
In World War I began in 1914, the Russian Empire entered the war
on the side of the Entente. In August - September 1915, Germany
occupied the western part of the Northwest Territory, and the front
stabilized in this section. In 1917, as a result of the February
Revolution, the Russian Empire ceased to exist, power in Petrograd
passed to the Provisional Government.
October Revolution and
In October - November 1917, as a result of the
October Revolution, power in the unoccupied territories passed into
the hands of the Soviets, in November congresses of Soviets were
held in Minsk, Soviet executive bodies of the Western Region
(Oblispolkomzap and SNK) were created. On December 7 (20), 1917, the
First All-Belarusian Congress began, which, not recognizing the
legitimacy of the created bodies, declared the transfer of power to
the Executive Committee, after which the Bolsheviks refused to
participate, and the congress dispersed them.
On March 3,
1918, a peace treaty was signed in Brest-Litovsk (now Brest),
according to which, in addition to the already occupied territory of
western Belarus, most of the rest of the Belarusian ethnic territory
was transferred under German control. Under these conditions, the
leaders of the Belarusian national movement on March 25, 1918
declared independence of the Belarusian People’s Republic, but it
did not receive diplomatic recognition.
After the departure
of German troops, the Red Army occupied most of the territory of
Belarus. The newly formed Poland also claimed these territories,
which led in the spring - summer of 1919 to the formation of the
There was no consensus among the
Communists about the advisability of creating a separate Belarusian
Soviet republic. Representatives of the Oblast Executive Committee
and the Council of People's Commissars of the Western Region opposed
its creation. Their views were formed under the influence of the
ideas of the world socialist revolution, and in the
self-determination of peoples and the formation of national states,
they saw an obstacle to it. They argued that Belarusians are not an
independent nation, and therefore the principle of
self-determination does not suit them. The Belarusian communist
organizations (Belnatsky and the Belarusian sections under the RCP
(b)) advocated later supported by the leadership of the RSDLP (b).
In Smolensk, on the night of January 1 to 2, 1919, the Manifesto on
the Formation of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Belarus as part of
the RSFSR was published. On January 8, the capital of the SSRB was
moved to Minsk (occupied without a fight by the Red Army on December
10, 1918). On January 31, 1919, the republic left the RSFSR; in
Minsk on February 2 and 3, 1919, the First All-Belarusian Congress
of Soviets was held, where the constitution was adopted.
February 27, 1919, the SSRB was disbanded: the Smolensk, Vitebsk and
Mogilev provinces were included in the RSFSR, and the remaining
territories of the Soviet Byelorussia merged with the Lithuanian
Soviet Republic into the Lithuanian-Belarusian SSR (Litbel). In
March 1919, the troops of the Lithuanian Tariba, supported by the
German occupation garrisons, began military operations in Lithuania.
As a result of the Polish offensive in the spring and summer of
1919, Litbel was occupied by Polish troops and virtually ceased to
exist on July 19, 1919.
After the Red Army occupied a significant part of
the territory of Belarus on July 31, 1920, the Belarusian Socialist
Soviet Republic was again proclaimed in Minsk. Under the terms of
the Riga Treaty, which was concluded without the participation of
the BSSR, Western Belarus withdrew to the Polish Republic. An
attempt to form Belarusian non-Soviet military units (Slutsk
Uprising), which took place under the slogans of the restoration of
the BNR, ended in failure.
In 1922, the BSSR
became part of the Soviet Union. In March 1924, the CEC of the USSR
decided to transfer the BSSR to 15 counties and individual volosts
of the Vitebsk, Gomel and Smolensk provinces. The territory of the
BSSR increased to 110 584 km², the population - up to 4.2 million
people. 70.4% of the population were Belarusians.
In 1926, in
Moscow, it was decided to transfer the Gomel and Rechitsa counties
to the BSSR. The territory of the BSSR increased by 15 727 km², and
the population - by 649 thousand people.
In the 1920s and
1930s, industrialization processes were actively going on in Soviet
Belarus. By the beginning of industrialization, 3.4% of the
population lived in the BSSR and only 1.6% of the industrial output
of the USSR was produced. Mainly developed light, food, woodworking
and chemical industries, and starting from the second five-year plan
- mechanical engineering and the production of building materials.
For three five-year periods, industrial production in the BSSR has
grown 23 times.
In the mid-1920s, Belarusianization was
actively carried out in the BSSR - a set of measures to expand the
scope of the Belarusian language and the development of Belarusian
culture. Until 1936, the official languages of the BSSR, along
with Belarusian and Russian, were Polish and Yiddish. In the BSSR in
1932-1938 there was a Polish national autonomy Dzerzhinsky Polish
In the 1930s, the policy of Belarusization
was curtailed. In 1933, with the aim of bringing the Belarusian
language closer to Russian, a language reform was carried out. The
development policy of farms of the 1920s gave way to the active
collectivization of the 1930s.
During the Stalinist
repressions, many members of the intelligentsia and wealthy peasants
were executed, exiled to Siberia and Central Asia. Of the 540-570
writers published in Belarus in the 1920-1930s, at least 440-460
(80%) were repressed. The number of people passing through the camps
is estimated at about 600-700 thousand people, and those shot at
least 300 thousand people. A certain part of the repressed was made
up of Poles from the Polish National Region liquidated in 1938,
deported to Kazakhstan and Siberia.
The territory of Western
Belarus and the adjacent Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Polish
territories became part of the four voivodships of Poland. After the
1922 elections, 11 deputies and 3 senators from the West Belarusian
lands formed the “Belarusian Deputy Club”, the purpose of which was
to protect the interests of the Belarusian population of Poland. In
October 1923, the Communist Party of Western Belarus (KPZB) was
organized as an autonomous organization within the Polish Communist
Party (CP). In 1925, the Belarusian peasant-working community was
formed and soon became widespread. In 1926, an authoritarian
reorganization regime was established in Poland, after which the
BKRG leaders who were members of the Polish Sejm were arrested, and
in March the BKRG was banned. In 1928, 10 Belarusian deputies and 2
senators were elected to the Sejm from Belarusian lands, in 1930 -
only one Belarusian deputy, and in 1935 and 1938 - not a single one.
In 1934, a Polish concentration camp operated in the town of
Beryoza-Kartuzskaya as a place for extrajudicial internment for up
to 3 months against opponents of the ruling regime. In 1928, at the
decision of the Comintern, the checkpoints and the KPZB were
dissolved, later many of the former leaders of the KPZB were
repressed by the Soviet government.
The Polish government did
not comply with the provisions of the Riga Treaty on the equal
rights of all ethnic groups. By March 1923, out of 400 existing
Belarusian schools, 37 remained, while the number of Polish schools
grew. In 1938-1939 there were only 5 general Belarusian schools
left. 1300 Orthodox churches were converted to Catholic, often with
violence. In the mid-1930s, 43% of Western Belarusians were still
illiterate, and there were not two hundred Belarusian students in
all of Poland.
The world economic crisis of 1929-1939 had a
severe impact on Western Belarus: many tens of thousands of
inhabitants of Western Belarus emigrated to Western Europe and
On September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany attacked
Poland. On September 17, 1939, the USSR carried out a campaign of
the Red Army on the territory of Poland, as a result of which, in
particular, Western Belarus (with the Bialystok region) was included
in the BSSR. After the annexation of Western Belarus, 130 thousand
inhabitants were repressed on its territory, of which about 30
thousand were executed.
The Great Patriotic War
22, 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union and already in the first
months of the war the territory of the BSSR fell under German
occupation, as a result of which 2.5-3 million inhabitants died.
During the occupation, the largest partisan movement in Europe
unfolded on Belarusian territory. In June - August 1944, as a result
of Operation Bagration, the territory of the BSSR was liberated by
the Red Army.
In 1945, the BSSR became
one of the founding countries of the United Nations, with the
Belarusian delegation coordinating decisions on all issues with
In 1945, the Białystok region was
returned to Poland.
After the war ended, anti-Soviet partisan
groups both Polish (Craiov’s Army) and a few Belarusian groups
operated in Belarus for several more years, and Western intelligence
agencies tried to establish contact with some of them. The NKVD
detachments organized punitive operations against the anti-Soviet
The post-war years were marked by a rapid
economic recovery. Population was growing rapidly, especially urban.
In 1986, the Chernobyl disaster occurred on the border of the
Belarusian and Ukrainian SSRs, a significant part of the territory
of the BSSR was exposed to radiation pollution.
On July 27,
1990, the Declaration on State Sovereignty of the Byelorussian SSR
was adopted, on August 25, 1991 it was given the status of a
constitutional law, and on September 19 it gained its current name.
In December, the USSR finally ceased to exist.
After the collapse of the USSR and independence, Belarus
became a parliamentary republic. Legislative power was vested in the
Supreme Council, the first chairman of which was the Social Democrat
Stanislav Shushkevich. Executive power, including control over law
enforcement agencies, was in the hands of the Council of Ministers,
which was headed by Vyacheslav Kebich, who retained his post since
1990. In 1992, the Belarusian ruble was introduced, the formation of
its own armed forces began. In 1993, Belarus ratified the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
1994, the Constitution was adopted and the first presidential
election took place. Alexander Lukashenko was elected President, and
Belarus was transformed from parliamentary to
parliamentary-presidential. In 1995, he initiated a referendum, as a
result of which the Russian language received the status of the
state on a par with the Belarusian language, the coat of arms and
flag were changed, the president received the right to dissolve the
parliament in the event of a systematic or gross violation of the
constitution. The president conducted a course aimed at economic
integration with Russia.
By 1996, contradictions between the
president and parliament escalated in Belarus, and the country
entered a period of political crisis. At the initiative of the
president, a second referendum was held, as a result of which
amendments were made to the constitution that significantly expanded
the president’s rights and transformed the republic from a
parliamentary-presidential to a presidential one. The President got
the opportunity to issue decrees having the force of law, the right
to early dissolution of parliament, the ability to form the main
composition of the Constitutional Court and other powers. The
Supreme Council was dissolved, and a bicameral National Assembly was
formed from loyal and neutral deputies to the president. Some states
and international bodies, such as the OSCE, the Council of Europe
and the European Union, have not officially recognized the results
of the referendum, arguing that the referendum was held with serious
In 1997, Belarus completed the export
of 72 SS-25 intercontinental missiles with nuclear warheads from its
territory. Belarus received the status of a nuclear-free state.