1. Till  1795 the population of Belarus was called Litvins, because from the 13th century the territory and state here was called the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1253 Mindoug was crowned the first Grand Duke (King) of Lithuania. The capital of new state was situated in Navahrudak. To withstand military threats in 1569 the Grand Duchy was forced to ally with Poland, uniting with its western neighbor as the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. After the third  division of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth most of the lands of the Grand Duchy was annexed by the Russian Empire. Since then Russian Empress Catherine 2 ordered to found here Belarusian province of the Empire and tsarist  ideologists named its population  Belarusians. According to surveys of ethnographers even in the early 1950s most of the locals of Minsk province continued to refer themselves Litvins.

  1. In the Middle Ages the territory of Belarus was called the Country of Castles as there were about 100 castles on the area.

  1. The Grand Duke of Lithuania Jagaila founded the Jagiellonian dynasty, who gave kings and queens to Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, Saxony, Prussia and other European states.

  1. In 1430 the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was 930 000 square kilometers and included the lands of nowadays Belarus, Lithuania, part of Polish, Russian and Ukrainian lands. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania had access to the Baltic and the Black seas.

  1. Belarusian (also Rutenian) language was the official state language of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Statutes of Casimir the Great (1423-1438), the Statute of Casimir Jagaylovich (1468), the Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (his first (1529), the second (1566) and third (1588) edition), Lithuanian Tribunal (1581), most of the documents from nearly 600-volume state archive (Metrics) of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, various legal documents (wills, property rights, confirmation of the nobility, gentry estates inventory et al.) were written in Belarusian. The Holy Bible was first printed and published in Belarusian by Francisk Skorina (50 years earlier than it was printed in Russia). Famous European literature works of those times also were translated into Belarusian.

  1. May 3, 1791 General Sejm of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in New Castle  in Hrodna adopted the first European Constitution. It was also the second constitution in the world.

  1. The Radziwills crypt in Nesvizh church is the third largest tomb in Europe after the Hapsburgs and the Bourbons.

  1. Geographical center of Europe is in Polotsk, Belarus.

  1. The territory of Belarus is covered with the most ancient and the largest forest of Europe Belovezhskaya Puscha, where rare species of birds and animals inhabit. The king of this forest is European aurochs, whose population is living and growing here. The aurochs are saved by the government. In 1992 Belarusian territory of  Belovezhskaya Puscha was included by UNESCO in the List of World Heritage. 

  1. Belarusian impassable swamps are the lungs of Europe.

  1. Belarus is the Motherland of white storks. They come here from African Sahara Desert  in March and nest in Belarus till September.

  1. In contemporary Belarus there are about 10 million people. 82.2% of population is Belarusians, 1.4 % - Russians, 3.9 % - Polish, 2.4 % - Ukrainians, 0.3 % - Jewish, and others.

  1. The Republic of Belarus is divided into 6 regions (provinces), that are named after the largest and significant cities: Brest, Hrodna, Vitebsk, Minsk, Mogilev and Gomel. In its turn each region is subdivided into 15-22 districts. The capital of Belarus is Minsk. The city has the status of an independent administrative-territorial unit.

  1. In 2015 famous Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich was awarded with the Nobel Prize in literature. It was the first Nobel Prize for Belarus.

  1. Unique Belarusian folk-rock group “Pesnyary” founded and directed by Vladimir Mulyavin was the most popular in the 1969-1999s. It has the world’s fame and was compared in its popularity with the Beatles in the former USSR. “Pesnyary”  won prestigious awards in Cannes and conquered the fans of the USA. The presentation of group’s album “Vianok” in 1991 took place in the Library of the United Nations Organization in New York. The sound of group was unique, the arrangement  combined Belarusian folk tunes and rock beats. The last years’ period of Mulyavin’s group was famous for great folk-rock operas performances, considered to be masterpieces in music.  

  1. Belarus was the Host country for the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2006 and the World Ice Hockey Championship in 2014.

  1. Belarus in the world is famous for its sportsmen such as Alexander Medved, Vitaly Shcherbo, Victoria Azarenka, Darya Domracheva, Maxim Mirnyi, Ruslan Salei and many others.

  1. Belarusian IT-programmers are very skillful and very demanded on the world’s market. They are in TOP-10 of developers of mobile applications for Apple Inc. Viber free calls application, MSQRD application for Facebook, World of Tanks internet game were invented by Belarusians. The Park of High Technologies in Minsk counts 152 existing computer companies and hundreds of start-ups. Belarusian students won the Google Hash Code Competition in 2016.

  1. Some of the world famous people have Belarusian origin. Among them are: Luis Bart Mayer (the founder of a film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the main initiator of the film award "Oscar") was born in Minsk; Marc Chagall (painter) was born and grown in Vitebsk; Nadya Leger (painter) was born and grown in Vitebsk province; Isaac Asimov (an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, also known for his works of science fiction and popular science) was born and grown in Mogilev province; Larry King’s (an American television and radio host) parents were from Minsk and Pinsk; Haim Veitsmann (the first president of Israel) was born and grown in Pinsk; Zhores I. Alferov (winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2000) was born in Vitebsk and studied in Minsk; Scarlett Johansson’s (Hollywood actress)  ancestral roots come from Nesvizh; and many others.

Useful information about Belarus:
Monetary unit: The Belarus rouble (BYN)
Local time: GMT + 2 hours
Language: Belarusian and Russian
Electricity: European-type socket connectors. 
Voltage: Alternative Current (AC) 220V, 50Hz
Religion: Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Judaism and others (the church is separated from the state)
Family values: traditional

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