After seven decades as a constituent republic of the USSR, Belarus attained its independence in 1991. Government restrictions on political and civil freedoms, freedom of speech and the press, peaceful assembly, and religion have remained in place.
Minsk (includes Belarusian Great Patriotic War Museum and Vul Kastrychnitskaya);
Cold winters, cool and moist summers; transitional between continental and maritime
Belarusian 83.7%, Russian 8.3%, Polish 3.1%, Ukrainian 1.7%, other 2.4%, unspecified 0.9% (2009 est.)
Avoid using the "thumbs up" gesture in Belarus; it is considered rude.
Draniki — shallow-fried potato pancakes
Declining Russian energy subsidies will end in 2024; growing public debt; strong currency pressures have led to higher inflation; recent price controls on basic food and drugs; public sector wage increases and fragile private sector threaten household income gains and economic growth