The Republic of Belarus is situated in the centre of Europe. It borders on Latvia, Lithuania, the Ukraine, Russia and Poland. Its territory is much larger than such countries as Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece and a number of others. Its present population is about 12 million people. Belarus is a land of vast plains and picturesque hills, thick forests and green meadows, deep blue lakes and flowing rivers. Forests cover 2/5 of Belarus, they are scattered all over the country. There are a lot of rivers and lakes in our country. The Dnieper, Pripyat, Beresins, Sozh, Zapadnaya Dvina, Neman are the biggest rivers with more then 500 kilometers in length. The largest lake in Belarus is Lake Naroch which stretches 13 kilometers from West to East. It is a very popular recreation area in our country. Belarus has a moderately continental climate due to the influence of the Atlantic Ocean with a warm winter and warm summer.
To most of the world, Belarus is thought of as a relatively new country in Central Europe. For Belorussians, it's an ancient land. The history of Belarus goes back to ancient times beginning with the Polotsk Principality in the 10th century.
From the 13th century until the 16th centuiy the territory of present -day Belarus was the core of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in which Belarussian was the official language. It was one of the largest, most powerful and flourishing states, in Eastern Europe. The 16th century is considered to be the Golden Age of Belarussian history. This period was marked by prolific growth and foundation of many new cities and towns. There was significant progress in the development of culture and economy of the Belarussian people. As Belarus is situated in the centre of Europe many wars took place on its territory.
One of the worst wars was in 1812 when French emperor Napoleon attacked Russia and as a result, Belarussian lands became a major battlefield arena. A great number of Belarussians took part in this war against Napoleon.
In the 20th century alone Belarus survived three revolutions and three bloody wars. The Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 was one of the most heroic and tragic periods in the history of the century. For three years the territory of Belarus was occupied by the Nazis.
The country lost more than 3 million people (every third citizen fell in the fight against fascism), many towns and villages were ruined. Belarus lost more then half of its national wealth.
Today Belarus is a developed industrial state. Industry makes up 70% of the Gross National Product. The main industries are engineering, chemical industry, wood-working industry, light and food industries. The major industrial centres in Belarus are Minsk, Gomel, Vitebsk, Mogilev, Soligorsk, Zhodino, Brest and others. Belarussian goods are exported to many countries and are known all over the world. Belarussian agriculture specializes in milk and meat production, flax, vegetables (especially potatoes) and fruit (especially apples). The Republic of Belarus has a well-developed science and educational system.
The Academy of Sciences founded in 1929 is one of the largest centres of science in our country. Its research-institutes work on various important problems in such fields as mathematics, optics, genetics, biology, etc. The demand for higher education remains high. State institutions are the centres both for education and scientific research. Nowadays in Belarus there are 43 universities, academies and institutes which provide training in various spheres of science and humanities.
At present Belarus actively participates in an effective international partnership with the governments of different states and international organizations. As a co-founder of the United Nations, Belarus cooperates with various institutions and organizations of the United Nations, World Bank, World Health Organization, International Labor Organization, UNESCO, the European Union, etc. Belarus has a friendly working relationship with such countries as Germany, Denmark, France, Canada, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Great Britain, The USA and many others.