The Russian Federation is the largest country by area in the world, covering over 17 million square kilometers in both Europe and Asia; each of the five next-largest countries is smaller by about half.

Russia borders on Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland (the latter two via an exclave on the coast of the Baltic Sea), Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, and North Korea. Its extensive high-seas coastline stretches from the Arctic Ocean to the North Pacific Ocean; it also faces several other countries across three more confined bodies of water, the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Caspian Sea.

Most of the area, population, and industrial production of the Soviet Union, then one the world's two superpowers, lay in Russia. The breakup of the Soviet Union had the effect of drastically reducing the influence of Russia, but both within the Commonwealth of Independent States and in the international affairs worldwide, Russia's influence remains quite notable.

Российская Федерация 
Rossijskaya Federatsiya
(In Detail)
National motto: None
Official languageRussian (among many others in political subdivisions)
Official scriptCyrillic alphabet
PresidentVladimir Putin
Prime MinisterMikhail Kasyanov
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 1st
17,075,200 km˛
 - Total (2002)
 - Density
Ranked 7th
Russia Day: June 12, 1990
Finalized: December 26, 1991
CurrencyRuble (RUR)
Time zoneUTC +2 to +12
National anthemHymn of the Russian Federation

Internet TLD.RU
Calling Code7

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Subdivisions
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture
8 Miscellaneous topics
9 External links


Main article: History of Russia

The earliest Slavic state in the region was that of the Kievan Rus. In the later Middle Ages it was the Muscovy principality that developed into an empire that from the 15th century onward slowly grew eastward into Asia. Under the tsars, Russia then became a major European power as Imperial Russia modernised and expanded westward from the 18th century onward. However, at the start of the 20th century Russia's power was declining and growing dissatisfaction amongst the population, combined with the military failure during World War I led to the Russian Revolution in 1917 that was followed by the proclamation of the Soviet Union under Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, and the Russian Civil War, in which the Communist or Red forces defeated the Czarist or White forces.

Lenin suffered a series of debilitating strokes which lead to his death in 1924. After a brief power struggle, leadership of the Soviet Union was consolidated by the dictator Joseph Stalin. Stalin's brutal reign would claim millions of lives, as known or suspected political opponents and military officers were executed or exiled to Siberia beginning from the Great Purges of the 1930s, also known in Russia as Ezhovschina, and until the very Stalin's death.

Following the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany during World War II, the Soviet Union would also develop into a dominant world power during the Cold War, functioning as the main ideological adversary to the United States. The two superpowers engaged in a lengthy geopolitical struggle by proxy for control of the hearts and minds of the Third World following the 1956 Suez Crisis. The Soviets created the Warsaw Pact to oppose NATO, and the two sides engaged in a lengthy and expensive arms race to stockpile more nuclear weapons than the other had. In 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis nearly triggered a war between the USSR and the United States, when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev placed offensive nuclear weapons in Cuba. The Soviets also were engaged in the space race against the USA. They launched Sputnik, the first satellite to orbit the Earth, and Col. Yuri Gagarin, the first human to orbit the Earth.

By the late 1980s, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev implemented reforms such as glasnost and perestroika, but these measures were unable to prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union after a failed military coup in 1991. The Russian Soviet Federal Republic declared its sovereignty of the Russian Federation on June 12, 1990. The USSR was officially dissolved on December 26, 1991.  Russia, as the Soviet Union's primary successor state, has since sought to maintain its global influence, but has been hampered by economic difficulties.


Main article: Politics of Russia

The Russian Federation is a federative democracy 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, 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 Federative Assembly or Federalnoye Sobraniye consists of an upper house known as the Federative Council (Soviet Federatsii), composed of 178 delegates serving a four-year term (two are appointed from each of the 89 subdivisions), and a lower house known as the State Duma (Gosudarstvennaya Duma), comprised of 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, Republics of Russia, Oblasts of Russia

The Russian Federation consists of a great number of different political subdivisions, 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 provinces known as oblasts and 6 regions (krays), in which are found 10 autonomous districts (okrugs) and 1 autonomous oblast. Beyond these there are 2 federal cities, Moscow and Saint 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. They are:

Their constituents are listed in Federal districts of Russia.


Main article:
Geography of Russia

The Russian Federation stretches across much of the north of the supercontinent of Eurasia. While it has such a disproportionate share of the world's Arctic and sub-Arctic areas, and probably 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 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:

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.

Spatial extent

Among the superlatives embodied by Russia, it is often mentioned 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 40-mile(60-km)-long spit of land separating the Gulf of Danzig (Zatoka Gdanska) from the Zalew Wislany. The "straight line" on the surface of the earth (i.e. great-circle) joining these two points has a length of about 4100 miles (6600 km), 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 5000 miles (8000 km), over 20 per cent further. This island is nevertheless further west than Big Diomede, by two time zones, and by over 44° of longitude, which 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. The 1998 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 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 privatisations organised under 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. Concerns and worries are expressed at the "selective" application of the law against individual businessmen.


Main article: Demographics of Russia

Russia is fairly sparsely populated 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 many different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples. Over 80% of the population is ethnically Russian; the remainder includes Bashkirs, Chechens, Chuvashes, Cossacks, Evenkis, Germans, Ingushes, Inuit, Jews, Kalmyks, Karelians, Koreans, Mordvins, Ossetians, Taimyrs, Tatars, 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

Miscellaneous topics

External links

Countries of the world  |  Europe  |  Asia