Belarus is situated in the center of Europe, and has international borders with five countries: Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia. The total land area of Belarus is more than 207,000 square kilometers.
The country doesn't have access to sea, but due to the location Belarus is an important trade and transport corridor between Europe and the CIS.
Minsk, the capital of Belarus, is located in the center of the country. Throughout its history, Minsk has been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times. But it was suffered mostly during World War 2, when it was completely destroyed. Today Minsk is a modern European city and the largest city in the country .More than 1.9 million people live in Minsk today.
The people of Belarus are kind, friendly and good-humoured nation. Patience and peacefulness of the Belarusian people have been determined by the nation's history that has been darkened by endless wars the initiators of which were not the Belarusians. Belarus welcomes all visitors and is interested in sharing its culture, traditions and sense of community with them.
The Grodno region lies in the west of Belarus. It is one of the six administrative regions (or oblasts) which make up the country. The Grodno region of Belarus borders Poland in the west and the Lithuania in the north.
Grodno is the main city in the region. It lies on the Neman River. It borders Minsk Region to the east, Brest Region to the south, Poland to the west and Vitebsk Region and Lithuania to the north. Grodno's existence is attested to from 1127. Two castles dating from the 14th - 18th centuries are located here on the steep right bank of the Nemen. One of the city's surviving masterpieces is the 12th century Orthodox Church of St Boris & St Gleb, which is the second oldest in Belarus.
Main tourist attractions in the region are numerous old architectural constructions such as castles in Mir, Lida, Novogrudok. A part of Białowieża Forest is situated here, but the tourist excursions start from the Brest Region part of the National Park. Zhyrovichy Monastery is also a destination for religious travelers. The Mir Castle Complex and Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
SHORT HISTORY OF BELARUS
In early times, Belarus was inhabited and ruled over by various people including the Slavs, the Mongols and Lithuania. During the 19th century, various people tried to claim Belarus and it was alternately ruled by Poland and Russia. The latter managed to retain control until WWI when Germany claimed Belarus and in 1921, the country was divided between Poland and Bolshevik Russia (which became the USSR the next year). This was a terrible time in their history as the Belarusians in Poland were subjected to mass killing and thousands were executed.
During the next two decades, Belarus was passed back and forth between USSR and Germany, which left the country ravaged by the end of WWII. A quarter of the country's population died during the war, many of them in Nazi concentration camps.
Under soviet rule, Belarus recovered economically and Minsk became one of the industrial hubs of the USSR. But disaster struck in 1986 when the Chornobyl (aka Chernobyl) nuclear power station in Ukraine melted down and Belarus was harder hit than the Ukraine itself. Around one-fifth of the country was seriously contaminated and people suffer the effects until today.
Nationalist sentiment grew in the following years and the Communist Party issued a declaration of full national independence in 1991 during the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has retained closer political and economic ties to Russia than any of the other former Soviet republics.
Since independence, Belarus has had two presidents—Stanislau Shushkevich, a physicist who followed a centrist path between communism and the Popular Front, and Alexander Lukashenko, who runs the country with an iron hand. Internationally, Lukashenko is considered tyrannical and backward and held responsible for the economic decline of what was once a very promising nation.