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Byelorussia

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Byelorussia, or Belarus, republic, also known as White Russia. Independent country in eastern Europe, bordered by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.

Land and climated

Though mainly a plain, Byelorussia has hilly regions and extensive marshes, particularly in the southwest. The climate is mild. There are extensive waterways, in which the Dnieper, Pripet, Berezina, and Western Dvina rivers are linked by canals. About a quarter of the country is forestland.

People

White Russians constitute 78% of the population; the largest minorities are Russians (13%), Poles (4%), and Ukranians (3%). 60% of the population belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church. The official language is White Russian, which is usually written in Cyrillic script.

Economy

Natural resources include peat, rock salt, phosphorite, limestone, and iron ore. The people are dependent on both agriculture and industry. Products include agricultural machinery, trucks, timber, wood products, and textiles. Minsk, the capital, produces heavy vehicles and tractors. Other cities and industrial centers include Vitebsk, Gomel, and Mogilev.

History

Byelorussia was originally inhabited by Slavic tribes, became part of Lithuania in the 14th century, and was made part of Poland in the 16th century. When Poland was partitioned in the late 18th century, Byelorussia became part of the Russian Empire. By the Treaty of Riga in 1921, the western part of Byelorussia was ceded to Poland. When the USSR (Soviet Union) was formed in 1922, Byelorussia became one of the 4 original constituent republics. The region was the scene of bitter fighting during World War II. The collapse of communism in the USSR resulted in the republic's independence in 1991.

See also: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

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