Demography and economic geography. – State of north-eastern Europe. The population at the last census (2009) was 9,503,807 residents, while in 2014 the country had 9,307,609 residents, according to an estimate by UNDESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs), with a negative trend of 0.5% per year for the five-year period 2010-15. The capital Minsk, with its 1,921,800 residents, welcomes a considerable part of the urban population, while only a fifth of the residents live in rural areas. More than 8% of the population is ethnic Russian, and Russian is still the official language alongside Belarusian, reflecting the close ties that have bound the two countries following the dissolution of the USSR. These relations also dominate a large part of the economy, especially in the field of exports and imports, for which Russia represents the largest trading partner (respectively for 35% and 59% of the total volume). In recent years, however, the Belarusian government has engaged in trade relations with other countries, such as Poland and Venezuela.
Economic conditions. – Between 2010 and 2011, changes in the price of Russian gas imports contributed to the arrest of the positive trend in GDP (+ 6.8% in 2003, against 0.9% in 2014). Inflation remains at very high levels (19% in 2013), while the unemployment rate is among the lowest in the world (0.5% in 2014). About one third of the active population is employed in the industrial sector, which alone contributed to 43% of GDP in 2012; less than 10% of the population is engaged, however, in the agricultural sector, which is still affected by the toxic contamination of about 20% of the arable land following the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Despite good employment values, more than a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line,
History. – According to itypejob, President Aleksandr Lukashenko, in power since 1994, continued over the years to consolidate an authoritarian regime by centralizing power and obtaining the consent of the population thanks to widespread welfare. In the criticized parliamentary elections of 2008 – and similarly in those of 2012 – none of the opposition members were elected. Lukashenko continued to reiterate the economic solidity of Belarus and the inconsistency of the global financial crisis in the country, in which the GDP remained in constant growth. At the same time, inflation remained high and the Belarusian ruble was in crisis to the point that an application for an IMF loan of over $ 2 billion was necessary.
Following the bombings of July 2008 and April 2011 – at a concert and in the Minsk metro respectively – security measures in the country increased and there was a further squeeze on the opposition and civil society. Lukashenko gained support and was reconfirmed with 79.65% of the votes in the presidential elections of December 2010; even if this outcome was strongly contested by the West and by the opposition that organized street protests, severely repressed by the authorities who proceeded with mass arrests.
On the night of May 23, 2011, the Belarusian ruble was devalued by 56%: yet another monetary crisis, galloping inflation, wage cuts and the consequent rise in consumer goods prices created further social tensions, bringing a part of society Belarusian to oppose Lukashenko again.
Internationally, relations with Washington remained strained, criticizing the repression and poor respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Belarus, and the Council of Europe continued to exclude the country from the organization for lack of democracy. Relations with the EU were also turbulent after the introduction of further sanctions against Belarusian government officials in February 2012 and the resulting diplomatic crisis. Minsk renewed its proximity to Moscow – its main economic and political partner – by participating first in the Customs Union (2010) and then in the Eurasian Economic Union (UEE, which entered into force on 1 January 2015), while taking an overall neutral position on the 2014 Ukrainian crisis.