Belarus is a landlocked country in eastern Europe bordered by Poland to the west, Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, and Lithuania and Latvia to the north. The capital of Belarus is Minsk and other major cities include Brest, Vitsebsk (Vitebsk) Hrodna (Grodno), Mahilyow (Mogilev) and Homiel (Gomel).
The population of Belarus is about 9.45 million of which over 70% live in urban areas. However, more than 80% of the population is ethnic Belarusian, with sizable minorities of Russians, Poles (400,000) and Ukrainians.
The present borders of Belarus were established during the turmoil of WW2 during which the former Soviet republic was occupied between 1941 and 1944, when it lost 2.3 million people, including almost all of its large Jewish population.
Belarus is dependent on Russia for imports of raw materials and for its export market. It also relies on Russia for various imports, including petroleum. However, as of 1994, Belarus's main exports included heavy machinery (especially tractors), agricultural and energy products.
As part of the legacy of the former Soviet Union, Belarus's main environmental problem is nuclear pollution. Belarus was the republic most affected by the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on the 26th April 1986. Northerly winds prevailed at the time of the accident; therefore, most of the fallout (over 60%) occurred over farmland in the south-eastern section of the country (primarily in the Gomel and Mogilev oblasts). Most experts estimate that 25–30% of Belarus's farmland was irradiated and should not be used for agricultural production or to collect wild berries and mushrooms, although it continues to be used for these and other purposes.
We were allowed to start working in Belarus in 1991 and now have a small office in the capital Minsk, from where Oksana and Alexey help us to co-ordinate visa processing, visits, the Family Support Program and other projects.