In Belarus, people like to boast that the country is located in the centre of Europe. On the political map, Belarus belongs more to Eastern Europe and is regarded as an important link where central routes between Europe and Asia converge. The Republic of Belarus borders on five neighbouring states: Russia to the east and northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia to the west and northwest.
In Belarus there are no high mountains, the country has no access to the sea. Nevertheless, it surprises with flat, seemingly endless expanses, dense forests and water-rich lakes and rivers.
The territory of Belarus is located in the western part of the Eastern European Plain. The relief of Belarus is predominantly flat and hilly, with an average altitude of 160 metres above sea level. Hills make up about one fifth of the country, the rest consists of 80 percent lowlands and plains. The highest regions are located in the centre of the country, while the relief gradually sinks to the north and south. The highest peak of the country is 345 meters above sea level of Gora Dzerzhinskaya. The elevation is located west of Minsk, near the small town of Dzerzhinsk. The lowest situated area is in the valley of the river Neman (Memel), on the border with Lithuania. The altitude is 80-90 meters above sea level. The wide and flat surface area favours settlements, agricultural development and the construction of industrial plants and utility lines.
The higher regions are characterised by a changing landscape with swamps and lakes. The main features of today’s relief were created by the effects of the ice ages. In the northern part of the country there is the Belarusian Poozerje (derived from the Russian word “ozero”, the lake) with a relatively young glacial relief, with numerous elevations and lakes.
In the last million years glaciers have played a decisive role in the formation of the relief, five times the area of today’s Belarus was covered by ice masses. During these ice ages, glacial and fluvioglacial forms of the relief (moraine relief) were formed by glacial movements.
In the central part of the country lie the Belarusian ridge (area: 13,000 km²) and the East Belarusian plateau. The two landscapes were formed under the influence of the last ice age. The origin of the watershed between the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea lies in the formation of these elevations. The ridge is characterised by steep hills crossed by deep river valleys. The slopes and plains are covered with forests and crossed by hollows and gorges. Next to the town of Orscha in the east of the country, not far from the Russian border, lies the Orshanskoe hill (255 metres above sea level), which gradually merges into the Orshansko-Mogilevskaya plain (between the towns of Orscha and Mogilev). To the south are the plains of Predpolesje and the flat, marshy lowlands of Polesia.
The region of Polesia extends from the city of Brest in the very southwest of the country directly on the Polish border to the Russian border in the southeast. Brest Polesia is characterised by valleys 50 to 300 metres wide, mostly with a swampy flat underground. The lowlands with 100 to 150 meters above sea level in the southeast are called Gomel Polesia and are characterized by a wave-like relief. On both sides of the river Pripyat there is the Pripyatskoe Polesien, which is characterized by large peat massifs and shallow lakes.
The river valleys are also interesting in the relief. They are of different ages and their final shape was obtained when the last glaciers retreated. Some, such as the river Dvina, have deep, canyon-like valleys, others, such as the Pripyat, have wide, flat valleys with marshy meadows.
The relief has also changed due to human influences. In recent decades, it has been greatly altered by the mining and construction of quarries, dumps, road dams, melioration canals and reservoirs and the drainage of swamps. In addition, seismic processes taking place on the mainland influence the relief. The epicentre of seismic activity in Belarus is located next to the potash salt deposit in Starobin south of Minsk.
The territory of Belarus has a multitude of untouched wet biotope ecosystems. With its 20,800 rivers, 10,800 lakes, 53 reservoirs and 1,500 ponds, it offers numerous habitats for endangered animals and plants. The total length of all rivers is 90,600 kilometres.
The Belarusian rivers connect the Black Sea with the Baltic Sea.
The largest rivers with a length of over 500 kilometres are the Dnepr and its tributaries Pripyat, Beresina and Sosch; the Neman (Memel) and its tributary Wilija; the western Dwina (Dvina). All major rivers, with the exception of the Beresina, cross borders.
It’s for a reason that Belarus is attributed “blue-eyed”, as the Belarusian lakes on the map are almost perceived as blue eyes. The largest of them are the Narotsch (79.6 km² area), the Oswejskoe (52.8 km² area) and the Tscherwonoe (43.6 km² area). The deepest and most picturesque lakes are located in the north of Belarus (on the Belarusian Poozerje, also called Braslaw Lakes).
Thanks to the potential of numerous rivers, the use of hydropower in Belarus has developed strongly. Nevertheless, only low-pressure power plants can be used, the flat territory excludes other variants.
Below is a summary of the most important dates in Belarusian history, from the 7th century to the present day:
|7th – 9th century||First settlement of Slavonic peoples on the territory of present- day Belarusia: Krivichi, Dregovichi, Radimichi|
|862||First mention of the towns Turov and Polotsk in the Nestor Chronicle|
|980||First mention in the Nestor Chronicle of Polotsk as a principality, ruled over by Prince Rogvolod|
|988||Foundation of the Kievan Rus|
|10th century||Start of the spread of Christianity in Belarus|
|992||Foundation of the first eparchy (a diocese in the Orthodox Church) in Polotsk|
|1044 – 1066||Construction of the first Orthodox Church in Polotsk, the Cathedral of Saint Sophia|
|3. March 1067||Battle on the Nemiga, first mention of Minsk|
|Beginning of the 13th century||Crusades of the Teutonic Order on Belarusian territory|
|1237 – 1241||Invasions and conquest of Belarusian territory by the Tatars (the Golden Horde)|
|Mid 13th century||Foundation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania|
|1253||Coronation of the first Lithuanian King, Mindaugas, in Novogrudok|
|1384||The „Pahonia“ became the coat of arms for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania|
|1385||Union of Krewo between the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania|
|1390||Adoption of Magdeburg Law in Brest|
|1410||Battle of Tannenberg|
|1499||Adoption of Magdeburg Law in Minsk|
|1506 – 1510||Construction of the castle in Mir (today: UNESCO World Heritage site)|
|1517||Franzysk Skaryna prints the first book (Book of Psalms) in the Ruthenian language in Prague)|
|1529,1566,1588||Textualisation of the statutes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the first codification of legislature in Eastern Europe|
|1558 – 1583||Livonian War – conflict between Russia, Sweden, Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania over the Baltic|
|7th May 1583||Laying of foundation stone for Nezvish Castle (today: UNESCO World Heritage site)|
|1st July 1569||Union of Lublin, founding of Poland-Lithuania|
|1596||Church Union von Brest|
|1604 – 1618||Intervention of Poland-Lithuania in Russia|
|1700 – 1721||Great Northern War|
|1772,1793,1795||Partitioning of Poland|
|3rd May 1791||Constitution of the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania|
|23rd May 1794||Decree by Tsarina Katharina II concerning the settlement of Jews in a homeland of their own|
|1798 – 1855||Years of birth and death of the Belarusian-Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz|
|24th June 1812||Napoleon crosses the River Neman, beginning of the Russian Campaign|
|1812 – 1820||Development and establishment of the Jesuit academy in Polotsk|
|1820||Founding of the religious order Society of Jesus, the Jesuit academy in Polotsk and other educational institutions in Belarus|
|1824 – 1839||Construction of the Augustow Canal linking the Rivers Neman and Vistula near Grodno|
|1830-1831||National liberation movement for the revival of Poland-Lithuania|
|1861||Abolition of serfdom in Russia and Belarus|
|1882 – 1942||Years of birth and death of the Belarusian national poet Yanka Kupala|
|1882 – 1956||Years of birth and death of the Belarusian national poet and author Yakub Kolas|
|13–15th March 1898||First congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in Minsk|
|October 1917||October Revolution, Proclamation of Soviet rule in Belarus|
|1st August 1914 – 11th November 1918||First World War|
|25th February 1918||Start of German occupation in Belarus|
|3rd March 1918||Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk|
|25th March 1918||Founding of Belarusian People’s Republic|
|1st January 1919||Proclamation of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Belarus (BSSR)|
|27th February 1919||Proclamation of the Lithuanian Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic|
|17th July 1919||Dissolution of the Lithuanian Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic|
|8th August 1919 – 11th July 1920||Occupation of Minsk by Polish troops|
|1920||Opening of the first Belarusian dramatic theatre (today: Yanka Kupala Theatre)|
|October 1921||Founding of the Belarusian state university|
|1921||Transition from the economic policy of war communism to the New Economic Policy (NEP)|
|1st January 1929||Inauguration of the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences|
|1st September 1939||Outbreak of the Second World War|
|22nd June 1941
24th June 1941
Outbreak of the Great Patriotic War (Russian for Second World War)
Founding of the first partisan units under the leadership of Vasily (Vasil) Korzh
|Winter 1941/42||Construction of the first concentration camps and ghettos on Belarusian soil|
|23rd June – 28th August 1944||Soviet liberation offensive called “Bagration”|
|3rd July 1944||Liberation of the Belarusian capital, Minsk|
|27th April 1945||Affiliation of the Belarusian SSR to the UN, as founding member|
|16th August 1945||Treaty between the USSR and Poland concerning the Soviet/Polish border|
|14th December 1947||Monetary reform in the USSR (incl. Belarus), abolition of food coupons|
|1st January 1956||Broadcast of the first television programme from the Minsk television centre|
|26th June 1974||Minsk: conferral of the honorary title “Hero City”|
|15th June 1977 – 30th June 1984||Construction of the Minsk underground|
|14th April 1978||Passage of the new constitution of the BSSR|
|26th April 1986||Chernobyl: worst imaginable accident, contamination of about 23% of the total Belarusian territory|
|26th January 1990||Belarusian becomes the second official language alongside Russian|
|19th September 1991||Alteration of the state’s official title from Belarusian SSR to Republic of Belarus|
|26th December 1991||Break-up of the Soviet Union, founding of the Commonwealth of Independent States|
|30th January 1992||Belarus becomes a member of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)|
|13th – 27th February 1994||First participation of an independent Belarusian team in the Winter Olympic Games|
|15th March 1994||Passage of the constitution of the Republic of Belarus|
|8th July 1994||First International Slavonic Bazaar Arts Festival in Vitebsk|
|10th July 1994||Election of the first Belarusian president Alexander Lukaschenko|
|Deсember 1999||Agreement between Russia and Belarus on close cooperation and possible establishment of a joint union|
|Septemer 2001/td>||Re-election of Alexander Lukaschenko, still in office today|
|May 2014||78th Ice HockeyWorld Championship in Minsk|
The custom “Christmas Tzar” takes place on the so-called “generous evening” (Shchedry vetscher) – in each case from 13 to 14 January.
In 2009, the unique Belarusian folk custom “Christmas Tzar” was included in UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage. This custom exists only in the village of Semezhevo (Kopyl district, Minsk region).
The history of the custom has its roots in the 18th century, when units of the tsarist army were stationed near the village of Semezhevo. Legend has it that during the New Year celebrations soldiers and officers walked around the courts in the old style (Julian calendar) and performed comedies. In return they were served by the landlords. After the troops had left the village, the locals not only preserved the tradition, but also developed it into a unique Christmas tradition.
The custom “Christmas Tzar” combines elements of carnival and folk drama. These include folklore, decorative and applied arts and special Christmas dishes.
In whose house the “tzars” were, according to popular belief, peace, harmony and wealth prevail throughout the year.
The custom has developed into a permanent institution in the cultural life of the country, which is celebrated by a large number of locals and tourists.
Take the opportunity to visit Belarus in winter and combine it with our Minsk trip.
In Minsk there is a free festival for Jewish music.
The festival of Jewish culture and klezmer music “Litvak Klezmer Festival” is held on November 7 and 8 in Minsk at 16 Oktyabrskaya Street.
Klezmer is the traditional folk music of Jews from Eastern Europe and a special style of their performance.This is a very important event for Belarusian culture. Jewish culture has always been an integral part of Belarusian culture. The Litvak Klezmer Festival is an attempt to revive it.
In 1791 the Russian tsarina Catherine II founded the so-called settlement rayon for the Jewish population of the Russian Empire. This also included the Belarusian territories, which were annexed to the Russian Empire. Jews could only live in approved cities and towns. After the establishment of the settlement rayon, the Jews began to predominate among the population of Belarusian cities. According to the 1897 census, 91.000 people lived in Minsk, 47.000 of them Jews.
But due to emigration, anti-Semitism policies in the Russian Empire and the USSR, and the Holocaust in World War II, Jewish culture in Belarus practically disappeared completely. That is why attempts are being made to revive it.
The festival is attended by musicians from the USA, Germany, Poland, Ukraine and Austria – more than a dozen musicians and bands. They will perform traditional klezmer music.
The festival also includes creative master classes, dance classes, exhibitions, and an extensive food court. Everything will be dedicated to klezmer music and Jewish culture. The musical program with concerts starts at 15:00 and lasts until 23:00.
If you are interested in Jewish culture and history, you can visit our capital on these days and also get to know it better on our Minsk city trip.
We can also help you to learn more about the history of your family and the fate of your ancestors. Join us on one of our genealogy tours.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has signed the decree № 351 “On stay in border zones”.
According to the decree, foreigners no longer have to pay for entry and temporary stay in Belarusian border zones. Until then, many border regions in Belarus had limited access with special passes (e.g. in the border region of Grodno or the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park near Brest).
The free special identity cards are issued by the territorial border police authorities. They can also be issued electronically.
This innovation will make it easier for foreigners to stay in the border zone and increase the attractiveness of the area for tourists.
We will be happy to help you with your application or with any questions you may have about your stay in the border regions.
You can discover one of these exciting regions on our round trip through Belarus.
From 13-15 September 2019 Minsk celebrates the Day of the City. On these days numerous events take place. The founding year of Minsk is 1067. This year Minsk will be 952 years old. The festivities begin with an official laying of a wreath at the monument of the hero city Minsk in the center of the city.
Minsk coat of arms
The Minsk coat of arms is depicted in the form of a baroque shield. The Virgin Mary is depicted on a blue background.
The following events, among others, are planned for the Day of the City:
- The “H.O.G. Rally Minsk 2019” Festival. Here motorcyclists from all over the world celebrate the end of the season, with numerous actions and the traditional “Poker Run” to the most interesting places in Minsk for motorcyclists and bus tours through the city for all who are interested.
- As part of the festivities, a public wedding of nine wedding couples will take place under the motto “Nine stories of love” (In the concert hall of the Upper Town, LINK).
- The world-famous IT company Wargaming (World of Tanks) organizes its traditional festival “Tank Rifle Day”. More than 200,000 guests from 28 countries are expected to attend this festival. Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian groups as well as the legendary band “The Offspring” will take part in the musical part of the festival. LINK
- As part of the Day of the City there will be an international festival on the history of ancient Minsk. Guests can learn more about the eventful history of Belarus, from the Late Palaeolithic to the Second World War.
On Saturday evening the guests can expect a big fireworks display.
You can learn more about the city of Minsk, its history, culture, architecture and the life of its inhabitants on our Minsk trip.
Europe’s last dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, is in trouble: The EU criticises him for violating human rights and freedom of expression. And Russia is said to want to annex the small country. So he is looking for supporters – and has found them in China.
Investors from the Far East are to build a small town near the capital Minsk, with Sichuan-style architecture, bilingual street signs and the „Beijing Alley” as the main street. A corresponding agreement with the city of Chongqing was recently signed. It alone has three times as many inhabitants as all of Belarus. The employees of Chinese investors will probably live in small China near Minsk.
Lukashenko had an 11,000 hectare special economic zone established. Companies such as Huawei do not have to pay taxes there for ten years. The ruler hopes that “high-tech companies” will be lured into his country. Chinese banks would also provide Lukashenko with loans amounting to around nine billion dollars.
Belarus already has eight billion in debt in China, which is about 13 percent of the gross domestic product. As a sign of the unbreakable friendship between Belarus and China, a small Belarusian town will be built in Chongqing. The Minsk City Hall and the famous Nyasvish Castle will be rebuilt. You can see the original on our exciting journey around Minsk.
(Source: SPIEGEL 33/19)
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has signed Decree No. 300 “On the introduction of visa-free entry and exit procedures for foreign nationals”.
Previously, there were two separate visa-free zones for the areas around Brest and Grodno, which have now been merged into the visa-free area “Brest – Grodno”. It includes five other districts of the Grodno region.
For citizens from 73 countries, the duration of the visa-free stay for tourist purposes increases to 15 days in this region.
At the same time, visa-free entry to Belarus is allowed for up to 30 days via the border checkpoint at the national airport in Minsk (according to the decree № 8 of 9 January 2017 with amendments coming into force on 24 July 2018).
Detailed information on visa-free travel to Belarus and other travel details can be found here.
On August 24 the 5th Festival of Georgian Culture “Tbilisoba” takes place in Minsk.
This year “Tbilisioba” will be held under the motto “Georgian-Belarusian Friendship” and both Georgian and Belarusian groups will perform.
Guests will be offered Georgian specialties such as shashlik, khinkali, and harcho, as well as performances by famous Georgian and Belarusian artists.
The first festival “Tbilisoba” took place five years ago and the Minsk people liked it so much that it was followed by a series of days of other national cultures. But the Georgian festival is still the most popular among the inhabitants and tourists of the city: last year the festival was attended by about 80,000 people. The Georgian festival was the first cultural festival at which the Minsk authorities allowed the festival to continue until midnight.
The fifth edition of “Tbilisoba” will again take place in the Upper City, the various stands with folk art and specialities of Georgian cuisine will extend as far as River Svisloch.
The Upper City is the historic city centre. Now the square of the Upper City is called Liberty Square. As a few centuries ago, many cultural events are held on Liberty Square today. You can learn more about the history and culture of our city and surroundings on our Minsk city tour.
Belarus is gaining more and more popularity among citizens of the neighboring countries, and with the new 30-day visa-free regime the number of travelers is gradually increasing. We compiled a list of ideas for spending your holidays here.
Best Things to Do in Belarus
Belarus has a truly rich culture. If you’re looking for ways to enrich your cultural life, you won’t be disappointed. Belarusian amateur artistic groups are recognized and popular in other countries and you can find many musical events around the country. All regional cities and even most of the small towns have museums, theatres and art galleries. Belarusian cultural heritage has centuries-old history, embracing several art and architecture schools and producing many unique literary works and pieces of music.
The country actively encourages healthy lifestyle and builds various sports facilities, including:
- football stadiums;
- ice arenas;
- swimming pools and waterparks;
- ski resorts;
- and many others.
The number of international championships held in Belarus is growing every year. In 2019, the major sports events set to take place are European Games and Summer Biathlon World Championship. In 2021 Belarus will co-host the IIHF World Championship with Riga.
If you prefer just walking and relaxing over physical loading, there are plenty of parks to enjoy. Belarusian nature is the country’s main source of pride. There are five key national parks in the country. Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve, Braslav Lakes, Narachansky and Pripyatsky National Parks, and Belovezhskaya Pushcha are the largest parks in Belarus. Besides, Belovezhskaya Pushcha is in the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Restaurants and Nightlife
Restaurant culture is actively developing in the country. New gourmet restaurants are opening every year while barmen create new cocktails and compete at international championships. Many restaurants provide live music as a part of their entertainment program. Besides that, you can treat yourself to a cup of good coffee and a delicious dessert in one of cafes or coffee shops. Also, there are a number of good restaurants offering Belarusian national cuisine and multiple venues offering fast food. Food festivals like GastroFest are regularly held in Minsk and regional cities, offering you to enjoy a set of delicious dishes at an attractive price. Rest assured that you will find something exciting to any taste and budget. Belarus nightlife is especially vibrant. There are many clubs to dance and listen to pop music. Many young people gather at bars on weekends for a cocktail and a nice talk. Still hesitating about what places to visit in Belarus? Book a tour at g4 tours! Go on a circular tour around Belarus if you want to see the whole country or we can create your own, personalized tour. Our consultants will be happy to help you. Get your personal travel plan now!