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10 Facts About Belarus You Never Knew

Green, Clean, Safe

Belarus? What do you know about it? Small European country…

Just to clarify: the correct name of the country is BELARUS; not Belorussia or Byelorussia.

Whenever I meet new people and mention where I am from, the same question is usually asked:

Where is it?
It’s a country situated between Russia and Poland.
Oh, I see…

They cock their heads and stare at me as if I am a rare animal from a non-existent fabled place. 

The first thing that tourists note when visiting Belarus is that it is green, clean, safe, and in comparison with Russia and Ukraine there are excellent roads.

1. Literacy

Belarusian people are a literate nation: 99.85 percent (approximately, as it very difficult to detect the accurate rates of the last UNESCO report) of people are educated.

2. Languages

There are two official languages: Russian and Belarusian… and all official documentation is—sadly—in Russian. The people confirm that their native language is Belarusian, but only 24 percent use it at home!!! And ONLY 6 percent use it constantly, which means that they don’t use Russian at all!!!

Did you know?

In the 20s of the 20th century in the state, there were four official languages: Belarusian, Russian, Polish and Yiddish.

3. Sunny UK, Rainy Belarus

“The Foggy Albion” has always been considered rainy, drizzly, showery…

These are opinions, but what are the facts?

The average annual precipitation for Minsk (the capital): 662 mm, whereas for London: 584 mm.

Not a big difference, but still.

4. No Sea, No Mountains

If we don’t take into account such lilliput European countries like Vatican City or the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, Belarus is the only country in Europe which has no access to sea or has no mountains.

There is a joke about it:

Russian and Polish talk about modern world’s wonders:

Do you know that in Belarus sea fish costs cheaper than in our countries?
So, why should it be a wonder?
The wonder is that they don’t have any sea…

5. City or countryside?

And Belarusians say “yes” for cities. It’s considered the most urbanized among all former Soviet Union countries—75 percent of all population live in cities. In addition, the urban population is persistently growing. Positive or negative tendency?

6. Death Penalty

Belarus remains the only country in Europe where the death penalty is used today. Capital punishment can be sentenced for particularly serious crimes, and if the sentence is not appealed, only the president can pardon. The use of the death penalty by Belarus provokes criticism from Western countries, as well as the fact that there are many questions in this practice: relatives will learn about the execution of the punishment in a few months and do not even know where the remains of the executed person are kept.

In 2017 the Belarusian courts last year issued five death sentences and three life sentences, said First Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Court of Belarus Valery Kalinkovich. The last time the death sentence was pronounced in January 2018. The Minsk City Court sentenced two citizens of Belarus, Alexander Zhilnikov and Vyacheslav Sukharko, to death for the murder of three people with particular cruelty.

7. Bulba-land

Translation: Potato-land

Belarusians are very fond of potatoes; most of the national dishes include this essential ingredient for the locals. In Belarus, there are more than 300 potato dishes ("bulby"). Their nickname among Russians and Ukrainians: “bulbashi” (potato people).

8. The Country of Programmers

In Belarus, every second child wants to become a programmer.

Belarus is the “Silicon Valley” of Eastern Europe. About ten years ago, the High-Tech Park was created here, where now there are about 170 companies, 27,000 IT specialists.

What are the achievements?

  • Among technology companies, EPAM is listed on the New York Stock Exchange with an annual turnover of more than $1 million.
  • Wargaming, which created the popular game World of Tanks and now has 6,000 employees and 120 million users worldwide, is worth mentioning.
  • Viber, which is the third most popular messenger in the world after Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp, was bought by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten for 900 thousand dollars.
  • The Masquerade application (with 10 million downloads) was bought by Facebook in 2016.

9. Nobel Prize Awards

An interesting fact is that in Belarus there are as many as 5 Nobel Laureates. In 2015, Svetlana Aleksiyevich won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

10. Personality

Belarusians are very hospitable and friendly people... apart from some saleswomen in stores.

What is more, Belarusians are hardworking people.

Lastly, the locals are humble people. No matter how hard the trials come, they will not be indignant: “So be it.”

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