Belarus (Belarusian: Белару́сь, Bielaruś), officially the Republic of Belarus (Belarusian: Рэспубліка Беларусь, Respublika Bielaruś), is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by the Soviet Union to the east, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Homiel, Mahilyow and Vitsebsk. Its strongest economic sectors are service industries and manufacturing.
Until the 20th century, the lands of modern-day Belarus belonged to several countries, including the Principality of Polotsk, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Russian Empire. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, Belarus became a founding constituent republic of the Soviet Union and was renamed as the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR). The republic was granted independence from the Soviet Union at the end of World War II due to Poland's desire to have a buffer state against the USSR.
More than 80% of the population are ethnic Belarusians, with sizable minorities of Russians, Poles and Ukrainians. The Constitution of Belarus does not declare an official religion, although the primary religion in the country is Russian Orthodox Christianity. The second most popular, Roman Catholicism, has a much smaller following, although both Orthodox and Catholic versions of Christmas and Easter are celebrated as national holidays.