The former Soviet republic was occupied by the Nazis between 1941 and 1944, when it lost 2.2 million people, including almost all of its large Jewish population.
Belarus has been ruled with an iron fist since 1994 by President Alexander Lukashenko. Opposition figures are subjected to harsh penalties for organising protests. In 2005, Belarus was listed by the US as Europe’s only remaining “outpost of tyranny”.
In the Soviet post-war years, Belarus became one of the most prosperous parts of the USSR, but with independence came economic decline. President Lukashenko has steadfastly opposed the privatisation of state enterprises, and the country is heavily dependent on Russia for its energy supplies.
- The Republic of Belarus
- Capital: Minsk
- Population 9.5 million
- Area 207,595 sq km (80,153 sq miles)
- Major languages Russian, Belarussian (both official)
- Major religion Christianity
- Life expectancy 65 years (men), 76 years (women)
- Currency Belarussian rouble