The Russian Federation (Russian: Росси́йская Федера́ция, transliteration: Rossiyskaya Federatsiya or Rossijskaja Federacija), or Russia (Russian: Росси́я, transliteration: Rossiya or Rossija), is a country that stretches over a vast expanse of eastern Europe and northern Asia. With an area of 17,075,400 km² (6,595,600 mi²), it is the largest country in the world, covering almost twice the territory of either Canada, China, or the United States. It ranks seventh in the world in population, following China, India, the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, and Pakistan.
Once the preeminent republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Russia has been an independent country since the dissolution of the union in December 1991. Under the Soviet system it was called the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR).
Most of the area, population, and industrial production of the Soviet Union, then one of the world's two superpowers, lay in Russia. Consequently, with the breakup of the USSR, Russia was again vying for an influential role on the world stage. This influence is notable, but is still far from that of the former Soviet Union.
|-||align="center" colspan="2" style="border-bottom:3px solid gray;"||National motto: None||-||align="center" colspan="2"|
|-||Official language||Russian language||Russian (among many others in political subdivisions)||-||Official script||Cyrillic alphabet|
|-||Capital||Moscow (Moskva)||-||Largest city||Moscow|
|-||President of Russia||President||Vladimir Putin|
|-||Prime Minister of Russia||Prime Minister||Mikhail Fradkov (Michail Fradkov)||-||Area|
- % water
|List of countries by area||Ranked 1st|
1 E13 m²
- Total (2003)
|Density||List of countries by population||Ranked 7th|
|Russia Day: June 12, 1990 |
collapse of the Soviet Union
|Finalized: December 26, 1991|
|-||Gross domestic product||GDP (PPP)|
- Total (2003)
|Gross domestic product||Ranked 9th|
(RUR - obsolete)
|-||Time zone||Coordinated Universal Time||UTC +2 to +12||-||National anthem||Hymn of the Russian Federation|
|-||Top-level domain||Internet TLD||.ru (.su is still reserved by the RF)||-||List of country calling codes||Calling Code||7||}|
Main article: History of Russia
Repeated devastating defeats of the Russian army in World War I led to widespread rioting in the major cities of the Russian Empire and to the overthrow in 1917 of the 300-year old Romanov Dynasty. The Communists under Vladimir Lenin seized power soon after and formed the USSR. The brutal rule of Joseph Stalin forced rapid industrialization of largely rural country and collectivization of its agriculture at the cost of tens of millions of lives. Stalin also strengthened Russian dominance in the Soviet Union. The Soviet economy and society stagnated in the following decades until General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev introduced glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt to modernize Communism, but his initiatives inadvertently released forces that by December 1991 splintered the USSR into 15 independent republics. Since then, Russia has struggled in its efforts to build a democratic political system and market economy to replace the strict social, political, and economic controls of the Communist period. A determined guerrilla conflict still plagues Russia in Chechnya.
Main article: Politics of Russia
The Russian Federation is a federative democratic republic with a president, directly elected for a four-year term, who holds considerable executive power. The president, who resides in the Kremlin, nominates the highest state officials, including the prime minister or premier, who must be approved by parliament. The president can pass decrees without consent from parliament and is also head of the armed forces and of the national security council.
Russia's bicameral parliament, the Federal Assembly (Russian: Федеральное Собрание, English transliteration: Federalnoye Sobraniye) consists of an upper house known as the Federation Council (Совет Федерации, Sovet Federatsii), composed of 178 delegates serving a four-year term (two are appointed from each of the 89 federal subjects), and a lower house known as the State Duma (Государственная Дума, Gosudarstvennaya Duma), comprising 450 deputies also serving a four-year term, of which 225 are elected by direct popular vote from single member constituencies and 225 are elected by proportional representation from nation-wide party lists.
Main articles: Subdivisions of Russia, Federal districts of Russia, Federal subjects of Russia, Republics of Russia, Oblasts of Russia, Krais of Russia, Autonomous Oblasts of Russia, Autonomous Districts of Russia, Federal cities of Russia.
Federal subjects of the Russian Federation
The Russian Federation consists of a great number of different federal subjects, making a total of 89 constituent components. There are 21 republics within the federation that enjoy a high degree of autonomy on most issues and these correspond to some of Russia's ethnic minorities. The remaining territory consists of 49 oblasts (provinces) and 6 krais (territories), in which are found 10 autonomous okrugs (autonomous districts) and 1 autonomous oblast. Beyond these there are 2 federal cities (Moscow and St. Petersburg). Recently, 7 extensive federal districts (four in Europe, three in Asia) have been added as a new layer between the above subdivisions and the national level.
Main article: Geography of Russia
The Russian Federation stretches across much of the north of the supercontinent of Eurasia. Although it contains a large share of the world's Arctic and sub-Arctic areas, and therefore has less population, economic activity, and physical variety per unit area than most countries, the great area south of these still accommodates a great variety of landscapes and climates. Most of the land consists of vast plains, both in the European part and the Asian part that is largely known as Siberia. These plains are predominantly steppe to the south and heavily forested to the north, with tundra along the northern coast. Mountain ranges are found along the southern borders, such as the Caucasus (containing Mount Elbrus, Russia's and Europe's highest point at 5,633 m) and the Altai, and in the eastern parts, such as the Verkhoyansk Range or the volcanoes on Kamchatka. The more central Ural Mountains, a north-south range that form the primary divide between Europe and Asia, are also notable.
Russia has an extensive coastline of over 37,000 km along the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, as well as more or less inland seas such as the Baltic, Black and Caspian seas. Some smaller bodies of water are part of the open oceans; the Barents Sea, White Sea, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea and East Siberian Sea are part of the Arctic, whereas the Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan belong to the Pacific Ocean. Major islands found in them include Novaya Zemlya, the Franz-Josef Land, the New Siberian Islands, Wrangel Island, the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin.
Many rivers flow across Russia. See Rivers of Russia.
Major lakes include Lake Baikal, Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega. See List of lakes in Russia.
The Russian Federation
The most practical way to describe Russia is as a main part (a large contiguous portion with its off-shore islands) and an exclave (at the southeast corner of the Baltic Sea).
The main part's borders and coasts (starting in the far northwest and proceeding counter-clockwise) are:
- borders with the following countries: Norway and Finland,
- a short coast on the Baltic Sea, facing nine other countries on its shores from Finland to Estonia and including the port of St. Petersburg,
- borders with Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, and Ukraine,
- a coast on the Black Sea, facing six other countries on its shores from Ukraine to Georgia,
- borders with Georgia and Azerbaijan,
- a coast on the Caspian Sea, facing four other countries on its shores from Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan,
- borders with Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, China again, and North Korea,
- an extensive coastline that provides access with all the maritime nations of the world, and stretches
The exclave, constituted by the Kaliningrad Oblast,
- shares borders with
- has a northwest coast on the Baltic Sea.
The Baltic and Black Sea coasts of Russia have less direct and more constrained access to the high seas than its Pacific and Arctic ones, but both are nevertheless important for that purpose. The Baltic gives immediate access with the nine other countries sharing its shores, and between the main part of Russia and its Kaliningrad Oblast exclave. Via the straits that lie within Denmark, and between it and Sweden, the Baltic connects to the North Sea and the oceans to its west and north. The Black Sea gives immediate access with the five other countries sharing its shores, and via the Dardanelles and Marmora straits adjacent to Istanbul, Turkey, to the Mediterranean Sea with its many countries and its access, via the Suez Canal and the Straits of Gibraltar, to the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The salt waters of the Caspian Sea, the world's largest lake, afford no access with the high seas.
A fact often mentioned about Russia is that the federation spans eleven time zones from eastern Europe to the easternmost point in Asia. This is a confusing piece of information, because it is not a reflection of the width of Russia per se, but rather the width of a relatively northern portion of Russia that is not nearly as wide as Russia as a whole. The easternmost point in Russia is Big Diomede Island (Ostrova Ratmanova); the westernmost, the boundary with Poland on a 60-km-long (40-mi-long) spit of land separating the Gulf of Gdańsk from the Vistula Lagoon. The geodesic on the surface of the earth (i.e. shortest line between two points on a sphere) joining these two points has a length of about 6600 km (4100 mi), much of it over the Arctic Ocean north of Russia. In contrast, the distance between the two most widely separated points in Russia (the same spit, and the farthest southeast of the Kurile Islands, a few miles off Hokkaido Island, Japan) is about 8000 km (5000 mi), over 20 per cent further. This island is nevertheless further west than Big Diomede, by two time zones, and by over 44° of longitude, all but the nominal width of three of those eleven time zones.
See also: List of cities in Russia
Main article: Economy of Russia
A decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia is still struggling to establish a modern market economy and achieve strong economic growth. Russia saw its economy contract for five years, as the executive and legislature dithered over the implementation of reforms and Russia's industrial base faced a serious decline.
Russia achieved a slight recovery in 1997, but that year's Asian financial crisis culminated in the August depreciation of the ruble, a debt default by the government, and a sharp deterioration in living standards for most of the population. The economy subsequently has rebounded, growing by an average of more than 6% annually in 1999-2002 on the back of higher oil prices and a weak ruble.
This recovery, along with a renewed government effort in 2000 and 2001 to advance lagging structural reforms, have raised business and investor confidence over Russia's prospects in its second decade of transition. Russia remains heavily dependent on exports of commodities, particularly oil, natural gas, metals, and timber, which account for over 80% of exports, leaving the country vulnerable to swings in world prices.
The greatest challenge facing the Russian economy is how to encourage the development of SME (small and medium sized enterprises) in a business climate dominated by Russian oligarchs and a large dysfunctional banking system. Many of Russia's banks are owned by entrepreneurs or oligarchs, who often use the deposits to lend to their own businesses.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank have attempted to kick-start normal banking practices by making equity and debt investments in a number of banks, but with very limited success.
The recent arrest of Russia's most successful businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky on charges of fraud and corruption in relation to the large-scale privatizations organised under then-President Yeltsin has caused many foreign investors to worry about the stability of the Russian economy. Most of the large fortunes currently prevailing in Russia seem to be the product of either acquiring government assets particularly cheaply or gaining concessions from government cheaply. Other countries have expressed concerns and worries at the "selective" application of the law against individual businessmen.
However, some international firms are investing heavily in Russia. An example is Scottish and Newcastle, a beer firm who has found the beer market in Russia to be growing much faster than in other areas of Europe. Scottish and Newcastle has already invested heavily in the Russian beer industry (2004).
Main article: Demographics of Russia
Russia is fairly sparsely populated and has extremely low average population density due to its enormous size; population is densest in the European part of Russia, in the Ural Mountains area, and in the south-eastern part of Siberia. The Russian Federation is home to as many as 160 different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples. As of the 2002 census, 79.8% of the population is ethnically Russian, 3.8% Tatar, 2% Ukrainian, 1.2% Bashkir, 1.1% Chuvash, 0.9% Chechen, 0.8% Armenian, and the remainder of 10.3% includes Mordvins, Belarusians, Avars, Kazakhs, Udmurts, Azerbaijanis, Maris, Germans, Evenks, Ingushes, Inuit, Jews, Kalmyks, Karelians, Koreans, Ossetians, Dolgan Nenetses, Tuvans, Yakuts and still others.
The Russian language is the only official state language, but the individual republics have often made their native language co-official next to Russian. Cyrillic alphabet is the only official script, which means that these languages must be written in Cyrillic in official texts. The Russian Orthodox Church is the dominant Christian religion in the Federation; other religions include Islam, various Protestant faiths, Roman Catholicism, Buddhism and Judaism.
See also: Demographic crisis of Russia
Main article: Culture of Russia
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