|Belarus was traditionally an agricultural economy.
Today, however, about 70% of the population lives in cities. Families in
urban areas usually live in large, multi-storey housing developments. Most
housing is owned by the government and rents are low. Some people have
built their own homes, sometimes with government subsidies. In the country,
families live in small villages around collective farms, although they
may keep a few animals and grow their own vegetables. Newer houses are
usually made with bricks, but there are still many traditional one-storey
wooden houses with shingle or thatched roofs.
|Small families are the norm and connections between
the generations are strong. Some married couples live with their parents
while they wait for their own apartments. Grandparents often live with
their children and help to take care of their grandchildren.
Weddings are important celebrations. Many take
two days: one for the official wedding at the registry office and another
for a religious service and party. Guests at the reception like to chant
(Bitter!) after a drink, to prompt the groom to kiss the bride. A kiss
is supposed to make a drink sweeter.
Did you know?
the grandmother of a newborn was taken to friends to spread news of the
child's christening. Men fired their guns into the air. At the family home,
the grandmother would serve guests babina kasha, a traditional porridge.
|Under Communism, it was customary for both parents
in the family to work. Recently, with the scarcity of jobs in Belarus's
troubled economy, some men have been encouraging women to stay at home.
This situation worries women's groups, who feel a new system of inequality
is developing. Many people in Belarus are also concerned about the country's
falling birth rate.
The divorce rate is rising, partly because of the
stress caused by economic hardship. Because custody of the children is
usually awarded to the mother, there has been an increase in the number
of households headed by single mothers.
|Storytelling is an integral part of
Belarusian culture. Belarusians know many kaski, or fairy tales.
These stories are told to children to teach them moral values. Some popular
characters, common to many Slavic countries, are Koschey Besmyarotny,
an immortal, Zmei Garynych, a three-headed dragon, and Baba Yaga,
Did you know?
the nuclear explosion at Chernobyl, many people had to be evacuated from
contaminated areas. This has caused housing shortages in the uncontaminated