->''I'm going to Minsk.''\\
''Minsk. It's in Russia.''
-->--The writers of ''Series/{{Friends}}'' get it wrong. Perhaps they were thinking of Murmansk?

->''What am I, from Minsk-a-Pinsk?''
-->--[[YiddishAsASecondLanguage Every Jewish comedian ever]].

Belarus ('''Belarusian:''' ''Беларусь''), officially known as the Republic of Belarus ('''Belarusian:''' ''Рэспубліка Беларусь''), is a largish, landlocked Eastern European country just to the left of Russia and to the right of Poland (and that's only meant trouble for them). Its name literally translates as "White Russia." Its capital is Minsk.

Although the Belarusian people (sometimes called "Litvins", "White Russians" or "White Ruthenians" in older historical sources) have been around the area some time, there was no state of Belarus until the end of UsefulNotes/WorldWarI. In fact, while the name of White Ruthenia existed back in UsefulNotes/KievanRus, the region was actually known as ''Lithuania'' for most of the Late Medieval[=/=]Early Modern period.

There's an explanation for this but it can get pretty confusing. In short, in modern times we have the nation-states of Lithuania and Belarus. However for centuries both lands were united, and were known as "The Grand Duchy of Lithuania." What's more, while it was founded by ethnic Lithuanians, this Lithuania was not primarily Baltic in culture, but Slavic. For one, the official language of the Grand Duchy was Ruthenian (the ancestor to Belarusian), not Lithuanian. Also the upper class became highly assimilated into Slavic culture and Orthodox Christian religion. Later the Slavic portion of Lithuania was detached by Russia and renamed "Belarus," leaving only the remnant which we would recognize as "Lithuania." However this presented a problem: with Belarus detached from Lithuania and renamed, the entire history of "Lithuania" became associated solely with the modern state of that name. Thus it is the modern state of Lithuania which lays claim as the successor to the Grand Duchy, while Belarus was left basically without a history. This was exploited by the Soviet Union, for whom it was quite convenient to paint in terms of "poor Slavic peasants versus foreign feudal oppressors." Since independence the idea that it is ''Belarus'' which is the heir to the Grand Duchy has steadily grown in popularity, particularly among nationalists and those who wish to distance Belarus from Russia (whether they'll grant that Lithuania can also lay claim depends on just ''how'' nationalist they are). [[note]]This view of Belarusian history is entertainingly presented by this [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXlagbg9qkM "History of Belarus in 5 minutes"]] video.[[/note]]

In the havoc of the Russian Civil War, Germany backed a Belarusian National Republic (actually called the People's Republic but idiomatically translated here as it was decidedly un-Bolshevik) flying a new white-red-white flag. When Germany left, the BNR found itself with about as much credibility as their German backers, and lasted only as long as it took the Red Army to arrive. The republic was carved up between the USSR (who commified it) and Poland (who denied its existence, considering it to be Poland, but swampier). Wars were fought between the USSR and Poland ([[UsefulNotes/WorldWarII no, not that one]]), which brought the Byelorussian SSR as it was called closer to its modern geographic divisions.

The Belarusians were not happy and as in Ukraine and the Baltic nations (and indeed Russia) some nationalists briefly co-operated with the Nazis before they realised that the whole "Slavic untermensch" thing [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khatyn_massacre hadn't just been a campaign promise]]. The Belarus Central Council, or ''Rada'', as the Nazi puppet government was called, co-opted all the symbols of the ''previous'' German puppet government, the BNR (with unfortunate implications). Unlike Russia's imperial army and Ukraine's independent UsefulNotes/{{Cossacks}}, Belarus (per se) did not have a celebrated military history before the 20th century, so the fierce struggle of the Belarusian partisans (guerillas frequently in service of the Red Army), against the Nazis came to be seen as a national CrowningMomentOfAwesome. Likewise, because of the BNR in part, the Belarusian nationalist movement lacked credibility -- something that would doom their effort to take over after the Soviet breakup.

The Soviets, of course, won and took over Poland's bit, dumping the substantial Polish population into eastern Germany, now conveniently part of Poland, in order to straighten up the borders. Post-war Soviet Byelorussia had to be rebuilt largely from scratch (as did much of the USSR), and little resembled the pre-war nation: huge urban projects turned Minsk into a modern Soviet metropolis, and industry (traditionally concentrated in certain parts of Russia and Ukraine) was brought to the republic. State planning meant that Belarus would have an emphasis largely on ''light'' industry, not heavy or military industry, producing a disprorportionate part of the country's larger consumer products (refrigerators, televisions, washing machines, etc.) Consequently, with some modern industry, a large agricultural base, and not being invaded by Poland, Germany, or the Tsars, the BSSR was considered to have one of the highest standards of living in the USSR. Since independence, though, Belarus' pre-war image as {{Ruritania}} has come back into vogue--outside the USSR, where Belarus was largely unknown, that has always been the image. It still has a higher HDI and IHDI than Russia, however.

With the break-up of the Soviet Union, Belarus found itself a little adrift - the country had never really had a chance to form its own national identity, and it wasn't long before an authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, took power and began to undo some of the trappings of independence. The country's flag was changed back to the Soviet-era flag (minus hammer and sickle and a reversal to the red-white pattern on the left side), the economy was taken back into state control and greater ties with Russia have been sought. The local StateSec, called KDB in Belarussian or [[UsefulNotes/MoscowCentre KGB]] in Russian, also regained much of its influence.

An official union between Russia and Belarus was agreed in 1999 and came into effect in 2000 with talk of the two being officially unified under one flag, citizenship, currency and so on. However, enthusiasm seems to have waned again, with customs controls being re-introduced and no joint "national" symbols having been agreed. It seems the leaders of Belarus and Russia just can't agree on the details (most likely the dictator of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, prefers being leader of his own country rather than some bureaucrat in Putin's cabinet).

Belarus is the country hardest hit by the Chernobyl disaster, even though it actually occurred in Ukrainian territory. It's estimated that 60% of the fallout alone hit Belarusian lands and almost 5% of the country is contaminated (compare this with Ukraine, where barely 1% is affected); one Belarusian village folk described that there was a year where funerals due to radiation were held everyday. Openness isn't one of the lessons learned from the disaster, though, and unlike in Ukraine where the disaster is a national reminder of its Soviet past, the fallout is a big ElephantInTheLivingRoom in Belarus, and the government would rather speak of the disaster as seldom as they could.

Tropewise, most of what applies to Russia will apply to Belarus as well, and you'd be hard-pressed to find many westerners who would be able to tell you anything about the country. This may actually be a bit TruthInTelevision; Belarus has never managed to form a steady identity like Ukraine did. Historically, this is particularly prevalent in language: in particular, after a few years of attempting to find a compromise between competing languages alongside political representation in newly-annexed Western Byelorussia, the Polish government made speaking languages other than Polish a major crime, often resulting in hanging (on the charges of [[YourTerroristsAreOurFreedomFighters committing treason against the new authorities]]). Every Belarusian language school in the country was shuttered, with Polish becoming the educational standard in the fight against irrendentism in what is generally called ''Polonization'' today. In Soviet East Belarus, a revival of the language was the cornerstone of a short-lived Golden Age of Belarusian-ness (with Russian itself being temporarily banned in civil use as a concession from Moscow!). This came to an abrupt end under Josef Stalin's overriding "Socialism in One Country" policy, with a heavy ''Russification'' campaign coinciding with a bloody purge of the old Belarusian revolutionaries (and their language), going as far as to even liquidate revolutionaries who'd fled from Poland, in favor their younger offspring, conditioned for orthodoxy in the Soviet mixer. A similar process, on a smaller scale, occurred with Belarusian Jews: the 1939 unification of the country saw the old, isolated Jewish communities of Western Belarus replaced with the Soviet ideal of the cosmopolitan Belarusian Jew: [[YiddishAsASecondLanguage Yiddish]] rather than Hebrew speaking, possessing citizenship, more secular and anti-Zionist.[[note]]The cultural transformation of a divided Belarusian people is a very rare topic in English, with some of the earliest English sources only appearing in the 1950s from Harvard Professor Nicholas Vakar, who goes as far as to even detail the anti-communist Belarusians who exclusively spoke then-forbidden Russian![[/note]]

Take the combination of temporary Polish military rule and Soviet Russification (and the Russian cultural leanings of Lukashenko's government), and you get a country where most of the population speak Russian as a main language.[[note]] To be fair, Ukraine is also like that, but it is limited to the Central and Eastern parts of the country, which have been ruled by the Russian Empire for a looong time, while the western part was for most of its history a part of the Polish Kingdom and thus serves as the outpost of the language. There is no such thing in Belarus.[[/note]] Belarus ''has'' a distinct Slavic language that's actually quite a bit different from Russian, but only the really rural people speak it as a mother language, and speaking the language today automatically marks you as a hillbilly, even though the names of the people are still in it (to give you a distinction, the ubiquitous Slavic masculine name "Vladimir" has the Belarusian form "Uladzimir").

Meanwhile, the main Russian stereotype about Belarus is that they all [[TrademarkFavoriteFood eat lots of potatoes]]. Russian media tends to portray Belarus as a [[SwampsAreEvil swampy]] {{Ruritania}} where everyone speaks [[strike:Belarusian]] [[JustAStupidAccent Russian with a funny accent]] and is [[NeverLiveItDown constantly short on]] [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_Russia%E2%80%93Belarus_energy_dispute (Russian) gas]]. Russians generally treat Belarusians like brothers, maybe strange and rustic but still beloved (unlike people from that certain other former Soviet republic with a history of bad blood with Russia); Belarusian citizens are even exempt from most laws limiting migration to Russia. A nationalistic minority in Belarus does not like Russians, but most of the people in the country are glad to reciprocate the friendship. Also, quite a lot of Soviet films that are set in Belarus are about UsefulNotes/WorldWarII and the [[LaResistance Belarusian partisans]].

When it was first independent, English-speaking media couldn't quite decide what to call it - Byelorussia or Bielorussia was popular at first but we seem to have settled on Belarus (pronounced "Bella-'''roos'''", or "byella-'''roosh''' if you're trying to impress someone[[note]]the last consonant is actually not a sh-sound, but a palatalized s, sometimes transliterated with an apostrophe. The distinction is important in Belarusian, where the word Belarus' means the country and the word Belarus means a Belarusian man[[/note]]). The problem is because everyone generally agreed on "Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic" when it was a part of the Soviet Union, Russian then being the main language for even the separate republics, but since the breakup there's much more debate on that (to this day, Russia still refers to the country as "Byelorussia"). Actually, the problem extends to place names and even people's names, too, since to this day outsiders use the Russian translation for famous figures, yet they use the Belarusian translation (using the Russian translit scheme) for place names, and that's not mentioning the Belarusian ''translit scheme'' used by the Belarusian government, which is another beast entirely.[[note]] Belarus uses two different translit schemes, each for geographical and non-geographical names.[[/note]] So it's like the whole Kiev/Kyiv thing, except much worse. Some of the difference in spellings are listed here:
* Grodno (Russian) / Hrodna (Belarusian)
* Gomel (Russian) / Homyel' (Belarusian) / Homiel (Belarusian gov.)
* Mogilev (Russian) / Mahilyow (Belarusian) / Mahilioǔ (Belarusian gov.)
* Vitebsk (Russian) / Vitsyebsk (Belarusian) / Viciebsk (Belarusian gov.)
* The name of the president: Aleksandr[[note]] Transcribed as "Alexander" in foreign press, for some reason[[/note]] Grigoryevich Lukashenko (Russian) / Alyaksandr Ryhoravich Lukashenka (Belarusian) / Alâksandr Rygoravič Lukašènka (Belarusian gov.)

Probably Europe's most authoritarian state and the only UN member on the continent still to use the death penalty.

For their military forces, see UsefulNotes/BelarusiansWithBTRs.

Famous Belarusians include:
* Creator/IsaacAsimov, the famous, groundbreaking American science fiction author. He was born in 1920 in the village of Petrovichi in the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic, which was later absorbed by Russia.
* Victoria Azarenka, currently the World No. 1 tennis player (in women's tennis). She won the 2012 Australian Open singles title, becoming the first Belarusian player to win a Grand Slam in singles.
* Andrei Gromyko (''Andrej Hramyka'' in Belarusian), Soviet Minister for Foreign Affairs, a member of Brezhnev's inner circle and the face of Soviet diplomacy for nearly thirty years. His obstinate negotiating style earned him the nickname "Comrade Nyet" in the West.
* Pavel Sukhoi (''Pavieł Suchi''), Soviet aircraft constructor and designer and the founder of the Sukhoi Design Bureau. All Soviet planes whose names start with "Su" (e.g. Su-17 and Su-24) were designed by his bureau.
* Vladimir Mulyavin (''Uładzimir Muliavin''), Russian-Belarusian rock musician and founder of the folk-rock band ''Pesniary'', one of the most popular bands in the Soviet Union. They were even given permission to tour the US in 1976.
* Zhores Alferov (''Žares Ałfioraŭ''), Belarusian-Russian Nobel Prize winning physicist, inventor of the heterotransistor and one of the most prominent Communist politicians in [[UsefulNotes/TheNewRussia modern Russia]].
* Music/AlexanderRybak (''Aliaksandar Rybak''), Belarusian-Norwegian musician and the record-breaking winner of the 2009 Series/EurovisionSongContest.
* Marc Chagall (''Mark Šahał''), modernist Belarusian-French artist and a member of the once sizeable Belarusian Jewish community that is now almost entirely gone, thanks to the Holocaust and emigration.
* Chiang Fang-liang (born ''Faina Ipat'evna Vakhreva''), the first lady of Taiwan from 1978 to 1988, as wife of President Chiang Ching-kuo (the two met in the Ural Machine Plant in the USSR).
* Evgeny Morozov, writer, scholar and blogger. Born in Belarus, his experiences prior to settling down in America has influenced his opinions on various topics, including a skepticism of technology's potential.
* Svetlana Boguinskaya (''Svyatlana Baginskaya''), artistic gymnast and three-time Olympian (for the Soviet Union in 1988, Unified Team in 1992, and Belarus in 1996). She was called "the goddess of gymnastics" and "the Belarussian Swan" for her balletic, flowing style and dominance in the sport.
* [[KosherNostra Meyer Lansky]], born Meyer Suchowljansky (in then-Grodno-now-Belarus), immigrated to the U.S. in 1911. The "Mob's Accountant," friend and partner of Charlie "Lucky" Luciano and Bugsy Siegel, largely responsible for the "organized" part of "organized crime."

And it's often said that Belarus produced many famous Lithuanians, Russians and Poles...

'''Belarus and its locals in fiction'''
* An episode of ''Series/TheUnit'' is set in Belarus.
* ''Literature/TheThirdWorldWar'' has [[spoiler: Minsk get nuked by the US and UK in response to the Soviet Union nuking the British city of Birmingham. It doesn't feature at all in the rest of the two books.]]
* The MoeAnthropomorphism of Belarus in ''Manga/AxisPowersHetalia'' is an ElegantGothicLolita girl named Nathalia Arlovskaya, [[{{Yandere}} who wants VERY badly to become one with Russia]]. Russia is much less enthusiastic about the prospect (not to mention ''terrified'' of her - and y'know, she's also [[BrotherSisterIncest his SISTER.]])
* ''Film/ComeAndSee'', a 1985 film by the Russian director Elem Klimov. Probably the most famous war film set in Belarus, it averts DoNotDoThisCoolThing [[WarIsHell so hard]] that some see it as less of a war movie and more of a psychological horror movie. Notable for being one of the few Soviet films to not just mention, but to actually show the Nazis ''massacring an entire village'', as well as one of the first Soviet films to seriously deal with the topics of [[LesCollaborateurs collaboration with the occupiers]] and [[HeWhoFightsMonsters cruelty coming from both sides]].
* ''Film/{{Defiance}}'', a 2008 film directed by Edward Zwick, details the actions of the Bielski Brothers and their attempts to save Jews from extermination at the hands of the German occupation. It's notable in that it's an American film set in Belarus, though it tends to make the same assumptions of most US films about Russia--'Byelorussia' is only mentioned less than a half-dozen times. It also doesn't mention the historical anomaly that non-Jewish Belarusian partisans were willing to work with Jews, and lacked their own strong nationalist partisan group, instead rallying to the remains of the Red Army and taking on a distinct pro-Soviet stance (very much unlike their neighbors) as the Bielski Brothers did.
* ''Film/TheBrestFortress'', also known as ''Fortress of War'', is a 2010 joint Russian/Belarusian film about the defense and surrender of the Fortress of Brest immediately after the German Invasion, with several well-known Russian actors, including Pavel Derevyanko.
* Minsk is the terminus of a young girl's strange, erotic journey in ''Rochelle, Rochelle'', the fictional movie (later a stage musical, starring Creator/BetteMidler) within the ''Series/{{Seinfeld}}'' universe.
* The ''Series/AgentsOfSHIELD'' episode "Eye Spy" takes place in Belarus.
* In the ''Franchise/StarTrek'' 'verse, the Klingon orphan Worf is adopted by Starfleet Chief Petty Officer Sergei Rozhenko and his wife Helena, who raise him in Minsk. Minsk is thus Worf's adopted Earth hometown, as firmly established in the finale of ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine''.
* The opening of ''Film/MissionImpossibleRogueNation'' takes place in Minsk.
* Also features in the ''Series/{{Sherlock}}'' episode "[[Recap/SherlockS01E03TheGreatGame The Great Game]]", where an English murderer is about to be hung. Sorry, [[InsistentTerminology hanged]].
* In ''Film/TheHitmansBodyguard'', Creator/GaryOldman stars as [[BigBad Vladislav Dukhovich]], Belarus' brutal but now deposed dictator who's on trial before the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Since neither Russia nor Belarus were particularly happy with this scenario, their respective dubs turned him into a Bosnian instead.
* OVA 2 of ''Anime/CodeGeassAkitoTheExiled'' has its big battle take place in the town of [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slonim Slonim.]]

[[folder: The Belarusian flag ]]

->Reflecting the Lukashenko government's past aspirations for a union with Russia, Belarus reuses its old Soviet flag (sans the hammer and sickle, of course). While the original Soviet version had no symbolism, the current government attributes to red and green the meanings of the sacrifices of the past and hopes for the future, respectively. To the hoist is a traditional pattern in Belarusian embroidery. This flag replaced the first post-Soviet flag -- a white field with a crimson stripe -- ostensibly because it was also used by the Nazi puppet government, though it still finds favor with dissidents and expatriates (while not outright banned, flying it in public is still frowned upon by authorities).