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Text A: The Republic of Belarus
The Republic of Belarus is situated in the centre of Europe on the crossroads of major transport routes between the CIS and Western Europe. Belarus borders on Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia and Ukraine. The country stretches 560 km from north to south and 650 km from west to east. The total area is 207,600 square kilometres.
Belarus has a moderate continental climate. It is defined by the location of the country in mid-latitudes, the absence of mountains, and the relative vicinity of the Atlantic Ocean. July is the hottest month of the year, January is the coldest month.
There are more than 20,000 rivers and rivulets in Belarus. The biggest rivers are the Dnieper, the Western Dvina and the Neman. Belarus is called «the blue-eyed» because there are more than 10,000 lakes in the country. The biggest lake is Lake Naroch, the deepest lake is Lake Dolgoye.
Arable lands constitute as much as 43% of Belarus' territory, forests – 39%, lakes and rivers – 2%, other lands – 16%.
There are six administrative regions in Belarus with centres in Brest, Vitebsk, Gomel, Grodno, Mogilev and Minsk. They are further divided into 118 districts.
The population of the Republic of Belarus is about 10 million people, with 70% of the Belarusians living in urban areas. One fifth of the population or about 2 million live in the capital city of Belarus, Minsk.
Belarus adheres to the socially-oriented model of the market economy which has proven to be consistent and efficient.
Belarus has a multi-faith society. The country has no history of religious wars.
Belarusian and Russian are the official languages of Belarus.
The Republic of Belarus does not have a massive mineral resource base. At the moment, more than 4 thousand deposits representing about 30 types of minerals were identified and explored in the depths of the Republic of Belarus. In terms of the economy, of particular importance are potassium and rock salts, peat, sapropel, a unique supply of mineral, fresh waters and timber. Potassium salts are one of the most valuable natural resources in the amount of reserves of which the country occupies one of the first places in Europe. Rock salt reserves exceed 22 billion tons at three known deposits alone. The territory of Belarus is prospective in ferrous and non-ferrous metals, phosphates, non-ore materials for the production of construction materials: dolomite, chalk, building and decorative stone, sand, gravel, granites, dolomites, fire-resistant and refractory clay, loam, sand-gravel compounds, etc.
Belarus is among CIS leaders in chemistry and petrochemistry, agricultural and automobile construction, agriculture, light industry, forestry, individual branches of the information and communication technologies industry. The country exports more IT services per capita than any other CIS state. It has good prospects in the high-tech sector, namely in the production of optical and laser devices, automated management systems.
The major branches of the country's economy include mechanical engineering, chemical and petrochemical industry, fuel and energy sector, agriculture, forestry industry, wood processing and other ones.
The top ten Belarusian products which account from 30% to 0.6% of the global market are: 1) freight vehicles, road and construction equipment, 2) tractors and agricultural equipment, 3) refrigerators and household equipment, 4) fertilizers, 5) flax fibers, 6) chemical fibers and threads, 7) clothes and footwear, 8) potatoes, 9) meat products, 10) dairy products.
Automobile industry is one of the leading industries of the mechanical engineering sector. Belarus specializes in manufacturing freight vehicles, buses and special vehicles. The biggest companies are Minsk Automobile Plant (MAZ trademark) and Belarusian Autoworks (BelAZ trademark). Belarusian Autoworks accounts for a third of the global market of rock haulers and is one of the leading producers of quarry equipment in the world.
Belarus is a leading producer of agricultural equipment such as tractors, grain harvesters, all kinds of forage harvesters. Minsk Tractor Works (MTZ trademark) is among the biggest manufacturers of wheeled tractors. Belarusian tractors account for 96% of the global market.
Belaruskali and GrodnoAzot are among the world's biggest manufacturers of potassium and nitrogen fertilizers. Belaruskali accounts for 16% of the global potassium market. About 90% of Belaruskali's output is exported to Europe, East Asia, Mediterranean countries, South Africa, India, China, South and North Americas – a total of 65 countries across the globe. Belshina is Europe's largest tire producer.
About 85% of energy resources consumed by the national economy is imported. Electricity generation is the core of the Belarusian fuel and energy complex. In the near future nuclear energy will play a leading role in the fuel and energy complex. The nuclear power plant will allow reducing the prime cost of produced energy by up to 20%.
Agricultural production accounts for about 8% of the country's GDP. Belarusian companies almost fully satisfy the needs of the domestic food market.
The country is a top exporter of dairy products (milk, butter, cheese) in the world. Belarus is one of the major potato producers in the world. About 16% of the world's flax crops are grown in our country. Belarus is the top five countries among the world's 26 flax fiber manufacturers.
Belarus is a major transport artery in Eurasia. Transport services are rendered by railway, automobile, air, inland water, and pipeline transport operators. Belarus' geographical location favors the deployment of logistics centres along the routes used to transport cargoes between Europe and Asia. Every year over 100 million tonnes of European cargoes is transported via Belarus. Transit of goods via Belarus is fast and secure.
Belarusian science is a strong intellectual industry. The National Academy of Sciences of Belarus (NASB) is a leading scientific organization in the Republic of Belarus. It is an intellectual hub of the country; it helps shape Belarus' development patterns. The NASB is a core of the modern knowledge and innovation system.
The High-Tech Park (HTP) was established in Belarus with a view to raising competitiveness of innovative industries, improving conditions for designing modern technologies and boosting export, raising local and foreign investments. At present the High-Tech Park is one of the leading innovation-based IT clusters in Central and Eastern Europe. The HTP offers favourable conditions for doing business in the IT sector, as it provides unprecedented tax benefits and boasts highly qualified workforce.
Belarusian specialists are involved in various IT projects, from system analysis, consulting, and hardware selection to the development of composite systems. Software produced by the HTP resident companies is used by Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Google, Toyota, Citibank, MTV, Expedia, Reuters, Samsung, HTC, Mitsubishi, British Petroleum, British Telecom, the London Stock Exchange, the World Bank, etc. HTP resident companies compete successfully in high-tech markets of North America and Western Europe.
A lot of famous people of the world have Belarusian origin. Francysk Skaryna, Ignat Dameika, Ivan (Yan) Chersky, Pavel Sukhoi, Zhores Alferov, Petr Klimuk, Alexander Chizhevsky, Mikhail Vysotsky, Ivan Khrutsky, Napoleon Orda, Alexander Medved, Andrei Gromyko, Sofia Kovalevskaya to name but a few.
3. Work in pairs. Ask your partner:
- where Belarus is situated and what its area is;
- what countries Belarus borders on;
- why Belarus is sometimes called «blue-eyed»;
- what is meant by «socially-oriented model of market economy»;
- what major branches the Belarus economy include;
- if Belarus is an energy-dependent country;
- what agriculture the country specializes in;
- what your partnerknows about the High-Tech Park.
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