A map of Belarus Most of Belarus is flat—the result of its land having been smoothed down by glaciers during the most recent Ice Ages. Rising in the centre of the country is a low range of hills. To the south lies a marshy region called the Pripyat (Pripet), Europe’s largest expanse of marshland. Elk and wild boar roam in the forests that grow on these misty wetlands. Summers in Belarus are short and cool, while winters are long and bitterly cold. Contained within the Soviet Union as the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic for much of the 20th century, today Belarus is a relatively low-income industrial country with few connections to the rest of Europe. Its main relations are with its giant neighbour, Russia.
Four-fifths of Belarus’s people are ethnic Belarusians, an eastern Slavic people closely related to Ukrainians and Russians. Russians and Poles have lived in the region for centuries. A more recent wave of Russians arrived as workers after World War II. The most widely-spoken language in Belarus is Russian. Belarusian, a different language, is mainly spoken by the country’s Polish population in the west. In the countryside, many people speak a mixture of the two languages called “trasyanka”.
Belarus lost between one quarter and one third of its population during World War II.
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