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 dignitaries.

 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.

  Did you know?
The Belovezhskaya Forest Nature Reserve is home to the European bison (or wisent), a relative of the American buffalo. This creature is often depicted in prehistoric wall paintings found all over Europe. It survives only in the reserve.
Winters are cold in Belarus, and average temperatures in January range from -4C in the southwest to -8C 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 19C, although they have been known to rise to 30C.

 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.