I'm going to Minsk.
Minsk. It's in Russia.
The writers of Friends get it wrong. Perhaps they were thinking of Murmansk?
What am I, from Minsk-a-Pinsk?Belarus (Belarusian: Белару́сь, Bielaruś, Russian: Белару́сь, Респу́блика Беларусь, Belarus’, Respublika Belarus’), officially known as the Republic of Belarus (Belarusian: Рэспубліка Беларусь, Russian: Республика Беларусь), is a largish, landlocked country just to the left of Russia and the right of Poland (and that's only meant trouble for them). 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 (nobody is sure when they split off from proto-Slavonicity; most scholars agree that it happened at some point between the area's incorporation into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the 13th century and its annexation by the Russian Empire in 1795), there was no state of Belarus until the end of World War One. In fact, while the name of White Ruthenia existed back in Kievan Rus, the region, along with Aukštaitija, was known as Litva (Lithuania) for the most of Late Medieval / Early Modern period. In 19th century the administrative politics of the Russian Empire, however, changed that state of things, separating the territory of modern Belarus from Lithuania into "White Russia", and forming a new variant of Lithuania from Aukštaitija, Samogitia and other ethnographic regions of Baltic Lithuanians. The identity of Slavic Lithuanians (known in late Medieval as Litvins and being the dominant ethnic group in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania) was thus transformed into Belarusian (or Byelorussian) identity. In the havoc of the Russian Civil War, a German backed 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 (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 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 Cossacks, Belarus did not have a celebrated military history before the 20th century (at different points in history its soldiers fought for Lithuania, Poland and Russia), 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 Crowning Moment Of Awesome. 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 (refridgerators, televisions, washing machines, etc.) Consequently, with some mondery 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. 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 State Sec, called KDB in Belarussian or 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 likely that, while Belarus is keen to rejoin a stronger Russia, the Russians have no particular wish to subsume their new-found national pride to yet another union of states. Well, it's either that or, more likely, the leaders of Belarus and Russia can't agree on the details, and therefore, no progress. 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. Russian media tends to portray Belarus as a swampy Ruritania where everyone eats lots of potatoes and speaks
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).