Belarus, a country in the centre of Europe
Belarus is an ancient Slavonic country situated in the East of Europe. It occupies the territory of 207,600 sq. km. and is populated by 10.3 million people. Belarus stretches 650 km from the West to the East and 560 km from the North to the South. It has 6 regions, about 4000 rivers and 1 1000 lakes. The largest rivers are the Dnieper, the Western Dvina, the Nieman, the Bug; the biggest lake is Naroch.
Belarus borders on Russia in the North and the East. On the Ukraine in the southeast, on Poland in the West and on Latvia and Lithuania in the northwest.
The history of the Belarussian nation has been long and complicated. The first written documents of the Belarussian state go back as far as to 980 AD From the 14th till the 16th centuries the territory of modern Belarus was the centre of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It was one of the largest, most powerful and flourishing states ill medieval Eastern Europe. Being situated on the crossroads of the commercial routes from the East to the West and from the North to the South. Belarus was doomed to get into the focus of infinite wars waged by European countries to control the strategic overland routes. It has been invaded by Russians and Poles, Germans and Swedes, Danes, French and Ukrainians. After one of such long-lasting and devastating wars Belarus appeared to have lost half of its population. More recently, during the Great Patriotic War of 1941 - 1945 Belarus lost 25% of its inhabitants. It was only recently that Belarus reached its pre-war demographic quantity of 1 0 million people.
To survive in this never ending blood-shedding warfare the Grand Duchy of Lithuania had to unite with the Polish Kingdom to form a joined state of Rzeczpospolita (1569). The period from the 15th to the 17th centuries is considered to be the Golden Age in the Belarussian history, It was the time of intensive formation and development of the Belarussian nation, growth of the old and the foundation of new towns and cities, significant cultural achievements. Suffice it to say that Belarus was the 2nd Slavonic State to translate and publish the Bible in its native language. Francisk Skaryna, an outstanding Belarussian scholar and humanist, whose intellectual interests embraced theology, literature, linguistics, poetry, art, law, medicine, botany, printing received his degree in liberal arts at the Cracow University and later, at the Padua University he received his degree in medicine. Francisk Skaryna wanted to make knowledge available to the people in their own language, " I vow it shall become a language of books, not only of speech". So in 1517 - 1519 the Bible was printed in Belarussian first in Prague, then in Vilnia, a historic Belarussian capital. The Belarussian printing owes its beginning to Francisk Skaryna. Furthermore, the Constitution of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania is considered to contain some very democratic theses of that time. It reflected the ideological and cultural trends in Europe. For example, it envisaged a punishment if a nobleman had murdered a common man, provided for the equality of confessions, prohibited a free citizen to be enslaved for his debts or crimes etc.
Despite of all historic hardships the Belarussian nation has preserved its language and culture. Today the Republic of Belarus is a well -developed agro-industrial sovereign state. Many world recognised goods are manufactured here, e.g. BELARUS tractors, MAZ lorries, BELAZ heavy-duty trucks, ATLANT refrigerators and freezers. More than 1400 Belarussian business enterprises produce a wide range of products both for home and international markets - motorcycles and bicycles, TV and radio-sets, various agricultural machines, potash fertilisers and chemical fibres. Belarus maintains stable economic, relations with 80 countries of the world. The Belarussian manpower is considered to be of high educational level by European standards. It is trained at the Republic's 8 universities, 29 higher educational facilities and 400 vocational and specialised colleges and schools.
Alongside with well-educated and tolerant people, the Belarussian nature is considered to be our great treasure, The country is especially beautiful in summer when travellers can gaze at picturesque landscapes. The endless woodlands, deep rivers and lakes, vast fields and meadows of fragrant grass have always been an enjoyable sight for residents and visitors. The Belarussian forests can be compared to a treasury. There one can find various kinds of mushrooms and berries, nuts and beautiful flowers. Belarus is also peculiar for its multitude of marshlands embroidered with corals of cranberries. The lake of Naroch is often referred to as the pearl of Belarussian nature. The beauty of our land inspired such prominent Belarussian poets as M. Bogdanovich, Ya. Kupala, Ya. Kolas, writers V. Bykov and V. Korotkevich, artists M. Savitski and M. Kupava, musicians M. Aguinski, I. Luchenok, V. Rainchik. The beauty of this land has always inspired Belarussians to defend their country from invaders. The grateful descendants; Tadeush Kastiusliko, Kastus Kalinovski, Mikhail Astrozhski and others will always remember their names.
At present the people of 123 nationalities call Belarus their homeland. Out of these 78% are Belarussians. 13% - Russians, 4% - Poles, 3% - Ukrainians, 1% - Jews. All of them live in good neighbourhood and peace because they love their country, their history, and traditions which allow for Catholic and Orthodox churches, a Jewish synagogue and a Moslem mosque to stand facing each other in the same square or street. The Belarussian Generosity and hospitality are recognised worldwide.