An Eastern European country, formerly part of the Soviet Union, and of all the ex-Soviet Republics the one that retained the USSR's character most (its secret service is even called the KGB still!). Since 1994 the country has been ruled by President Alexander Lukashenko like a Soviet General Secretary, and the country has been referred to as "Europe's last dictatorship".

For the dark tourist, there may not be much to see in Belarus, but given the country's "pariah" status, it's kind of special. The visa situation poses a stumbling bloc, though. You'll need either an invitation or a tour operator or hotel that can assist with visa applications.

Belarus is landlocked, wedged in by Poland and Russia in the west and east and Lithuania and Ukraine in the north and south.
It was also from the south, from Ukraine, that Belarus was hit by the worst disaster in the post-war era: the radioactive cloud that drifted north from Chernobyl. Large areas of southern Belarus are still radioactively polluted – more territory than in Ukraine itself, in fact.

In WWII, Belarus suffered more than most in the invasion and occupation by Nazi Germany. To this day population levels haven't returned to pre-war levels. Of the once strong Jewish population and culture all but nothing remains.

The capital Minsk is the natural hub and main place to go in Belarus. It's here that you can indulge in a bit of time travel back to the USSR (matched only by Transnistria). The really dedicated dark tourists could try and go to Maly Trostenec – the site of a "forgotten" Holocaust death camp south of Minsk. Further away, Brest (near border with Poland) with its gigantic WWII memorial may also be of interest, as may be Khatyn (not to be confused with Katyn!) north-east of Minsk, with its memorial to the villages burned down by the Nazis in WWII which were never rebuilt, their populations wiped out. One in four Belarusians lost their lives in the war!

©, Peter Hohenhaus 2010-2017