Belarus (the name means "White Russian") is one of the more nondescript republics to emerge from the former U.S.S.R., and it has little to attract travelers. Invasions destroyed most of its older structures, and rapid industrialization robbed it of most of its charm. Its few tourist attractions are in towns that somehow managed to retain their old structures intact. For the most part, better examples of the various architectural styles can be found elsewhere.
Unlike other former Soviet republics, Belarus made little attempt to remove its Communist leaders after independence. The country is still governed by a powerful president who rules by decree. (In late 1996, President Alexander Lukashenko won a referendum to extend his powers further, even as opposition leaders attempted to get him impeached.)
The gay community in Belarus is rather feeble in Minsk and does not exist outside the capital. The homophobia often rises its ugly head and a few hate crimes directed against gays and gay venues have been reported recently, not to mention that gays are less than welcomed by official authorities. At the same time, a small group of enthousiasts Forum Lambda is active in Minsk - they organized a semi-official 1999 Gay Pride in Belarus and publish a gay magazine on the regular basis.