The presentation of our focus countries has reached its fifth part, this week moving eastwards and concentrating on the ex-soviet republics Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia. The brief depiction outlined below can be completed by more detailed information found in the Wiki section of the website.
is situated at a cultural, historical, and religious intersection and located at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, in the southern Transcaucasus. Armenia shares borders with Georgia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Iran. Located southwest of the capital Yerevan, in present day Turkey, Mount Ararat dominates the national landscape, psyche and character, as an ominous reminder to its glorious past. The Ararat plain is divided by the Araks River and occupies the south-western part of Armenia. Armenia’s landscapes offer boundless beauty. Seven main landscape types are represented across the different altitudinal zones of Armenia, ranging from desert and steppe to woodland and alpine zones, featuring high mountain peaks, fertile valleys, picturesque land formations, basalt columns, rock sculptures, scenic canyons and waterfalls. More than 200 rivers and streams traverse Armenia, with steep falls, rapids and swift currents. In addition, there are over 200 therapeutic mineral springs, with different properties.
is situated on the western coast of the Caspian Sea, in the eastern part of the South Caucasus. The northern frontier of the country with Russia (Dagestan) stretches from the coast of the Caspian Sea to the Greater Caucasus Mountains; the north-western boundary with Georgia is formed by complicated configuration of mountains; the boundary with the Islamic Republic of Iran to south runs alongside the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and the river Araz to the Caspian coast with its humid subtropical climate. Azerbaijan is further bordered by Turkey to the southwest and by Armenia to the west. The capital city is Baku. Azerbaijan is a region with unique geographical, climatic and geopolitical characteristics. The present Republic of Azerbaijan has rather small territory but it is possible to encounter here 9 of 11 basic climate zones existing. There are vast steppes and high mountain ranges with the tops attracting climbers and those interested in wild nature. In Azerbaijan one can also meet plenty of curative, mineral and thermal waters, mud and oil for medical treatment. The protected areas occupy 2.4% from the total territory of the country and cover all basic climatic landscapes in Azerbaijan.
is situated in the centre of Europe, bordering on Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia and Ukraine. The capital is the city of Minsk. Although a landlocked country, Belarus is the land of more than 10 thousand lakes and 20 thousand rivers. Forests take one third of the territory and are considered the national wealth, while swamps account for 13% of it and are of significant climatic and hydrologic importance. The Belarusian marshlands are called “the lungs of Europe”, since they produce an enormous amount of oxygen. Besides, they serve as nesting places for rare species of birds and as a natural habitat for rare plants. The National Park “Belovezhskaya Pushcha” is inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage. Throughout many centuries of history, the Belarusian people created its unique and original culture and continue to celebrate today traditional folk customs and rites harmoniously interlaced with Christian traditions.
is located in the Caucasus region at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Georgia shares borders with Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey. The capital city is Tbilisi. Remarkable for its landscape diversity, from mountains to desert, from snow to palm trees, Georgia ranks among the world’s wonderlands. Within its borders one can find 5000 m peaks; glaciers, alpine meadows; sub-tropical coastline, high desert, semi-desert, fertile alluvial valleys, wetlands and huge swathes of virgin forest. From the shores of the Black Sea to the soaring peaks of the Caucasus – from rich Wine Country in the east to Cave cities, to the spa town of Borjomi and cultural delights of Tbilisi, Georgia’s natural beauty is the stuff of legend. Georgia has the dubious distinction of being one of the most invaded nations on earth. As a nation at the crossroads of Europe and Asia as well as Christianity and Islam Georgia has long been marked by war. To protect against invaders an elaborate system of watchtowers alerted the people to an attack (many of which still exist) and precious religious icons and relics would disappear into caves and hidden mountain fortresses. Villages in the most remote mountain valleys would escape the invaders attention entirely, thus some of the oldest and most superlative Frescoes are found in the highlands.
The Republic of Kazakhstan
is located in the central part of the Eurasian continent, at an equal distance from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It borders on Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and the Caspian Sea. The capital city is Astana. Being the world’s 9th largest country and located in the centre of Eurasia, Kazakhstan is also the largest landlocked country in the world. These resulted in a specific climate and a peculiar natural system of the country, which seems to absorb the brightest examples of landscape of both continents. In addition, complicated history of Kazakh people and constant interaction of nomadic lifestyle with settled people in South Kazakhstani ancient cities, have lead to a unique and authentic culture of Kazakhstan. In order to preserve the rich world of plants and wildlife, a network of national parks and nature reserves were established in the country. The most famous ones are Aksu Zhabagly Nature Reserve, which is a habitat for the snow leopard; Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve famous for its pink flamingos; Altyn Emel and Katon-Karagay National Parks.
is the largest country of the world, covering 11.5% of its territory. It extends from the Baltic Sea in the west to the Japan Sea in the east and it comprises 11 time zones. Russia has 14 neighbours: Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mongolia, North Korea, Norway, Poland, and Ukraine. The capital city is Moscow. Another very important administrative and cultural centre is Saint Petersburg, often referred to as the second capital. There are over 1000 towns and cities in Russia. Russia enjoys a vast territory, rich historic and cultural heritage and wild nature in many of its regions. The size and diversity of landscapes make it anything but a dull country. From sea resorts at the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea and the forests of the Central Russia to the foothills of the Caucasus, Siberian taiga and the Far East one has plenty of things to discover. Russia’s rich history bears the traces of Vikings, ancient Slavs, Mongols and Tatars, Scythians, Swedish, Greeks and other peoples. Grand princes, monarchs and emperors adjoined and lost lands and peoples. Democratic and authoritarian rulers replacing one another, built palaces, established museums, left mausoleums and grand multi-storey buildings, powerful power plants, but also camps for the repressed.
is located in Eastern Europe and shares its borders with Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus and Russia. It is partially bounded by two bodies of water – most notably, the Black Sea. Kiev is the capital of Ukraine and the largest city, followed by Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, and Odessa. One of the most famous cites in Ukraine is Yalta where the historic Yalta Conference was held in 1945. Ukraine has a strong artistic and cultural heritage and offers travellers many choices of attractions and destinations to explore such as castles, palaces, ancient cathedrals, and stunningly beautiful national parks and reserves. Recently, eco-tourists have been finding Ukraine to be an inspiration in the effort to protect wetlands, coastal regions, and majestic mountains. With three types of areas under protection, Ukraine is home to biospheres like the Shats’kyi National Park, ecological reserves for fauna such as National Park Podil’ski Tovtry, and the Cape Mart’yan Reserve which also protects shoreline and aquatic ecosystems.
Image source: http://www.globeimages.net/img-zamok-belarus-114.htm