Belarus (Belarusian and Russian: Беларусь Transliteration: Byelarus) listen (help·info) is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe which borders Russia to the east, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the north. Its capital is Minsk — other major cities include Brest, Grodno, Gomel, Mogilev, Vitebsk and Bobruisk. One third of the country is forested, and agriculture and manufacturing are staples of the economy. Belarus is one of the countries most affected by nuclear radiation from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in neighboring Ukraine.
During its history, parts of Belarus have been under the control of several countries, including the Duchy of Polatsk, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Russian Empire. Belarus became a Soviet republic in 1922 (see Belorussian SSR). The republic declared its sovereignty on 27 July 1990. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Belarus officially declared independence on 25 August 1991. Since 1994, Alexander Lukashenko has been the country's president. During his rule, Lukashenko has implemented Soviet-era policies, despite objections from Western powers. Belarus is negotiating with Russia to unify into a single state called the Union of Russia and Belarus, although the discussions have stalled for several years.