BELARUSIAN Facts & Figures

Size: 80,155 square miles

Population: 9,503,807

Capital: Minsk

Currency: Belarusian Ruble

Weather / Climate:

Belarusian climate is moderately continental, a transitional form from maritime to continental climate with mild and humid winters, warm summers and damp autumns. During last decades the continental component has become less pronounced with winters becoming warmer. The climate’s general properties are conditioned by the country’s location in middle latitudes, domination of flat relief and relative remoteness from the Atlantic Ocean.
Average July temperatures range from +17 C to +18.5 C, January temperatures vary from -8 C to -4.5 C. The period with temperatures above zero lasts about 230-263 days.

Belarusis situated in the zone of sufficient moistening. The average rainfall is 600-700 mm; in the uplands the average is 650-700 mm and in the lowlands it is 600-650 mm. About 70% of yearly precipitation falls on the warm period. Occasional draughts and floods are conditioned by spatial and time precipitation changeability.

Snow is an important feature of Belarusian climate determining its severity and moistening degree. The period with steady blanket of snow lasts 75 days in the southwest and 125 days in the northeast of the country. Average snow depth ranges respectively from 15 to over 30 cm.

Distribution of atmospheric pressure in Belarus is conditioned by general atmospheric processes typical of middle latitudes of the Eurasian continent, by Belarus’ geographic position and relief.

The climate of Belarus was changing throughout the Earth’s history. During the period of instrumental observations (1881-2004) the average annual temperature rose by 1 C and average winter and spring temperatures rose even more. During this period two significant rises in temperature have been observed. The rise of temperature by 3-4 C is forecast by the end of current century.

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BELARUSIAN languages

Belarusian and Russian are the official languages according to the Constitution of Belarus (Article 17). The constitution guarantees preservation of the cultural heritage of all ethnic minorities, including their languages (Article 15).

Russian, and not Belarusian, is the dominant language in Belarus, spoken normally at home by 63% of the population (1999 census). Even among ethnic Belarusians nearly 60% normally speak Russian at home. Ukrainians and Jews also speak mostly Russian. Poles are the ethnic group who most frequently use Belarusian at home (58%), but the rest speak mainly Russian, with less than 5% reporting Polish as the language normally used within the family.

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According to 2009 census, the population is 9,503,807.Ethnic Belarusians constitute 83.7% of Belarus' total population.The next largest ethnic groups are: Russians (8.3%), Poles (3.1%), and Ukrainians (1.7%).Belarus' two official languages are Russian and Belarusian;Russian is the main language, used by 72% of the population, while Belarusian, the second official language, is only used by 11.9%.Minorities also speak Polish, Ukrainian and Eastern Yiddish.

Belarushas a population density of about 50 people per square kilometer (127 per sq mi); 70% of its total population is concentrated in urban areas. Minsk, the nation's capital and largest city, is home to 1,836,808 residents.Gomel, with 481,000 people, is the second largest city and serves as the capital of the Homel Voblast. Other large cities are Mogilev (365,100), Vitebsk (342,400), Hrodna (314,800) and Brest (298,300).

Like many other European countries, Belarus has a negative population growth rate and a negative natural growth rate. In 2007, Belarus's population declined by 0.41% and its fertility rate was 1.22,well below the replacement rate. Its net migration rate is +0.38 per 1,000, indicating that Belarus experiences slightly more immigration than emigration. As of 2007, 69.7% of Belarus's population is aged 14 to 64; 16% is under 14, and 14.6% is 65 or older. Its population is also aging: while the current median age is 37, it is estimated that Belarusians' median age group will be between 55 and 65 in 2050.There are about 0.88 males per female in Belarus.The average life expectancy is 68.7 years (63.0 years for males and 74.9 years for females).Over 99% of Belarusians are literate.

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Belarusian cuisineshares the same roots with cuisines of other Eastern and Northern European countries, basing predominantly on meat and various vegetables typical for the region.


The history of gastronomy in Belarus reveals a highly exotic cuisine. In the early 15th century whole fried aurochs, the ancestor of domestic cattle, from the primeval Belaviezha forest that is now a national preserve, were sent as a gift to the German emperor.[citation needed] The records of exports of the candied roots of Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus) to Western Europe date back to the 16th century. First mentioned in an early 17th century political pamphlet, baked goose with green peppers was still a popular dish for November feasts – All Saints and St Martin’s – in the mid-19th century.

Aside from its predominantly Ruthenian roots, Belarusian cuisine is very close to Lithuanian and Polish, because of the intermingling of these three peoples first within the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (11th-15th centuries) and later within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (16th-17th centuries). Though the Belarusian nobility, like the Polish elite, borrowed much from Italian, German, and French cuisines, this influence hardly made itself felt in the diet of the peasant majority. Still, some of the borrowed dishes spread throughout the society, such as lazanki (a mixture of flour dumplings and stewed meat, related to Italian lasagna) and, above all, various dishes made of grated potatoes, typical for German cuisine.

The political upheavals of the 20th century completely wiped out the former privileged classes and many traditional upper and middle class dishes went down the path of oblivion. The very idea of a separate Belarusian cuisine was treated with suspicion. Only after World War II did it occur to the communist authorities that the proclaimed ‘flourishing of national culture’ should also be evident in the cuisine. The only source permitted for such a culinary reconstruction was the heritage of the poorest peasants as of the 1880s, a time when primitive rural lifestyle was already on the wane. Chefs were instructed by the Party to create the new Belarusian cuisine from scratch. Dish names, recipes, "authentic" kitchenware – all were reinvented anew, as though ten centuries of history had never existed. Only the sudden advent of independence in 1991 brought an opportunity to restore these lost traditions, and a great deal still remains to be done here.

Modern Belarusian cuisine is still heavily influenced by its recent Soviet past, and many local restaurants feature Russian or Soviet dishes rather than true specialties of local cuisine. Some Belarusians may have more interest in Italian, Chinese, and Japanese cuisine than with the careful restoration of their own culinary heritage.[citation needed] However, draniki (both plain and stuffed), borš?, haladnik, ma?anka, zrazy, cold meat rolls, eggs stuffed with mushrooms, halubtsy, fried raw pork sausage and bliny are likely to be found everywhere, as well as sour rye bread.


A traditional peasant or merchant's dinner consisted of just two dishes: soup and a main course. A special kind of pot, the sparysh, with two compartments, was used by farmers' children to bring lunch to their father working in the fields. Prior to World War II salads or other zakuski were not very common, and recipes based on Russian models tended to appear in modern Belarusian postwar cookbooks. Fresh white cheese and various kinds of cold meats (usually smoked) were available, however, at least on holidays.


Since wheat does not grow well in a cold and wet climate, Belarusians were always fond of a kind of somewhat sour rye bread, and the most traditional hard drink, the local vodka or harelka was distilled primarily from a rye malt.

Like other Slavic peoples, Belarusians could boast of a huge variety of bliny (pancakes) of various thickness, plain and filled, made mostly of wheat or buckwheat flour, but also using oatmeal (tsadaviki).

Various kinds of cereal especially barley, oatmeal and buckwheat were common. Belarus was the likely centre of Europe’s buckwheat culture, and dishes made with this healthy grain used to be very popular: various kinds of buns, cakes and dumplings which, except for the well-known "kasha", no longer exist today.


The main vegetables were cabbage (often made into sauerkraut) and beets, while turnips, swedes, parsnip and carrots both stewed and boiled (with the addition of a small amount of milk) were somewhat less popular. As elsewhere in Europe, legumes were the main source of protein, mainly in the form of kamy (puree of peas or beans with melted lard).


The word soup was not known in Belarus until the 18th century when the nobility borrowed it from German, but soup as a type of dish clearly existed centuries earlier. The old word for most traditional Belarusian soups was poli′uka, except for those named after the vegetable that was the main ingredient: kapusta (cabbage soup), buraki (beet soup), gryzhanka (swede soup). For a typical poli′uka the major ingredients (fish or mushrooms during fasts) were first boiled with spices; cereals such as barley or millet were boiled in the stock, and then flour blended with water, bread kvass, beet juice or buttermilk was added to the stock. Black poli′uka, made with goose or pork blood, is closely related to the Swedish "black soup" svartsoppa. Offering a matchmaker black poli′uka was the polite way for the bride’s parents to decline a young man’s proposal. Like the Ukrainians, Russians and Poles, Belarusians are fond of borscht, a thick and rich beet and cabbage soup made with grains, potato and meat. Soups are much more authentic, both hot (shchi, borš?, sorrel soup) and especially cold sour soups which provide cooling relief during the hot summer.

The Belarusian khaladnik , a cold borscht made of beets, beet leaves or sorrel and served with sour cream, hard-boiled eggs, and boiled potatoes, has been a popular dish also in Polish and Lithuanian cuisines since the late 18th century.


Meat was in rather scarce supply for most people, and was primarily eaten only on the main Christian holidays. Avid consumers of pork, Belarusians are less partial to mutton and beef. Most common was raw pork sausage – a pig intestine stuffed with minced or chopped meat seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic. Its common name – "finger-stuffed sausage"  – provided a graphic description of the primitive production technology. Kishk? , or kryvyanka, was a local blood sausage made of pig’s blood and buckwheat grain. Škalondza , or kindziuk , a particular kind of round sausage made of pig stomach filled with pork minced with spices – a relative of the Lithuanian skilandis – was known throughout the country. Borrowed from Italian cuisine by nobility in 16th century, cold meat rolls, salcesons and balerons were common to all of society by the 19th century, and are still very popular. Smoked goose breast pauguski, a local Belarusian and Lithuanian delicacy, was once the pride of middle-class cuisine, but no longer exists today.


Kalduny, small boiled dumplings related to Russian pelmeni and Italian ravioli, were produced in endless combinations of dough, filling and sauce. Especially popular were kalduny Count Tyshkevich (filled with a mixture of fried local mushrooms and smoked ham). In the late 19th century kalduny began to be made with grated potato rather than with a flour-based dough and, unfortunately, the former huge variety of fillings shrank considerably. Today, kalduny have to struggle vigorously to regain their former popularity, now overtaken by the Russian pelmeni.

Dairy products

The main dairy products include a kind of fresh white cheese and sour cream, which is widely used both in cooking and as a garnish. Only in the mid-19th century was fermented cheese borrowed from the Netherlands and Switzerland, and the local version of Edam was very popular for decades in the Russian Empire. Sour butter from the former Dzisna county was proudly exported to England, where it continued to be the most expensive variety up to World War I. Today, however, these traditions have become a thing of the past.


A mug of kvass, a fermented beverage made from black rye or rye bread

?he traditional hard drink is vodka or harelka, including varieties made from birch sap or flavored with forest herbs. Mead and similar alcoholic drinks made of honey and spices were very common up to the 19th century and then more or less disappeared until the latest revival of the national cuisine. A notable example in this group is krambambula, vodka diluted with water, mixed with honey, and flavored with spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, red and black pepper). In the 18th century this drink competed with French champagne in Belarus and only wealthy people could afford it. Today it is enjoying a popular revival, as is evident from the appearance of krambambula recipes and histories on the Internet.

Kvass traditionally was and still remains the main local non-alcoholic drink, although it is increasingly made with sugars and artificial flavorings rather than with genuine rye malt and natural flavorings. Every small town boasts a local variety of mineral water. Belarusians prefer carbonated water.

Traditional liquid desserts that accompany a meal include saladucha, a thick liquid made of rye flour and honey that was popular in the 18th century, and kissel, the traditional jelly drink of Slavic peoples made with the pulp of forest berries and cooked fruits, originally thickened with oatmeal (now replaced by potato starch flour or cornstarch).

Minority cuisines

Belarusian cuisine owes much to Jewish cooking. In the 19th century Jewish influence was especially noticeable in bringing in potato dishes of German origin, such as babka. This was a two-way gastronomic street, for the famous bulba latkes, the potato pancakes of the East European Jews, may have been borrowed from the Belarusian draniki.

Another important minority ethnic group which influenced Belarusian cuisine were the Lipka Tatars, whose Tatar cuisine was especially strong in various cakes with fillings, mutton and vegetable dishes.


The potato became so common in 19th century – there are some 300+ dishes recorded in Belarus – that it came to be considered the core of the national cuisine. In the Soviet Union, Belarusians were scornfully called bulbashi, potato-eaters; today this cliché from the Soviet times is beginning to fade.


Typical salads are made of a fairly short list of ingredients: endless combinations of boiled beef or chicken, potato, beet, carrot, apple, herring, diced cheese, canned peas and corn, canned fish, ‘crab fingers’, onions and mushrooms, and are generously seasoned with mayonnaise or sunflower oil. One of the most typical local salads is the "Belaya Vezha" salad (named after the Belaya Vezha Forest), which combines boiled chicken meat with fried mushrooms, onions, and pickled cucumbers, mixed with mayonnaise and garnished with chopped hard-boiled egg.[5] Fresh vegetable salads are also widely available: tomatoes (also mixed with cucumbers) and onions seasoned with sour cream, radishes with dill and sunflower oil (or sourcream) shredded cabbage salad seasoned with sunflower oil or mayonnaise (similar to coleslaw), pickled cabbage with caraway seeds or cranberries with onions seasoned with sunflower oil.


Historically, Belarusians had little access to seafood, and this is still evident in the cuisine. The most common sea fish (after herring, which has been the most common appetizer all along the Baltic coast and its vicinity ever since the 14th century) are hake and cod and there are relatively few dishes with such fish. Much more traditional and common are lake fish, notably zander, cooked in endless ways, and carp (especially the famous stuffed carp, the gefilte fisch of Jewish cuisine). Eels, smoked or stuffed, are the specialty of the lake country in the northwestern part of Belarus, adjacent to Latvia and Lithuania.

Taken from Wikipedia

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