Belarus is a fascinating tourist country, offering something to see and experience for a lover of both history and modern urban culture.
Official language: Belarus and Russia
Currency: Belarusian Ruble (BYR)
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In Belarus (Belarus) there are fertile soils and almost half of the land is cultivated. However, agriculture’s share of gross domestic product (GDP) has dropped significantly since independence in 1991.
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Many farms have switched from animal husbandry to crop cultivation, although dairy and meat are still important commodities. The most common crops are potatoes, cereals, sugar beets, flax and vegetables.
Agriculture is centrally controlled and the state sets targets at district and regional level. The mills have to deliver to the state at fixed prices. For Belarus defense and foreign policy, please check relationshipsplus.
There are both state and private large farms. The number of state farms has decreased since independence while the number of private farms has increased, but private farming is usually done on small areas. In the early 1990s, there were around 2,500 state farms. Today they are around 1,500. They employ about two out of three agricultural workers.
The state mills are heavily dependent on state aid, which has dug big holes in the Belarusian economy. Over half of the state mills were estimated to lose before all bank loans were written off in 2005, and the number of loss-making farms fell to near zero. Subsequently, losses have increased again. Private farming was just over 700 in the early 1990s. Today, they are almost 2,500. Returns from private mills, measured in terms of price for the products, are increasing much faster than those from state mills.
Agriculture employs an ever-smaller part of the labor force. Shortly after independence, one of five employees worked in agriculture. Today the figure is one of ten. Many of the agricultural employees have the opportunity to grow for their own gain alongside. These crops account for a disproportionate share of production.
One problem for agriculture is the suites following the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986, when extensive Belarussian land was poisoned by radioactive fallout. Large areas of cultivable land are still in the woods due to radiation.
Forests cover almost a third of the country’s surface and trees are cut for the manufacture of paper, plywood, wood, building materials and furniture. The forest industry is relatively underdeveloped, with potential to develop it.
As Belarus lacks the coast, there is no extensive fishing. In lakes and rivers, however, some fish are caught, especially carp. Within the framework of the UN support for the restoration of wetlands, protection is planned for Belarussian peat bogs.
FACTS – AGRICULTURE
Agriculture’s share of GDP
6.4 percent (2018)
Percentage of land used for agriculture
42.0 percent (2016)
- Abbreviationfinder.org: Offers how the 3-letter acronym of BEL stands for the state of Belarus in geography.
Security manager is singled out for murder
A Belarusian exile, who claims to have served in a special force under the Ministry of the Interior, states that at the turn of the millennium, he was present when three named enemies of President Lukashenko were murdered, among them a former interior minister. According to the sensational testimony, conveyed via the German channel Deutsche Welle, it was the man’s chief of the special force SOBR who fired the deadly shots in 1999. The appointed chief dismisses the allegations, but they arouse strong reactions and demands that the charges be investigated.
Protest against feared union
At the same time as Lukashenko and Putin presidents meet in Moscow, a thousand demonstrators are conducting an unauthorized demonstration in Minsk. They are troubled by the announcement that the presidents are discussing “deeper integration”, which they interpret as perhaps a step towards a union with Russia, in their eyes “occupation, not integration”. Police are guarding the protesters, but do not intervene.
Sharp criticism of the parliamentary elections
Parliamentary elections are dismissed as undemocratic by OSCE international election observers. The election was marked by “a lack of respect for democratic commitments”, according to Swedish MP Margareta Cederfelt, who heads the group. The EU, for its part, describes the election as a lost opportunity for Belarus to hold elections of international standard. Leaders of the Belarusian opposition claim that the election was bordered by cheating.
Parliamentary elections without opposition
All 110 seats go to parties that support President Lukashenko when elections are held for the House of Representatives. Few opposition candidates are allowed to stand, therefore the two opposition candidates elected in 2016 cannot be re-elected. When Sweden Radio interviews voters, it appears that some go to the polling stations primarily to make cheating difficult by giving their vote to a candidate they do not like. In connection with the elections, Lukashenko announces that he intends to run for another term in the 2020 presidential election.
Elections are observed by the OSCE
Ahead of the impending elections to both chambers of the Belarusian Parliament, 551 observers from abroad have been accredited by the electoral authority. The people will have the opportunity to vote in the election to the House of Representatives on November 17, where there are 523 approved candidates for the 110 seats. The members of the Republican Council are appointed on November 7 (eight are directly appointed by the President, the others are appointed by regional bodies). The OSCE is among the organizations that will be in place with observers in connection with the election to the House of Representatives. In general, elections in Belarus are not considered to meet the requirements for the country to be considered a democracy.
Wood products on “silk rail” to China
The first rail cargo with sawn timber to China leaves from a station outside Brest. The shipment of 46 goods containers to Chongqing is expected to take up to two weeks to compare with about 40 days of cargo vessels, according to the news agency Belta. The connection is part of China’s major investment in new “silk roads” for trade.
Extended scouting at the border
Belarus has expressed concern that 500 US soldiers have been placed on a military base in neighboring Lithuania, just over a mile from the border. In a radio interview, the president of Lithuania now says that Americans are in the country to do education. The Ministry of Defense in Minsk has announced increased detention at the border.
Spyware accused are exchanged
President Lukashenko visits Ukraine and its president Zelenskyj. In connection with the visit, it is reported that the countries have reported on two cases of espionage charges: Ukraine has released a Belarus accused of espionage 2017, while a Ukrainian journalist who in 2018 was sentenced to eight years imprisonment in Belarus.
The United States and Belarus on friendly terms again
The US and Belarus will reestablish full diplomatic relations, after ten years, and exchange ambassadors, states Secretary of State David Hale during a visit to Minsk. Following the 2006 Belarusian presidential election, the United States imposed sanctions on the Lukashenko regime, citing human rights violations. The sanctions were tightened in 2008 and the US ambassador was expelled.
Employees to visit Trump
John Bolton, security adviser to US President Donald Trump, visits Minsk. According to the scathing message afterwards, President Lukashenko and Bolton have discussed security and bilateral issues.
New elections in November
President Lukashenko signs a decree which means that elections will be held in November for both chambers of the National Assembly. Elections to the Republican Council will take place on November 7 and elections to the House of Representatives on November 17. The members of the Republican Council are appointed by regional bodies and by the President.
Sentenced for murder of women
A man in his 50s has been sentenced to death for murder, human rights activists say. The man took the lives of two women at the end of 2018. It is unclear if the verdict could change in higher court.
Execution despite appeals
A doomed man is reported to have been executed, despite appeals from UN teams, among others. The foreign ministers in the countries that are members of the Council of Europe condemn the execution a few weeks later and urge Belarus not to execute the death sentence against the man’s accomplice. The two men must have killed three people together in 2015. Amnesty International criticizes Belarus’s habit of not informing relatives of the sentenced person about how the cases are handled – neither the date of the execution nor the burial ground. In 2018, four executions were reported to have been executed.
Ambitious goals in the fight against HIV
By 2023, Belarus hopes to have control over the spread of HIV, says the Minister of Health at a meeting with UN expertise. It means achieving a UNAIDS target called 90-90-90: 90 percent of those infected should know their condition, 90 percent of those who have been diagnosed should be under treatment with brake medication and 90 percent of those who have received brake medication should have been treated so that their virus levels are low. The Minister also wants to introduce anonymous and free tests (see November 22, 2018). The virus causes AIDS deficiency disease.
Bad rating for combating corruption
The Council of Europe’s anti-corruption agency, in English abbreviation called Greco, declares that Belarus does not live up to its commitments. This is the first time such a marking has been made against any of the 49 affiliated countries. Few recommendations on how to reduce corruption are complied with and evaluations are not published, notes Greco, who describes the corruption as “embedded in the system”. Belarus is not a member of the Council of Europe, but joined Greco in 2011. It is now up to the other countries to decide whether they want to take action in their contacts with the regime in Minsk.
The editor-in-chief avoids imprisonment
4th of March
Marina Zolotova, editor-in-chief of Belarus’s largest independent news site TUT.BY, is sentenced to a fine of the equivalent of just over SEK 30,000. Human rights organizations see the case as an element of a campaign against free media. Zolotova and about 20 other journalists were arrested in August. They were sentenced to fines and damages for illegally obtaining access to the state-run news agency Belta’s publication – thus without paying a subscription fee. They were punished despite the fact that Belta publishes the material the agency publishes fairly quickly so that all internet users can access the content. The new lawsuit against Zolotova was based on allegations that she had failed in her leadership. She was threatened with five years in prison and a form of nutrition ban.
Mass graves from World War II are opened
In the city of Brest, mass graves from the Second World War have been opened in a neighborhood where there was a Jewish ghetto during the Second World War. The graves contain the remains of at least 790 people, probably Jews who were murdered the days after the Nazi forces took the city in 1941. The following year, the city’s remaining Jews – thousands of people, were also shot. Now re-burial is being prepared in dignified forms, and the construction of a planned residential area may be reconsidered. Over the years, remnants have also been found in other places where Nazis dumped their victims.
Close meetings spark talks about Russian-Belarusian union
President Lukashenko dismisses speculation in Russian media that Russia is about to enforce a more complete Russian-Belarusian union. Lukashenko is visiting President Putin in Sochi – and the two have met several times in recent months – but when asked by the media, Lukashenko answers contradictory: They have not discussed Belarus sovereignty in this regard, at the same time the two countries are always ready to see about their relationships. In December, Russian Prime Minister Medvedev said that Moscow would be ready for closer integration with Belarus in the form of a single currency, customs authorities and courts in accordance with a 1999 agreement.
Wish list security from Zimbabwe
Cooperation between Belarus and Zimbabwe is to be expanded, according to agreements between Lukashenko and Mnangagwa presidents. Emmerson Mnangagwa, on a visit to Minsk, has, among other things, expressed his desire for economic exchange and assistance in modernizing security systems.
Sentenced to death for double murder
A 36-year-old man from Babrujsk was sentenced to death for the murder of two women. The murders were committed in his home in the summer of 2018. Belarus is the only country in Europe in 2019 to carry out executions.