Belarus

Introduction After seven decades as a constituent republic of the USSR, Belarus attained its independence in 1991. It has retained closer political and economic ties to Russia than any of the other former Soviet republics. Belarus and Russia signed a treaty on a two-state union on 8 December 1999 envisioning greater political and economic integration. Although Belarus agreed to a framework to carry out the accord, serious implementation has yet to take place. Since his election in July 1994 as the country's first president, Alexandr LUKASHENKO has steadily consolidated his power through authoritarian means. Government restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, peaceful assembly, and religion continue.
History

The area of modern-day Belarus was first settled by Slavic tribes in the 6th century. They gradually came into contact with the Varangians, a band of warriors consisting of Scandinavians and Slavs from the Baltics.[9] Though defeated and briefly exiled by the local population, the Varangians were later asked to return[9] and helped to form a polity—commonly referred to as the Kievan Rus'—in exchange for tribute. The Kievan Rus' state began in about 862 at the present-day city of Novgorod.[10]

Upon the death of Kievan Rus' ruler, Prince Yaroslav the Wise, the state split into independent principalities.[11] 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.[12] Of all the principalities held by the Duchy, nine were settled by ancestors of the Belarusian people.[13] 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 border lands of Eastern Europe.[14]

On February 2, 1386, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland were joined in a personal union through a marriage of their rulers.[15] This union set in motion the developments that eventually resulted in the formation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, created in 1569. The Russians, led by Tsar Ivan the III, began military conquests in 1486 in an attempt to gain the Kievan Rus' lands, specifically Belarus and Ukraine.[16] The union between Poland and Lithuania ended in 1795, and the commonwealth was partitioned by Imperial Russia, Prussia, and Austria, dividing Belarus.[17] Belarusian territories were acquired by the Russian Empire during the reign of Catherine II[18] and held until their occupation by Germany during World War I.[19]

During the negotiations of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Belarus first declared independence on 25 March 1918, forming the Belarusian People's Republic. The Germans supported the BPR, which lasted for about 10 months.[20] Soon after the Germans were defeated, the BPR fell under the influence of the Bolsheviks and the Red Army and became the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1919.[20] After Russian occupation of eastern and northern Lithuania, it was merged into the Lithuanian-Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. Byelorussian lands were then split between Poland and the Soviets after the Polish-Soviet War ended in 1921, and the recreated Byelorussian SSR became a founding member of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1922.[20]

In September 1939, as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviet Union invaded Poland and annexed its eastern lands, including most of Polish-held Byelorussian land.[21] Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. Byelorussia was the hardest hit Soviet Republic in the war 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, while causing human losses estimated between two and three million (about a quarter to one-third of the total population).[2] The Jewish population of Byelorussia was devastated during The Holocaust and never recovered.[22] The population of Belarus did not regain its pre-war level until 1971.[22] After the war ended, Byelorussia was among the 51 founding signatories of the United Nations Charter in 1945 and began rebuilding the Soviet Republic. During this time, the Byelorussian SSR became a major center of manufacturing in the western region of the USSR, increasing jobs and bringing an influx of ethnic Russians into the republic.[23] The borders of Byelorussian SSR and Poland were redrawn to a point known as the Curzon Line.[21]

Joseph Stalin implemented a policy of Sovietization to isolate the Byelorussian SSR from Western influences.[22] This policy involved sending Russians from various parts of the Soviet Union and placing them in key positions in the Byelorussian SSR government. The official use of the Belarusian language and other cultural aspects were limited by Moscow. After Stalin died in 1953, successor Nikita Khrushchev continued this program, stating, "The sooner we all start speaking Russian, the faster we shall build communism".[22] When Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev began pushing through his reform plan, the Belarusian people delivered a petition to him in December 1986 explaining the loss of their culture. Earlier that year, Byelorussian SSR was exposed to nuclear fallout from the explosion at the Chernobyl power plant in neighboring Ukrainian SSR.[24] In June 1988 at the city of Kurapaty, archaeologist Zianon Pazniak, the leader of Christian Conservative Party of the BPF, discovered mass graves which contained about 250,000 bodies of victims executed in 1941.[24] 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.[25]

Two years later, in March 1990, elections for seats in the Supreme Soviet of the Byelorussian SSR took place. Though the pro-independence Belarusian Popular Front took only 10% of the seats, the populace was content with the selection of the delegates.[26] Belarus declared itself sovereign on July 27, 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 August 25, 1991.[26] Stanislav Shushkevich, the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Belarus, met with Boris Yeltsin of Russia and Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine on December 8, 1991, in Belavezhskaya Pushcha to formally declare the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States.[26] A national constitution was adopted in March 1994, in which the office of prime minister was replaced by that of president.

Two-round elections for the presidency (24 June 1994 and 10 July 1994)[27] resulted in the politically unknown Alexander Lukashenko winning more than 45 % of the vote in the first round and 80 %[26] in the second round, beating Vyacheslav Kebich who got 14 %. Lukashenko remains in office, having been reelected in 2001 and in 2006.

Geography Location: Eastern Europe, east of Poland
Geographic coordinates: 53 00 N, 28 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 207,600 sq km
land: 207,600 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Kansas
Land boundaries: total: 3,098 km
border countries: Latvia 141 km, Lithuania 502 km, Poland 605 km, Russia 959 km, Ukraine 891 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: cold winters, cool and moist summers; transitional between continental and maritime
Terrain: generally flat and contains much marshland
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Nyoman River 90 m
highest point: Dzyarzhynskaya Hara 346 m
Natural resources: forests, peat deposits, small quantities of oil and natural gas, granite, dolomitic limestone, marl, chalk, sand, gravel, clay
Land use: arable land: 26.77%
permanent crops: 0.6%
other: 72.63% (2005)
Irrigated land: 1,310 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 58 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 2.79 cu km/yr (23%/47%/30%)
per capita: 286 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: NA
Environment - current issues: soil pollution from pesticide use; southern part of the country contaminated with fallout from 1986 nuclear reactor accident at Chornobyl' in northern Ukraine
Environment - international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: landlocked; glacial scouring accounts for the flatness of Belarusian terrain and for its 11,000 lakes
Politics

Belarus is a presidential republic, governed by a president and the National Assembly. 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 of Belarus.[28] Since 1994, Alexander Lukashenko has been the president of Belarus. The government includes a Council of Ministers, headed by the prime minister. 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 the Constitutional 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 extra-judicial courts.[28]

As of 2007, 98 of the 110 members the House of Representatives are not affiliated with any political party and the remaining twelve members, eight belong to the Communist Party of Belarus, three to the Agrarian Party of Belarus, and one to the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus, most of the non-partisans represents a wide scope of social organizations namely worker´s collectives, public associations and civil society organizations. In the other hand, neither the pro-Lukashenko parties, such as the Belarusian Socialist Sporting Party and the Republican Party of Labor and Justice, nor the People's Coalition 5 Plus opposition parties, such as the Belarusian People's Front and the United Civil Party of Belarus, won any seats in the 2004 elections. Organizations 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.[29] In the country's 2006 presidential election, Lukashenko was opposed by Alexander Milinkevich, a candidate representing 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, but the OSCE and other organizations called the election unfair.[30]

Lukashenko has described himself as having an "authoritarian ruling style".[31] Western countries have described Belarus under Lukashenko as a dictatorship; the government has accused the same Western powers of trying to oust Lukashenko.[32] The Council of Europe has barred Belarus from membership since 1997 for undemocratic voting and election irregularities in the November 1996 constitutional referendum and parliament by-elections.[33] The Belarusian government is also criticized for human rights violations and its actions against non-governmental organizations, independent journalists, national minorities, and opposition politicians.[34][35] Belarus is the only nation in Europe that retains the death penalty for certain crimes during times of peace and war.[36] In testimony to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice labeled Belarus, among six nations, as part of the "outposts of tyranny".[37] In response, the Belarusian government called the assessment "quite far from reality".

People Population: 9,724,723 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 14.7% (male 733,010/female 691,734)
15-64 years: 70.4% (male 3,327,119/female 3,520,690)
65 years and over: 14.9% (male 471,863/female 980,307) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 38.2 years
male: 35.1 years
female: 41.1 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.41% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 9.5 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 13.98 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.38 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.945 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.481 male(s)/female
total population: 0.873 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 6.63 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 7.67 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 5.53 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 70.05 years
male: 64.31 years
female: 76.14 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.22 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.3% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 15,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 1,000 (2001 est.)
Nationality: noun: Belarusian(s)
adjective: Belarusian
Ethnic groups: Belarusian 81.2%, Russian 11.4%, Polish 3.9%, Ukrainian 2.4%, other 1.1% (1999 census)
Religions: Eastern Orthodox 80%, other (including Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim) 20% (1997 est.)
Languages: Belarusian, Russian, other
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99.6%
male: 99.8%
female: 99.4% (1999 census)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Belarus
conventional short form: Belarus
local long form: Respublika Byelarus'
local short form: Byelarus'
former: Belorussian (Byelorussian) Soviet Socialist Republic
Government type: republic in name, although in fact a dictatorship
Capital: name: Minsk
geographic coordinates: 53 54 N, 27 34 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Administrative divisions: 6 provinces (voblastsi, singular - voblasts') and 1 municipality* (horad); Brest, Homyel', Horad Minsk*, Hrodna, Mahilyow, Minsk, Vitsyebsk
note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers
Independence: 25 August 1991 (from Soviet Union)
National holiday: Independence Day, 3 July (1944); note - 3 July 1944 was the date Minsk was liberated from German troops, 25 August 1991 was the date of independence from the Soviet Union
Constitution: 15 March 1994; revised by national referendum of 24 November 1996 giving the presidency greatly expanded powers and became effective 27 November 1996; revised again 17 October 2004 removing presidential term limits
Legal system: based on civil law system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Aleksandr LUKASHENKO (since 20 July 1994)
head of government: Prime Minister Sergey SIDORSKIY (since 19 December 2003); First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir SEMASHKO (since December 2003)
cabinet: Council of Ministers
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; first election took place 23 June and 10 July 1994; according to the 1994 constitution, the next election should have been held in 1999, however, Aleksandr LUKASHENKO extended his term to 2001 via a November 1996 referendum; subsequent election held 9 September 2001; an October 2004 referendum ended presidential term limits and allowed the president to run in a third election, which was held on 19 March 2006; prime minister and deputy prime ministers appointed by the president
election results: Aleksandr LUKASHENKO reelected president; percent of vote - Aleksandr LUKASHENKO 82.6%, Aleksandr MILINKEVICH 6%, Aleksandr KOZULIN 2.3%; note - election marred by electoral fraud
Legislative branch: bicameral National Assembly or Natsionalnoye Sobranie consists of the Council of the Republic or Soviet Respubliki (64 seats; 56 members elected by regional councils and eight members appointed by the president, to serve four-year terms) and the Chamber of Representatives or Palata Predstaviteley (110 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms)
elections: last held 17 and 31 October 2004; international observers widely denounced the elections as flawed and undemocratic based on massive government falsification; pro-LUKASHENKO candidates won every seat after many opposition candidates were disqualified for technical reasons
election results: Soviet Respubliki - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; Palata Predstaviteley - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the president); Constitutional Court (half of the judges appointed by the president and half appointed by the Chamber of Representatives)
Political parties and leaders: pro-government parties: Agrarian Party or AP [Mikhail SHIMANSKY]; Belarusian Communist Party or KPB; Belarusian Patriotic Movement (Belarusian Patriotic Party) or BPR [Nikolay ULAKHOVICH, chairman]; Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus [Sergey GAYDUKEVICH]; Party of Labor and Justice [Viktor SOKOLOV]; Social-Sports Party [Vladimir ALEXANDROVICH]
opposition parties: Belarusian Christian Democracy Party (unregistered) [Pavel SEVERINETS]; Belarusian Party of Communists or PKB [Sergey KALYAKIN]; Belarusian Party of Labor (unregistered) [Aleksandr BUKHVOSTOV, Leonid LEMESHONAK]; Belarusian Popular Front or BPF [Vintsyuk VYACHORKA]; Belarusian Social-Democratic Gramada [Stanislav SHUSHKEVICH]; Belarusian Social Democratic Party Hramada (People's Assembly) or BSDPH [Aleksandr KOZULIN; Anatoliy LEVKOVICH, acting]; Green Party [Oleg GROMYKO]; Party of Freedom and Progress (unregistered) [Vladimir NOVOSYAD]; United Civic Party or UCP [Anatoliy LEBEDKO]; Women's Party "Nadezhda" [Valentina MATUSEVICH, chairperson]
other opposition includes: Christian Conservative BPF [Zyanon PAZNIAK]; Ecological Party of Greens [Mikhail KARTASH]; Party of Popular Accord [Sergey YERMAKK]; Republican Party [Vladimir BELAZOR]
Political pressure groups and leaders: Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs [Sergey MATSKEVICH]; Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions [Aleksandr YAROSHUK]; Belarusian Helsinki Committee [Tatiana PROTKO]; Belarusian Organization of Working Women [Irina ZHIKHAR]; Charter 97 [Andrey SANNIKOV]; For Freedom (unregistered) [Aleksandr MILINKEVICH]; Lenin Communist Union of Youth (youth wing of the Belarusian Party of Communists or PKB); National Strike Committee of Entrepreneurs [Aleksandr VASILYEV, Valery LEVONEVSKY]; Partnership NGO [Nikolay ASTREYKA]; Perspektiva kiosk watchdog NGO [Anatol SHUMCHENKO]; Vyasna [Ales BYALATSKY]; Women's Independent Democratic Movement [Ludmila PETINA]; Youth Front (Malady Front) [Dmitriy DASHKEVICH, Sergey BAKHUN]; Zubr youth group [Vladimir KOBETS]
International organization participation: BSEC (observer), CEI, CIS, EAEC, EAPC, EBRD, GCTU, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, NAM, NSG, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer)
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Mikhail KHVOSTOV
chancery: 1619 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009
telephone: [1] (202) 986-1604
FAX: [1] (202) 986-1805
consulate(s) general: New York
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Karen B. STEWART
embassy: 46 Starovilenskaya Street, Minsk 220002
mailing address: PSC 78, Box B Minsk, APO 09723
telephone: [375] (17) 210-12-83, 217-7347, 217-7348
FAX: [375] (17) 234-7853
Flag description: red horizontal band (top) and green horizontal band one-half the width of the red band; a white vertical stripe on the hoist side bears Belarusian national ornamentation in red
Culture

Belarusian literature began with 11th- to 13th century religious writing; the 12th century poetry of Cyril of Turaw is representative.[98] By the 16th century, Polotsk resident Francysk Skaryna translated the Bible into Belarusian. It was published in Prague and Vilnius between 1517 and 1525, making it the first book printed in Belarus or anywhere in Eastern Europe.[99] The modern period of Belarusian literature began in the late-19th century; one important writer was Yanka Kupala. Many notable Belarusian writers of the time, such as Uładzimir Žyłka, Kazimir Svayak, Yakub Kolas, Źmitrok Biadula and Maksim Haretski, wrote for a Belarusian language paper called Nasha Niva, published in Vilnius. After Belarus was incorporated into the Soviet Union, the Soviet government took control of the Republic's cultural affairs. The free development of literature occurred only in Polish-held territory until Soviet occupation in 1939.[99] Several poets and authors went into exile after the Nazi occupation of Belarus, not to return until the 1960s.[99] The last major revival of Belarusian literature occurred in the 1960s with novels published by Vasil Bykaŭ and Uładzimir Karatkievič.

In the 17th century, Polish composer Stanislaw Moniuszko composed operas and chamber music pieces while living in Minsk. During his stay, he worked with Belarusian poet Vincent Dunin-Marcinkevich and created the opera Sielanka (Peasant Woman). At the end of the 19th century, major Belarusian cities formed their own opera and ballet companies. The ballet Nightingale by M. Kroshner was composed during the Soviet era and became the first Belarusian ballet showcased at the National Academic Bolshoi Ballet Theatre in Minsk.[100] After the Great Patriotic War, music focused on the hardships of the Belarusian people or on those who took up arms in defense of the homeland. During this period, A. Bogatyryov, creator of the opera In Polesye Virgin Forest, served as the "tutor" of Belarusian composers.[101] The National Academic Theatre of Ballet, in Minsk, was awarded the Benois de la Dance Prize in 1996 as the top ballet company in the world.[101] Although rock music has risen in popularity in recent years, the Belarusian government has suppressed the development of popular music through various legal and economic mechanisms.[102] Since 2004, Belarus has been sending artists to the Eurovision Song Contest.[103]

The Belarusian government sponsors annual cultural festivals such as the Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk, which showcases Belarusian performers, artists, writers, musicians, and actors. Several state holidays, such as Independence Day and Victory Day, draw big crowds and often include displays such as fireworks and military parades, especially in Vitebsk and Minsk.[104] The government's Ministry of Culture finances events promoting Belarusian arts and culture both inside and outside the country.

The traditional Belarusian dress originates from the Kievan Rus' period. Because of the cool climate, clothes, usually composed of flax or wool, were designed to keep the body warm. They were decorated with ornate patterns influenced by the neighboring cultures: Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, Russians, and other European nations. Each region of Belarus has developed specific design patterns.[105] An ornamental pattern used on some early dresses is currently used to decorate the hoist of the Belarusian national flag, adopted in a disputed referendum in 1995.[106]

Belarusian cuisine consists mainly of vegetables, meat (especially pork), and breads. Foods are usually either slowly cooked or stewed. A typical Belarusian eats a very light breakfast and two hearty meals, with dinner being the largest meal of the day. Wheat and rye breads are consumed in Belarus, but rye is more plentiful because conditions are too harsh for growing wheat. To show hospitality, a host presents an offering of bread and salt when greeting a guest or visitor.[107] Popular drinks in Belarus include Russian wheat vodka and kvass, a soft drink made from malted brown bread or rye flour. Kvass may also be combined with sliced vegetables to create a cold soup called okroshka.[108]

Belarus has four World Heritage Sites: the Mir Castle Complex, the Niasvizh Castle, the Belovezhskaya Pushcha (shared with Poland), and the Struve Geodetic Arc (shared with nine other countries).[109]

The largest media holding group in Belarus is the state-owned National State Teleradiocompany. It operates several television stations and radio stations that broadcast content domestically and internationally, either through frequency signals or the Internet.[110] The Television Broadcasting Network is one of the major independent television stations in Belarus, mostly showing regional programming. Several newspapers, printed either in Belarusian or Russian, provide general information or special interest content, such as business, politics or sports. In 1998, there were fewer than 100 total radio stations in Belarus: 28 AM, 37 FM and 11 shortwave stations.

All media companies are regulated by the Law On Press and Other Mass Media, passed on January 13, 1995.[112] This grants the freedom of press; however, Article 5 states that slander cannot be made against the president of Belarus or other officials outlined in the national constitution.[112] The Belarusian Government has since been criticized for acting against media outlets. Newspapers such as Nasa Niva and the Belaruskaya Delovaya Gazeta have been targeted for closure by the authorities after they published reports critical of President Lukashenko or other government officials.[113][114] The OSCE and Freedom House have commented regarding the loss of press freedom in Belarus. In 2005, Freedom House gave Belarus the score of 6.75 (not free) when it came to dealing with press freedom. Another issue for the Belarusian press is the unresolved disappearance of several journalists.

Economy Economy - overview: Belarus has seen little structural reform since 1995, when President LUKASHENKO launched the country on the path of "market socialism." In keeping with this policy, LUKASHENKO reimposed administrative controls over prices and currency exchange rates and expanded the state's right to intervene in the management of private enterprises. Since 2005, the government has re-nationalized a number of private companies. In addition, businesses have been subject to pressure by central and local governments, e.g., arbitrary changes in regulations, numerous rigorous inspections, retroactive application of new business regulations, and arrests of "disruptive" businessmen and factory owners. A wide range of redistributive policies has helped those at the bottom of the ladder; the Gini coefficient is among the lowest in the world. Because of these restrictive economic policies, Belarus has had trouble attracting foreign investment. Nevertheless, GDP growth has been strong in recent years, reaching nearly 8% in 2007, despite the roadblocks of a tough, centrally directed economy with a high, but decreasing, rate of inflation. Belarus receives heavily discounted oil and natural gas from Russia and much of Belarus' growth can be attributed to the re-export of Russian oil at market prices. Trade with Russia - by far its largest single trade partner - decreased in 2007, largely as a result of a change in the way the Value Added Tax (VAT) on trade was collected. Russia has introduced an export duty on oil shipped to Belarus, which will increase gradually through 2009, and a requirement that Belarusian duties on re-exported Russian oil be shared with Russia - 80% will go to Russia in 2008, and 85% in 2009. Russia also increased Belarusian natural gas prices from $47 per thousand cubic meters (tcm) to $100 per tcm in 2007, and plans to increase prices gradually to world levels by 2011. Russia's recent policy of bringing energy prices for Belarus to world market levels may result in a slowdown in economic growth in Belarus over the next few years. Some policy measures, including tightening of fiscal and monetary policies, improving energy efficiency, and diversifying exports, have been introduced, but external borrowing has been the main mechanism used to manage the growing pressures on the economy.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $104.7 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $38.72 billion (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 6.9% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $10,200 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 8.7%
industry: 40.6%
services: 50.6% (2007 est.)
Labor force: 4.3 million (31 December 2005)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 14%
industry: 34.7%
services: 51.3% (2003 est.)
Unemployment rate: 1.6% officially registered unemployed; large number of underemployed workers (2005)
Population below poverty line: 27.1% (2003 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 3.4%
highest 10%: 23.5% (2002)
Distribution of family income - Gini index: 29.7 (2002)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 8.3% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 29.8% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $15.35 billion
expenditures: $16.78 billion (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products: grain, potatoes, vegetables, sugar beets, flax; beef, milk
Industries: metal-cutting machine tools, tractors, trucks, earthmovers, motorcycles, televisions, chemical fibers, fertilizer, textiles, radios, refrigerators
Industrial production growth rate: 5% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production: 29.08 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 99.5%
hydro: 0.1%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0.4% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 29.49 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 5.053 billion kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 9.091 billion kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 33,700 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption: 156,000 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 249,900 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - imports: 378,200 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - proved reserves: 198 million bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 165 million cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 19.47 billion cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 19.31 billion cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 2.716 billion cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: -$3.056 billion (2007 est.)
Exports: $22.91 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities: machinery and equipment, mineral products, chemicals, metals, textiles, foodstuffs
Exports - partners: Russia 34.7%, Netherlands 17.7%, UK 7.5%, Ukraine 6.3%, Poland 5.2% (2006)
Imports: $27.05 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities: mineral products, machinery and equipment, chemicals, foodstuffs, metals
Imports - partners: Russia 58.6%, Germany 7.5%, Ukraine 5.5% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $53.76 million (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $1.474 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external: $9.272 billion (30 June 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $NA
Currency (code): Belarusian ruble (BYB/BYR)
Currency code: BYB/BYR
Exchange rates: Belarusian rubles per US dollar - 2,145 (2007), 2,144.6 (2006), 2,150 (2005), 2,160.26 (2004), 2,051.27 (2003)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 3.368 million (2006)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 5.96 million (2006)
Telephone system: general assessment: Belarus lags behind its neighbors in upgrading telecommunications infrastructure; state-owned Beltelcom is the sole provider of fixed-line local and long distance service; fixed-line teledensity of 33 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular telephone density of 58 per 100 persons; modernization of the network progressing with roughly two-thirds of switching equipment now digital
domestic: fixed-line penetration is improving although rural areas continue to be underserved; 4 GSM wireless networks are experiencing rapid growth; strict government controls on telecommunications technologies
international: country code - 375; Belarus is a member of the Trans-European Line (TEL), Trans-Asia-Europe (TAE) fiber-optic line, and has access to the Trans-Siberia Line (TSL); 3 fiber-optic segments provide connectivity to Latvia, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine; worldwide service is available to Belarus through this infrastructure; additional analog lines to Russia; Intelsat, Eutelsat, and Intersputnik earth stations (2007)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 28, FM 37, shortwave 11 (1998)
Radios: 3.02 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 47 (plus 27 repeaters) (1995)
Televisions: 2.52 million (1997)
Internet country code: .by
Internet hosts: 20,685 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 23 (2002)
Internet users: 5.478 million (2006)
Transportation Airports: 67 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 36
over 3,047 m: 2
2,438 to 3,047 m: 22
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 7 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 31
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 27 (2007)
Heliports: 1 (2007)
Pipelines: gas 5,250 km; oil 1,528 km; refined products 1,730 km (2007)
Railways: total: 5,512 km
broad gauge: 5,497 km 1.520-m gauge (874 km electrified)
standard gauge: 15 km 1.435 m (2006)
Roadways: total: 93,310 km
paved: 81,180 km
unpaved: 12,130 km (2004)
Waterways: 2,500 km (use limited by location on perimeter of country and by shallowness) (2003)
Ports and terminals: Mazyr
Military Military branches: Belarus Armed Forces: Land Force, Air and Air Defense Force (2008)
Military service age and obligation: 18-27 years of age for compulsory military service; conscript service obligation - 18 months (2005)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 2,520,644
females age 18-49: 2,564,696 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 1,657,984
females age 18-49: 2,102,793 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually: males age 18-49: 85,202
females age 18-49: 82,037 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 1.4% (2005 est.)
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: as of January 2007, ground demarcations of the boundaries with Latvia and Lithuania were complete and mapped with final ratification documentation in preparation; 1997 boundary delimitation treaty with Ukraine remains unratified over unresolved financial claims, preventing demarcation and diminishing border security
Illicit drugs: limited cultivation of opium poppy and cannabis, mostly for the domestic market; transshipment point for illicit drugs to and via Russia, and to the Baltics and Western Europe; a small and lightly regulated financial center; new anti-money-laundering legislation does not meet international standards; few investigations or prosecutions of money-laundering activities