(pronounced "al-ak-SAHN-der loo-kah-SHEN-koh")
"There is no exit from [our] situation without help from Russia."
Bounded by Russia on the east, Latvia and Lithuania on the north, Poland on the west, and Ukraine on the south, Belarus occupies some 207,600 sq km (80,154 sq mi) and has been a major east–west passage in both war and peace for more than 1,000 years.
Its population was estimated at 10.3 million in 2002, 81% of whom are ethnic Belarusians; 11% are ethnic Russians, with the remainder made up of Polish, Ukrainians, Tatars, and a scattering of other smaller nationalities. Its capital, Minsk, is also home to the headquarters of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Belarusian is the official language, but Russian, which is closely related to Belarusian and spoken by most Belarusians (including President Lukashenko), also enjoys a privileged status. A distinct cultural community since at least the 10th century, Belarus has been subjected to outside influences because of its location. Intense Russification took place under both the tsars and the Soviets. The Belarusian nation consists mainly (80%) of followers of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The remainder of the population is composed of Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Muslims.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Belarusian government introduced the Belarusian ruble as a parallel currency to the Russian ruble . Because of hyperinflationary policies, the Belarusian ruble rapidly lost ground to the Russian ruble . In 2000, the ruble was redenominated at one new ruble to 2,000 old rubles . At the center of Belarusian politics in the mid-1990s were efforts by the government to conclude an economic union with Russia. To date, these efforts have been unsuccessful, with close Russian relations and the possibility of reunion coloring the economic picture.
Historically, Belarus has been a major industrial region even though it lacks significant raw material resources. By the 1980s, industry accounted for over 60% of the economy. While that percentage declined somewhat given the economic difficulties following independence, Belarus still sees itself as an industrial society. As of 2000, industrial production accounted for about 40% of gross domestic product (GDP). Among the most important products are machinery, computers, machine tools, and petrochemicals. Privatization is almost nonexistent due to the government's failure to make market reforms. Agriculture, notably potatoes, grain, peat, and cattle, stood at about 13% of GDP in 1998.
Office of the President
220010 Minsk, Belarus
Web site: http://www.president.gov.by