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Thursday, January 15, 2009


Previously known by the name Belorussia (White Russia), the name Belarus was adopted when the country became independent from the Soviet Union as the USSR disintegrated in 1991.The post-independence leadership was keen to maintain political and economic links with Moscow and was a leading proponent of the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States – a loose alliance of ex-Soviet republics that came into being shortly afterwards and whose headquarters were in the Belarusian capital of Minsk.Belarus’s close links with Russia has led the country into deeper international isolation. Today, the majority of all industry remains under the control of the state and is heavily regulated. Foreign investment has been limited due to an unfriendly business environment. Belarus’s human rights record since President Lukashenko came to power in 1994 has been poor.Despite this, Belarus does not deserve its reputation as a transit area on the way to or from Russia. Wide plains, picturesque villages, ancient castles and monasteries, deep forests, scenic landscapes, and thousands of lakes await nature-lovers, culture fans and sport enthusiasts. One-third of the Belarusian territory is covered with forests where birches, oaks, maple and pine trees dominate with a rich and diverse fauna: here one can find European bison, elk and deer, wild boar and wolf, bear and fox, beaver and lynx — not to mention myriad birds. Belarus also has a unique history and a rich cultural heritage, with hundreds of architectural monuments dating back to the 12th century