Where the hell on earth is Belarus? Before we explore Belarus, lets quickly dissect the components that makes up the flag of Belarus. The Belarusian flag has two bands one red taking up 2/3 of the height of the flag and a green one in the lower third and a white Rushnyk pattern on the left-hand side. According to Alexander Lukashenko president since 1994 around the time that the flag was created, the red color represents freedom and sacrifice of the nation’s forefathers, the green represents life and the rushnyk pattern has more of a cultural connotation rather than a symbolized one. Rushnyk patterns are used consistently in Belarusian cloths and woven material. Some rushnyk have hidden meanings but the one on the flag doesn’t really have one.
Located in eastern Europe landlocked between five other countries Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. The country is divided up into six regions. Minsk is one special administrative district and also the capital city of Belarus. Getting into Belarus relatively easy for all the neighbor nations as there are various roads and trains that travel to Belarus from places like Poland, Russia and Lithuania. However, border guards have the jurisdiction to pretty much deny entry to anyone they deem as not worthy and have no problem sending them back. Typically, if your nationality is not from the Eastern European region you may find a little bit more difficult to enter and this is one of the reasons why Belarus is one of the least visited countries in all of Europe.
The borders in Belarus are strange because even though there are lots of rivers and lakes not many of them define the borders of Belarus. There are the short river borders like the Katra River in Lithuania and the Dnipro water river in the south of Ukraine but most of the borders are just arbitrarily drawn lines situated over land in which the trees and bushes are hacked to show the territory marks. Some of these borders get weird like in the North you have the Adutiskis railway station split between Lithuania and Belarus in which for about a mile heading east you’ll be in Belarus and heading west you’ll be in Lithuania. Also, you have an island split between Belarus and Lithuania in lake Ricu and two islands and two peninsulas in lake Druksiai.
The weirdest part in Belarus though would have to be the small Russian Sankovo Medvyeshe enclaves in the south near the border by Ukraine. This place used to technically belong to Russia and under it is an old Russian military base however the entire place including the base and two small towns near it are virtually abandoned and empty because of Chernobyl. Back in 1986 the Chernobyl nuclear disaster actually affected Belarus more than it did Ukraine and to this day a huge portion of the South border by Ukraine is left completely abandoned due to the radioactive fallout that still lingers to this day. Due to the fact that there are no more operating checkpoints, this spot is notoriously known as the prominent place in all of Belarus were the few desperate people go to smuggle things in across the border.
Belarus is Southland is actually very green and lush a huge portion of this land prior to Chernobyl was used for farming and agriculture however today it’s sadly kind of neglected by force. About 70 percent of the radiation from Chernobyl went to Belarus and 1/5 of Belarus is land was affected by the fallout. This is partially the reason why Belarus is a lot more urbanized today than it was prior to the 80s since many of the people were displaced and evacuated from the region to avoid the danger. Today however with the help of the UN and other agencies they are trying to combat the fallout problem by using cesium binders and rapeseed. Rapeseed cultivation as a plant is used for absorbing the cesium-137 isotope. This is one of the few Western world backed up projects in Belarus as they typically shy away from anything past Poland.
The land of Belarus is generally flat. As a landlocked nation they have no access to the sea however they do have more than enough water internally with an abundance of rivers and lakes. About 40% of the land is forest some of them are captivatingly beautiful like the Bielaviezskaja forests. The west by Poland houses one of the few places where you can find the rare European bison Belarus’s favorite animal which is featured on the emblem and a mascot for various hockey teams. The most common resource in Belarus is Peat. Peat is some kind of decayed vegetation slab that can be used for both fertilizer and fuel. Belarus is also located in the transitional zone between the continental climates and the maritime climates so the weather is sometimes a little bit erratic summers typically range lower than room temperature around 18 degrees Celsius or 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Belarusian people are what really make this enigmatic country stick out. Belarus has about 9.5 million people and about 84 percent of whom are identify as ethnically Belarusian. The weird thing though is that even though over 80% of the people identifies ethnically Belarusian, only a fraction of these people actually speaks the Belarusian language. The Belarusian language is kind of like a mixture between Polish and Russian and is about half derived from the Russian language. If a Belarusian speaks Belarusian to a Russian the Russian will be able to understand basically the overall gist of what the Belarusian is trying to say but will still have some problems with particular area. Even more confusing, many Belarusians actually speak in a Transyanka dialect which is like a mixture of Belarusian and Russian.The president Alexander Lukashenko even speaks in a Transyanka accent sometimes.
Since independence from the former Soviet Union in the 90s Belarus has only had one president since 1994 “Alexander Lukashenko”. To understand Belarus, you kind of have to know who Alexander Lukashenko is. Many people in Europe will tell you that Lukashenko is Europe’s last real dictator. Lukashenko is a strange but kind of funny leader in that yes he’s kind of been accused of human rights violations and yes he’s been accused of being slightly racist and slightly anti-Western and he’s always speaking in a brash slightly aggressive tone that kind of makes him look angry however you can’t deny the fact that he did kind of buildup Belarus with a slightly better infrastructure than it was during the Soviet rule and to this day unemployment has dropped to nearly one percent and they actually prosecute citizens who don’t have jobs. The cities in Belarus are always clean and the crime rate is incredibly low making Belarus one of the safest places in Europe and technically because punishments for crimes are incredibly severe.
The currency exchange rate and GDP are low and jobs pay are very minimal. State-owned structure company privatization is almost completely non-existent. Lukashenko has his opponents and there have been a lot of anti-Lukashenko protests but a lot of the people in Belarus can’t deny the fact that he’s kind of a relatable person. He is an athlete and absolutely loves hockey and constantly plays it himself in an exhibition games sometimes with his own sons which is why in 2014 he was delighted when Minsk hosted the ice hockey World Championships. Lukashenko had in the past gotten Belarus on a bit of heat with the rest of the EU and the Western world due to the way on how he runs the country and to this day relations are kind of non-existent or strained with them.
Belarus is a little shy when it comes to friends, I mean yes, they have their affiliates but it’s a little complicated. First of all, Belarus’s relationships are strange because they get along best with all five of their border neighbors however due to sanctions imposed upon them after allegations under Lukashenko, they are essentially closed off to the EU which is weird because Poland and Lithuania and Latvia are in the EU. This makes things interesting because Poland, Lithuania and Latvia are kind of seen as like conduit countries that act as a bridge between the EU and Belarus. Poland and Lithuania have been close friends since day one as Belarus has been part of the Grand Dutchy of Lithuania and the Polish Lithuanian-Commonwealth for over five hundred years there’s always been in a sense a Polish and Lithuanian influence in Belarus for the longest time.
Afterwards things got switched up and Russia kind of took over in the 18th century and that’s when things really started to get Russia-by. The name Belarus means white Russia and that’s where the three sisters come in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus commonly referred to as the Slavic sisters. These three countries understand each other better than anyone else in the world. When it comes to Ukraine, Belarus actually at some points got along with them much better relationally than they did with Russia.
The Ukrainian language is actually closer to the Belarusian language than Russian making exchanges much easier for them. Where things got sour though was Crimea back in 2014. Russia invaded the Ukrainian held region of Crimea and amidst all the circumstances Belarus actually kind of sided more with Russia than Ukraine. Russia is best friends with Belarus and they kind of relate on all levels of diplomacy and treaties. However, it’s more like a love-hate relationship. For the longest time, Belarus was kind of seen as like Russia’s little puppy. Everything started out great and in the mid-90s they signed treaties and friendship agreements and cooperation deals.
They did huge business and Lukashenko and Putin would ski together in the mountains but then over time Russia got a little pushy with the Belarusians. They accused Russia of trying to bribe them numerous times to assuage their national advocacies like in the 2000. They tried to get Belarus to recognize the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions and after the refusal, Russia banned all dairy products from Belarus commonly referred to as the milk war and then there were the gas wars and then the custom control threats and to this day Lukashenko and his legislators have even instituted a complete restructuring of the entire country’s operations to become de-Russiafy. Textbooks, educational material, broadcasting TV and even street signs are now being switched over to become exclusively published in Belarusian and not Russian.
Children are being taught Belarusian first and Russian second now and this was done as a response to the tiring relations with Russia and as an attempt to research the sense of nationalism in the population of Belarus. In conclusion, after years of crazy messed up drama, Belarus is really starting to learn how to become Belarus again with just one small diplomatically strange step at a time.