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    [size=12pt]General Information about the State[/size]

    The Republic of Belarus is situated in the centre of Europe. Within its territory the shortest transport communications connecting the CIS countries with the states of West Europe are laid. Belarus shares common frontier with Poland, the Baltic States, Russia and Ukraine. The territory of Belarus is 207, 000 sq. km., population – about 10 million people; urban population makes up 70% of people. The population of Minsk city, the capital of Belarus is about one fifth of the country population. In accordance with the political division, Belarus consists of six regions (oblasts). The state languages are Belarusian and Russian.

    The Republic of Belarus is a democratic social state with the rule of law (Art. 1 of the Constitution f the Republic of Belarus). In accordance with Art. 8 of the Constitution the Republic of Belarus admits the priority of generally acknowledged principles of international law and assure the conformity of legislation with them. The foreign citizens and persons without citizenship in the territory of the Republic of Belarus enjoy the rights and freedoms and carry duties equally with the citizens of the Republic of Belarus if otherwise isn't provided by the Constitution, Laws and international treaties (Art. 11 of the Constitution).

    The state power exercised on the basis of its division on legislative, executive and judicial. Belarus is a presidential republic. The President of the Republic of Belarus is a head of state, a guarantor of the Constitution, of peoples' rights and freedoms. In accordance with the Constitution the legislative body is the Parliament consisting of two branches. The executive power in the republic is been exercised by the Government – the Council of Ministers being the central body of state administration.

    The local administration and self-administration is been carried through the system of local executive and administrative bodies, bodies of self-administration, referenda, etc.

    The judicial power in the republic belongs to the courts. Control over accordance of legal acts with the Constitution is been exercised by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus.

    Belarus is one of economically developed countries of the CIS. In its economic share of industry is nearly one third of national product's volume. The most developing branches of industry are motor-car construction, machine-tool construction and bearing production, electrical industry, oil mining and processing, production of synthesized fiber, fertilizers, pharmaceutical industry, production of building materials, light and food industries. Charasteristic feature of national industry is production of finished commodity, the most part of which is exported .

    Natural conditions of the Republic of Belarus let succesfully produce such highly remunerative kinds of production as milk, beef, pork, meat and eggs of poultry, grain, potatoes, long-fibred flax, white beet and so on. Great attention is devoted to technical re-equipping of light and food industry, raising of export potential of agrarian sector.



    Belarus: facts and figures
    [td][img height=150]http://president.gov.by/data/press27948.jpg” />[/td]
    [td]  [/td]
    Country official name: the Republic of Belarus
    State system: presidential republic
    President: Alexander Lukashenko
    National capital: Minsk (1, 780, 700 residents as of 1 January 2006)
    State languages: Belarusian and Russian 26 July 1993)

    Belarus is located in the east of Europe. It has international borders with Lithuania and Latvia in the north, Ukraine in the south, Russia in the east, and Poland in the west. The total area is 207.600 square kilometers. The capital city of the Republic of Belarus is Minsk.

    Belarus has a moderate climate with cool humid winters and warm summers. The average temperature of January is -6"C. In July the temperature averages +18"C.

    Administrative Division
    Belarus has six administrative districts (oblasts), each entered around major cities: Minsk, Brest, Vitebsk, Gomel, Grodno, and Mogilev. Each oblast is divided into smaller administrative units.


    [size=12pt]Minsk – The capital of Belarus[/size]

    From the founding until 1917
    More than 900 years ago, on the right bank of the river Svisloch, at the place where another river, the Nemiga, was flowing into it, on a low hill, there arose the town of Minsk (mentioned in the annals as Mienesk, Miensk, Minsk). The name Miensk is believed to be derived from Mienka, the river flowing into Ptich, not far from the city. But a folk legend links the town's name either to a certain Minch or to Mienesk – a Belarusian epic hero. Hence the names Minsk and Miensk.

    Another interpretation claims that the word Minsk was derived from the word 'miena' meaning 'barter', because the place the city now stands was in ancient times an exchange place, a marketplace. Therefore the town was first called Miensk, Miensk and finally Minsk. Minsk was first mentioned in the annals in 1067 as a town in the Polatsk principality. On the 3rd of March 1067 a fierce battle took place near the river Nemiga between Prince Usiaslau of Polatsk and the sons of Prince Jaroslav – Iziaslav, Vsievolod and Sviatoslav. As a result of the battle, Minsk was smashed up, the men were killed, the women and children were carried off into captivity. Usiaslau managed to escape.

    The author of the celebrated account of the battle of Igor (Slovo o Polku Igorevie) narrates, with a feeling of pain and reproach, about the "Russian sons" dying in that battle. After the Nemiga battle and subsequent internal wars between the appanage Princes, Minsk got burnt to the ground many more times, its inhabitants perished, but the town rose again and again.

    In 1084, Minsk was ravaged by Prince Vladimir Monomakh. In Prince's words, "nobody remained there, neither people nor animals". But Minsk stood up out of the ruins that time again.

    In the beginning of the XII century the town became the center of a crown domain. Throughout the XIII century it was property of many Princes. In the end of the XIII century the weakened Minsk principality got under the Lithuanian Princes' influence, and in the first quarter of the XIV century became a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which in 1569 together with the Polish kingdom formed the federative state of Rzeczpospolita.

    From the very outset the town was built a mighty fortress on the Polatsk principality southern border. Its territory was surrounded by the high earthen wall, on the crest of which wooden fortress walls with gates and towers were erected. The most important archeological monument in Minsk is the ancient Zamchyshcha (place, where a fortress foundation stood), which had been situated in the area of the present-day 8th of March Square. Fragments of its cultural layer have been found, now protected by the state. This area now is a part of Masherov Avenue.

    The ancient Minsk castle was situated, as it has been mentioned, on a natural island with a low hill, washed by the river Nemiga where it flows into the Svisloch. The traces of the Nemiga are preserved till now: it is a small stream, which can be followed from the station "Minsk-Tovarny" and which was flowing under the wooden planking on the Novo-Moskovskaya street (now Miasnikova), Nemigskaya street (now Nemiga), Yekaterininskaya street (now the continuation of Nemiga) until 1926; crossed Lower market (8th of March Square) and flowed into the Svisloch.

    In 1926 the river's lower part was concluded into a concrete manifold. In its upper current the Nemiga had been flowing through the city's yards and streets as a stream for a long time still – till 1950s. In ancient times, during flood periods, the stream would cause a lot of trouble to these streets' inhabitants. It would go out of its channel, break the wooden planking, flood yards and streets, basements and the buildings' lower floors. After the Great Patriotic War the river was enclosed in pipes under the ground. Excavations revealed that 3-4 meter wide narrow streets formed the Zamchyshcha central part's planning basis.

    The main streets with the offshoots to the dwelling houses and yards led to the town gates. Roadways were made of beams, laid on lengthwise logs. Yards were fenced by paling made of the beams, digged into the ground. The free from buildings yard area used to be covered with wooden planking. During the Zamchyshcha excavations a lot of wooden buildings and the stone foundation of a church dating back to the XII-XIII centuries were found. It has been established that the stable planning was typical for Minsk, i.e. throughout the centuries streets and yards had stayed in the same places. The main fortress street was that of Zamkovaya. It crossed the territory of Zamchyshcha diagonally from east to west, and extended beyond the earthen wall to the crossing with Bolshaya Tatarskaya street (now Dimitrova). A part of its adjacing Dimitrova street is still there. Other streets – Podzamkovaya, Miasnitskaya, Volovaya, Zavalnaya, Zavalny lane – have not survived.

    Minsk fortress fortifications successfully survived numerous sieges. For a long time it served as the Princes' residence, and later the residence of the great Princes and kings' deputies. Since the end of the XVII century its fortifications had been gradually turning into ruins. Their remains, so called Zamkovy Hill, existed till the 1950s. Since the XI century churches and monasteries had been constructed in Minsk. All of them were made of wood. In the XII century the trading quarter with the Lower market square was formed on the Nemiga's right southern bank. By the end of the XVI century this area had substantially enlarged, as new streets and lanes have emerged. Nemigskaya, Rakovskaya and Zybitskaya streets became central. According to the archeological excavations, the construction of Nemigskaya street began as early as in the XIII century along the old trade route and the Nemiga river in the north-west direction. Not far from the Lower market, to the right of the river's left bank, the road to Rakov – Rakovsky Trakt – started. Rakovskaya street – Rakovksky suburb had gradually arose along it. Today it is a part of Ostrovsky street. The buildings of the XVII-XVIII centuries, which adjoined the St. Paul and Peter Church (later Yekaterininskaya Church), have not survived. They were taken down in 1975 because of Nemiga reconstruction. Zybitskaya street, which was renamed into Torgovaya in XIX century, started from the Lower market square and went to north-east, along the Svisloch's right bank. Its route connected the Lower market with the area called "Voloki Polatskiye". In the XVI century this area began being built, forming Volotskaya street, which in XIX century was renamed into Kreshchenskaya, in the 1920s – Oktiabrskaya, and in 1950s – Internatsionalnaya (i.e. a part from Engels street to Yanka Kupala street). Zybitskaya and a part of Nemigskaya street's route were at the foot of the hill, where in the end of the XVI century the Upper Town's ensemble was formed. To the north-west from the Lower market Tatarskij suburb or Tatarskij end appeared. Captive Crimea Tartars lived there in the beginning of the XVI century. Its main streets were Bolshaya Tatarskaya (now Dimitrova) and Malaya Tatarskaya (Kolkhoznaya). The area between the Tatarsky end and the Svisloch was called Tatarskiye backyards. Now this is the area of Masherov avenue with high buildings, "Moskva" cinema and the Palace of Sports.

    The most promising direction in the town's development was the south-east one, and primarily the area of today's Liberty Square, situated on the hilly height and dominating over the Old town. By the way, the new town center started to form here. Up to the XVI century there were only wooden buildings in Minsk. A great fire in 1547, which destroyed the castle and almost all wooden buildings, gave a ground for the town planning structure reviewing, including the new public, cultural and trade center – the Upper town. Its development began in 1589. The new town center with its architectural ensemble was being created, as envisaged by the town-building plan. Thus, in the center, a large rectangular square, where the main streets met, was formed. On the new square itself and in its proximity, the most important public and religious buildings were erected. The City Hall, bazaar; Uniate, Dominican and Bernardine monasteries, the feudal nobility's castles, merchants and rich craftsmen's houses. The stone buildings appeared only in the second half of the XVI century.

    In the first half of the XVII century Belarusian monumental architecture had clear defensive features. Such constructions included the stone buildings of St. Peter and Paul Church, Dominican and Saint Spirit monasteries, which were reared when there were no town fortifications in place. The latter got constructed after some time. The earthen wall with bastions stretched from the bog behind Tatarsky end, in the west part it surrounded the area of today's Osvobozhdeniya, Ostrovskogo, Vitebskaya and Nemiga streets, then it went on the routes of Respublikanskaya, Uritskogo streets and Skarina avenue, crossed Yanka Kupala street, went down to the river, skirting the Troitskoye suburb. Along with the Upper town, Troitskoye suburb grew on the Troitskaya Hill – the outskirts of Minsk. Its name is believed to have originated from the name of Troistsky church, which in the XVI century stood on the place where the Opera house and the Ballet theatre are situated nowadays. The roads to Moscow and Vilno used to meet in Troitskoye suburb. Bolshaya Borisovskaya on the old Borisovsky route was the main street, Troitskaya street being its continuation. In the XIX century the two streets were given the name of Alexandrovskaya, in the 1920s – that of Kommunalnaya, and in the beginning of the 1930s – Maxim Gorky street. Since the XIX century a market called the Troistsky market was situated on the Troitsky Hill. It existed till 1935, i.e. till the beginning of the construction of the Opera house and the Ballet theater.

    In the beginning of the XVIII century the architectural ensemble of the Upper town (Upper market) was changing. In its north-western part, an edifice of the Jesuit college was being constructed in baroque style, there appeared a two-tower church with the adjacent monastery buildings crowned by a tower clock. By the middle of the XVIII century these buildings had completed the square's ensemble. The central place on the square was occupied by the City Hall, with the bazaar to the north-west of it, the Dominican monastery – to the north-east, and the complex of Basilian monasteries and Saint Spirit church somewhat to the north. Bernardine monastery and nunnery were located behind. In the square's north-western and south-eastern parts there were people's residences, stores, taverns, drug stores.

    In the XVII-XVIII centuries the Upper market, or Upper town was the principal administrative, trade and cultural center. Fairs and skomorokhs' (clown's) performances used to be organized here. One could also watch Batlejka (Belarusian puppet-theatre). Civil and religious festivals, mystery plays, processions, theatrical performances were also held on the square and in its buildings.

    In the beginning of the XIX century these traditions gradually disappeared. In 1793 the central part of Belarus including Minsk became a part of the Russian empire. Minsk province was formed, later transformed into Minsk governorship (gubernija).

    In the beginning of the XIX century Nemigskaya street continued to be the town's main street. Like some other streets, it preserved its aspect till now. Other streets are: Revolutsionnaya, Internatsionalnaya, Bakunina, Gertsena, Muzykalny lane. Nemiga and Torgovaya street ceased to exist in their former appearance since 1970s.

    According to the town-building design plans of 1800, 1817 and 1857, the town's building-up and improvement began. The rectangular principle was taken as the basis. The compositional axis, the main street, stood out. The town consisted of the central part and the suburbs. According to the plans, the defensive fortifications of the XV-XVIII centuries were leveled, some streets were straightened, the Gubernatorsky garden (now Central Gorky park) was founded.

    The town was developing south-eastwards. New streets appeared, such as Zakharyevskaya (now Sovietskaya street and Skaryna avenue), which became the main street; Podgornaya (K. Marx street); Magazinnaya (Kirov street) and others. On the place of the Novy market (the area of Oktiabrskaya square and Central garden) a post office was built, as well as a Lutheran church (has not survived), bishop town house, Noble Assembly building (on the cross roads of Engels and K. Marx streets. K. Marx town club stood here before the Great Patriotic War) and Gausman's house, where the Public Assembly was located (has not survived). Between these buildings in 1872 Alexander (Central) park was founded, where in 1874 a fountain on the occasion of water-supply opening in Minsk was set up – "A boy with a swan". After numerous restorations this fountain up till nowadays decorates the Central garden. The town theatre building (now Yanka Kupala State Academic theatre), rebuilt in 1958, has been a part of the Park's composition since 1890.

    In the XIX century religious institutions i.e. Maria Magdalene church on the Storozhovskoye cemetery, Kalvarijsky church and "brama". Troistsky Zolotogorsky church, Alexander Nevsky memorial church on the Voyennoye (military) cemetery began working. The plan of 1858 determined the direction of Serpukhovskaya (Volodarskogo) and Novo-Romanovskaya (Respublikanskaya) streets. The building up of streets constructed in the XIX century i.e. Magazinnaya (Kirov), Podgornaya (K. Marx), Petropavlovskaya (Engels), Gubernatorskaya (Lenin) and others greatly changed the architectural appearance of Minsk. All the town's part situated behind the river, including Troitsky hill, also got the new lay-out.

    The Upper town's ensemble has also changed much for the better. One of the Jesuit college blocks was reconstructed for the Governor's house. The Basil monastery was rebuilt in the late classicism style to be used for government offices. It has mainly preserved till nowadays. St. Peter and Pall cathedral was designed based on Basil monastery's Saint Spirit church. Its rebuilding in pseudo Russian style distorted the Renaissance architecture beyond recognition.

    The Upper town was renamed into Sobornaya square (now Liberty square). Its buildings had an expressive architectural silhouette, defined by the square ensemble's monumental edifices. The theological college built in classicism style recently rebuilt, stands out on the Troitsky Hill. It accommodates Suvorov cadet school today.

    The city plan had been much changed by the laying of railways in 1871-1874: from Moscow to Brest and from Libava to Romno. Minsk started to grow mainly in the south-west direction along the railways. Since that time it became a most important railway juncture, connecting the east and the west of the country, as well as the north and the south.

    The newly built area nearly equaled the territory occupied by the city in the first half of the XIX century. However, it is being improved in the central part only. The water-supply system was built. In 1890 the telephone appeared, in 1892 – the konka (trams pulled by horses), in 1895 – the electric light. The town's area grew by 10 times from 1861 till 1897. In that time Minsk belonged to the 44 towns of the European Russia where the population exceeded 90,000. The railways, which divided the town into different districts, together with the industrial enterprises, occupying the best areas near the river, worsened the town's structure and sanitary conditions.

    In the beginning of the XX century a number of new architects (O. Krasnopolsky, S. Gajdukevich, G. Gaj and others) appeared in Minsk. Edifices in modern style were raised based on their projects.

    One of the most interesting buildings was the "Europe" hotel, erected in 1906-1908 on the corner of today's Freedom square and Lenin street. (The building was destroyed in June, 1941 during the bombing of Minsk by Nazis).

    On the corner of today's Lenin avenue and Komsomolskaya street the Polish bank was erected. Before the war the State Department Store (GUM) was situated there. The building has not survived. In this very period the new type of dwelling houses was being created – multistoried profit houses. They were situated in the present Sovetskaya, Kirova and K. Marx streets. In 1908-1910 two monumental buildings were erected near the railway station – the Kazanskaya church in the area of the Western bridge (has not survived) and St. Simon and Helena's church a.k.a. the Red church.

    The buildings' arrangement in the quarters was rather dense. For example, the buildings in the area in the middle of Zakharjevskaya (Skaryna avenue), Gubernatorskaya (Lenin) and Petropavlovskaya (Engels) streets stood so close to each other, that there was virtually no room for backyards.

    Minsk had been repeatedly destroyed not only in wars, but also by fire. It suffered especially much in the fire in 1881. Since then only stone houses were built in the city center.

    The proportion of stone buildings and paved streets in Minsk was lower than in the towns of central Russia towns, and also in such ancient Belarusian towns as Grodno, Brest, Mogilev. Narrow, crooked streets, especially in the old part of the city made it difficult to develop transport and improve engineering.

    In 1912 the population of Minsk exceeded 100,000 people. In 23 educational establishments, including 7 high schools (4 of them were private), 6032 people were studying (5,7% of the population, from wealthy families as a rule). There were no higher educational establishments at all. There were only 4 cinemas and a theatre, the latter opened in 1890.

    The 1st assembly of Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party was the important landmark in the history of Russian revolutionary movement. It was held on March 1-3 (13-15) 1898 in a wooden house, the flat of railway worker P. Rumiantsev situated on Zakharjevskaya street (Skaryna avenue, 31a). This house became a relic and a historical monument of the Belarusian capital. The Minsk proletariat responded willingly to the revolutionary events in 1905. In the morning of October, 31 near the Libava-Romno railway station, a rally of the Minsk workers took place. It was on their demand that the general-governor P. Kurlov released the political prisoners, but at the same time ordered to shoot down the unarmed rally participants. The October Socialist Revolution started a new era in the history of the ancient city over the river Svisloch.



    Pre-war Minsk (1917 – 1940)
    On the 1st of January 1919, there was published a Manifesto on the formation of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. There was formed the government of workers and peasants. For the first time, the Belarusian people got their statehood. Minsk was made the capital of the Republic. The Bolshevik party headed by V.I. Lenin was the initiator of the Byelorussian Soviet State.

    Construction pattern and amenities in that provincial town, which had suffered from the imperialistic and civil war, were not fit for the new times. Work on rebuilding of destroyed residential houses and public buildings, reconstruction of factories and plants, construction of new edifices was being carried out almost until the 1930's. It is in those days that the workers' settlements like Komintern, Grushevsky, Pushkinsky and others came into being near industrial enterprises.

    In 1925, draining of Komarovskoye and Slepianskoye bogs located within the city boundary started, planting of trees and gardens on a wide scale also began. However, there being no general city planning scheme, the issues of rebuilding and improving the planning modules were not fully resolved.

    In 1926, professor of architecture V. Semyonov drew up a draft reconstruction scheme. In the 1930's, new large building complexes appear, among which two are singled out. They are: the University campus and clinical hospital №1. In 1934, the building of Lenin State library was constructed.

    In the end of 1920's, the work on water-supply and sewage system development, as well as streets improvement began. At that time, there appeared electric trams, which replaced the horse trams. A benchmark in the republic's and its capital's city construction was the House of Government of the BSSR (1929-1934, architect Langbard's project). Construction of this largest public building (240000 cubic meters) resulted in the formation of a new city-center, the Lenin Square. The new building's architecture and its organic connection with the monument to V. Lenin gave a great patriotic impression.

    The House of Government survived by miracle during the city liberation from Hitler invaders on July, 3 1944. This was made possible by the rapid advancement of the Red army and partisans. Our soldiers found more than 100 German delayed-action air bombs, more than 250 kg each, and large quantity of explosives. Today the House of Government is still one of the finest public buildings in the city.

    In 1933-1936, the first master plan of Belarusian capital's reconstruction and development was drafted by the Leningrad division of RSFSR Giprogor (State Institute of city design). It provided for improvement of its functional zoning by constructing dwelling and industrial districts, city center reconstruction and founding a square near the Government House.

    According to architect I. Langbard's project, 3 major public buildings were later erected in Minsk. These are the Red Army House (Officers House), Opera and Ballet theatre and the main building of BSSR Academy of Sciences.

    Afterwards, according to the project of architects A. Voinov and V. Varaksin, the building of the Belarusian Communist Party's Central Committee was erected. The strictness, monumentality, integrity of the architectural appearance, good quality of work and infrastructure are the main features of this building, which became an organic part of the city's postwar central ensemble. In the middle of 1930's, according to the project of architect Makletsova the House of Specialists was erected (not survived).

    In 1939, the building of 2 bow-shaped houses in Sovetskaya street began – the area of the future Kruglaya (Round) and later Pobedy (Victory) square (architects R. Stoller and A. Bregman). It became possible to use them 2 years after the war already. The new buildings greatly changed the appearance of the city's central district. However, the outskirts also underwent reconstruction. The new north-east district began to form during these years. Besides the main building of the BSSR Academy of Sciences, other buildings of this institution appeared here, as well as the Polytechnical academy, Geophysics observatory, Polytechnical school, Physical Education Academy, radio making plant. All these buildings introduced new features of the city layout. The majority of them up till now form an important part of the city's architectural ensemble.

    During the construction, special attention was paid to the improvement of people's social environment. The new hospitals, polyclinics, maternity homes, children's establishments had been opened before the war

    The city with the population of 260000 people in the year 1940, became a large industrial and cultural center. Further work on Minsk reconstruction was interrupted by the nazi invasion.



    Years of Nazi occupation (1941 – 1944)
    The Nazi invaders had stayed in the city for 1100 days, but they never felt they were masters there. The city was living, the city was fighting. The embittered Reich soldiers ruined the whole city center, only the outskirts survived. 5975 houses, i.e. 80 per cent of all the housing, were destroyed; the electric power station, the water supply and sewage system, the telephone exchange, the telegraph were also destroyed.

    Buildings of educational establishments, cultural institutions, the Academy of sciences, the university, the clinical hospital, children's hospitals were all standing windowless, devastated and reeky. Industrial enterprises were almost totally destroyed. All the city design and planning documentation was lost.

    On the 3rd of July, 1944 – the Liberation Day – Minsk lay in rubbles; burned building cases were looking like ghosts.

    The Reconstruction Period after the war
    Total damage inflicted to the capital by the enemy came to 6 billion rubles. |In August 1944 a commission of eminent Soviet architects arrived in Minsk to give practical assistance in the restoration and reconstruction of the city. The Belarusian architects actively joined them. The commission suggested "a draft idea of the Minsk city planning", which was approved by the Belarusian government at the end of 1944.

    The authors' group of Belgosproject (the Belarusian State Design Bureau) consisting of architects N. Trakhtenberg and M. Androsov, engineers K. Ivanov, V. Tolmachyov and R. Obraztsova started working out of a new postwar plan for planning and reconstruction of the city. By the beginning of 1946 this plan was finalized and approved by the BSSR Soviet of People's Commissars.

    Implementation of the general city-planning scheme began with the construction of a number of major industries in the northeast and northwest parts of the city, and, close by, residential areas were also being constructed.

    At the same time, a new city center was being erected, its composition axis being Lenin Avenue, Lenin square, Central (Oktiabrskaya) square, Victory square, Yakub Kolas square and a parkland along the Svisloch river. Multistoried apartment houses and public buildings were being built in these areas. In 1950-ies there were built the BSSR State Bank, Main Department Store (GUM), Main Post Office. The building of the Teachers' Training Institute named after M. Gorky was restored.

    Subsequently, Minskers witnessed the construction of the Palace of Belarusian Trade Unions, the Circus building, the hotel "Minsk". The survived-in-the-war buildings of the Government House, of the Belarusian Communist Party Central Committee, of the Opera and Ballet Theatre, and the new complexes, such as the "Dynamo" stadium and Privokzalnaya square, blended harmoniously into the post-war aspect of the city center. In 1954, the Victory monument was erected in the Round square, which was subsequently renamed into Victory square.



    The Place on Earth
    They say that if someone wishes to get to the geographic centre of Europe one just has to buy a ticket to Minsk – capital of the Republic of Belarus/ Like many centuries ago , Belarus and its beautiful capital seem to remain the most convenient junction which has for centuries linked the Black and the Baltic Seas and the eastern lands with the western ones.

    Various directories for businessman and tourists describe Belarus in a modest and simple manner: a state in the centre of Europe in the west of the East-European plain in the basin of upper reaches of the Dnieper and the Neman and the middle part of the Zapadnaya Dvina and the Western Boog (right bank), Middle and low parts of Pripyat. These above are the major rivers flowing across Belarus, whereas all in all there are 20,000 of them.

    Belarus is also often called the land of lakes. Most of the lakes are scattered in the North of the Republic of the Belarusian Poozerey (lake district) and in the southern provinces which make part of the Belarussian Polessye (forest district). There are places where 10 percent of the surface is under lakes. This is true of the Ushachi and Braslav district of the Vitebsk Region.

    Most of the lakes there are small but very deep, as a rule. They are permanently replenished by spring waters which is why the water in them is crystal-clear. Very often they are connected by creeks, canals and streams, which turn the blue sapphires of lakes into immense glistening beads.

    But the real pearl of the Belarusian nature is Lake Naroch. Short canals connect it with lakes Myastro, Batorino, Beloye and others making this wonderful piece of Belarusian land gorgeously beautiful and attractive for tourists.

    Belarus ’ terrain is chiefly plain. It rises 160 metres on an average above the sea level, mount Dzerzhiskaya, which is to the west of Minsk, being the highest point, and the Neman valley, near Grodno, being the lowest place, only 80-90 metres high. Over one-third of the Republic’s territory is forest-covered.

    According to the statistics 28 species of trees and 80 species of shrubs grow here. In addition to traditional trees, such as pine, spruce, birch, oak, maple, asp, hornbeam, alder and others, “foreigners” like Siberian and European larch, northern oak, Amour velvet and Manchurian nut are all well settled on Belarusian soil.

    However, coniferous forests are most widely spread in Belarus. They give high quality timber, unique raw materials for pharmaceutical and chemical industries as well as forest berries and plants which are rich in vitamins.

    The pride of the Republic are its wildlife reserves and national parks, the biggest and the most widely known being the Belovezhskaya Puscha national park, the Berezina biospheric and the Pripyat water and terrain reserves. Memorial places like Viazynka and Levki associated with the life and work of the greate Belarusian poet Yanka Kupala, the Grodno memorial of history and archeology and other are very popular with tourists. The Polessye radiological and ecological reserve was set up on the territory affected by radiological contamination during the Chernobyl accident in April 1986. Over 15 percent of the Republic’s agricultural lands were put out of production, thousands of hectares of forests, hundreds of rivers and lakes were left without human care.

    Tourism Sector Development
    When speaking of Belarus tourism potential, it is important to point out that it is largely based on nature diversity and beauty, and unique historical and cultural heritage including over 15 thousand tourist sites of historic, cultural and architectural value, memorable places connected with the names of the world’s outstanding historical and cultural figures.

    On the territory of Belarus there is a number of ancient towns such as Polatsk, Navahrudak, Turau, Hrodna, Nyasvizh, and many others. In many towns there are a lot of temples and monasteries, palaces, castles and other monuments of architectural, historical and cultural value. Two architectural monuments that are located on the territory of the Republic of Belarus are inscribed on UNESCO's list of the World Heritage:

    – The Castle Complex "Mir" in the village of Mir (Grodno region)

    – The Palace and Park Ensemble in the town of Nyasvizh (Minsk region)

    Belarus has diversity of flora and fauna, recreation resources, hunting and fishing facilities. There are 4 national parks (Belovezhskaya Pushcha is of international importance); 97 natural reserves, with 7 of them being of international importance; over 10 thousand lakes and 20 thousand rivers.



    Where does Santa Claus live?
    They say he lives either in the Laplands or in Russia, in the town of Veliki Ustjug. Today, it is a disputable point — the residence of Father Frost, the local equivalent to Santa Claus, has been recreated in the immense forest range of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park. The estate of the Lapland Santa Klaus and the possessions of Russia's Father Frost in Veliki Ustjug cannot compete with a fabulous manor located on fifteen hectares in the midst of virgin and pristine Belarusian forests.

    This new cultural and tourist site has organically enlarged the infrastructure of the whole tourist complex of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park and started a new tradition of meeting the New Year holidays for children and grown–ups. Now, the opportunity to be accommodated in comfortable hotels and guesthouses, to try the specialities of the Belarusian cuisine made of game, to walk along the ecological paths, to enjoy a wide range of recreation services has been expanded by giving visitors a chance of entering the world of fairy tales.

    The residence includes the Father Frost's manor–house itself, the Snowwhite's House, the museum of Father Frost, a wind mill, a magic well, wooden sculptured figures “Twelve Months,” “Snowwhite and Seven Dwarfs,” and a number of shopping, service and recreational facilities. The tallest in Europe, a 40–metre high natural Christmas fur–tree has been installed on the territory of the residence. The Father Frost's residence is open throughout the year from 9 a.m. till 11 p.m. without days–off. Guided tours service is available. The postal address of the Father Frost's residence is: post office Kamenyuki, 225063, Kamenets District, Brest Region, Belarus.

    Palace and Park Ensemble in the city of Homel
    The Palace and Park Ensemble in the city of Homel is an architectural monument of the second half of the 18th-19th centuries. It is situated on the right high bank of the river Sozh. It includes a palace, a park, the Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral and a chapel.

    The palace was built in the Classicism style and is the composite centre of the ensemble. The main building was constructed in 1777-1796 (by the architect Y.M. Alekseyev in cooperation with the architect K.I. Blanc). Two service wings (decorated with four-column Ionic porticos, which flank the main building, were built in 1800-1805. In 1837-1851, it was reconstructed and completed by the architect Idzkovsky: the main building and lateral wings were connected by galleries with square pavilions; the second floor of the northern wing was built over; with its portico dismantled and the interior lay-out changed; a Pseudo-Gothic four-tier tower and a pavilion with a skylight were constructed on the foundation of the dismantled southern wing; the pediment of the main building’s portico was changed, with a veranda added on from its side, sculptures and cast-iron balustrades were set on the roofs of the main building. The palace was reconstructed in 1856 and in 1919-1920, destroyed and burnt down in 1941-1943 and restored and reconstructed in 1969.

    Today, the main façade of the palace has a three-part symmetrical composition and is decorated with a four-column Corinthian portico. The middle part of the façade, which faces the river, is decorated with a six-column portico. The walls are adorned with the Corinthian order pilasters. The palace has an enfilade lay-out. The center of the composition is a high cupolaed square hall decorated by rows of Corinthian columns finished with artificial marble. Light ceramic crimped tubes were used in the construction of the hall’s cupola and the vault to make the construction lighter.

    At present the palace hosts the Homel regional ethnographic museum. The park offers a picturesque landscape in the central part of Homel. It is formed by a high terrace of the right bank of the river Sozh, cut through by several ravines, the vestiges of the water courses of the Ice Age. The park included two parts – a landscape and a regular one. It has features of Romanticism that was characteristic of the first half of the 19th century. In 1889, a burial chapel of the Paskevichs was erected in the park in the Pseudo-Russian style not far from the SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral (by the architect Y.I. Chervinsky).

    The SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral is a monument of Classicism architecture. It was built in 1809 –1824 by the architect G. Clark. At present, the cathedral is an active place of worship. Its plan is that of an elongate cross with a developed transept, a short middle nave and small vestries around the altar part. The central part of the cathedral is crowned with a cupola on the lighting drum, which rests on four pillars in the interior. There are four Doric six-column porticoes in the ends and rows of semi-columns on the side of the nave. Classicist décor was used to decorate the façades. Owing to the concentration and combination of its elements, as well as their historic and cultural significance, the palace and park ensemble in the city of Homel has no analogues on the territory of Belarus.

    SS. Boris and Gleb (Kalozhskaya) Church
    The ancient SS. Boris and Gleb (Kalozhskaya) Church in the city of Hrodna is a monument of the old Russian architecture and represents the Hrodna school of architecture. It was built in 1180s by the architect Pyotr Milaneh on the high right bank of the river Nieman, opposite to the Castle Hill, on the lands of the former Kalozhsky settlement. In the 16-17th centuries it was being restored, in 1853 it was partially destroyed by a landslide, in 1889 the southern apse collapsed. In 1910 and in 1935 conservation works were undertaken, and in 1970, 1985-1987 conservation and repair works were carried out. Preserved are the southern wall and a part of the western wall, as well as 3 apses, and 2 western under-cupola pillars.

    The materials used in constructing the temple were brick, stone, glaze, and lime mortar. The church was a building sized 13.5x 21.5 metres, with three semicircular altar apses at the eastern side. The wall thickness was about 1.2 metres. The walls were made of thin plinths sized 3.5-4×16.5×26-28 centimetres. On the ends of some bricks there are Slavonic letters and bas-relief signs whose meaning has not yet been fully understood. The rows of plinths alternate with thick lime mortar seams with added finely ground brick and coal. The foundation of the temple is 1.5 metres deep and it consists of earth or sand-covered boulders. A short step-like pedestal formed the lower part of the church.

    The brickwork of the façade walls includes large coloured, face polished, granite and gneiss stones, and figured glaze-covered ceramic tiles of various sizes, shapes and colours, which form various geometrical figures and crosses. The church had three entrances: the central (on the western part) and two lateral ones. It was crowned by a cylindrical cupola. The upper part of the temple had arched windows. One cannot describe accurately the original outside view of the Kalozhsky temple: neither its upper parts nor the southern wall with parts of the adjacent walls fallen into the Nieman are preserved.

    The main element of the interior decoration was the majolica floor made of diversiform plates of yellow, green, and brown colour. The lower part of the northern wall has numerous bays. Fragments of frescos were discovered in one of them, and in the altar. Within the upper part of the wall there are horizontally buried resonators – clay jugs whose necks were exposed into the rooms.

    Six pillars about 1.2 metres in diameter were dividing the church into three naves. In the western part, over the entrance, there were choirs. A projection they rested on is preserved. Within the walls, there were passageway stairs leading to the choirs. One of the stairs, on the survived northern wall, is preserved. Due to some of its distinctive features (the majolica floor, resonators, stone insertions, ceramic tile patterns), the temple had no analogues in the East Slavonic architecture of that period. At present, the Kalozhsky church is an active place of worship.


    [size=12pt]State System[/size]

    Republic of Belarus
    The Republic of Belarus is a unitary, democratic, social state based on the rule of law. The Constitution in force of the Republic of Belarus was adopted in 1994, with the subsequent amendments and additions adopted at the national referenda on November 24, 1996, and October 17, 2006. The President of the Republic of Belarus is the Head of State . The Parliament – the National Assembly is a representative and legislative body of the Republic of Belarus. The Parliament consists of two chambers – the House of Representatives (110 deputies) and the Council of the Republic (64 members).

    Executive power in the Republic of Belarus is exercised by the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus headed by the Prime Minister. State power in the Republic of Belarus is exercised on the principle of division of powers between the legislature, executive and judiciary. State bodies within the confines of their powers, are independent: they co-operate among themselves acting on the principle of checks and balances. Supervision of the constitutionality of enforceable enactments of the state is exercised by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus.

    The Parliament
    The Parliament – the National Assembly is a representative and legislative body of the Republic of Belarus.

    The Parliament shall consist of two chambers – the House of Representatives and the Council of the Republic. The House of Representatives shall consist of 110 deputies. The election of deputies to the House of Representatives shall be carried out in accordance with the law on the basis of universal, equal, free, direct electoral suffrage and by secret ballot.

    The Council of the Republic shall be a chamber of territorial representation. The Council of the Republic shall consist of eight deputies from every region (oblast) and the city of Minsk, elected at the meetings of deputies of local Councils of deputies of base level of every region (oblast) and the city of Minsk from their ranks. Eight members of the Council of the Republic shall be appointed by the President of the Republic of Belarus. Elections for a new composition of the chambers of Parliament shall be set no later than four months and held no later than 30 days prior to the expire of the powers of the current Parliament.

    Extraordinary elections for the chambers of the Parliament shall be held within three months since the premature expire of the powers of the chambers of the Parliament.



    The Government
    Article 106. Executive power in the Republic of Belarus shall be exercised by the Government – the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus – the central body of state administration. The Government in its activity shall be accountable to the President of the Republic of Belarus and responsible to the Parliament of the Republic of Belarus. The Government shall relinquish powers to the President-elect of the Republic of Belarus. The Government of the Republic of Belarus shall consist of the Prime minister, his deputies and ministers. The heads of other central bodies of state administration may be members of the Government.

    The Prime minister shall be appointed by the President of the Republic of Belarus with the consent of the House of Representatives. The decision to this order shall be taken by the House of Representatives within two weeks since the nomination of the candidacy of the Prime minister. If the House of Representatives rejects the submitted nomination of the Prime minister twice, the President shall appoint the acting Prime minister on his own, and dissolve the House of Representatives and call new elections.

    The Prime minister shall manage the activities of the Government. The Prime minister shall:

      [li]manage directly the activities of the Government and hold personal responsibility for its activities;[/li]
      [li]sign the acts of the Government;[/li]
      [li]submit to Parliament a report on the Programme of the Government within two months after his appointment, and in the instance of its rejection submit the second report on the Programme of the Government within two months;[/li]
      [li]inform the President on the basic guidelines of the activities of the Government, and on all the most important decisions;[/li]
      [li]exercise other functions connected with the organization and activities of the Government.[/li]

    The Government or any member therein shall be entitled to tender the resignation to the President, if he deems it impossible to discharge the duties entrusted to him. The Government shall tender its resignation to the President if the House of Representatives has passed a vote of no confidence to the Government.

    The Prime minister may request from the House of Representatives a vote of confidence with regard to the governmental Programme or any other issue submitted to the House. If a non-confidence vote is passed by the House of Representatives, the President shall be entitled to accept the resignation of the Government, or dissolve the House of Representatives within ten days, and call on holding new elections. If the resignation of the Government is rejected the latter shall continue to discharge its duties.

    The President shall be entitled to take the decision on the resignation of the Government on his own initiative, and dismiss any member of the Government. In the instance of the resignation of the Government of the Republic of Belarus or termination of its powers, the latter on the assignment of the President shall continue to hold office until a new Government shall have been formed. Article 107. The Government of the Republic of Belarus shall: • administer the system of subordinate bodies of state administration and other executive organs;

      [li]elaborate the basic guidelines of the domestic and foreign policy, and take measures to its implementation;[/li]
      [li]elaborate and submit to the President for further parliamentary consideration the draft national budget and an account of its implementation;[/li]
      [li]ensure the execution of a uniform economic, financial, credit and monetary policy, and state policy in the field of science, culture, education, health care, ecology, social security and remuneration for labour;[/li]
      [li]take measures to secure the rights and liberties of citizens, safeguard the interests of the state, national security and defence, protection of property, maintain public order and eliminate crime;[/li]
      [li]act on behalf of property owner with regard to assets which are the sole property of the Republic of Belarus, and exercise management of state property;[/li]
      [li]ensure the implementation of the Constitution, the laws, decrees, edicts and instructions of the President;[/li]
      [li]repeal acts of ministries and other central bodies of state administration; exercise other powers entrusted to him by the Constitution, laws and acts of the President.[/li]

    Article 108. The Government of the Republic of Belarus shall issue acts, that have binding force in the entire territory of the Republic of Belarus. The Prime minister shall issue orders which are under his jurisdiction. The competence of the Government and the procedure governing its activities shall be determined on the basis of the Constitution and the Law on the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus.



    Judicial Power
    Article 109. The courts shall exercise judicial power in the Republic of Belarus. The judicial system shall be based upon the principles of territorial delineation and specialization. The judicial system in the Republic of Belarus shall be determined by the law. The formation of special courts shall be prohibited.

    Article 110. In administering justice judges shall be independent and subordinate to law alone. Any interference injudges' activities in the administration of justice shall be impermissible and liable to legal action.

    Article 111. Judges may not engage in business activities or perform any paid work, apart from teaching and scientific research. The grounds for electing (appointing) judges and their dismissal shall be determined by the law.

    Article 112. The courts shall administer justice on the basis of the Constitution, the laws and other enforceable enactments adopted in accordance therewith. If, during the hearing of a specific case, a court concludes that an enforceable enactment is contrary to the Constitution, it shall make a ruling in accordance with the Constitution and raise, under the established procedure, the issue of whether the enforceable enactment in question should be deemed unconstitutional.

    Article 113. Cases before a court shall be tried collegially, and in the instances specified in law, by judges individually.

    Article 114. The trial of cases in all courts shall be open. The hearing of cases in closed court session shall be permitted only in the instances specified in law and in accordance with all the rules of legal procedure.

    Article 115. Justice shall be administered on the basis of the adversarial proceedings and equality of the parties involved in the trial. The rulings of courts are mandatory for all citizens and officials. The parties and the persons have the right to appeal rulings, sentences and other judicial decisions.

    Article 116. Supervision of the constitutionality of enforceable enactments of the state shall be exercised by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus.

    The Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus shall be formed of 12 judges from among highly qualified specialists in the field of law, who as a rule have a scientific degree.

    Six Judges of the Constitutional Court shall be appointed by the President of the Republic of Belarus and six elected by the Council of the Republic. The Chairperson of the Constitutional Court shall be appointed by the President with the consent of the Council of the Republic. The term of the members of the Constitutional Court shall be 11 years, and the permissible age limit shall be 70 years. The Constitutional Court on the recommendations of the President of the Republic of Belarus, the House of Representatives, the Council of the Republic, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus, the Supreme Economic Court of the Republic of Belarus, the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus shall produce a ruling on:

      [li]the conformity of laws, decrees and edicts of the President, international agreements and other obligations of the Republic of Belarus to the Constitution and other instruments of international law ratified by the Republic of Belarus;[/li]
      [li]the conformity of instruments of interstate formations of which the Republic of Belarus is part, edicts of the President of the Republic of Belarus which are issued to the execution of the law, the Constitution, the laws, decrees and instruments of international law ratified by the Republic of Belarus;[/li]
      [li]the conformity of the ordinances of the Council of Ministers and orders of the Supreme Court, the Supreme Economic Court, Procurator-General to the Constitution, laws and instruments of international law ratified by the Republic of Belarus, laws, decrees and edicts;[/li]
      [li]the conformity of enactments of any other state body to the Constitution, laws and decrees as well as to the laws and instruments of international law ratified by the Republic of Belarus.[/li]

    Enforceable enactments or their particular provisions which are considered unconstitutional shall be deemed invalid to the order determined by the law. In instances specified by the Constitution, the Constitutional Court with regard to the proposal of the President shall give its conclusion on the presence of instances of systematic or flagrant violation of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus by the chambers of Parliament. The competence, organization and procedure governing the activities of the Constitutional Court shall be determined by the law.


    [size=12pt]Constitution of the Republic of Belarus[/size]



    [td]  [/td]



    [size=8pt](with changes and additions adopted at the republican referenda of November 24, 1996* and of October 17, 2004)[/size]

    We, the People of the Republic of Belarus (of Belarus), proceeding from the responsibility for the present and future of Belarus, recognising ourselves a full-fledged subject of the international community and confirming our adherence to the values common to all mankind, founding ourselves on our inalienable right to self-determination, supported by the centuries-old history of development of Belarusian statehood, striving to assert the rights and freedoms of every citizen of the Republic of Belarus, desiring to maintain civic concord, firm foundations of government by the people and a state based on the rule of law, adopt hereby this Constitution – the Fundamental Law of the Republic of Belarus.

    [size=8pt]* Entered into force from the day of its publication in accordance with Article 1 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus "On Procedure of Entry into Force of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus".[/size]


    [size=12pt]State Symbols[/size]

    The National Flag of the Republic of Belarus
    [td]  [/td]
    [td]The National Flag of the Republic of Belarus, which is a symbol of state sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus, is a rectangular cloth consisting of two longitudinal stripes: red upper stripe and green lower stripe that are two-thirds and one-third of the flag width respectively. A vertical red-on-white Belarusian decorative pattern, which occupies one-ninth of the flag's length, is placed against the flagstaff. The flag’s ratio of width to length is 1:2. The flag is fixed on a flagstaff painted golden (ochre). During ceremonies and other solemn events, the National Flag of the Republic of Belarus is used with a diamond-shaped top edge containing a five-point star. The star is analogous to the one depicted on the national Emblem of the Republic of Belarus. The top edges are made of yellow metal.[/td]

    The National Emblem of the Republic of Belarus
    [td]  [/td]
    [td]The National Emblem of the Republic of Belarus, which is a symbol of state sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus, represents a green-colored contour of the Republic of Belarus in golden rays radiated by the sun over the globe. On top of the contour is a five-pointed red star. The emblem is set in a frame of wreath of golden wheat-ears interlaced with clover flowers on the right and flax flowers on the left. Wheat-ears are interlaced with a red-green ribbon carrying a golden inscription "The Republic of Belarus" at the bottom.[/td]

    The National Anthem of the Republic of Belarus
    In pursuance of Article 19 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, the symbols of the Republic of Belarus as a sovereign state shall be its national flag, national emblem and national anthem.
    The President of the Republic of Belarus put forward a task of composing the anthem of a new, independent Belarus. A musical composition by N.Sokolovsky (music) and M.Klimkovich and V. Karizna  (lyrics) was proclaimed as Belarus’ national anthem. The new national anthem of the Republic of Belarus retains the music by N. Sokolovsky, which symbolizes continuity of the historical traditions of Belarusian people and enjoys popularity and esteem among people from various generations. As for its artistic qualities, this music meets all the requirements posed to anthems.

    The lyrics by M. Klimkovich and V. Karizna was given preference among the other textual suggestions for the music by N. Sokolovsky.  Matching the melody and rhythm of the music by N. Sokolovsky, their poetical work reflects at the same time the new political, economic and social conditions of the development of the Republic of Belarus as a sovereign and peace loving state, it emphasizes patriotism and industriousness of its citizens, friendly relations between all the ethnical groups residing in our country. By his Decree, the Head of State approved the Provisions on the national anthem of the Republic of Belarus, which define the status of the anthem, the conditions and regulations governing the playing of the national anthem.
    With the approval of the national anthem, the process of forming the state symbols of the Republic of Belarus was accomplished. 

    The National Anthem of the Republic of Belarus
    Words by M. Klimkovich, U. Karyzna
    Music by N. Sakalouski

      [li]Мы, беларусы – мірныя людзі,
      Сэрцам адданыя роднай зямлі,
      Шчыра сябруем, сілы гартуем
      Мы ў працавітай, вольнай сям'і.

      Слаўся, зямлі нашай светлае імя,
      Слаўся, народаў братэрскі саюз!
      Наша любімая маці-Радзіма,
      Вечна жыві і квітней, Беларусь!

      Разам з братамі мужна вякамі
      Мы баранілі родны парог,
      У бітвах за волю, бітвах за долю
      Свой здабывалі сцяг перамог!

      Слаўся, зямлі нашай светлае імя,
      Слаўся, народаў братэрскі саюз!
      Наша любімая маці-Радзіма,
      Вечна жыві і квітней, Беларусь!

      Дружба народаў – сіла народаў –
      Наш запаветны, сонечны шлях.
      Горда ж узвіся ў ясныя высі,
      Сцяг пераможны – радасці сцяг!

      Слаўся, зямлі нашай светлае імя,
      Слаўся, народаў братэрскі саюз!
      Наша любімая маці-Радзіма,
      Вечна жыві і квітней, Беларусь![/li]


    [size=12pt]Legal System[/size]

    Introduction to the Legal System of the Republic of Belarus
    Legal system of any state reflects objective laws of development of society, its historical, national and cultural peculiarities. The Republic of Belarus like any other state has its own legal system, which has both common features with legal systems of other countries and its special characteristics. It's generally known that all legal systems can be categorized into the groups ("law families") depending on some common features. The legal system of the Republic of Belarus as well as legal systems of other states of continental Europe belongs to the Roman-Germanic Law Family.

    The Constitution of the Republic of Belarus is the Fundamental Law of the Republic of Belarus, having supreme legal force. Laws of the Republic of Belarus, ordinances of the President of the Republic of Belarus, decrees of the President of the Republic of Belarus and other acts of state bodies (officials) are adopted and enacted in compliance with the Constitution.  Presently the legal system of the Republic of Belarus is closely interacting with the legal system of Russia. Pursuant to Article 2 of the Treaty between Belarus and Russian Federation On Creation of the Union State of December 8, 1999 development of the unified democratic legal system is foreseen as one of the objectives of the Union State being created. Time will show real extent of vitality of this legal system.

    [size=8pt]*Information is provided by the National Center of Legal Information of the Republic of Belarus. Texts of some normative legal acts can be found on the National Legal Internet Portal[/size]


    [size=12pt]History and Culture[/size]

    Brief review of the Belarusian culture
    The Belarusian people have always been notable for their ingenuous and original culture whose roots can be traced back to most remote pre-Christian, pagan times. The ancient Belarusian culture gained much from the fact that the Slavonic people, who were beginning to settle on this land, did not resort to destruction of everything that had been created by the indigenous population (believed by many historians to be of Baltic and Finno-Ugric origin). Pacific and respectful attitude of the Slavs to the spiritual heritage of the indigenous population can be proved by a great number of the names of villages and towns, rivers and lakes, which have Baltic or Finno-Ugric origin and which exist up to now. Many surnames of contemporary Belarusians can also be accounted for by this factor. In the beginning, our ancestors, just like all the East-Slavonic tribes were pagans. This kind of religious conscience had been in existence for a long time and left an important vestige in culture. At present there are no doubts as to existence of our written language in the pagan times, although in the past it was wrongly believed that this written language had appeared only after the adoption of Christianity.

    The Christian religion was reaching our land from the end of the 10th century. First the rites were Byzantine (Eastern), somewhat later they changed to Latin (Western), both of them influencing the spiritual development of our land. With the advent of Christianity the written language was spreading quite fast, especially in the well-to-do and privileged sections of the public. Very soon, alongside with dogmatic literature there appeared secular books. Book writing and book copying was done at Christian cloisters. Quite a lot of years were devoted to this sacred deed by Euphrasinia Polatskaya. Kiryła Turaŭski (also called Zlatoust – "Kiryl the Golden Lips" for his eloquence), Klement Smoliatich, Avraniy Smolensky and other prominent religious leaders were also engaged in various enlightenment activities. Christianity made a significant influence on the development of architecture and painting. St. Sofia Cathedral, St. Euphrasinia Church, St. Boris and Gleb (Belchytsy) Monastery in Polotsk, Annunciation Church in Vitebsk, St. Boris and Gleb (known as Kalozhskaya Church since the beginning of the 15th century) in Grodno and many other churches were built in the 11th-12th centuries. The celebrated Polotsk goldsmith Lazar Bohsha made a filigreed religious cross for Euphrasinia Polatskaya, that was so fine and precious, that it was regarded as the most beautiful cross in Eastern Europe.

    The formation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 13th century provided favourable conditions for the development of culture. The Old Belarusian language was the official language of that state as stipulated by the provisions of the second wording of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Statute in 1566. The geographic vicinity of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe as well as a high level of the country's spiritual development fostered progressive ideas of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. At that time a lot of Belarusians were known all over the world. The great Belarusian and East-Slavonic enlightener, publishing pioneer and thinker Francysk Skaryna ranked second to none. During his period of work in Prague in 1517-1519, he translated and published 23 books of the Bible, using words and structural patterns of the Old Belarusian language. By that time the Bible had only been published in German (1445) and Czech (1448). Skaryna's followers such as Mikoła Husoŭski, the author of a poem in Latin, called "The Song about the Aurochs" (1523, published in Krakow), Symon Budny, who wrote a number of works not only in Old Belarusian, but also in Polish and Latin, were famous in the Europe of that time.

    The ideas of the European Renaissance period affected the development of architecture and art in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. A vivid example of this influence was its capital – the town of Vilnia (now Vilnius, Lithuania). The castle of Mir, a popular attraction for tourists nowadays, was built in the 15th-16th centuries. The following prominent sites date back to this period: Mir Trinity church, the Trinity church in Ishkold (Baranovichi district), Holy Spirit church in Noden (Brest district), the church of St. Boris and Gleb in Novogrudok, the fortress of Novogrudok, the castle of Nesvizh, the church of Ostashino (Novogrudok district), armoured churches in Synkovichi (Zelva district), Malomozheykovo (Lida district), etc. As the Jews and the Tartars were allowed to reside on the territory of Belarus, the local authorities encouraged their cultural development, including the foundation places of worship as well as their secular buildings. The mosque of Davbuchishki (Smorgon district) is one of the oldest in Europe (it was mentioned in the Lithuanian chronicles in 1558). A lot of local craftsmen took part in building mosques and synagogues; hence these buildings have a lot of features and designs typical of the Belarusian architecture.

    The situation of Belarusian cultural development changed dramatically in the second half of the 16th century. As the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was devastated by frequent wars with the Moscow Principality, it decided to unite with the Polish Kingdom. It took place in 1569 after the signing of the Union of Lublin, which established a large federation called Rzeczpospolita (Commonwealth). It seemed so as though nothing had threatened Belarusian culture in the beginning. Positive results were achieved in all spheres of spiritual life, though preceded by some difficulties, but the leaders of the Rzeczpospolita launched a resolute campaign against the moral values of the Belarusian people at the beginning of the 17th century. Its major attack on Belarusian culture began with the adoption of the law by the General Confederation of the Rzeczpospolita nobility in 1696 on banning the Belarusian language from its official use in all the matters related to the state, administrative and judicial bodies, substituting it by the Polish language. Belarusian ballet, music and arts developed in spite of the official policy of polonization (Polish cultural domination).

    Despite the devastating wars, Belarusian people built dozens of architectural masterpieces combining foreign and local styles. The Baroque style was prevailing in Belarusian architecture. Such marvelous buildings as the Sapegas' palace in Ruzhany, the Khreptovhichys' palace in Shchorsy, the Radzivils' palace in Nesvizh, St. Nikolai church and Carmelite church in Mogilev, parish churches in Nesvizh and Grodno, St. Peter and Paul cathedral in Vitebsk were all built in the baroque style. The famous Italian architect Giovanni Bernardoni, invited by Radzivil Sirotka, designed the Jesuit church and collegium and built the Radzivil Palace in Nesvizh in the 16th century. The situation to preserve and develop Belarusian culture after the annexation of Belarusian land to the Russian Empire after the three divisions of the country (1772, 1793, 1795 respectively) did not get any better. Russification (Russian cultural domination), discreet at first, was later added to already existent polonization. Still, in the condition of Belarusian culture suppression, Belarusian land was known in the world for such famous people as: Adam Mickievicz, Stanislaw Moniuszko, Mikhal Kleofas Aginski, Ignaty Dameyko, Mikhail Glinka, Iosif Gashkevich, Ivan Cherski and others.

    Russian authorities strived at dispersing and establishing their influence over Belarusian people. Their "cultural and spiritual" concepts included the necessary measures to eliminate "Polish influence". Polotsk and Vilnia Universities were closed down (1820 and 1832 respectively), the Belarusian language was banned from schools and Orthodox churches, the Uniate Church was liquidated (1839). The Uniate church schools were closed down. Russian schools were opened instead.
    After the 1863-1864 Rebellion, book publishing in Belarusian was prohibited in Poland, Belarus and Lithuania (in 1867). However, a lot of scientists and writers, such as Vincent Dunin-Martinkevich and Francishek Bogushevich made a great contribution to the development of Belarusian culture. Belarusian national movement upheaval at the beginning of the 20th century led to the revival of Belarusian culture national traditions. The talented writers such as J. Kupala, J.Kolas, M.Bogdanovich, Tsetka and others, whose works later became classics of the Belarusian Literature, worked at that time. Newspaper "Nasha Niva" contributed to the advocacy of Belarusian culture.

    Belarusian culture enjoyed favourable conditions in the 1920s, at the time of Belarussization policy. Belarusian schools were opened. The Belarusian Culture Institute was established in Belarus, that was transformed into the Belarusian Academy of Sciences in 1929. However, since the beginning of the 1930s this positive process was put an end to, due to the ideological control in all spheres of cultural life. A lot of Belarusian culture and science activists were subjected to repressions.
    Harsh conditions for Belarusian cultural development were also set forth in Western Belarus. A lot of Belarusian schools were closed down, but nevertheless there emerged a group of young Belarusian writers, such as M.Tank, V.Tavlay, N.Taras and others.

    In 1941-1945 Belarusian culture suffered greatly from the war between the Nazi Germany and the USSR. A number of Belarusian writers, scientists and culture activists were killed in the war, in its fronts, partisan detachments, and underground movement organizations. But even in the terrible conditions of the occupation there still existed some cultural and educational establishments, such as theatres, schools, museums, newspapers. There were also religious services.
    Belarusian cultural development took place within the ideological pre-determinism and the Communists party control after the war and till the 1980s. Nevertheless, there appeared quite a number of talented post-war writers, such as: A.Adamovich, V.Bykov, R.Borodulin, G.Buravkin, A.Vertinski, V.Zuenok, I.Naumenka, B.Sanchenko, I.Chigrinov, I.Shamiakin, and a number of distinguished artists, such as painter M.Savitski, sculptors, such as Z.Azgur, S.Selikhanov, etc. There was a whole net of cultural establishments in the country; all sorts of cultural activities were also popular.

    A new policy of openness, called "Glasnost" (Openness), contributed to Belarusian cultural liberation from the ideological dictatorship and brought about spiritual revival of the Belarusian nation. The language situation changed. In 1990 the law "On the Languages in the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic" was adopted. The works of many writers, banned before, were published (J.Vitbich, M.Sednev and others). The number of theatre companies increased.
    However, in 1990-ies, difficulties in developing national traditions remain and they are mainly caused by the transition period in the country's economy, and also in the cultural and spiritual field.



    Religionus denominations
    Traditionally, there exist both Christian confessions in Belarus (Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Old Belief, Protestantism) and non-Christian ones (Islam and Judaism). In the 1990s, Belarus was the scene of impetuous, difficult and contradictory processes. The religious revival process must be mentioned especially. Many people started looking for new spiritual values for themselves.

    As of 2001, 26 religious confessions have been officially registered in Belarus. The number of religious communities has increased as compared to 1998: there were 800 of them in 1989, and 2748 in October 2001, i.e. the increase is more than 3.3 times. At present, there are also 138 religious organizations in Belarus of pan-confessional importance (religious associations, monasteries and nunneries, congregations, convents, missions, theological educational establishments).

    Orthodoxy is a most ancient Christian faith on the Belarusian lands. It came here at the end of the 10th century with the establishment of the Polatsk episcopacy (992 A.D.). At the beginning of the second millennium, major areas of the Orthodox Church activities were identified, there appeared church-owned lands, and eparchy-based division. The Eparchies of Polatsk, Turau and others, which, at various times, included Belarusian lands, were subordinate to the Kiev Metropolitanate, whose relative integrity lasted until the middle of the 15th century. In 1472, the Orthodox Church of Poland and of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was canonically recognized by the Patriarch of Constantinople.

    From the end of the 13th century to the middle of the 16th century, nearly forty Orthodox monasteries were founded in Belarus' territory, some of them being real centers of parish and religious life, education, and icon painting. After establishment in 1596 of a new Uniate church, that united both Orthodox and Catholic traditions, the Orthodox Church found itself in a very difficult situation in Belarus. In 1632, the Sejm Walny (General) of the Rzeczpospolita and the privileges of the king Wladislaw IV sanctioned the official renewal of the activities of the Belarusian-Ukrainian Orthodox hierarchy. Orthodox eparchies were established, their centers being in Lutsk, Peremyshl, Lvov and Mogilev.

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