The population of Belarus in 2003 was estimated by the United Nations at 9,895,000, which placed it as number 79 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In that year approximately 14% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 18% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 88 males for every 100 females in the country in 2003. According to the UN, the annual population growth rate for 2000–2005 is -0.45%, with the projected population for the year 2015 at 9,427,000. The population density in 2002 was 48 per sq km (124 per sq mi).
It was estimated by the Population Reference Bureau that 71% of the population lived in urban areas in 2001. The capital city, Minsk, had a population of 1,758,000 in that year. The estimated population of other major cities included Homyel, 506,000; Mahilyow, 363,000; Hrodna, 277,000; and Brest (formerly Brest–Litovsk), 209,000. According to the United Nations, the urban population growth rate for 2000–2005 was 0.3%.
Almost 25% of the population of Belarus was killed during World War II, and combined with the fatalities of the Soviet era purges, the postwar population was one-third smaller than it had been in 1930. It was not until the 1970s that the population returned to prewar levels.