The Republic of Belarus is an independent state located in Eastern Europe. Around 120 different nationalities live in the country, and its diversity is helping it to flourish. Belarus has in excess of 20,000 rivers and creeks and roughly 11,000 lakes, the largest being Naroch which covers about 80 square kilometres. Belarus also has three national parks, all offering excellent fishing, walking and hiking, and swimming.
Belarusian culture is full of theatre, music, literature and art, which have evolved over 1,000 years. It most important works are protected and displayed in museums countrywide. The collection at the National Museum of Art in Minsk features works from the 17th to the 20th century. Professional theatre companies and puppet theatres are still enjoyed across the country. Literature by Simeon Polotsky among others has played an important role in society for many hundreds of years, while Minsk's National Library houses the largest collection of Russian-language books outside of Russia.
Food and Drink
Soup, both hot and cold, is a major part of Belarusian cuisine, with whey often being the principal ingredient. Pork combined with garlic is a favourite dish, which is enjoyed with cabbage, peas, and black radishes. Potatoes are widely used in all cooking, and Draniki or 'potato pancakes' are a popular delicacy. Belarus boasts a wide range of traditional alcoholic drinks such as ancient meads, and Heralka (vodka), which nowadays is produced from potatoes or grain. Less potent but equally delicious options include Kvas (more commonly know as bread drink), which is made from black or rye bread, and birch tree extract. When families eat, adults always take their places before children, and during meals conversation is minimal. Belarusian's have a saying "When I eat, I am deaf and mute".
Polish nationalism was the catalyst for the rise of Belarusian self-identity. After a failed uprising in 1830, Nicholas I dissolved the Polish influence on the land known today as Belarus. The 1860s were a watershed for Belarus and this was followed by the Industrial Revolution under Alexander III. The construction of railway routes and transport paved the way for one and a half million people to travel to other parts of the Empire in search of a better quality of life. The revolution of 1905 resulted in Belarusian being officially recognised as an independent language. In 1918 it became the Belarusian People's Republic. But this was short-lived. Its democratic government was forced into exile by Bolsheviks, who assumed control of the country. World War I and II were followed by decades of external rule. Belarus was declared politically and economically independent in 1994; it was ratified a democratic state.