The term ‘Belarusian’ emerged at the end of the 16th century to name people living on the ethnic territory of Belarus. By the end of the 19th century the term was permanently used to name people living on the territory of modern Belarus.
Ethnic Belarusians make up more than 80% of the population. But because of the historical past Belarus is home to many other nationalities, such as Russians, Poles, Ukrainians, Jews, Lithuanians, Tatars, and others.
As of 1 January 2017, there were 15 political parties, 31 trade unions, 2,731 public associations in the Republic of Belarus.
Belarusian political parties include the Liberal Democratic Party, the Belarusian Social and Sports Party, the Belarusian Green Party, the Social Democratic Party of Popular Accord, the Belarusian Agrarian Party, the Republican Party, the Conservative Christian Party – BNF, the Belarusian Popular Front (BNF), the Republican Party of Labor and Justice, the Belarusian United Left Party “A Just World”, the United Civic Party, the Belarusian Patriotic Party, the Belarusian Social Democratic Gramada, the Social Democratic Party (Gramada), the Communist Party of Belarus.
Belarus has a lot of public organizations. They unite people having common interests or professions. At present there are over 2,400 public organizations in Belarus.
The largest public association is the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus. It is a nationwide voluntary independent association of trade unions which unites over 4 million people.
Another influential organization is the national public association Belaya Rus. It comprises six oblast organizations as well as grassroots organizations in cities and towns. Belaya Rus has over 132,000 members. The total number of grassroots organizations is 7,175.
There are about 400 charities in Belarus. The most notable is the Belarusian Charity and Health Foundation which is a member of the International Charity and Health Foundation and the European Union of Charity Societies.
Youth movement is vigorously developing in Belarus. The biggest youth organizations are the Belarusian Republican Youth Union (BRSM) and the Belarusian Republican Pioneer Organization. BRSM unites over 480,000 young people. The pioneer organization includes over 580,000 children and teenagers.
Associations of veterans and ecological organizations take an active part in the social life of Belarus. There are over 100 organizations of national minorities in the country.
The activity of Belarusian political parties, public organizations and trade unions is regulated by the laws of the Republic of Belarus “Concerning political parties”, “Concerning public associations”, and “Concerning trade unions”.
The modern Belarusian political system uses democratic institutions like referendums, elections, and All-Belarus people’s congresses. These forms of activity are formalized by the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus.
Belarus sticks a welfare state model. All people are guaranteed high-quality and free healthcare services and education.
Families with many children get subsidized housing loans. Mothers receive various child benefits and can take a three-year paid maternity leave.
Special support is provided to vulnerable population groups, namely, retirees, disabled people, youth, people living in Chernobyl-hit territories, and others.
The main objective of the Belarusian social policy is to give every able-bodied person an opportunity to earn their living using their hands and brains. The state also aims to ensure effective social protection for all disabled and low-income people. Social protection should be particularly focused on the most unprotected groups of the population.
The Belarusian development model envisages that:
- all men and women have equal rights in education and labor;
- young people have the right to moral and physical development;
- all people have the right to labor as the most worthy way to fulfill themselves in the economic, moral, and social fields;
- all people are guaranteed fair labor remuneration in the amount necessary to ensure decent living for them and their families;
- all people are guaranteed health services provision, including free medical treatment in state-run healthcare facilities;
- all people have the right to social security in old age, sickness, and disability.
Fulfillment of minimal social standards is essential to ensure the well-being of people. These standards pertain to food, heat, communications, transport, utilities, educational, healthcare, and cultural institutions.
The system of financial support to families with children provides for tax deductions, subsidized children’s meals in pre-school facilities, discounts on textbooks and tutorials. Local authorities use local budgets to support families with many children and one-parent families.
The state provides all-round support to talented youth and students. The Special Fund of the President of the Republic of Belarus to Support Talented Youth has no analogues in the CIS.
Belarus pays special attention to rural residents who have inadequate social infrastructure, transport services, consumer services.
There is a task to introduce common social standards in the entire country to take into account regional peculiarities. These standards are aimed at improving social protection of people.
The Belarusian government implements a consistent demographic policy aimed at curbing depopulation trends.
As of 1 January 2017, the population of Belarus was 9,504,700. The number of people increased by 6,300 since 1 January 2016.
In 2002 a demographic security bill was passed in Belarus. The state aims to increase birthrate and average life expectancy, reduce mortality rate, and implement a balanced migration policy in the best interests of the nation.
Belarus has a multi-faith society.
The country has no history of religious wars. Followers of Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, and Judaism have lived peacefully next to each other for ages.
The Republic of Belarus has favorable laws regulating
the work of religious organizations. Belarus guarantees freedom of
conscience and religion, maintains inter-faith peace and accord in the society,
and promotes inter-faith dialogue.
Religious freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution. Rights and liberties of believers are formalized by the Law of the Republic of Belarus “Concerning freedom of religion and religious organizations”.
The state supports constructive ideas of representatives of different religions. At the same time, the country does its utmost to prevent the spread of destructive religious cults.
At present there are 3,524 religious communities of 25 religious denominations, including 174 organizations important for all religious denominations (religious associations, monasteries, missions, brotherhoods, sisterhoods, religious educational establishments) and 3,350 communities in Belarus. These are communities of Eastern Orthodox believers, Roman Catholics, Evangelical Christians, Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, Lutherans, Jews and Muslims.
The relations of the state with religious associations are governed by the principle of equality of religious before the law and take into account their influence on the formation of spiritual, cultural, and national traditions of Belarus.
The Eastern Orthodox Church plays a leading role in the religious life of the country. It unites 1,681 communities, 15 dioceses, seven religious educational institutions, 35 monasteries, 15 brotherhoods, 10 sisterhoods, and one mission. It is the foundation of inter-faith stability in the country. The Belarusian Eastern Orthodox Church is currently implementing a number of cooperation programs with government bodies.
The Roman Catholic Church is gaining strength in Belarus. Catholicism is one of Belarus’ traditional religions. Catholics account for 14.5% of the Belarusian population (over 1.4 million). As of 1 July 2017, there were four dioceses, 479 Roman Catholic communities, five religious educational institutions, 11 missions, and nine monasteries in Belarus.
Protestant religious organizations comprise 1,033 religious communities, 21 associations, 22 missions, and five educational institutions.
There are 521 Evangelical Christian communities, 280 Baptist communities, and 73 communities of Seventh-day Adventists in the country.
Today there are 27 Lutheran communities in Belarus.
There are many Jewish communities in Belarus. At present there are 52 Jewish communities, including ten communities with an autonomous status, 9 religious buildings, and one educational institution in Belarus.
There are 24 Muslim communities, eight mosques and two preaching houses, including the Cathedral Mosque in Minsk which was opening with the participation of Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko and Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Belarus.
The Buddhist community Shen Chen Ling (Bon tradition) was registered in Minsk in 2015.
President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko pays a lot of attention to the activities of religious organizations. The Belarusian head of state regularly meets with members of the Synod of the Belarusian Eastern Orthodox Church and leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Belarus.
The plenipotentiary representative for religious and nationality affairs and local authorities unite their efforts with religious organizations to resolve social issues and prevent violations of the Belarusian legislation. A consultative council under the aegis of the plenipotentiary representative was established in 2008.
As of 1 July 2017, there were about 200 national and cultural associations representing 26 ethnicities. Some of them have the status of international, national, and religious associations. Cultural, educational, and charity activities are the main areas of focus.
These associations have their own art groups, weekend schools where people can study the language of their historical homeland. National and cultural associations take an active part in events celebrating Belarusian national holidays, other events of nationwide or regional importance, and make a big contribution to the spiritual life of the Belarusian society.
An interethnic council comprising heads of 26 national communities representing more than 200 national and cultural associations under the aegis of the plenipotentiary representative for religious and nationality affairs was established in 2006.
Information society is a modern stage in the development of civilizations notable for a dominating role of knowledge and information in all walks of life, a strong influence of information and communication technologies on people’s lives and on the interaction of the state and the civil society.
Information and communications technologies are a crucial instrument in the development of the high-tech sector of the economy creating conditions for the transition to the digital economy, creation of favorable business environment.
The Republic of Belarus has a well-developed information and communication infrastructure. Belarus is ranked 31st in the ICT Development Index. Belarus’ value is 7.26.
Mobile communication services are available on 98.2% of Belarus’ territory where 99.9% of people are living. 4G networks are vigorously developing.
As of 1 January 2017, the number of mobile phone subscribers was 11.4 million.
While the world’s average is 52.3%, as many as 70% of households in Belarus were connected to the Internet as of 1 July 2017.
Today about 67% of Belarusians aged 6 and older use the Internet, 68% of this number use the Internet every day.
The Republic of Belarus was the first country in the CIS to complete the transition to digital broadcasting.
As part of the national program Electronic Belarus and the national program of robust ICT services development for 2011-2015, basic components of electronic government, multi-purpose national and agency-specialized information systems were developed in Belarus.
Belarus was ranked 49th in the United Nations E-Government Survey 2016 “E-Government in Support of Sustainable Development”.