From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Российская Федерация
Rossiyskaya Federatsiya

Russian Federation
Flag of Russia Coat of arms of Russia
Flag Coat of arms
Motto: none
Anthem: Hymn of the Russian Federation
Location of Russia
(and largest city)
55°45′N 37°37′E
Official languages Russian official throughout nation; 30 others co-official in particular regions
Government Semi-presidential
federal republic
 -  President Vladimir Putin
 -  Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov
 -  East Slavs 600 
 -  Rus' Khaganate 830 
 -  Kievan Rus' 880 
 -  Vladimir-Suzdal 1168 
 -  Principality of Moscow 1276 
 -  Grand Duchy of Moscow 1340 
 -  Tsardom of Russia January 16, 1547 
 -  Russian Empire October 22, 1721 
 -  Union of Soviet Socialist Republics December 30, 1922 
 -  Russian Federation June 12, 1990 
 -  Total 17,075,400 km² (1st)
6,592,800 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 13
 -  2006 estimate 142,400,000 (8th)
 -  2002 census 145,184,000 
 -  Density 8.3 /km² (209th)
21.8 /sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2006 estimate
 -  Total $1.723 trillion (9th1)
 -  Per capita $12,100 (62nd)
Gini? (2002) 39.9 (medium
HDI (2004) 0.797 (medium) (65th)
Currency Ruble (RUB)
Internet TLD .ru (.su reserved)
Calling code +7
1 Rank based on November 2006 CIA data (IMF and Worldbank data is available only for 2005 year).

Russia (Russian: Росси́я, Rossiya; pronounced [rʌ'sʲi.jə]), also[1] the Russian Federation (Росси́йская Федера́ция, Rossiyskaya Federatsiya; [rʌ'sʲi.skə.jə fʲɪ.dʲɪ'ra.ʦɪ.jə],(Russian language) listen ), is a country that stretches over a vast expanse of Asia and Europe. With an area of 17,075,400 km², Russia is the largest country in the world, covering almost twice the territory of the next-largest country, Canada, and has significant mineral and energy resources. Russia has the world's eighth-largest population. Russia shares land borders with the following countries (counter-clockwise from northwest to southeast): Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, and North Korea. It is also close to the United States, Sweden, and Japan across relatively small stretches of water (the Bering Strait, the Baltic Sea, and La Pérouse Strait, respectively).

Formerly the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), a republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Russia is now the Federation of Russia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991. After the Soviet era, the area, population, and industrial production of the Soviet Union (then one of the world's two Cold War superpowers) that were located in Russia passed on to the Russian Federation.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia went from a superpower to a great power (although it is sometimes considered to be an energy superpower).[2] Russia is considered the Soviet Union's successor state in diplomatic matters (see Russia's membership in the United Nations) and is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. It is also one of the five recognized nuclear weapons states and possesses the world's largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (see Russia and weapons of mass destruction). Russia is the leading nation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a member of the G8 as well as other international organisations.


[edit] History

Main article: History of Russia

[edit] Ancient Russia

An approximative map of the cultures in European Russia at the arrival of the Varangians
An approximative map of the cultures in European Russia at the arrival of the Varangians

Prior to the 1st century, the vast lands of southern Russia were home to scattered tribes, such as Proto-Indo-Europeans and Scythians. Between the 3rd and 6th centuries, the steppes were overwhelmed by successive waves of nomadic invasions, led by warlike tribes which would often move on to Europe, as was the case with Huns and Turkish Avars. A Turkic people, the Khazars, ruled southern Russia through the 8th century. They were important allies of the Byzantine Empire and waged a series of successful wars against the Arab caliphates. A statue of a Vedic god recently excavated in the Volga region points to a link to India around the 9th century[3]

In this era, the term "Rhos" or "Rus" first came to be applied to the Varangians and later also to the Slavs who peopled the region. As well as one of the rulers who contributed to the name "rus" [...] In the tenth to eleventh centuries this state of Kievan Rus became the largest in Europe and one of the most prosperous, due to diversified trade with both Europe and Asia. The opening of new trade routes with the Orient at the time of the Crusades contributed to the decline and fragmentation of Kievan Rus by the end of the twelfth century.

In the 11th and 12th centuries, the constant incursions of nomadic Turkish tribes, such as the Kipchaks and the Pechenegs, led to the massive migration of Slavic populations from the fertile south to the heavily forested regions of the north, known as Zalesye. The medieval states of Novgorod Republic and Vladimir-Suzdal emerged as successors to Kievan Rus on those territories, while the middle course of the Volga River came to be dominated by the Muslim state of Volga Bulgaria. Like many other parts of Eurasia, these territories were overrun by the Mongol invaders, who formed the state of Golden Horde which would pillage the Russian principalities for over three centuries. Later known as the Tatars, they ruled the southern and central expanses of present-day Russia, while the territories of present-day Ukraine and Belarus were incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Poland, thus dividing the Russian people in the north from the Belarusians and Ukrainians in the west.

Similarly to the Balkans and Asia Minor, long-lasting nomadic 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, the Novgorodians repelled the Germanic crusaders who attempted to colonize the region.

[edit] Muscovy

Main article: Muscovy

Unlike its spiritual leader, the Byzantine Empire, Russia under the leadership of Moscow was able to revive and organize its own war of reconquest, finally subjugating its enemies and annexing their territories. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Muscovite Russia remained the only more or less functional Christian state on the Eastern European frontier, allowing it to claim 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 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, Muscovy inflicted a defeat on the Mongol-Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo (1380). 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 the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Russian state set the national goal to return all Russian territories lost as a result of the Tatar invasion and to protect the southern borderland against attacks of Crimean Tatars and other Turkic peoples. The noblemen, receiving a manor from the sovereign, were obliged to serve in the military. The manor system became a basis for the nobiliary horse army.

In 1547, Ivan the Terrible was officially crowned the first Tsar of Russia. During his long reign, Ivan annexed the Tatar khanates (Kazan, Astarkhan) along the Volga River and transformed Russia into a multiethnic and multiconfessional state. By the end of the century, Russian Cossacks established the first Russian settlements in Western Siberia. But his rule was also marked by the atrocities against both the nobility and the common people on vast scale which eventually, after his death, lead to the civil war of the Time of Troubles in early 1600s. In the middle of the seventeenth century there were Russian settlements in Eastern Siberia, on Chukchi Peninsula, along the Amur River, on the Pacific coast, and the strait between North America and Asia was first sighted by a Russian explorer in 1648. The colonization of the Asian territories was largely peaceful, in sharp contrast to the build-up of other colonial empires of the time.

[edit] Imperial Russia

Main article: Imperial Russia
View of Neva River in Saint Petersburg
View of Neva River in Saint Petersburg
Three generations of a Russian family, c. 1910
Three generations of a Russian family, c. 1910

Muscovite control of the nascent nation continued after the Polish intervention under the subsequent Romanov dynasty, beginning with Tsar Michael Romanov in 1613. Peter the Great (ruled in) defeated Sweden in the Great Northern War, forcing it to cede Ingria, Estland, and Livland. It was in Ingria that he founded a new capital, Saint Petersburg. Peter succeeded in bringing ideas and culture from Western Europe to a severely underdeveloped Russia. After his reforms, Russia emerged as a major European power.

Catherine the Great, ruling from 1762 to 1796, continued the Petrine efforts at establishing Russia as one of the great powers of Europe. Examples of its eighteenth-century European involvement include the War of Polish Succession and the Seven Years' War. In the wake of the Partitions of Poland, Russia had taken territories with the ethnic Belarusian and Ukrainian population, earlier parts of Kievan Rus'. As a result of the victorious Russian-Turkish wars, Russia's borders expanded to the Black Sea and Russia set its goal on the protection of Balkan Christians against a Turkish yoke. In 1783, Russia and the Georgian Kingdom (which was almost totally devastated by Persian and Turkish invasions) signed the treaty of Georgievsk according to which Georgia received the protection of Russia.

In 1812, having gathered nearly half a million soldiers from France, as well as from all of its conquered states in Europe, Napoleon invaded Russia but, after taking Moscow, was forced to retreat back to Europe. Almost 90% of the invading forces died as a result of on-going battles with the Russian army, guerillas and winter weather. The Russian armies ended their pursuit of the enemy by taking his capital, Paris. The officers of the Napoleonic wars brought back to Russia the ideas of liberalism and even attempted to curtail the tsar's powers during the abortive Decembrist revolt (1825), which was followed by several decades of political repression. Another result of the Napoleonic wars was the incorporation of Bessarabia, Finland, and Congress Poland into the Russian Empire.

The perseverance of Russian serfdom and the conservative policies of Nicholas I of Russia impeded the development of Imperial Russia in the mid-nineteenth century. As a result, the country was defeated in the Crimean War, 1853–1856, by an alliance of major European powers, including Britain, France, Ottoman Empire, and Piedmont-Sardinia. Nicholas's successor Alexander II (1855–1881) was forced to undertake a series of comprehensive reforms and issued a decree abolishing serfdom in 1861. The Great Reforms of Alexander's reign spurred increasingly rapid capitalist development and Sergei Witte's attempts at industrialization. The Slavophile mood was on the rise, spearheaded by Russia's victory in the Russo-Turkish War, which forced the Ottoman Empire to recognize the independence of Romania, Serbia and Montenegro and autonomy of Bulgaria.

The failure of agrarian reforms and suppression of the growing liberal intelligentsia were continuing problems however, and on the eve of World War I, the position of Tsar Nicholas II and his dynasty appeared precarious. Repeated devastating defeats of the Russian army in the Russo-Japanese War and World War I, and the consequent deterioration of the economy led to widespread rioting in the major cities of the Russian Empire, and ultimately to the overthrow of the Tsar in February 1917.

At the close of this Russian Revolution of 1917, a Marxist political faction called the Bolsheviks seized power in Petrograd and Moscow under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin. The Bolsheviks changed their name to the Communist Party. A bloody civil war ensued, pitting the Bolsheviks' Red Army against a loose confederation of anti-socialist monarchist and bourgeois forces known as the White Army. The Red Army triumphed, and the Soviet Union was formed in 1922.

[edit] Russia as part of the Soviet Union

St. Basil's Cathedral and the Spasskaya Tower of the Kremlin in Moscow's Red Square
St. Basil's Cathedral and the Spasskaya Tower of the Kremlin in Moscow's Red Square

The Soviet Union was meant to be a trans-national worker's state free from nationalism. The concept of Russia as a separate national entity was therefore not emphasized in the early Soviet Union. Although Russian institutions and cities certainly remained dominant, many non-Russians participated in the new government at all levels.

[edit] Stalin

One of these was a Georgian named Joseph Stalin. After Lenin's death in 1924, a brief power struggle ensued, during which Stalin gradually eroded the various checks and balances which had been designed into the Soviet political system and assumed dictatorial power by the end of the decade. Leon Trotsky and almost all other Old Bolsheviks from the time of the Revolution were killed or exiled. At the end of 1930s, Stalin launched the Great Purges, a massive series of political repressions. Millions of people whom Stalin and local authorities suspected of being a threat to their power were executed or exiled to Gulag labor camps in remote areas of Siberia or Central Asia.

Stalin forced rapid industrialization of the largely rural country and collectivization of its agriculture. In 1928, Stalin introduced his "First Five-Year Plan" for modernizing the Soviet economy. Most economic output was immediately diverted to establishing heavy industry. Civilian industry was modernized and many heavy weapon factories were established. The plan worked, in some sense, as the Soviet Union successfully transformed from an agrarian economy to a major industrial powerhouse in an unbelievably short span of time, but widespread misery and famine ensued for many millions of people as a result of the severe economic upheaval.

The Soviet Union's involvement in World War II, known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War, started with the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 22, 1941. The German army had considerable success in the early stages of the campaign, but they suffered defeat when they reached the outskirts of Moscow. The following attack on Leningrad also failed, and nazi troops decided to turn south - toward rich oil fields of Caspian Sea. The Red Army then stopped the Nazi offensive at the devastating Battle of Stalingrad in winter of 1942-43, which became the decisive turning point for Germany's fortunes in the war. The Soviets then not only cleared their pown territory from nazi troops but decided to liberate european nations suffering occupation too. They then drove through Eastern Europe and in spring of 1995 captured Berlin forcing Germany to unconditionally surrender in May of 1945 (see Great Patriotic War). When russian troops entered Berlin, Hitler (hiding in bunkers from heavy bombardment) unwilling to evacuate nor to accept defeat commited suicide. During the war, the Soviet Union lost more than 27 million citizens (including eighteen million civilians).

Although ravaged by the war, the Soviet Union emerged from the conflict as an acknowledged superpower. The Red Army occupied Eastern Europe after the war, including the eastern half of Germany. Stalin installed loyal communist governments in these satellite states.

During the immediate postwar period, the Soviet Union first rebuilt and then expanded its economy, with control always exerted exclusively from Moscow. The Soviets extracted heavy war reparations from the areas of Germany under their control, mostly in the form of machinery and industrial equipment. The Soviet Union consolidated its hold on Eastern Europe (see Eastern bloc). The United States helped the Western European countries establish democracies, and both countries sought to achieve economic, political, and ideological dominance over the Third World. The ensuing struggle became known as the Cold War, which turned the Soviet Union's wartime allies, the United Kingdom and the United States, into its foes.

Stalin died in early 1953 presumably without leaving any instructions for the selection of a successor. His closest associates officially decided to rule the Soviet Union jointly, but the secret police chief Lavrenty Beria appeared poised to seize dictatorial control. General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev and other leading politicians organized an anti-Beria alliance and staged a coup d'état. Beria was arrested in June 1953 and executed later that year; Khrushchev became the undisputed leader of the Soviet Union.

[edit] Khrushchev

Khruschev and Yuri Gagarin
Khruschev and Yuri Gagarin

Under Khrushchev, the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, and the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth aboard the first manned spacecraft, Vostok 1. Khrushchev's reforms in agriculture and administration, however, were generally unproductive. Foreign policy toward China and the United States suffered reverses, notably the Cuban Missile Crisis provoked by US - when Khrushchev began installing nuclear missiles in Cuba in respond to the United States installed Jupiter missiles next to Russian border in Turkey. This incident nearly provoked a war with the Soviet Union, and was averted by intense diplomatic negotiations between US and Soviet Union during which US promised to remove missiles. Over the course of several angry outbursts at the United Nations (like one when american U2 spy plane flew over Russia and was shut down, but US did not want to acknowledge the spying) Khrushchev was increasingly seen by his colleagues as belligerent, boorish, and dangerous. The remainder of the Soviet leadership removed him from power in 1964.

[edit] Brezhnev

Following the ousting of Khrushchev, another period of rule by collective leadership ensued until Leonid Brezhnev established himself in the early 1970s as the pre-eminent figure in Soviet politics. Brezhnev is frequently derided by historians for stagnating the development of the Soviet Union (see "Brezhnev stagnation"). Others have acknowledged that despite its inertia and repression (though very mild relative to the Stalin years), the Brezhnev era did offer a relative prosperity to a populace and leadership battered by decades of war, famine, collectivization and crash industrialization, deadly political crises, arbitrary mass murder and arrest, and the volatility of the Khrushchev years. In contrast to the revolutionary spirit that accompanied the birth of the Soviet Union, the prevailing mood of the Soviet leadership at the time of Brezhnev's death in 1982 was one of aversion to change--partly because the USSR's economic woes were proving to be deeply systemic and hence immune to reform within the context of the Stalinist-Soviet system.

[edit] Gorbachev

In the mid 1980s, the reform-minded Mikhail Gorbachev came to power. He introduced the landmark policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring), in an attempt to modernize Soviet communism. Glasnost meant that the harsh restrictions on free speech that had characterized most of the Soviet Union's existence were removed, and open political discourse and criticism of the government became possible again. Perestroika meant sweeping economic reforms designed to decentralize the planning of the Soviet economy. However, the Stalinist system was probably beyond repair, and the Gorbachev reforms started in motion forces of change that demonstrated that meaningful reform would eventually threaten Communist Party hegemony, i.e. the Soviet system would not survive any successful reform program intact. His initiatives also provoked strong resentment amongst conservative elements of the government, and an in August of 1991 unsuccessful military coup that attempted to remove Gorbachev from power instead led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Boris Yeltsin came to power and declared the end of exclusive Communist rule. The USSR splintered into fifteen independent republics, and was officially dissolved in December of 1991 (see History of the Soviet Union).

Since then, Russia has struggled in its efforts to build a democratic political system and a market economy to replace the strict centralized social, political, and economic controls of the Soviet era. Corruption has run rampant, and the Yeltsin government conspired with insiders to loot countless billions in cash and assets from the State. Under Vladimir Putin, (who stabilized falling apart Yeltsyn regime) despite that political freedom has waned considerably, economy and defense greatly improved, and currently Russia enjoys state of rapid growth and increasing prosperity.[citation needed]

[edit] Post-Soviet Russia

See also: Politics of Russia

Prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Boris Yeltsin had been elected President of Russia in June 1991 in the first direct presidential election in Russian history. In October 1991, as Russia was on the verge of independence, Yeltsin announced that Russia would proceed with radical market-oriented reform along the lines of "shock therapy".

After the disintegration of the USSR, the Russian economy went through a crisis. Russia took up the responsibility for settling the USSR's external debts, even though its population made up just half of the population of the USSR at the time of its dissolution. The largest state enterprises (petroleum, metallurgy, and the like) were controversially privatized for the small sum of $US 600 million, far less than they were worth, while the majority of the population plunged into poverty.

Russia's Congress of People's Deputies, in which the Communist presence was the strongest, attempted to impeach Yeltsin on March 26, 1993. Yeltsin's opponents gathered more than 600 votes for impeachment, but fell 72 votes short. On September 21, 1993, Yeltsin disbanded the Supreme Soviet and the Congress of People's Deputies by decree, which was illegal under the constitution. On the same day there was a military showdown: the Russian constitutional crisis of 1993. With military help, Yeltsin held control. The conflict resulted in a number of civilian casualties, but was resolved in Yeltsin's favor. According to different sources, the total number of deceased was between 300 and 2,000 people. Elections were held and the current Constitution of the Russian Federation was adopted on December 12, 1993.

Modern Moscow-City under construction
Modern Moscow-City under construction

The 1990s were plagued by armed ethnic conflicts in the North Caucasus. Such conflicts took a form of separatist insurrections against federal power (most notably in Chechnya), or of ethnic/clan conflicts between local groups (e.g., in North Ossetia-Alania between Ossetians and Ingushs, or between different clans in Chechnya). Since the Chechen separatists declared independence in the early 1990s, an intermittent guerrilla war (First Chechen War, Second Chechen War) has been fought between disparate Chechen groups and the Russian military. Some of these groups have grown increasingly Islamist over the course of the struggle. The total number of refugees and internally displaced persons from these territories today is about 100,000 people.

After Yeltsin's presidency in the 1990s, the recently appointed Prime Minister (who was also head of the FSB from July 1998 through August 1999) Vladimir Putin was elected in 2000. Although President Putin is still the most popular Russian politician, with a 70% approval rating, his policies raised serious concerns about civil society and human rights in Russia. The West--particularly the United States--expressed growing worries about the state control of the Russian media through Kremlin-friendly companies, government influence on elections, and law enforcement abuses.[4]

At the same time, high oil prices and growing internal demand boosted Russian economic growth, stimulating significant economic expansion abroad and helping to finance increased military spending. Putin's presidency has shown improvements in the Russian standard of living, as opposed to the 1990s.[5] Even with these economic improvements, the government is criticized for lack of will to fight wide-spread crime and corruption and to renovate deteriorated urban areas.

[edit] Politics

Main article: Politics of Russia

The politics of Russia (the Russian Federation) take place in a framework of a federal presidential republic, whereby 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. Most of this happens in Moscow from within the Kremlin.

[edit] Subdivisions

Federal subjects
Map of the subdivisions of the Russian Federation
Map of the subdivisions of the Russian Federation

Russian Federation comprises 86 federal subjects, namely:

Federal districts

Federal subjects are grouped into federal districts, four in Europe and three in Asia. Unlike the federal subjects, the federal districts are not a subnational level of government, but are a level of administration of the federal government.

See also

[edit] Geography and climate

Main article: Geography of Russia

[edit] Topography

The Russian Federation stretches across much of the north of the supercontinent of Eurasia. Although it contains a large share of the world's Arctic and sub-Arctic areas, and therefore has less population, economic activity, and physical variety per unit area than most countries, the great area south of these still accommodates a great variety of landscapes and climates. The mid-annual temperature is -5.5°C (22°F).[citation needed] For comparison, the mid-annual temperature in Iceland is +1.2°C (34°F) and in Sweden is +4°C (39°F), although the variety of climates within Russia makes such a comparison somewhat misleading, due to the extremely low temperatures in Siberia. Areas in the south of Russia have a subtropical climate, where year-round temperatures do not fall below +8°C. The average summer high temperature ranges between 26°C and 32°C (80 to 88°F) with occasional extreme heat in some interior locations exceeding 51°C (112°F)

Most of the land consists of vast plains, both in the European part and the part of Asian territory 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. The permafrost (areas of Siberia and the Far East) occupies more than half of the territory of Russia. 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 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 kilometres (23,000 mi) along the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, as well 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 and archipelagos include Novaya Zemlya, the Franz Josef Land, the New Siberian Islands, Wrangel Island, the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin. (See List of islands of Russia). The Diomede Islands (one controlled by Russia, the other by the United States) are just three kilometers (1.9 mi) apart, and Kunashir Island (controlled by Russia but claimed by Japan) is about twenty kilometres (12 mi) from Hokkaidō.

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.

[edit] Borders

Map of the Russian Federation
Map of the Russian Federation

The most practical way to describe Russia is as a main part (a large contiguous portion with its off-shore islands) and an exclave, Kaliningrad, (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 to 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 to 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, provide no access to the high seas.

[edit] Spatial extent

The two most widely separated points in Russia are about 8,000 km (5,000 mi) apart along a geodesic (i.e. shortest line between two points on the Earth's surface). These points are: the boundary with Poland on a 60-km-long (40-mi-long) spit of land separating the Gulf of Gdańsk from the Vistula Lagoon; and the farthest southeast of the Kurile Islands, a few miles off Hokkaidō Island, Japan.

The points which are furthest separated in longitude are "only" 6,600 km (4,100 mi) apart along a geodesic. These points are: in the West, the same spit; in the East, the Big Diomede Island (Ostrov Ratmanova).

The Russian Federation spans eleven time zones.

[edit] Largest cities

As of 2005 Russia has 12 cities with over a million inhabitants.

Rank City/town Russian Federal subject Population
1 Moscow Москва (Moskva) Moscow 10,342,151
2 Saint Petersburg Санкт-Петербург (Sankt Peterburg) Saint Petersburg 4,661,219
3 Novosibirsk Новосибирск Novosibirsk Oblast 1,425,508
4 Nizhny Novgorod Нижний Новгород Nizhny Novgorod Oblast 1,311,252
5 Yekaterinburg Екатеринбург Sverdlovsk Oblast 1,293,537
6 Samara Самара Samara Oblast 1,157,880
7 Omsk Омск Omsk Oblast 1,134,016
8 Kazan Казань Republic of Tatarstan 1,105,289
9 Chelyabinsk Челябинск Chelyabinsk Oblast 1,077,174
10 Rostov-na-Donu Ростов-на-Дону Rostov Oblast 1,068,267
11 Ufa Уфа Republic of Bashkortostan 1,042,437
12 Volgograd Волгоград Volgograd Oblast 1,011,417
See also: List of cities in Russia and List of cities and towns in Russia by population

[edit] Economy

Main article: Economy of Russia
Map of the electric grid during the Soviet era.
Map of the electric grid during the Soviet era.

[edit] Introduction

More than a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia is now trying to further develop a market economy and achieve more consistent economic growth. Russia saw its comparatively developed centrally planned economy contract severely for five years, as the executive and the legislature dithered over the implementation of reforms and Russia's aging industrial base faced a serious decline.

[edit] Crash

Main article: Russian financial crisis

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia's first slight recovery, showing signs of open-market influence, occurred in 1997. In 1998, however, the Asian financial crisis culminated in the August depreciation of the ruble. This was followed by a debt default by the government in 1998, and a sharp deterioration in living standards for most of the population. Consequently, 1998 was marked by recession and an intense capital flight.

[edit] Recovery

Nevertheless, the economy started recovering in 1999. The recovery was greatly assisted by the weak ruble, which made imports expensive and boosted local production. Then it entered a phase of rapid economic expansion, the GDP growing by an average of 6.7% annually in 1999–2005 on the back of higher petroleum prices, a weaker ruble, and increasing service production and industrial output. The country is presently running a huge trade surplus, which has been helped by protective import barriers, and rampant corruption which ensures that it is almost impossible for foreign and local SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) to import goods without the help of local specialist import firms, such as the Russia Import Company. Some import barriers are expected to be abolished after Russia's accession to the WTO.

The recent recovery, made possible due to high world oil prices, along with a renewed government effort in 2000 and 2001 to advance lagging structural reforms, has 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 about 80% of exports, leaving the country vulnerable to swings in world prices. Industrial military exports after undergoing sharp contraction is now the major non-commodity export. In recent years, however, the economy has also been driven by growing internal consumer demand that has increased by over 12% annually in 2000–2005, showing the strengthening of its own internal market.

The economic development of the country has been extremely uneven: the Moscow region contributes one-third of the country's GDP while having only a tenth of its population. GDP increased by 7.2% in 2004, 6.4% in 2005 and about 7% in 2006.

[edit] Recent economy

The country's GDP (PPP) soared to $1.5 trillion in 2004, making it the ninth largest economy in the world and the fifth largest in Europe. If the current growth rate is sustained, the country is expected to become the second largest European economy after Germany and the sixth largest in the world within a few years.

In 2005, according to the Federal Service of State Statistics, GDP reached $765 billion nominally (21.7 trillion rubles), equal to $1.6 trillion in international dollars (PPP; purchasing power parity). Inflation was 10.9% percent. Expenditures of the consolidated budget have reached 5942 billion rubles ($215 billion). The government plans to reduce the tax burden, although the time and scale of such a reduction remains undecided. However, some experts ([3] [4]) believe that official statistic underestimates Russian GDP by 28% because of inaccuracy of decades old statistical system (for example, it didn’t count small enterprises and whole sectors of new economy). IMSG estimated that nominal Russian GDP reached $970 billion in 2005 [5].

In 2006, GDP grew to $1018 billion nominally (26.31 trillion rubles; 2.04 trillion in PPP dollars)[6].

1000 ruble note, depicting Yaroslavl.
1000 ruble note, depicting Yaroslavl.

In 2005 Russia exported 241.3 billion dollars and imported 98.5 billion dollars. This means that Russia registered a trade surplus of 142.8 billion dollars in 2005, up about 33% from 2004's foreign trade surplus of $106.1 billion dollars.[7]

In 2006, export grew to $304 billion, import to $164 billion; foreign trade surplus grew 19% to $141 billion [8]

It's estimated what direct foreign investment reach at least $23 billion in 2006[9], overall foreign investments reached $55 billion[10].

On February 28, 2007 Russia's international reserves reached $314,5 billion nominally and projected to grow to $350–450 billion by the end of 2007 [11][12].

Thanks to high oil prices, Russian oil exports totaled $117 billion in 2005 while gas exports totaled $32 billion in the same year. That means that oil and gas made up 60% of total Russian exports in 2005.[13]

Knowing the importance of oil and gas to the economy, the Stabilization Fund of the Russian Federation was formed by the government in January 2004. This fund takes in revenues from oil and gas exports and is designed to help offset oil market volatility. This fund was also set up in order to prevent the ruble from appreciating. The Stabilization Fund (SF) grew to $76.6 billion in November 2006. Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov said in October 2006 the fund will continue to increase over the coming years, and will exceed $149 billion by late 2007 and about $260.4 billion by the end of 2009. Russia is paying off its foreign debt mainly from the Stabilization Fund, which hit $76.9 billion as of July 1. Russia repaid the bulk of its outstanding debt to the Paris Club of Creditor Nations on August 18-21. The debt totaled $1.9 billion as of October 1, compared to $23.7 billion on July 1. [14]

According to the Federal State Statistics Service of Russia, the monthly nominal average salary in January 2007 was 11,410 rubles (about $437 nominally; about $793 PPP), 26.6 percent higher than in January 2006[15].

For the year of 2007, Russia's GDP is projected to grow to about $1.2 trillion nominally (31.2 trillion rubles) that would be about $2.3 trillion PPP and would make Russia the second largest economy in Europe. [16]

[edit] Challenge

Some perceive the greatest challenge facing the Russian economy to be encouraging the development of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in a business climate with a young and less-than-sufficient functional banking system. Many of Russia's banks are owned by oligarchs, who often use the deposits to lend to their own businesses. The 2005 Milken Institute's ratings place Russia at the 51st place in the world, out of 121 countries by the availability of capital.

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.

However, about twenty-five of the biggest banks of Russia get entry into Top 1000 banks of the world by The Banker [17]. Many more Russian banks have very high international ratings by Moody's and Fitch, including "investment" level.

Nevsky Prospekt in Saint Petersburg at night.
Nevsky Prospekt in Saint Petersburg at night.

Other problems include disproportional economic development of Russia's own regions. While the huge capital region of Moscow is a bustling, affluent metropolis living on the cutting edge of technology with a per capita income rapidly approaching that of the leading Eurozone economies, much of the country, especially its indigenous and rural communities in Asia, lags significantly behind. Market integration is nonetheless making itself felt in some other sizeable cities such as Saint Petersburg, Kaliningrad, and Ekaterinburg, and recently also in the adjacent rural areas.

The arrest of Russia's wealthiest businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky on charges of fraud and corruption in relation to the large-scale privatizations organized under then-President Yeltsin, contrary to some expectations, has not caused most foreign investors to worry about the stability of the Russian economy. Most of the large fortunes currently in evidence in Russia are the product of either acquiring government assets at particularly low costs or gaining concessions from the government. Other countries have expressed concerns and worries at the "selective" application of the law against individual businessmen, though government actions have been received positively in Russia. Russia occupies 122th place among 157 countries in the Index of Economic Freedom.

[edit] Prospect

Blue flames of a burner on a natural gas stove
Blue flames of a burner on a natural gas stove
Pumpjack pumping an oil well
Pumpjack pumping an oil well

Encouraging foreign investment is also a major challenge due to legal, cultural, linguistic, economic and political peculiarities of the country. Nevertheless, there has been a significant inflow of capital in recent years from many European investors attracted by cheaper land, labor and higher growth rates than in the rest of Europe

Very high levels of education and societal involvement achieved by the majority of the population, including women and minorities, secular attitudes, mobile class structure, and better integration of various minorities into the mainstream culture set Russia far apart from the majority of the so-called developing countries and even some developed nations.

The country is also benefiting from rising oil prices and has been able very substantially to reduce its formerly huge foreign debt. However, equal redistribution of capital gains from the natural resource industries to other sectors is still a problem. Nonetheless, since 2003, exports of natural resources started decreasing in economic importance as the internal market has strengthened considerably, largely stimulated by intense construction, as well as consumption of increasingly diverse goods and services. Yet teaching customers and encouraging consumer spending is a relatively tough task for many provincial areas where consumer demand is primitive. However, some laudable progress has been made in larger cities, especially in the clothing, food, and entertainment industries.

Additionally, some international firms are investing in Russia. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Russia had nearly $26 billion in cumulative foreign direct investment inflows during the period (of which $11.7 billion occurred in 2004).

Russia faces considerable income inequalities that hinder Russia's potential to become a more diversified economy.

While Russia possesses vast mineral and energy wealth, this does not come without some price both to Russia and to the greater globe.[6] Particularly, oil and gas extraction exacts a heavy cost to the health of the land and people.[6] Drilling waste water, mud, and sludges are accumulated, annual volumes have been estimated at 1.7 million tons of chemical reagents contaminating 25 million cubic meters of topsoil.[6] Considerable geomechanical disturbances, contamination of soils and water, and multiple increases of contaminated waste water ejected into suface water streams, is a serious problem offsetting Russia's profits from the industry.[6] It has been estimated that between 1991-1999 the volume of contaminated waste waters from the Russian oil industry amounted to 200 million cubic meters.[6] Complete utilization of co-extracted gas in oil extraction does not exceed 80% in Russia, it has been variously estimated that annually 5-17 billion cubic meters of un-utilized gas extracted alongside oil is burnt in "gas torches", with 400,000 tons or more hazardous substances released into the atmosphere from this each year, creating the double impact of wasted resource and negative environmental effect.[7][6] 560 million tons of methane is estimated to leak annually into the atmosphere from oil and gas extraction, not counting accidental outbursts and pipe breakage.[6] Other valuable industries also have their costs, such as the coal industry's release of vast quantities of hazardous, toxic, and radioactive materials.[6] Also the Russian gold industry, with Russia being the only nation for at least a century with high extraction of gold from placer deposits, and having 4000+ large deposits, inevitably creates problems for the river systems.[6] The associated pollution from using mass explosions in mining also can be a problem.[6] Overall, the extensive mineral wealth and riches, brings with it both great benefit to the Russian economy & people, and the greater globe, yet also several difficult problems to be dealt with.[6]

[edit] Demographics

Despite its comparatively high population, Russia has a low average population density due to its enormous size. Population is densest in the European part of Russia, in the Ural Mountains area, and in the south-western parts of Siberia; the south-eastern part of Siberia that meets the Pacific Ocean, known as the Russian Far East, is sparsely populated, with its southern part being densest. The Russian Federation is home to as many as 160 different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples. As of 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. The remaining 10.3% includes those who did not specify their ethnicity as well as (in alphabetical order) Assyrians, Avars, Azeris, Belarusians, Bulgarians, Buryats, Chinese, Cossacks, Estonians, Evenks, Finns, Georgians, Germans, Greeks, Ingushes, Inuit, Jews, Kalmyks, Karelians, Kazakhs, Koreans, Kyrgyz, Lithuanians, Latvians, Maris, Mongolians, Mordvins, Nenetses, Ossetians, Poles, Romanians, Tajiks, Tuvans, Turkmen, Udmurts, Uzbeks, Yakuts, and others. Nearly all of these groups live compactly in their respective regions; Russians and to a lesser extent Tatars are the only people significantly represented in every region of the country.

In October 2005, the federal statistics agency reported that Russia's population has shrunk by more than half a million people dipping to 143 million.[8] The major reason for this decline is the high death rate, attributable mostly to widespread alcohol abuse.[9] Russia is the second country in the world by the number of immigrants from abroad, mostly from the former Soviet Union, and immigration is increasingly seen as necessary to sustain the country's population.[10]

The Russian language is the only official state language, but the individual republics have often made their native language co-official next to Russian. The Cyrillic alphabet is the only official script, which means that these languages must be written in Cyrillic in official texts.

[edit] Religion

Main article: Religion in Russia
Kazan Kremlin harmoniously combines elements of Eastern Orthodox and Muslim cultures.
Kazan Kremlin harmoniously combines elements of Eastern Orthodox and Muslim cultures.

Russian Orthodoxy is the dominant religion in the Federation. Islam is the second most widespread religion, predominating in the Volga region and Caucasus. Other religions include various Protestant churches, Judaism, Roman Catholicism and Buddhism. Induction into religion takes place primarily along ethnic lines. Ethnic Russians are mainly Orthodox whereas most people of Turkic extraction are Sunni Muslim. Kalmyks are the only predominantly Buddhist people in Europe. However, due to decades of suppression of religion during Soviet times, religious adherence remains nominal for most of the population.

[edit] Culture

Main article: Culture of Russia

[edit] Icon painting

The Theotokos of Vladimir, one of the most venerated of Orthodox Christian icons of the Virgin Mary.
The Theotokos of Vladimir, one of the most venerated of Orthodox Christian icons of the Virgin Mary.

Russian icon painting was inherited from the art of the Byzantine churches, and it soon became an offshoot version of the mosaic and fresco traditions. Icon paintings in Russia attempted to help people with their prayers without idolizing the figure in the painting. The most comprehensive collection of Icon art is found at the Tretyakov Gallery.[11]

Rather than being a mere imitation, Russian icons had a peculiar style and masters such as Andrei Rublev took the icon to new heights.

[edit] Soviet Art

Main article: Soviet Art

During the Russian Revolution a movement was initiated to put all arts to service of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The instrument for this was created just days before the October Revolution, known as Proletkult, an abbreviation for "Proletarskie kulturno-prosvetitelnye organizatsii" (Proletarian Cultural and Enlightenment Organizations). A prominent theorist of this movement was Alexander Bogdanov. Initially Narkompros (ministry of education), which was also in charge of the arts, supported Proletkult. However the latter sought too much independence from the ruling Communist Party of Bolsheviks, gained negative attitude of Vladimir Lenin, by 1922 declined considerably, and was eventually disbanded in 1932. After Stalin died Soviet Art went into decline as gradually Russians artists became more independent of the state and in the 1980s the government ruled that it could not restrict what Russians artists could paint.

[edit] Architecture

Main article: Russian architecture
Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra in Sergiyev Posad is an example of Naryshkin baroque in Russia.
Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra in Sergiyev Posad is an example of Naryshkin baroque in Russia.

Russian architecture was influenced predominantly by the Byzantine architecture until the Fall of Constantinople. At the turn of the 15th and 16th century, Aristotle Fioravanti and other Italian architects introduced Renaissance trends. The reigns of Ivan the Terrible and Boris Godunov saw the development of tent-like churches culminating in Saint Basil's Cathedral, as shown above. In the 17th century, the "fiery style" of ornamentation flourished in Moscow and Yaroslavl, gradually paving the way for the Naryshkin baroque of the 1690s.

The 18th-century taste for rococo architecture led to the splendid works of Bartolomeo Rastrelli and his followers. During the reign of Catherine the Great and her grandson Alexander I, the city of Saint Petersburg was transformed into an outdoor museum of Neoclassical architecture; the 19th century was dominated by the Byzantine and Russian Revival. Prevalent styles of the 20th century were the Art Nouveau (Fyodor Shekhtel), Constructivism (Aleksey Shchusev and Konstantin Melnikov), and the Stalinist Empire style (Boris Iofan).

[edit] Cinema

While Russia was involved in filmmaking as early as most of the other nations in the West, most notably "Stenka Razin" in 1908, it only came into prominence during the 1920s when it explored editing as the primary mode of cinematic expression. This resulted in world renouned films such as "Battleship Potemkin," "Mother," and "Circus." Unfortunately this outburst of creativity and innovation was short lived. In the 30's the censorship was allow only socialist realism. Which did have one incredible hit titled "Chapaev." Chapaev was so popular that the actor who played the main characted in this movie, a leader in the red army during the Russian revolutin, actually called soldiers in WWII in character to lift their spirits.

During the soviet years notable releases include "Ballad of a Soldier," "Siberiade," and "Mirror". The Soviet Union also produced some of the worlds most innovative directors, most notably Eisenstein, and Tartakovsky. "Soviet Cinema" should not be used as a synonym for "Russian Cinema". Although Russian language films predominated, several republics developed lively and unique cinemas, while others did not. Most notable for their republican cinema were Armenia, Georgia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and, to a lesser degree, Belarus and Moldova.

Since the dissolution of The Soviet Union, Russian cinema has greatly transformed. Although still largely funded by the state, the topics and dynamic have been updated. During the '90s, Russian filmmaking decreased sharply, going from hundreds to double digits, though still making occasional hits like "Brother." However, recent years have brought increased viewership and subsequent prosperity to the industry through exploration of contemporary subjects like sexuality in the 2004 film You, I Love. The future of Russian cinema is promising.

[edit] Music

Main article: Music of Russia

Russia is a large and culturally diverse country with dozens of ethnic groups; each with their own forms of folk music. During the period of Soviet domination, music was highly scrutinized and kept within certain boundaries of content and innovation. After the fall of the USSR in the early 1990s, western-style rock and pop music became the most popular musical forms in Russia. With the rise of western music, some native artists became quite popular.

[edit] Opera

Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow
Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow

The first known opera made in Russia was A Life for the Tsar by Mikhail Glinka in 1836. This was followed by several operas like Ruslan and Lyudmila in 1842. Russian opera was originally a combination of Russian folk music and Italian opera. After the October revolution many opera composers left Russia. Russia's most popular operas include:

[edit] Matryoshka doll and other handicraft

Main article: Matryoshka doll
The most common type of matryoshka dolls
The most common type of matryoshka dolls

A Matryoshka doll (Cyrillic матрёшка or матрешка) is a Russian nesting doll. A set of Matryoshka dolls consists of a wooden figure which can be pulled apart to reveal another figure of the same sort inside. It has in turn another figure inside, and so on. The number of nested figures is usually six or more. The shape is mostly cylindrical, rounded at the top for the head and tapered towards the bottom, but little else; the dolls have no hands (except those that are painted). The artistry is in the painting of each doll, which can be extremely elaborate. The theme is usually peasant girls in traditional dress, but can be almost anything, for instance fairy tales or Soviet leaders.

Other forms of Russian handicraft include:

A Soviet poster advertising Russian food, pelmeni.
A Soviet poster advertising Russian food, pelmeni.

[edit] Cuisine

Main article: Russian cuisine

Russia has a rich culinary history and offers a wide variety of soups, dishes made from fish, cereal based products and drinks. In addition to meat culinary, vegetables, fruit, mushrooms, berries and herbs also play a major part in the Russian diet. Primordial Russian products such as caviar, smetana (sour cream), buckwheat, rye flour, etc. have had a great influence on world-wide cuisine.

[edit] Etymology

See wiktionary: Russia for the name in various languages.

The name of the country derives from the name of the Rus' people. The origin of the people itself and of their name is a matter of some controversy.

[edit] See also

[edit] Miscellaneous

[edit] Peoples

[edit] References

  1. ^ From Article 1 of Constitution of Russia: "The names "Russian Federation" and "Russia" shall be equivalent."
  2. ^ See sources in superpower and great power
  3. ^ Ancient Vishnu Idol
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Krivtsov, A.I., 2006, Geoenvironmental Problems of Mineral Resources Development, in Geology and Ecosystems, Zekster (Ru), Marker (UK), Ridgeway (UK), Rogachevskaya (Ru), & Vartanyan (Ru), 2006 Springer Inc.
  7. ^ Offshore-environment: Waste discharges during the offshore oil and gas activity
  8. ^ Resident population (30 January 2007). Retrieved on 2007-02-06.
  9. ^ Population Decline in Russia (30 January 2007). Retrieved on 2007-02-06.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Russian Art and Architecture

[edit] External links

Find more information on Russia by searching Wikipedia's sister projects
 Dictionary definitions from Wiktionary
 Textbooks from Wikibooks
 Quotations from Wikiquote
 Source texts from Wikisource
 Images and media from Commons
 News stories from Wikinews
 Learning resources from Wikiversity

[edit] Government resources

Business and Culture in Russia]

Geographic locale
International organizations

In other languages