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Map of Russia

Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Russia (Rossiya), also the Russian Federation (Rossiyskaya Federatsiya), is a transcontinental country extending over much of northern Eurasia.
It is a semi-presidential republic comprising 85 federal subjects.
Russia proper shares land borders with the following countries (counter-clockwise from northwest to southeast): Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea.
Additionally, the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad shares borders with Lithuania and Poland.
It is also close to the U.S. state of Alaska, Sweden and Japan across relatively small stretches of water (the Bering Strait, the Baltic Sea, and La Pérouse Strait, respectively).

At 17,075,400 square kilometres (6,592,800 sq mi) and with 142 million people, Russia is by far the largest country in the world, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's land area, and ninth-largest by population.
It extends across the whole of northern Asia and 40% of Europe, spanning 11 time zones and incorporating a great range of environments and landforms.
Russia possesses the world's largest mineral and energy resources, and is considered an energy superpower.
It contains approximately one-quarter of the world's unfrozen fresh water and has the world's largest forest reserves.

The nation's history begins with that of the East Slavs.
Founded and ruled by Vikings and their descendants, the first East Slavic state, Kievan Rus', adopted Christianity from the Byzantine Empire in 988, beginning the synthesis of Byzantine and Slavic cultures that defined Russian culture for the next millennium.
Kievan Rus' ultimately disintegrated and the Russian lands were divided.
The most powerful successor state to Kievan
Rus' was Moscow, which gradually came to dominate the cultural and political legacy of Kievan Rus'.
By the 18th century, the Grand Duchy of Moscow had greatly expanded through conquest, annexation and exploration to become the huge Russian Empire, stretching from Poland eastward to the Pacific Ocean.

Russia established worldwide power and influence from the times of the Russian Empire to being the preeminent constituent of the Soviet Union, the world's first and largest Communist state.
t is one of the five recognized nuclear weapons states and possesses the world's largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.

Capital: (and largest city) Moscow
Official languages: Russian official throughout nation; thirty others co-official in various regions
Demonym: Russian
Government: Semi-presidential republic
Founded: 862, Arrival of Rurik to Novgorod
Area: 17,075,400 km² (6,592,800 sq mi)
Population: - 2007 estimate 142,200,000
Currency: Ruble (RUB)
Time zone: (UTC+2 to +12) - Summer (DST) (UTC+3 to +13)
Internet TLD: .ru (.su reserved)
Calling code: +7

  • 1 Geography
  • 2 History
  • 3 Government and politics
  • 4 Subdivisions
  • 5 Foreign relations and military
  • 6 Economy
  • 7 Demographics
  • 8 Culture
  • - o - O - o -

    The Russian Federation stretches across much of the north of the super-continent of Eurasia.
    Because of its size, Russia displays both monotony and diversity.
    As with its topography, its climates, vegetation, and soils span vast distances.
    From north to south the East European Plain is clad sequentially in tundra, coniferous forest (taiga), mixed and broad-leaf forests, grassland (steppe), and semi-desert (fringing the Caspian Sea) as the changes in vegetation reflect the changes in climate.
    Siberia supports a similar sequence but is taiga.
    The country contains 23 World Heritage Sites and 39 UNESCO Biosphere reserves.

    The two widest separated points in Russia are about 8,000 km (5,000 mi) apart along a geodesic line.
    The Russian Federation spans 11 time zones.

    Russia has the world's largest forest reserves and is known as "the lungs of Europe," second only to the Amazon Rainforest in the amount of carbon dioxide it absorbs.
    It provides a huge amount of oxygen for not just Europe, but the world.
    With access to three of the world's oceans - the Atlantic, Arctic, and Pacific-Russian fishing fleets are a major contributor to the world's fish supply.
    The Caspian is the source of what is considered the finest caviar in the world.

    Map of the Russian Federation

    Topography of Russia

    Most of Russia consists of vast stretches of plains that 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 5,642 m / 18,511 ft) and the Altai, and in the eastern parts, such as the Verkhoyansk Range or the volcanoes on Kamchatka.
    The Ural Mountains form a north-south range that divides Europe and Asia, rich in mineral resources.
    Russia possesses 8.9% of the world's arable land.

    Russia has an extensive coastline of over 37,000 kilometres (23,000 mi) along the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, as well as the Baltic, Black and Caspian seas.
    The Barents Sea, White Sea, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, East Siberian Sea, Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan are linked to Russia.
    Major islands and archipelagos include Novaya Zemlya, the Franz Josef Land, the New Siberian Islands, Wrangel Island, the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin.
    The Diomede Islands (one controlled by Russia, the other by the United States) are just three kilometres (1.9 mi) apart, and Kunashir Island is about twenty kilometres (12 mi) from Hokkaido.

    Russia has thousands of rivers and inland bodies of water, providing it with one of the world's largest surface water resources.
    The most prominent of Russia's bodies of fresh water is Lake Baikal, the world's deepest, purest and most capacious freshwater lake.
    Lake Baikal alone contains over one fifth of the world's fresh surface water.
    Of its 100,000 rivers, The Volga is the most famous-not only because it is the longest river in Europe but also because of its major role in Russian history.
    Major lakes include Lake Baikal, Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega.
    Russia has a wide natural resource base including major deposits of petroleum, natural gas, coal, timber and mineral resources unmatched by any other country.

    The climate of the Russian Federation formed under the influence of several determining factors.
    The enormous size of the country and the remoteness of many areas from the sea result in the dominance of the continental climate, which is prevalent in European and Asian Russia except for the tundra and the extreme southeast.

    Throughout much of the territory there are only two distinct seasons - winter and summer; spring and autumn are usually brief periods of change between extremely low temperatures and extremely high.
    The coldest month is January, the warmest usually is July.
    Great ranges of temperature are typical.
    In winter, temperatures get colder both from south to north and from west to east.
    Summers can be quite hot and humid, even in Siberia.
    A small part of Black Sea coast around Sochi is considered in Russia to have subtropical climate.
    The continental interiors are the driest areas.

    The vast steppes of Southern Russia were home to disunited tribes, such as Proto-Indo-Europeans and Scythians.
    Remnants of these steppe civilizations were discovered in the course of the 20th century in such places as Ipatovo, Sintashta, Arkaim, and Pazyryk.
    In the latter part of the eighth century BC, Greek merchants brought classical civilization to the trade emporiums in Tanais and Phanagoria.
    Between the third and sixth centuries AD, the Bosporan Kingdom, a Hellenistic polity which succeeded the Greek colonies, was overwhelmed by successive waves of nomadic invasions, led by warlike tribes, such as the Huns and Turkic Avars.
    A Turkic people, the Khazars, ruled the lower Volga basin steppes between the Caspian and Black Seas through to the 8th century.

    The ancestors of modern Russians are the Slavic tribes, whose original home is thought by some scholars to have been the wooded areas of the Pripet Marshes.
    Moving into the lands vacated by the migrating Germanic tribes, the Early East Slavs gradually settled Western Russia in two waves: one moving from Kiev toward present-day Suzdal and Murom and another from Polotsk toward Novgorod and Rostov.
    From the 7th century onwards, the East Slavs constituted the bulk of the population in Western Russia and slowly but peacefully assimilated the native Finno-Ugric tribes, including the Merya, the Muromians, and the Meshchera.

    Kievan Rus'
    Scandinavian Norsemen, called "Vikings" in Western Europe and "Varangians" in the East, combined piracy and trade in their roamings over much of Northern Europe.
    In the mid-9th century, they ventured along the waterways extending from the eastern Baltic to the Black and Caspian Seas.
    According to the earliest Russian chronicle, a Varangian named Rurik was elected ruler (konung or knyaz) of Novgorod around the year 860; his successors moved south and extended their authority to Kiev, which had been previously dominated by the Khazars.

    In the tenth to eleventh centuries this state of Kievan Rus became the largest and most prosperous in Europe.
    In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, constant incursions by nomadic Turkic tribes, such as the Kipchaks and the Pechenegs, caused a massive migration of Slavic populations to the safer, heavily forested regions of the north, particularly to the area known as Zalesye.
    Like many other parts of Eurasia, these territories were overrun by the Mongols.
    The invaders, later known as Tatars, formed the state of the Golden Horde, which pillaged the Russian principalities and ruled the southern and central expanses of Russia for over three centuries.
    Mongol rule retarded the country's economic and social development.
    However, the Novgorod Republic together with Pskov retained some degree of autonomy during the time of the Mongol yoke and was largely spared the atrocities that affected the rest of the country.
    Led by Alexander Nevsky, Novgorodians repelled the Germanic crusaders who attempted to colonize the region.
    Kievan Rus' ultimately disintegrated as a state because of in-fighting between members of the princely family that ruled it collectively.
    Kiev's dominance waned, to the benefit of Vladimir-Suzdal in the north-east, Novgorod in the north, and Halych-Volhynia in the south-west.
    Conquest by the Golden Horde in the 13th century was the final blow and resulted in the destruction of Kiev in 1240.
    Halych-Volhynia was eventually absorbed into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, while the Mongol-dominated Vladimir-Suzdal and the independent Novgorod Republic, two regions on the periphery of Kiev, established the basis for the modern Russian nation.

    Grand Duchy of Moscow and Tsardom of Russia
    The most powerful successor state to Kievan Rus' was Grand Duchy of Moscow.
    It would annex rivals such as Tver and Novgorod, and eventually become the basis of the modern Russian state.
    After the downfall of Constantinople in 1453, Moscow claimed succession to the legacy of the Eastern Roman Empire.
    While still under the domain of the Mongol-Tatars and with their connivance, the Duchy of Moscow (or "Muscovy") began to assert its influence in Western Russia in the early fourteenth century.
    Assisted by the Russian Orthodox Church and Saint Sergius of Radonezh's spiritual revival, Russia inflicted a defeat on the Mongol-Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo (1380).
    Ivan III (Ivan the Great) eventually tossed off the control of the invaders, consolidated surrounding areas under Moscow's dominion and first took the title "grand duke of all the Russias".

    In 1547, Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) was officially crowned the first Tsar of Russia.
    During his long reign, Ivan IV annexed the Tatar khanates (Kazan, Astrakhan) along the Volga River and transformed Russia into a multiethnic and multiconfessional state.
    Ivan IV promulgated a new code of laws (Sudebnik of 1550), established the first Russian feudal representative body (Zemsky Sobor) and introduced local self-management into the rural regions.
    But Ivan IV's rule was also marked by the long and unsuccessful Livonian War against the coalition of Poland, Lithuania, Sweden for the access to the Baltic coast and sea trade.
    The military losses, epidemics, and poor harvests weakened the state, and the Crimean Tatars were able to burn down Moscow.
    The death of Ivan's sons, combined with the famine (1601-1603),[47] led to the civil war and foreign intervention of the Time of Troubles in the early 1600s.
    By the middle of the seventeenth century there were Russian settlements in Eastern Siberia, on the Chukchi Peninsula, along the Amur River, and on the Pacific coast.
    The strait between North America and Asia was first sighted by a Russian explorer in 1648.

    Imperial Russia
    Under the Romanov dynasty and Peter I (Peter the Great), the Russian Empire was officially founded.
    Ruling from 1682 to 1725, Peter defeated Sweden in the Great Northern War, forcing it to cede West Karelia and Ingria (two regions lost by Russia in the Time of Troubles, Estland, and Livland, securing Russia's access to the sea and sea trade.
    It was in Ingria that Peter founded a new capital, Saint Petersburg.
    Peter's reforms brought considerable Western European cultural influences to Russia.
    Catherine II (Catherine the Great), who ruled from 1762 to 1796, continued the efforts at establishing Russia as one of the great powers of Europe.

    In alliance with Prussia and Austria, Russia stood against Napoleon's France and eliminated its rival Poland-Lithuania in a series of partitions, gaining large areas of territory in the west.
    As a result of its victories in the Russian-Turkish wars, by the early 19th century Russia had made significant territorial gains in Transcaucasia.
    Napoleon's invasion failed miserably as obstinate Russian resistance combined with the bitterly cold Russian winter dealt him a disastrous defeat, from which more than 95% of his invading force perished.

    Nicholas's successor Alexander II (1855-1881) enacted significant reforms, including the abolition of serfdom in 1861; these "Great Reforms" spurred industrialization.
    However, many socio-economic conflicts were aggravated during Alexander III's reign and under his son, Nicholas II.
    Harsh conditions in factories created mass support for the revolutionary socialist movement.
    In January, 1905 striking workers peaceably demonstrated for reforms in Saint Petersburg but were fired upon by troops, killing and wounding hundreds.
    The event, known as "Bloody Sunday", ignited the Russian Revolution of 1905.
    Although the uprising was swiftly put down by the army and he retained much of his power, Nicholas II was forced to concede major reforms including granting the freedoms of speech and assembly, legalization of political parties and the creation of an elected legislative assembly, the Duma, however basic improvements in the lives of industrial workers were unfulfilled.

    Russia entered World War I in the aid of its ally Serbia and fought a war across three fronts.
    Although the army was far from defeated in 1916, the already existing public distrust of the regime was deepened by the rising costs of war, casualties, and tales of corruption and even treason in high places, leading to the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1917.
    A series of uprisings were organized by workers and peasants throughout the country, as well as by soldiers in the Russian army, who were mainly of peasant origin.
    Many of the uprisings were organized and led by democratically elected councils called Soviets.
    The February Revolution overthrew the Russian monarchy, which was replaced by a shaky coalition of political parties that declared itself the Provisional Government.
    The abdication marked the end of imperial rule in Russia, and Nicholas and his family were later imprisoned and murdered.
    While initially receiving the support of the Soviets, the Provisional Government proved unable to resolve many problems which had led to the February Revolution.
    The second revolution, the October Revolution, led by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Provisional Government and created the world's first Communist state.

    Soviet Russia
    Following the October Revolution, a civil war broke out between the new regime and its opponents, the moderate socialist parties - the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks - and a loose confederation of counter-revolutionary forces known as the White movement.
    The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, a peace treaty signed by the Central Powers with Soviet Russia, concluded hostilities between those countries in World War I.
    Russia lost Ukraine, its Polish and Baltic territories, and Finland by signing the treaty.
    However, the Allied powers of World War I launched a military intervention in support of anti-Communist forces.
    Both the Bolsheviks and White movement carried out campaigns of mass arrests, deportations, and executions against each other, known respectively as the Red Terror and White Terror.
    The Bolsheviks instituted "War Communism" in order to requisition food for the army and cities, resulting in mass starvation and peasant resistance.
    But by 1921, Bolshevik forces brought most of the territories of the former Russian Empire under their control.
    However, Russia had been at war for 7 years, during which time some 16 million of its people had lost their lives, with the Civil War taking an estimated 7-10 million of them.
    At the end of the Civil War, the economy and infrastructure were devastated.

    Following victory in the Civil War, the Russian SFSR together with three other Soviet republics formed the Soviet Union on December 30, 1922.
    The Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic dominated the Soviet Union for its entire 74-year history; the USSR was often referred to as "Russia" and its people as "Russians."
    Russia became the first country in the world with full freedom of divorce and legalized abortion.
    After Lenin's death in 1924 a Georgian named Joseph Stalin, consolidated power and became a dictator.

    Stalin launched a command economy, forced rapid industrialization of the largely rural country and collectivisation of its agriculture.
    While the Soviet Union transformed from an agrarian economy to a major industrial powerhouse in a short span of time, hardships and famine ensued for many millions of people as a result of the severe economic upheaval and party policies.
    At the end of 1930s, Stalin launched the Great Purges, a major campaign of repression against millions of people who were suspected of being a threat to the party were executed or exiled to Gulag labor camps in remote areas of Siberia or Central Asia.
    A number of ethnic groups in Russia were also forcibly resettled.

    On June 22, 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union.
    Although the German army had considerable success early on, they suffered defeats after reaching the outskirts of Moscow and were dealt their first major defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942-1943.
    Soviet forces drove through Eastern Europe in 1944-45 and captured Berlin in May, 1945.
    The Red Army had occupied Eastern Europe after the war, including the eastern half of Germany; Stalin installed communist governments in these satellite states.
    Becoming the world's second nuclear weapons power, the Soviet Union established the Warsaw Pact alliance and entered into a struggle for global dominance with the United States, which became known as the Cold War.

    The Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1 and the Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to orbit the Earth aboard the first manned spacecraft, Vostok 1.
    Tensions with the United States heightened when the two rivals clashed over the deployment of the U.S. Jupiter missiles in Turkey and Soviet missiles in Cuba.
    From 1985 onwards, the reformist Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the landmark policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring), in an attempt to modernize the country.
    In August 1991, an unsuccessful military coup against Gorbachev instead led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
    Boris Yeltsin came to power and declared the end of exclusive Communist rule.
    The USSR soon splintered into fifteen independent republics and was officially dissolved in December 1991.

    Russian Federation
    In October 1991, Yeltsin announced that Russia would proceed with radical, market-oriented reform along the lines of "shock therapy", as recommended by the United States and IMF.
    However, this policy resulted in economic collapse, and millions being plunged into poverty.
    The early and mid-1990s was marked by extreme lawlessness.
    Criminal gangs and organized crime flourished and murders and other violent crime spiraled out of control.
    In 1993 a constitutional crisis pushed Russia to the brink of civil war.
    President Boris Yeltsin dissolved the country's legislature which opposed his moves to consolidate power and push forward with unpopular neo-liberal reforms; in response, legislators barricaded themselves inside the White House and major protests against Yeltsin's government resulted in the most deadly street fighting seen in Moscow since the October Revolution.
    With military support, Yeltsin sent the army to besiege the parliament building and used tanks and artillery to eject the legislators.

    The 1990s were plagued by armed ethnic conflicts in the North Caucasus.

    On December 31, 1999 Boris Yeltsin resigned from the presidency, handing the post to the recently appointed prime minister, Vladimir Putin, who then won the 2000 election.
    High oil prices and a cheap ruble followed by increasing domestic demand, consumption and investments has helped the economy grow for eight straight years, and increasing Russia's clout on the world stage.
    Putin's leadership over the return of stability and progress has won him widespread popularity in Russia.

    Government and politics
    According to the Constitution, which was adopted by national referendum on December 12, 1993 following the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis, Russia is a federation and a presidential republic, wherein the President of Russia is the head of state and the Prime Minister of Russia is the head of government.
    Executive power is exercised by the government.
    Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.

    The president is elected by popular vote for a four-year term and eligible for a second term but constitutionally barred for a third consecutive term.
    Ministries of the government are composed of the premier and his deputies, ministers, and selected other individuals; all are appointed by the president.
    The national legislature is the Federal Assembly, which consists of two chambers; the 450-member State Duma and the 176-member Federation Council.
    According to the Constitution of Russia, constitutional justice in the court is based on the equality of all citizens, judges are independent and subject only to the law, and trials are to be open, and the accused is guaranteed a defense.
    Although Russia's regions enjoy a degree of autonomous self-government, the election of regional governors was substituted by direct appointment by the president in 2005.


    Map of the federal subjects of the Russian Federation

    The Russian Federation comprises 85 federal subjects.
    These subjects have equal representation - two delegates each - in the Federation Council.
    However, they differ in the degree of autonomy they enjoy.

    47 oblasts (provinces): most common type of federal subjects, with federally appointed governor and locally elected legislature.
    21 republics: nominally autonomous; each has its own constitution, president, and parliament.
    Republics are allowed to establish their own official language alongside Russian but are represented by the federal government in international affairs.
    Republics are meant to be home to specific ethnic minorities.

    Eight krais (territories): essentially the same as oblasts.
    The "territory" designation is historic, originally given to frontier regions and later also to administrative divisions that comprised autonomous okrugs or autonomous oblasts.
    Six autonomous okrugs (autonomous districts): originally autonomous entities within oblasts and krais created for ethnic minorities, their status was elevated to that of federal subjects in the 1990s.
    With the exception of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, all autonomous okrugs are still administratively subordinated to a krai or an oblast of which they are a part.
    One autonomous oblast (the Jewish Autonomous Oblast): originally autonomous oblasts were administrative units subordinated to krais.
    In 1990, all of them except the Jewish Autonomous Oblast were elevated in status to that of a republic.

    Two federal cities (Moscow and St. Petersburg): major cities that function as separate regions.

    Federal subjects are grouped into seven federal districts, each administered by an envoy appointed by the President of Russia.
    Unlike the federal subjects, the federal districts are not a subnational level of government, but are a level of administration of the federal government.
    Federal districts' envoys serve as liaisons between the federal subjects and the federal government and are primarily responsible for overseeing the compliance of the federal subjects with the federal laws.

    Foreign relations and military
    The Russian Federation is recognized in international law as continuing the legal personality of the former Soviet Union.
    Russia continues to implement the international commitments of the USSR, and has assumed the USSR's permanent seat on the UN Security Council, membership in other international organizations, the rights and obligations under international treaties and property and debts.
    Russia has a multifaceted foreign policy.
    It maintains diplomatic relations with 178 countries and has 140 embassies.[84] Russia's foreign policy is determined by the President and implemented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    As one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Russia plays a major role in maintaining international peace and security, and has played a major role in resolving international conflicts by participating in the Quartet on the Middle East, the Six-party talks with North Korea, and promoting the resolution of the Kosovo conflict and nuclear proliferation issues.
    Russia is a member of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations, the Council of Europe, OSCE and APEC. Russia usually takes a leading role in regional organizations such as the CIS, EurAsEC, CSTO, and the SCO.
    President Vladimir Putin has advocated a strategic partnership with close integration in various dimensions including establishment of four common spaces between Russia and the EU.
    Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has developed a friendlier, albeit volatile relationship with NATO.
    The NATO-Russia Council was established in 2002 to allow the 26 Allies and Russia to work together as equal partners to pursue opportunities for joint collaboration.

    Russia assumed control of Soviet assets abroad and most of the Soviet Union's production facilities and defense industries are located in the country.
    The Russian military is divided into the Ground Forces, Navy, and Air Force.
    There are also three independent arms of service: Strategic Rocket Forces, Military Space Forces, and the Airborne Troops.

    The country has a large and fully indigenous arms industry, producing all of its own military equipment.
    Russia is the world's top supplier of weapons, a spot it has held since 2001, accounting for around 30% of worldwide weapons sales and exporting weapons to about 80 countries.
    Following the Soviet practice, it is mandatory for all male citizens aged 18-27 to be drafted for two years' Armed Forces service, though various problems associated with this is why the armed forces are from 2008 reducing the conscription term from two years to one, and plan to increase contract servicemen to compose 70% of the armed forces by 2010.

    Russia is the world's leading natural gas exporter and the second leading oil exporter.
    Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has tried to develop a market economy and achieve consistent economic growth.
    In October 1991, Yeltsin initiated radical, market-oriented reform resulted in economic collapse, with millions being plunged into poverty and corruption and crime spreading rapidly.
    Hyperinflation resulted from the removal of Soviet price controls and another Russian financial crisis followed.
    Previously all enterprises belonged to the state and were supposed to be equally owned amongst all citizens, they fell into the hands of a few, who became immensely rich.
    Stocks of the state-owned enterprises were issued, and these new publicly traded companies were quickly handed to the members of Nomenklatura or known criminal bosses.
    For example, the director of a factory during the Soviet regime would often become the owner of the same enterprise.
    During the same period, violent criminal groups often took over state enterprises, clearing the way by assassinations or extortion.
    Corruption of government officials became an everyday rule of life.
    Under the government's cover, outrageous financial manipulations were performed that enriched the narrow group of individuals at key positions of the business and government mafia.
    Many took billions in cash and assets outside of the country in an enormous capital flight.

    Since the turn of the century, high oil prices, foreign investment, increasing domestic consumption and political stability have bolstered economic growth.
    Russia ended 2006 with its eighth straight year of growth, averaging 6.7% annually since the financial crisis of 1998.

    Despite the country's strong economic performance since 1999, the World Bank lists several challenges facing the Russian economy including diversifying the economy, improving competitiveness, encouraging the growth of small and medium enterprises, building human capital and improving governance.

    Population of Russia was estimated to be 141,377,752.
    The Russian Federation is home to as many as 160 different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples.
    According to the 2002 Russian 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 10.3% other or unspecified.
    About 75% of the population live in urban areas, the two largest cities in Russia are Moscow (10,342,151 inhabitants) and Saint Petersburg (4,661,219).
    Eleven other cities have between one and two million inhabitants: Chelyabinsk, Kazan, Novosibirsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Omsk, Perm, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Ufa, Volgograd, and Yekaterinburg.
    There are an estimated 10 million illegal immigrants from the ex-Soviet states in Russia.

    Russia has a free education system guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution, and has a literacy rate of 99.4%.
    Entry to higher education is highly competitive.
    Universities have been transitioning to a new degree structure similar to that of Britain and the USA; a four year Bachelor's degree and two year Master's degree.
    As a result of great emphasis on science and technology in education, Russian medical, mathematical, scientific, and space and aviation research is generally of a high order.

    The Russian Constitution grants a universal right to higher education free of charge and through competitive entry.
    This is considered crucial because it provides access to higher education to all skilled students, as opposed to only those who can afford it.
    The institutions have to be funded entirely from the federal and regional budgets; institutions have found themselves unable to provide adequate teachers' salaries, students' stipends, and to maintain their facilities.
    To address the issue, many state institutions started to open commercial positions, which have been growing steadily since.
    Many private higher education institutions have emerged to address the need for a skilled work-force for high-tech and emerging industries and economic sectors.

    Russia's constitution guarantees free, universal health care for all citizens.
    While Russia has more physicians, hospitals, and health care workers than almost any other country in the world, since the collapse of the Soviet Union the health of the Russian population has declined considerably as a result of social, economic, and lifestyle changes.
    As of 2006, the average life expectancy in Russia is 59.12 years for males and 73.03 years for females.
    The biggest factor contributing to this relatively low life expectancy for males is a high mortality rate among working-age males from preventable causes (e.g., alcohol poisoning, stress, smoking, traffic accidents, violent crimes).
    As a result, there are 0.859 males to every female.

    In 2006, the federal statistics agency reported that Russia's population shrunk by about 700,000 people, dipping to 142.8 million.
    The primary causes of Russia's population decrease are a high death rate and low birth rate.
    In an effort to stem Russia's demographic crisis, the government is implementing a number of programs designed to increase the birth rate and attract more migrants to alleviate the problem.
    The government has doubled monthly child support payments and offered a one-time payment of 250,000 Rubles (around US$10,000) to women who had a second child since 2007.
    In the first six months of 2007, Russia has seen the highest birth rate since the collapse of the USSR.

    Russian is the only official state language, but the Constitution gives the individual republics the right to make their native language co-official next to Russian.
    Russian is the most geographically widespread language of Eurasia and the most widely spoken Slavic language.


    Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, demolished during
    the Soviet period, was reconstructed from 1990-2000

    Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism are Russia's traditional religions, deemed part of Russia's "historical heritage" in a law passed in 1997.
    Estimates of believers widely fluctuate between sources, and some reports put the number of non-believers in Russia as high as 24-48% of the population.
    Russian Orthodoxy is the dominant religion in Russia.
    95% of the registered Orthodox parishes belong to the Russian Orthodox Church while there is a number of smaller Orthodox Churches.
    The church is widely respected by both believers and nonbelievers, who see it as a symbol of Russian heritage and culture.
    Smaller Christian denominations such as Roman Catholics, Armenian Gregorian and other Protestants exist.

    The ancestors of today's Russians adopted Orthodox Christianity in the 10th century.
    According to a poll by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, 63% of respondents considered themselves Russian Orthodox, 6% of respondents considered themselves Muslim and less than 1% considered themselves either Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant or Jewish.
    Another 12% said they believe in God, but did not practice any religion, and 16% said they are non-believers.

    Russian literature is considered to be among the most influential and developed in the world, contributing much of the world's most famous literary works.
    Alexander Pushkin, considered to be the founder of modern Russian literature and often described as the "Russian Shakespeare".
    Russia's most famous poets and writers are Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Anton Chekhov.
    The leading writers of the Soviet era included Boris Pasternak, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Mikhail Sholokhov.

    World-renowned composers include Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich.
    Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed the most famous works of ballet-Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and Sleeping Beauty.
    Russian dancers Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev, and Mikhail Baryshnikov rose to fame.
    The Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow and the Kirov in St. Petersburg remain famous throughout the world.

    Some of the Russian filmmakers, most notably Sergei Eisenstein and Andrei Tarkovsky, would become some of the world's most innovative and influential directors.

    Russians have been successful at a number of sports and continuously finishing in the top rankings at the Olympic games.
    Russian athletes have always been in the top three for the number of gold medals collected at the Summer Olympics.
    The 1980 Summer Olympic Games were held in Los Angeles and Moscow while the 2014 Winter Olympics will be hosted by Sochi.
    Gymnasts and track-and-field athletes, weight lifters, wrestlers and boxers were consistently among the best in the world.
    As in most of the world, football enjoys wide popularity in Russia.

    Figure skating is another popular sport; especially in pairs skating and ice dancing.
    From 1964 until the present day, a Russian pair has won gold, often considered the longest winning streak in modern sports history.
    Russia has produced a number of famous tennis players.
    Chess is a widely popular pastime; from 1948, Russian chess grandmasters have held the world championship almost continuously.

    For a more information about Russia see Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    This page was retrieved and condensed from (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russia) see Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, December 2007.
    All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License (see Copyrights for details).
    About Wikipedia

    This information was correct in December 2007. E. & O.E.

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