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Geography, climate and population
Belarus is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe with a total area of 207 600 km2. It is bordered in the northeast and east by the Russian Federation, in the southeast and south by Ukraine, in the southwest by Poland and in the northwest by Lithuania and Latvia. It declared its independence from the Soviet Union on 25 August 1991. For administrative purposes, the country is divided into six provinces (oblasts): Brest, Gomel, Grodno, Mogilev, Minsk, Vitebsk; and 1 municipality: Minsk City.
Belarus is part of the east European lowland, covered with young glacial formations, mainly gravel and sand. From the southwest to the northeast the moraine Belarus rampart, where several larger rivers originate, crosses the country. In the south is the vast, marshy land of Polesye. The peak of the highest hill is at 345 m above sea level.
The agricultural area, which is the sum of arable land, permanent crops and permanent meadows and pasture, is estimated at 8.7 million ha, which is 42 percent of the total area of the country. In 2013, the total physical cultivated area was estimated at 5.7 million ha, of which 98 percent (5.6 million ha) consisted of temporary crops and 2 percent (0.1 million ha) of permanent crops (Table 1).
Belarus has a moderate continental climate, with cool humid winters and warm summers. The west of the country is characterized by the transitional climate between maritime and continental, the climate in the central and eastern parts is continental. Average temperatures vary across Belarus. The average annual midday temperature is 6░C, varying from -4.5░C to -8░C in January to 17░C to 18.5░C in July. Some parts of Belarus experience sub-zero temperatures for more than a third of the year. Belarus has an average annual rainfall of 600-700 mm, ranging from 550 mm in the southeast to 800 mm on the highest areas in the centre of the country. About 70 percent of the precipitation falls from April to October. The east of the country is covered with snow for up to 120 days per year, the west for fewer than 80 days.
In 2015, the total population was about 9.5 million, of which around 25 percent was rural (Table 1). Population density is 46 inhabitants/km2, rather evenly distributed over the country. The average annual population growth rate in the 2005-2015 period has been estimated at minus 0.2 percent.
In 2014, the Human Development Index (HDI) ranks Belarus 50 among 188 countries, while the Gender Inequality Index (GII) ranks it 31 among 155 countries, for which information was available. Life expectancy is 72 years and the under-five mortality is 5 per 1000 births, both progressing from 70 years and 17 per 1000 in the 1990s. With no significant distinction between boys and girls, around 93 percent of the children in 2013 are enrolled in primary education, and 97 percent for secondary education (World Bank, 2015). Adult literacy is 100 percent in 2012 (UNDP, 2015). In 2015, almost the entire population had access to improved water sources (100 and 99 percent in urban and rural areas respectively) and 94 percent of the total population had access to improved sanitation (94 and 95 percent in urban and rural areas respectively) (JMP, 2015).