macrohistory & world report


Map of Belarus amid neighboring states

Belarus (center) and its capital, Minsk amid neighboring states

World Factbook as of November 2014:: "As part of the former Soviet Union, Belarus had a relatively well-developed industrial base; it retained this industrial base - which is now outdated, energy inefficient, and dependent on subsidized Russian energy and preferential access to Russian markets - following the breakup of the USSR. The country also has a broad agricultural base which is inefficient and dependent on government subsidies... About 80% of all industry remains in state hands, and foreign investment has been hindered by a climate hostile to business. A few banks, which had been privatized after independence, were renationalized... Belarus has only small reserves of crude oil, though it imports most of its crude oil and natural gas from Russia at prices substantially below the world market. Belarus exported refined oil products at market prices produced from Russian crude oil purchased at a steep discount. In late 2006, Russia began a process of rolling back its subsidies on oil and gas to Belarus. Tensions over Russian energy reached a peak in 2010, when Russia stopped the export of all subsidized oil to Belarus save for domestic needs. In December 2010, Russia and Belarus reached a deal to restart the export of discounted oil to Belarus. Little new foreign investment has occurred in recent years. In 2011, a financial crisis began, triggered by government directed salary hikes unsupported by commensurate productivity increases. The crisis was compounded by an increased cost in Russian energy inputs and an overvalued Belarusian ruble, and eventually led to a near three-fold devaluation of the Belarusian ruble in 2011. In November 2011, Belarus agreed to sell to Russia its remaining shares in Beltransgaz, the Belarusian natural gas pipeline operator, in exchange for reduced prices for Russian natural gas. Receiving more than half of a $3 billion loan from the Russian-dominated Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) Bail-out Fund, a $1 billion loan from the Russian state-owned bank Sberbank, and the $2.5 billion sale of Beltranzgas to Russian state-owned Gazprom helped stabilize the situation in 2012; nevertheless, the Belarusian currency lost more than 60% of its value, as the rate of inflation reached new highs in 2011 and 2012, before calming in 2013. As of January 2014, the final tranche of the EurAsEC loan has been delayed, but in December 2013 Russia announced a new loan for Belarus of up to $2 billion for 2014. Notwithstanding foreign assistance, the Belarusian economy continues to struggle under the weight of high external debt servicing payments, a growing trade deficit, stagnant economic growth, and low foreign reserves."

Economic growth
2011: 5.3%
201o: 7.6%
2009: 0.2%

Labor force in agriculture
2005: 9.4%

Unemployment rate
2009: 1%

Exports - commodities
Machinery and equipment, mineral products, chemicals, metals, textiles, foodstuffs

Export partners
2010: Russia 38.9%, Netherlands 11%, Ukraine 10.2%

Import partners
2010: Russia 51.8%, Germany 6.8%, Ukraine 5.4%, China 4.8%

Income Distribution – GINI index
Ranks 127th among 140 countries (lower rank number is less equal) .

Health expenditures
2009: 5.8% of GDP

Military expenditures as a percentage of GDP
2005: 1.4%


Living in an urban area
2010: 75%
2008: 73%

Net migration rate
2012: A net gain of 0.38 persons per 1,000 population.

Ethnic groups
1999 census: Belarusian 81.2%, Russian 11.4%, Polish 3.9%, Ukrainian 2.4%, other 1.1%

Belorussians are ethnically different from the Russians. The country's official language is Belorusian – an Eastern Slavic language with Ruthenian roots.

1997 estimate: Eastern Orthodox 80%, other (including Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim) 20%


Between Poland and Russia.


The president is elected by popular vote to a five-year term. Belarus is one of the former republics of the Soviet Union. The legislature is bicameral: the Council of the Republic is one house, with 64 seats, with eight members appointed by the president and 56 elected by regional councils. The second house the Chamber of Representatives, has 110 seats and its members are chosen by popular vote.

Belarus is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, former republics within the Soviet Union that today are closely associated with Russia economically, in defense and foreign policy.

Capital: Minsk.

Recent History

Recommended Website (not government sponsored)

Chernobyl, in the northern Ukraine, is about 16 kilometers (10 miles) from the Belarus border. It is said that because of the winds on April 26, 1986, 70 percent of the radioactive dust from the Chernobyl nuclear mishap fell on Belarus. This fallout is still an issue in Belarus, as is soil pollution from pesticide use.

Independence from the Soviet Union: August 25, 1991.

Alexander Lukashenko begins his political career in 1993 opposed to corruption and favoring "communist principles" – values he grew up with in the Soviet Union.

In 1994, Lukashenko runs as an independent against "the mafia" – those he accuses of corruption. He wins a runoff election, sticking with the socialism of his youth by opposing privatization and market reforms.

October 20, 2004: President Alexander Lukashenko, had been limited to two terms in office. Through a constitutional referendum, held three days ago (the 17th) he overcome a limit to the number of terms he can serve as president. The results were reported 77 percent in his favor. He has been derided in the press of his neighboring former Soviet republics, including Russia. Lukashenko dismisses criticism from abroad, claiming to be the alternative in Belarus to instability. Yesterday some young people marched to the president's residence with banners that read "no to tyranny." They were dispersed by baton-wielding police.

July 7, 2011: Belarus puts itself among those states that do not tolerate peaceful protest. Police attack, beat and arrest "hundreds fo people" across Belarus who are protesting against President Lukashenko.


Copyright © 2009-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.