|Belarus is an Eastern European country of lakes
and rivers, vast birch forests, golden cornfields and fields of flax that
are bright blue in summer. The country is bordered by Russia to the north
and east, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west and Lithuania and Latvia
to the northwest. The country is divided into six oblasts or regions: Minsk,
Gomel, Brest, Vitebsk, Grodno and Moghilev.
Belarus is almost completely flat. The highest hill, Mount Dzyarzhynskaya, is only 346 metres high. Thick forests cover a third of the land. Belarus was once completely covered in forest, but over the centuries the woodlands have been cleared for farming. There are more than 10,000 lakes. Lake Naroch and Lake Osveyskoye are two of the largest. The major rivers are the Dniepr, the Neman, the Dvina, and the Pripyat. Most villages and towns are located along the rivers.
|At 1,300 square kilometres, Belovezhskaya Forest
Nature Reserve on the border with Poland is the largest primeval forest
in Europe. Many of its oak, beech, maple and pine trees are 360 to 600
years old and more than 50 metres tall. The forest was protected for centuries
because it was the private hunting ground of European kings and Soviet
In the southern part of the country are the Pripyat Marshes. They are flat with sandy soil and shallow rivers that flood easily. Over the years the marshes have been drained to grow flax, potatoes and rye. They are also an abundant source of peat, which can be burned for fuel.
|Winters are cold in Belarus, and average
temperatures in January range from -4°C in the southwest to -8°C
in northeast. Snow covers the ground from November to March. Most rain
occurs in June and August. Average temperatures in July are about 17 to
19°C, although they have been known to rise to 30°C.
The environment was disastrously affected by the nuclear explosion at Chernobyl in 1986. Chernobyl is in Ukraine but close to the border of Belarus, and 70% of the contaminants landed in Belarusian territory because of the direction of the winds. Pollution of the air, soil and water has made many thousands of acres uninhabitable.