Belarus is a country located in Eastern Europe that is bordered by Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania and Poland. The nation is separated into six distinct provinces, or voblasts, including Brest, Gomel, Grodno, Mogilev, Minsk and Vitebsk. The vast majority of the citizens of Belarus live in suburbs of the country's major cities. Belarus is a landlocked nation that consists of a mixture of forests, marshes and swamps. There are over 11,000 lakes in Belarus and three important rivers: the Dnepr, the Pripyat and the Neman. Unlike most countries in the region, the economy of Belarus is largely state-controlled, with more than half of the citizens of the country working at state-owned companies.
The capital of Belarus is Minsk, which is also the country's largest city. Minsk is home to nearly two million citizens and has a special status that is governed independently of Belarus as a whole. As the primary cultural center of Belarus, Minsk is home to countless museums and theaters, as well as a number of historic churches and cathedrals. While there are dozens of popular nightclubs and other night spots in Minsk, it is worth noting that most of these establishments are closed during the week and only open their doors on Friday and Saturday nights.
Belarus is also known throughout the world for its famous castles, particularly the Mir Castle and the Nesvizh Castle. The Mir Castle is located south of Minsk and can be reached by using the Brest highway. The Mir Castle is listed as an official UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered by many to be the jewel of Belarusan architecture. The building was constructed during the 16th century and has a gorgeous plaster facade featuring a wide variety of porches and balconies. The Nesvizh Castle is located nearby and is a stunning example of Renaissance architecture that was the home to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania during the 16th century. One of the most striking features of the Nesvizh Castle is the Corpus Christi Church and its 72 coffins containing members of the influential Radziwill family.
Travelers who have an interest in Cold War history should be sure to visit the remnants of the famous Stalin Line. The Stalin Line was a line of fortifications created by the Soviet Union designed to protect the country from invasion from the West. While the fortifications have since been dismantled in many parts of the world, portions of the Stalin Line still remain standing in many parts of modern Belarus.
The effects of World War II were particularly brutal in Belarus, where an estimated 30 percent of the population lost their lives as a result of the fighting. As a result, there are a number of memorials commemorating key moments of the war in Belarus that are worth investigating, as well as a number of excellent museums. The most striking memorial is located at Brestskaya Krepasc, where citizens remember the sacrifices of guerrilla fighters who resisted the German invaders for a full month before losing their lives.
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