Belarus, officially Respublika Belarus (Republic of Belarus), landlocked republic in east central Europe, bordered by Russia to the east, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and the Baltic republics of Latvia and Lithuania to the northwest. Belarus has a generally flat terrain with many forests, lakes, and marshes. Nearly 80 percent of its people are ethnic Belarusians, and about three-quarters of its population live in urban centers. Belarus has a centrally planned economy dominated by state-controlled heavy industry. Its government is a presidential republic in which the executive is the chief authority. The capital and largest city is Minsk, located in the center of the country.
Since medieval times Belarusian territory was under foreign rule, and in the 18th century it was annexed by the Russian Empire. Belarusian national and cultural development made major strides only from the mid-19th century. Belarus was established in 1919 as the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR), which in 1922 became one of the four founding republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). In August 1991 Belarus declared its independence, contributing to the collapse of the USSR in December.