With one foot still in its Soviet past, Belarus might not be the most obvious choice for travellers, but its isolation is at the heart of its appeal.
European bison is the country's national animal © Aleksander Hunta, Shutterstock
Location Eastern Europe
Neighbouring countries Borders Russian Federation, Ukraine, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. The country is completely landlocked.
Size Total state border length 2,969km; area 207,600km2; maximum width west to east 650km; length 560km north to south
Geography Lowland terrain, with a mean elevation above sea level of only 160m, the highest point being 345m. Natural vegetation over around 70% of area, of which 38% is forest. Also 20,000 rivers and streams and 11,000 lakes, with significant areas of marsh territory.
Climate Moderately continental, with cold winters and warm summers.
Average temperature January –6.25°C, July 17.8°C. Annual rainfall 600–700mm.
Population 9,495,800 (density 46/km2) (October 2017)
Life expectancy Male 66 years, female 77 years (2015 World Health Organisation data)
Administrative divisions Six regions (oblasts), comprising 118 administrative districts
Capital city Minsk (population 1,974,800) (2017)
Other major cities Brest, Grodno, Vitebsk, Mogilev and Gomel
Economy Limited progression since Soviet times and currently around 80% state controlled
GDP US$47.4 billion in total, US$4,990 per capita (2016 estiates)
People Ethnic Belarusians (83.7%), Russians (8.3%), Poles (3.1%), Ukrainians (1.7%) and the remaining 3.2% comprising Jews, Lithuanians, Tatars, Azerbaijanis, Armenians, Latvians, Koreans, Germans, Georgians, Ossets, Moldavians and travelling people
Languages Belarusian and Russian have equal status as state languages
Religion Russian Orthodox, Roman Catholicism and Judaism
Currency Belarusian rouble (BYN) (for up-to-date exchange rates, go to www.xe.com)
National airline/airport Belavia/Minsk National
International dialling code +375
Time GMT +2
Electrical voltage 220–240 volts
Weights and measures Metric
Flag Two broad horizontal stripes of red and green, red being double the area of green, with traditional patterning of red on a white border down the left-hand side
National anthem ‘Mbl, Senapycbl’ (‘We Belarusians’)
National flower Flax
National bird/animal White stork/European bison
National sport Ice hockey
Public holidays 1 January (New Year’s Day), 7 January (Orthodox Christmas), 8 March (Women’s Day), Orthodox Easter, Catholic Easter, Radaunista (Ancestors’ Remembrance Day) on the ninth day after Orthodox Easter, 1 May (Labour Day), 9 May (Victory Day, a glorious celebration of the end of the ‘Great Patriotic War’), 3 July (Independence Day), 7 November (October Revolution Day), 25 December (Catholic Christmas)