Russia is a country
about 1.8 times the size of the US occupying the vast area between Europe
and the North Pacific Ocean. It has an area of 10, 672,000 sq. miles
(17,075,200 sq.km) and a population of almost 150 million people.
From Eastern Europe to Northern Asia Russia
spans 11 Time Zones.
Occupying a large territory in Europe and
Asia Russia is spread over all climatic zones except tropical. It takes over
8 hours by plane to reach from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Pacific coast.
West of the Ural mountains from the Black Sea in the South to the Arctic
Ocean lies a broad plain with low hills where the historical core of the
Russian nation is located. East of the Urals from the border with
Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia to the Arctic coast lies Siberia - a scarcely
populated area covered by coniferous forest, swamps and tundra in the north
and mountainous terrain in the south.
The country possesses a wide array of natural
resources including major deposits of oil, coal, natural gas, many strategic
minerals, diamonds and timber. The economic zone along the 23,533 mile
(37,653 km) long coastline (Arctic and Pacific Oceans, Baltic, Black and
Caspian Seas) holds significant reserves of fish and oil and natural gas on
the sea shelf. Most of the country has a so called harsh continental climate
characterized by a big difference between summer and winter temperatures (it
gets indeed very cold in Siberia during winter, but it is also very hot in
the summer). Russia's geographical location presents a significant obstacle
to development - dry or cold climate, terrain, distance and remote location
from major sea lanes, all these factors contribute to the situation when
large parts of the country have almost no population and development. Russia
has only 8% of arable land.
Russia is a multiethnic society. The largest
ethnic groups include Russians (81.5%), Tatars (3.8%), Ukrainians (3%),
Chuvash (1.2%), Bashkir (0.9%), Byelorussians (0.8%), Moldavians (0.7%),
etc. Over 80% of the population name Russian - the official language of the
country - as their native. Other languages are used in ethnic minority
regions. Russia has equal religious diversity: with the main religions being
Russian Orthodox Christianity and Muslim overall over 150 confessions could
be found across the country.
Administratively, the Russian Federation is
divided into 21 republic, 6 krays (federal territories), 2 federal cities,
49 regions, 1 autonomous region and 10 autonomous areas.
The capital of the Russian Federation is
Moscow. With its 10 million population it is the largest city in the
country, its principal economic and political center - the seat of the
President, the government and the State Duma (Parliament).
The Russian Federation, which covers
one-eighth of the earth's surface, spans eastern Europe and northern Asia,
and ranks as the world's largest nation in terms of its territory. Russia is
followed by Canada, China and the United States. Russia's northern regions
are bordered by the Arctic Ocean, with the Baltic Sea bordering its western
territories. The Russian Far East is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, with the
Black Sea bordering southern Russia.
This country stretches 2,500-4,000 km from
north to south and another 9,000 km from west to east. Russia's westernmost
point is located on the Polish border; its easternmost point is situated on
Ratmanov Island (Bering Straits). The southernmost point is located on the
Russian-Azeri border, and the northernmost point is on Franz-Josef Land
Russia's borders stretch for a total of
58,562 km (with 14,253 km bordering other states and 44,309 km bordering the
Vast plains cover most of Russia's territory.
The Eastern European (Russian) Plain, replete with low plateaus is found in
western Russia. The Mid-Siberian plateau, which is gradually transformed
into the Central Yakut plain, can be found between two rivers, the Yenisei
and the Lena.
Mountain ranges are mostly located in
Russia's eastern regions and in some of its southern areas, as well. The
Ural mountain range, for one, constitutes a natural boundary separating
European and Asian Russia. Various mountain ranges making up the northern
slope of the Greater Caucasian mountain range are located in southern
Russia. Another mountain chain, including the Altai range, is to be found in
southern Siberia. The Kamchatka mountains (including some active volcanoes)
stretch along the Pacific coast.
Russia abounds in mineral resources whose
total potential value (in world prices) is estimated at an impressive $30
trillion. Russia produces 17 per cent of the world's crude oil, as well as
25-30 per cent of its natural gas, 6 per cent of all bituminous coal, 17 per
cent of commercial iron ore and 10-20 per cent of all non-ferrous, rare and
noble metals mined across the globe.
The largest oil-and-gas deposits are to be
found in Western and Eastern Siberia and on Sakhalin Island.
The list of Russian mineral deposits includes
gold, silver, platinum, cobalt, antimony, zinc, mercury, and many others.
Russian mineral resources are distributed rather evenly along the nation's
territory. For instance, copper-and-nickel ores are mined in the Northern
Caucasus, the Urals, Siberia and the Kola Peninsula.
Most of Russia's territory is located in the
temperate belt. The Arctic Ocean's islands, as well as this country's Arctic
territories, are located in the Arctic and sub-Arctic belts. At the same
time, a small section of the Caucasus' Black Sea coast is located in the
sub-tropical belt. Russia boasts just about every conceivable natural
climatic zone -- tundra, forest-tundra, forests, forest-steppes and
semi-deserts. In addition, the permafrost zone covers big expanses in
Siberia and the Far East.
The climate is mostly continental, with
average January temperatures ranging from 0 to minus five degrees Centigrade
in Western European Russia to minus 40-50 degrees Centigrade in east Yakutia
(Sakha Republic). Average July temperatures range from plus one degree
Centigrade on the northern Siberian coast to plus 24-25 degrees Centigrade
in Russia's CisCaspian lowland. Some 150-2,000 mm of precipitation fall
annually on Russian territory.
Russia boasts 120,000 rivers with a length of
10 km or greater each. The majority of all local rivers, major rivers
included (Ob, Irtysh, Yenisei and Lena) are located in the Arctic Ocean
basin. The Amur, Anadyr, Penzhina and some other rivers flow into the
Pacific Ocean. The Don, Kuban and Neva rivers flow into the seas bordering
the Atlantic Ocean. Russia's main river, the Volga, flows all the way to the
Generally, Russian rivers stretch for 3
million km, dumping nearly 4,000 cu. km. of water annually.
Around 2 million fresh- and salt-water lakes
are scattered across Russia. The largest lakes are the Caspian, Baikal,
Ladoga, Onega and Taimyr. Lake Baikal, which attracts scores of foreign
environmentalists, is the largest fresh-water lake in the world, having an
average depth of 730 m (and a maximum depth of 1,620 m).
Forests cover some 40 per cent of the entire
Russian land mass, with total timber reserves of 79 billion cu. m. The
largest forests can be found in the Siberian taiga, the Far East and the
northern European territories. Coniferous trees (fir trees, pine trees,
cedars, larches, firs, etc.) are the predominant tree varieties there. Mixed
forests are typical of mid-Russian regions.
For the most part Russia has turf and podzol
soils. Black-soil regions can also be found here, with the richest soils in
this category located in the steppes of south eastern European Russia, and
along the Western Siberian Plain. Chestnut-colored, greyish-brown soils, as
well as saline lands, are also located here.
Russia has the world's fifth largest
population (148.8 million people) after China, India, the United States and
Indonesia. It is populated by approximately 130 nations and ethnic groups,
including some 130 million Russians, over 5 million Tartars, nearly 4
million Ukrainians, 1.7 million Chuvashs, 1.7 million Jews, approximately
1.3 million Bashkirs, over 1 million Byelorussians and more than 1 million
All in all, 73 per cent of Russian citizens
live in urban areas.
The Russian Federation has 1,067 major
cities, with 13 of them inhabited by one million and more people each. The
largest cities are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk and
Moscow, which is Russia's largest political, industrial, research and
cultural center, is located on the banks of the Moskva River (between the
Oka and Volga rivers) and has a population of around 9 million.
Moscow was first mentioned in medieval
chronicles in 1147, becoming the seat of an appanage princedom in the
thirteenth century. Moscow's prince Ivan Kalita who ruled between 1325 and
1340 became one of the first Russian rulers to start the reunification
process. Under Kalita, Russian metropolitans transferred their residence
from Vladimir to Moscow, which thus became a political and clerical center,
serving as the main force in the Russian reunification process and
Peter the Great moved the Russian capital to
St. Petersburg many centuries later, though the people continued to regard
Moscow as Russia's heartland. Russian emperors were still being crowned
here, with local authorities founding the first national university in 1755
on Mikhail Lomonosov's initiative. In fact, education was free for talented
youths of all categories of the population.
The number of enterprises soared dramatically
in Moscow after the abolition of serfdom, and was further facilitated by the
construction of railroads. At the turn of the century ten railroads linked
Moscow to roads continue to operate even today.
Moscow became the capital of the Russian
Soviet Federative Socialist Republic on March 12, 1918 and on December 30,
1922, it became the capital of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The
municipal subway network was commissioned in 1935. The city's seven famous
sky-scrapers -- the Foreign Ministry and Railroads Ministry buildings, the
Ukraina and Leningradskaya hotels, the Vosstaniya Square and Kotelnicheskaya
Embankment highrise apartment buildings, and Moscow University -were
completed in the 1950s and the 1960s. As a result, the Moscow skyline was
changed completely. The Luzhniki stadium sprang up in the 1956. It hosted
the 22nd Olympic Games. The Ostankino TV tower, as well as the "corridor" of
high-rise buildings which constitute the Novy Arbat Avenue, were erected in
Moscow's ZIL and AZLK auto works produce cars
and trucks. The city's Krasny Proletary factory manufactures a wide array of
machine-tools, while the Dynamo and Manometer factories produce electrical
gadgets and instruments. Moscow also boasts the Serp i Molot Metallurgical
Works and has a well-developed chemical industry, which is centered at its
Kauchuk and Krasny Bogatyr factories, as well as impressive textile (the
Trekhgornaya Manufaktura factory) and food industries, etc.
The Russian Academy of Sciences, nearly 77
colleges, 44 professional theaters, Russia's largest state library and 68
museums (roughly 20 per cent of all national state-run museums) are also
located in Moscow.
The city is Russia's capital and the seat of
its President, parliament and government.
St. Petersburg is the nation's second major industrial, research and
cultural center after Moscow. In 1914 the city was renamed Petrograd, and
from 1924 to 1991 it was named Leningrad. Its population stands at about
St. Petersburg became Russia's capital in
1712, during which time all government organizations were relocated there.
The population grew quickly, as the city continued to develop. St.
Petersburg had a population of 95,000 by 1750. By 1853 over 500,000 people
inhabited the city.
The first Russian railroad linking St.
Petersburg with Tsarskoye Selo was opened in 1837. Another railroad
connected the city with Moscow in 1851. St. Petersburg has now become a
major Russian railroad junction, serving as the end port of the system of
inland waterways which snake their way through European Russia's
north-western region. It also serves as this country's most important Baltic
The maritime academy was founded here back in
1715. The engineering school was established in 1719, while the miners'
school sprang up in 1773. Road engineers' and forestry institutes were
established in 1809 and 1811, respectively. As of today, the city has about
50 colleges and 15 professional theatres.
The city also boasts quite a few world famous
architectural ensembles -- the Peter and Paul Fortress, the Alexander Nevsky
Laura, the Palace Square and Winter Palace, the Decembrists' Square, where a
monument to Peter the Great stands, St. Isaac's Cathedral, the Admiralty,
the Academy of Arts, as well as numerous bridges.
The 1905-1907 revolution began here, followed
by the February and October 1917 revolutions. During the Great Patriotic War
Leningrad withstood a 900-day siege by Nazi forces.
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