At the beginning of 2003, the population of Belarus was 9.849 thousand people. 53.2% are women, 46.8% are men. 71.5% of the population live in towns and cities, 28.5% — in rural areas.
The present age structure in Belarus is characterized by an increased share of older people and a decreased share of children. One out of five citizens of the Republic is in the pension age. The present age composition is mainly the result of the fall in the birth rate.
The present demographic situation in Belarus shows signs of a demographic crisis, primarily testified by the falling birth rate and growing death rate, resulting in the decrease of the total population. For more than 20 years now the generation of children has not equaled numerically the generation of parents. The average family size is 3.2 people.
Factors responsible for the fall in the birth rate:
specifics of the age structure (women of the
child–bearing age are children of the war children, a reduced generation which
decreased the birth rate);
unstable socio–economic situation;
sharp drop in the living standards of the
change in the social orientation;
ecological consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
National composition. Belarus is a poly–ethnic and poly–confessional state where more than 100 nationalities are represented. The majority of the population are Belarusians (more than 80:). Russians (about 10:), Poles (about 4:), Ukrainians (about 2.5:), as well as Czechs, Slovaks, Lithuanians, Latvians, Jews, Tartars, Azerbaijanis, Armenians, Koreans, Germans, Georgians, Swedes, Estonians, Moldavians, Gypsies and other nationalities live in Belarus.
Churches and religious communities. By virtue of its geopolitical situation, Belarus throughout its history stood at the crossroads between two cultures: Orthodox — Byzantine and Catholic — Roman civilizations. All this has defined its unique cultural and historical position in Europe. The Orthodox and Catholic culture of the people of Belarus was enriched with the achievements of other cultures, while a considerable role in the development of general culture of the people of Belarus belongs to representatives of traditional religions.
The relationships between the two main religions of Belarus — Orthodoxy and Catholicism — were, as a rule, of a tolerant nature. Until the end of the XVII century the Orthodox people of Belarus were a dominating confessional majority. In the XVII — XIX centuries, after the recognition by the Orthodox Church of the supremacy of the Pope of Rome (the Brest Church Unia of 1596), Orthodox believers were forcibly converted into the Uniat Church. By the end of the XVIII century Uniats constituted about 70% of the entire population, Catholics — 15%, Orthodox — 6%, Jews — 7%, Protestants and others — about 2%. In the middle of the XIX century the Uniat Church was attached to the Russian Orthodox Church.
During the end of the XX century the religious and ethnic self–consciousness of the people of Belarus increased considerably. The population began to see in religion the guarantee of stability, order, inviolability of the spiritual bases of the society, revival of the national traditions of the people. "Religious renaissance" was also promoted by democratization of public life as well as the revision of relations between the church and the state.
Confessional relations are regulated by the Law of the Republic of Belarus "On Freedom of Faith and Religious Organizations", which underwent international expertise and was recognized to be adequate to international standards. Every citizen is guaranteed a right to profess any religion or to be an atheist.
United Nations Office in Belarus
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