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Driving Directions Belarus

BELARUS (Belorussia, Byelorussia), a republic of the former USSR, declared itself independent in 1991. It borders Poland to the west, Ukraine to the south, Latvia and Lithuania to the north, and Russia to the east. The country consists mainly of a low-lying plain, and forests cover approximately one-third of the country.

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Belarus has a moist, continental climate with warm summers and long, cold winters with abundant rain and snowfall. Although the economy is overwhelmingly based on industry, including oil refining, food processing, woodworking, chemicals, textiles, and machinery, output has gradually declined since 1991, and problems persist in supplying raw materials from other republics previously formed parts of the USSR.

In 1986, large Belarus areas were contaminated by radioactive fallout following the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in neighboring Ukraine. Although seriously affected by contamination from this accident, Agriculture still accounts for approximately 20 percent of the workforce, the main crops being flax, potatoes, and hemp. The main livestock raised is cattle and pigs. The country’s extensive forest areas also contribute to its economy by supplying raw material for the woodwork and paper-making industries. Peat is the fuel used to provide power for industry and the country’s power plants. Belarus has a good transport system for road, rail, navigable rivers, and canals.

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Although its topography is chiefly flat to hilly, Belarus does have five distinct geographic regions. In the north is the Polotsk Lowland, an area of lakes, hills, and forests. The Neman Lowland in the northwest is similar. The Belorussian Ridge and smaller uplands separate these lowlands from each other and the rest of the country. Plains and grasslands lie in the east and central part of the country.

The Polesye Marshes dominate the south region, a vast swampy area that extends into Ukraine. Belarus has no natural geographic borders. Belarus is landlocked and has no coast.

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Roughly 23 percent of Belarus’s territory was contaminated by radioactivity when a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in neighboring Ukraine exploded on April 26, 1986. The area affected was home to more than two million people.

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