country profile - BELARUS
Background: After seven decades as a constituent republic of the USSR, Belarus attained its independence in 1991. It has retained closer political and economic ties to Russia than have any of the other former Soviet republics. Belarus and Russia signed a treaty on a two-state union on 8 December 1999 envisioning greater political and economic integration. Although Belarus agreed to a framework to carry out the accord, serious implementation has yet to take place. Since his election in July 1994 as the country's first and only directly elected president, Aleksandr LUKASHENKO has steadily consolidated his power through authoritarian means and a centralized economic system. Government restrictions on political and civil freedoms, freedom of speech and the press, peaceful assembly, and religion have remained in place. The situation was somewhat aggravated after security services cracked down on protests challenging election results in the capital Minsk following the 2010 presidential election, but little protest occurred after the 2015 election.
geography  
Location: Eastern Europe, east of Poland
Area: total: 207,600 sq km
land: 202,900 sq km
water: 4,700 sq km
Land boundaries: total: 3,642 km
border countries (5): Latvia 161 km, Lithuania 640 km, Poland 418 km, Russia 1,312 km, Ukraine 1,111 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Climate: cold winters, cool and moist summers; transitional between continental and maritime
Natural resources: forests, peat deposits, small quantities of oil and natural gas, granite, dolomitic limestone, marl, chalk, sand, gravel, clay
people  
Population: 9,589,689 (July 2015 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 15.51% (male 765,070/female 722,540)
15-24 years: 11.12% (male 548,487/female 517,840)
25-54 years: 45.3% (male 2,132,051/female 2,212,223)
55-64 years: 13.62% (male 575,816/female 730,432)
65 years and over: 14.44% (male 439,257/female 945,973) (2015 est.)
Median age: total: 39.6 years
male: 36.5 years
female: 42.6 years (2015 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.2% (2015 est.)
Birth rate: 10.7 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Death rate: 13.36 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Net migration rate 0.7 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.79 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.46 male(s)/female
total population: 0.87 male(s)/female (2015 est.)
Nationality: noun: Belarusian(s)
adjective: Belarusian
Ethnic groups: Belarusian 83.7%, Russian 8.3%, Polish 3.1%, Ukrainian 1.7%, other 2.4%, unspecified 0.9% (2009 est.)
Religions: Eastern Orthodox 80%, other (including Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim) 20% (1997 est.)
Languages: Russian (official) 70.2%, Belarusian (official) 23.4%, other 3.1% (includes small Polish- and Ukrainian-speaking minorities), unspecified 3.3% (2009 est.)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99.7%
male: 99.8%
female: 99.7% (2015 est.)
government  
Country name: conventional long form: Republic of Belarus
conventional short form: Belarus
local long form: Respublika Byelarus'
local short form: Byelarus'
former: Belorussian (Byelorussian) Soviet Socialist Republic
Government type: republic in name, although in fact an authoritarian system centered on the executive
Capital: name: Minsk
geographic coordinates: 53 54 N, 27 34 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Administrative divisions: 6 provinces (voblastsi, singular - voblasts') and 1 municipality* (horad); Brest, Homyel', Horad Minsk*, Hrodna, Mahilyow, Minsk, Vitsyebsk
note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers; Russian spelling provided for reference when different from Belarusian
Independence: 25 August 1991 (from the Soviet Union)
National holiday: Independence Day, 3 July (1944); note - 3 July 1944 was the date Minsk was liberated from German troops, 25 August 1991 was the date of independence from the Soviet Union
Legal system: civil law system;
note - nearly all major codes (civil, civil procedure, criminal, criminal procedure, family, and labor) have been revised and came into force in 1999 or 2000
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: president Aleksandr LUKASHENKO (since 20 July 1994)
head of government: prime minister Andrey KABYAKOW (since 27 December 2014); first deputy prime minister Vasily MATYUSHEVSKIY (since 27 December 2014)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president
elections/appointments: president directly elected by absolute majority popular vote in 2 rounds if needed for a 5-year term (no term limits); first election took place on 23 June and 10 July 1994; according to the 1994 constitution, the next election should have been held in 1999, however, Aleksandr LUKASHENKO extended his term to 2001 via a November 1996 referendum; subsequent election held on 9 September 2001; an October 2004 referendum ended presidential term limits and allowed the president to run in a third (19 March 2006), fourth (19 December 2010), and fifth election (11 October 2015); next election in 2020; prime minister and deputy prime ministers appointed by the president and approved by the National Assembly
election results: Aleksandr LUKASHENKO reelected president; percent of vote - Aleksandr LUKASHENKO (independent) 84.1%, Tatsyana KARATKEVICH (BSDPH) 4.4%, Sergey GAYDUKEVICH (LDP) 3.3%, other 8.2%; note - election marred by electoral fraud
Legislative branch: bicameral National Assembly or Natsionalnoye Sobraniye consists of the Council of the Republic or Sovet Respubliki (64 seats; 56 members indirectly elected by regional and Minsk city councils and 8 members appointed by the president; members serve 4-year terms) and the Chamber of Representatives or Palata Predstaviteley (110 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by absolute majority vote with a second round if needed; members serve 4-year terms); note - the US does not recognize the legitimacy of the National Assembly
elections: Palata Predstaviteley - last held on 23 September 2012 (next to be held September 2016); OSCE observers determined that the election was neither free nor impartial and that vote counting was problematic in a number of polling stations; pro-LUKASHENKO candidates won every seat with no opposition representation in the chamber; international observers determined that the previous election, on 28 September 2008, despite minor improvements, also fell short of democratic standards, with pro-LUKASHENKO candidates winning every seat
election results: Sovet Respubliki - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - NA; Palata Predstaviteley - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - KPB 3, AP 1, Republican Party of Labor and Justice 1, no affiliation 104, vacant 1
Judicial branch: highest court(s): Supreme Court (consists of the chairman, deputy chairman, and NA judges); Constitutional Court (consists of 12 judges including a chairman and deputy chairman)
judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court judges appointed by the president with the consent of the Council of the Republic; judges initially appointed for 5 years and evaluated for life appointment; Constitutional Court judges - 6 appointed by the president and 6 elected by the Chamber of Representatives; judges can serve for 11 years with an age limit of 70
subordinate courts: provincial (including Minsk city) courts; first instance (district) courts; economic courts; military courts
Political parties and leaders: pro-government parties:
Belarusian Agrarian Party or AP [Mikhail RUS]
Belarusian Patriotic Party [Nikolay ULAKHOVICH]
Belarusian Socialist Sporting Party [Vladimir ALEKSANDROVICH]
Belaya Rus [Aleksandr RADKOV]
Communist Party of Belarus or KPB [Igor KARPENKO]
Liberal Democratic Party or LDP [Sergey GAYDUKEVICH]
Republican Party of Labor and Justice [Vasiliy ZADNEPRYANIY]
opposition parties:
Belarusian Christian Democracy Party [Pavel SEVERINETS] (unregistered)
Belarusian Labor Party [Aleksandr BUCHVOSTOV] (unregistered)
Belarusian Liberal Party of Freedom and Progress [Vladimir NOVOSYAD] (unregistered)
Belarusian Party of the Green [Oleg NOVIKOV]
Belarusian Party of the Left "Fair World" [Sergey KALYAKIN]
Belarusian Popular Front or BPF [Aleksey YANUKEVICH]
Belarusian Social-Democratic Assembly [Stanislav SHUSHKEVICH]
Belarusian Social Democratic Party ("Assembly") or BSDPH [Irina VESHTARD]
Belarusian Social Democratic Party (People's Assembly) [Nikolay STATKEVICH] (unregistered)
Christian Conservative Party or BPF [Zyanon PAZNIAK]
United Civic Party or UCP [Anatoliy LEBEDKO]
Political pressure groups and leaders: Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs [Sergey MATSKEVICH] (unregistered)
Belarusian Association of Journalists [Zhanna LITVINA]
Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions [Aleksandr YAROSHUK]
Belarusian Helsinki Committee [Aleh HULAK]
Malady Front (Young Front) [Zmitser DASHKEVICH] (unregistered)
Vyasna (Spring) human rights center [Ales BELYATSKIY] (unregistered)
Perspektiva [Anatol SHUMCHENKO] (small business association)
"Tell the Truth" Movement [Vladimir NEKLYAYEV] (unregistered)
Women's Independent Democratic Movement [Ludmila PETINA]
International organization participation: BSEC (observer), CBSS (observer), CEI, CIS, CSTO, EAEC, EAPC, EBRD, FAO, GCTU, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (NGOs), ICRM, IDA, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, NAM, NSG, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, PFP, SCO (dialogue member), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO (observer), ZC
Flag description: red horizontal band (top) and green horizontal band one-half the width of the red band; a white vertical stripe on the hoist side bears Belarusian national ornamentation in red; the red band color recalls past struggles from oppression, the green band represents hope and the many forests of the country
communications  
Telephones - fixed lines: total subscriptions: 4.5 million
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 47 (2014 est.)
Telephones - mobile cellular: total: 11.4 million
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 119 (2014 est.)
Telephone system: general assessment: Belarus lags behind its neighbors in upgrading telecommunications infrastructure; modernization of the network progressing with roughly two-thirds of switching equipment now digital
domestic: state-owned Beltelcom is the sole provider of fixed-line local and long distance service; fixed-line teledensity is improving although rural areas continue to be underserved; multiple GSM mobile-cellular networks are experiencing rapid growth; mobile-cellular teledensity now exceeds 100 telephones per 100 persons
international: country code - 375; Belarus is a member of the Trans-European Line (TEL), Trans-Asia-Europe (TAE) fiber-optic line, and has access to the Trans-Siberia Line (TSL); 3 fiber-optic segments provide connectivity to Latvia, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine; worldwide service is available to Belarus through this infrastructure; additional analog lines to Russia; Intelsat, Eutelsat, and Intersputnik earth stations (2008)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 28, FM 37, shortwave 11 (1998)
Television broadcast stations: 47 (plus 27 repeaters) (1995)
Internet country code: .by
Internet hosts: 113,115 (2009)
Internet users: total: 5 million
percent of population: 52.2% (2014 est.)
transportation  
Airports: 65 (2013)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 33
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 20
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 7 (2013)
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 32
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 2
under 914 m: 28 (2013)
Heliports: 1 (2013)
Pipelines: gas 5,386 km; oil 1,589 km; refined products 1,730 km (2013)
Railways: total: 5,528 km
broad gauge: 5,503 km 1.520-m gauge (874 km electrified)
standard gauge: 25 km 1.435-m gauge (2014)
Roadways: total: 86,392 km
paved: 74,651 km
unpaved: 11,741 km (2010)
Waterways: 2,500 km (major rivers are the west-flowing Western Dvina and Neman rivers and the south-flowing Dnepr River and its tributaries, the Berezina, Sozh, and Pripyat rivers) (2011)
Ports and terminals: river port(s): Mazyr (Prypyats')
transnational issues  
Disputes - international: boundary demarcated with Latvia and Lithuania; as a member state that forms part of the EU's external border, Poland has implemented strict Schengen border rules to restrict illegal immigration and trade along its border with Belarus
Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 126,407 applicants for forms of legal stay other than asylum (Ukraine) (2015)
stateless persons: 6,440 (2014)
Trafficking in persons: current situation: Belarus is a source, transit, and destination country for women, men, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor; women and children are trafficked to European and Middle Eastern countries and within Belarus for sexual exploitation; Belarusian men, women, and children are found in forced labor in the construction industry and other sectors in Russia, Belarus, and other countries; Ukrainian women may be sex trafficked in Belarus
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List – Belarus does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; the government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute a significant effort toward meeting the minimum standards for eliminating human trafficking; authorities did not convict any trafficker and conducted the fewest investigations in the last four years; a 2013 law permitting state funding for NGOs that provide services to victims has not been implemented; the government retained a decree forbidding workers from leaving their jobs in the wood processing industry without their employer’s permission, and authorities did not identify any labor trafficking victims; continuing efforts to prevent human trafficking included awareness campaigns, penalizing fraudulent labor recruitment, and a safe migration hotline (2014)
Illicit drugs: limited cultivation of opium poppy and cannabis, mostly for the domestic market; transshipment point for illicit drugs to and via Russia, and to the Baltics and Western Europe; a small and lightly regulated financial center; anti-money-laundering legislation does not meet international standards and was weakened further when know-your-customer requirements were curtailed in 2008; few investigations or prosecutions of money-laundering activities (2008)
Update: This page was last updated on 10 November 2015
Sources: CIA, The World Factbook, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html