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Introduction: After seven decades as a constituent republic of the USSR, Belarus attained its independence in 1991. It has retained closer political and economic ties to Russia than any of the other former Soviet republics. Belarus and Russia signed a treaty on a two-state union on 8 December 1999 envisioning greater political and economic integration. Although Belarus agreed to a framework to carry out the accord, serious implementation has yet to take place. Since his election in July 1994 as the country's first president, Aleksandr LUKASHENKO has steadily consolidated his power through authoritarian means. Government restrictions on freedom of speech...

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Economic Overview: Belarus had been one of the more prosperous parts of the USSR in the Soviet post-war years, but with independence came economic decline. President Lukashenko has opposed the privatisation of state enterprises and foreign investors have largely stayed away.

Belarus has seen little structural reform in its economy since 1995 when President Lukashenko embarked on a program of 'market socialism'. Under this program the Presidential administration re-imposed state control over the large Soviet-era industrial enterprises, and over the management of private enterprise. Around three quarters of the economy is under Government ...

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Government: The constitution provides for a directly elected president who serves a 5-year term. The bicameral "parliament", which was formed as a result of a flawed 1996 referendum and which the U.S. Government does not recognize, consists of the 64-seat "Council of the Republic" and the 110-seat "House of Representatives". The "Council of the Republic" is the house of territorial representation. Eight ...

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International Relations: Relations with Russia

Relations with Russia continue to be the main foreign policy priority. Belarus is a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) established when the USSR broke up in 1991. In January 1995, Russia and Belarus established a Customs Union (later joined by Kazakhstan). At the same time, the two states signed an agreement on military cooperation which allowed Russia to lease several military facilities in Belarus for 25 years. In April 1996, Russia and Belarus signed a treaty establishing the 'Community of Sovereign Republics' which aimed to deepen economic integration. In December 1999, a ...

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Since the late nineteenth century, national activists have based their attempts to create an independent Belarusian state based on the Belorussian language, which had been kept alive over the centuries mainly by peasants. The stage was set for the emergence of a national consciousness by the industrialization and urbanization of the nineteenth century and by the subsequent publication of ...

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Area Handbook Series
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