Belarus is a landlocked, flat country in Easter Europe, with a plethora of forests. It is surrounded by Latvia, Russia, the Ukraine and Lithuania. Belarus (once the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic of the USSR and then Byelorussia) is also home to swamps, hilly lowlands and a plethora of rivers and lakes.
Belarus has a moderate continental climate. Winters are cool and humid, and summers delightfully warm. During the coldest months, the temperature hovers between -8ºC and -4ºC, while in the peak of summer, the thermometer rises to between 17ºC and 18ºC.
Belarus is known for having been negatively affected by the fallout from Chernobyl (the world’s worst nuclear disaster). However, it has many positive things to celebrate as well, including its amazing artistic heritage, forged by artists the calibre of Marc Chagall, Napoleon Orda and Ivan Khrutsky. Sporting geniuses, meanwhile, include Olga Korbut (the legendary gymnast), and Vitaly Shcherbo (artistic gymnast). Monuments which are not to be missed include the stately Radziwill Palace Fortress (1538), the Disney-like Mir Castle (16th century) and the Chagall Museum (featuring wonderful illustrations by the highly acclaimed avante garde genius). Belarus is famous for its awe-inspiring natural landscapes, which include virgin forests and a wide array of plants and animals. It is also known for its vibrant capital, Minsk, which is home to over 1.9 million and which boasts a modern transportation system. Belarus is divided into six districts, each of which is centred around a capital city.
The country now known as Belarus has been dominated by many peoples. In the 5th century A.D., the east Slavic tribes were in control, while from the 9th to the 12th centuries, Kiev was dominant. The Mongols destroyed Kiev in the 13th century, and the territory fell under the control of Lithuania. In 1596 it became part of Lithuania, which merged with Poland. When Poland was divided in the late 18th century, Belarus became part of Russia. Following World War I, it sought to proclaim itself a republic, only to encounter resistance from the Russians. After the Polish-Soviet War (1918-1921), West Belarus went to Poland and the east was eventually annexed by the USSR. Eventually, the Soviets also took the West back. In 1991, Belarus finally achieved the independence it had long yearned for.
Belarus’s great biodiversity can be attributed to the fact that over 90 per cent of the land is covered by natural vegetation; one third of the landscape, meanwhile, comprises forest. There are many types of beautiful trees, including birches, pines, conifers and oaks. This country is also known for its vivid valoshka bloom, found in wild fields and considered a symbol of spirituality and purity. Wildlife includes elks, deer, wild boar and wolves. Protected animals include the European mink, aurochs, the European lynx, the fat dormouse and garden dormouse, and the badger. Belarus is home to hundreds of bird species, including the black stork, marsh owl, green woodpecker, and common crane. Many migratory birds also make their way to Belarus from around March onwards, including ducks, gulls, storks, geese, and sandpipers.
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