Cardinal József Mindszenty
1956 Hungarian Revolution (My Story)
(My Eyewitness story of our Freedomfight
and Resistance against the Soviet Invasion)
50th Anniversary of our Freedomfight
My Travel Pages
My Russia pages
Russia History & Facts in brief
Christ the Saviour Cathedral
Virgin on the Moat Cathedral
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Peter and Paul Fortress
Saint Petersburg Airport
Saint Petersburg Buses
Saint Petersburg Metros
Saint Petersburg Trams
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Tractor Factory - Museum
Russia (Rossiya), also the
Russian Federation (Rossiyskaya Federatsiya),
is a transcontinental country extending
over much of northern Eurasia.
Russia facts & history in brief
My Russia pages directory
Map of Russia
Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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
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
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
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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
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
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.
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
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
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), 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Russian Federation comprises 85
Map of the federal subjects of
the Russian Federation
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. 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.
Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism are Russia's
traditional religions, deemed part of Russia's
"historical heritage" in a law passed in 1997.
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, demolished during
the Soviet period, was reconstructed from 1990-2000
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
see Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, December 2007.
All text is available under the terms of the
GNU Free Documentation License
Copyrights for details).
This information was correct in December 2007. E. & O.E.