Population – 141,377,752 (July 2007 est.)
Capital – Moscow
Government type – Federation
Unemployment rate – 6.6% plus considerable underemployment (2006 est.)
Internet country code: .ru (.su reserved)
Currency (code) – Ruble (RUB)
Official language(s) – Russian
Religion – Russian Orthodox 15-20%, Muslim 10-15%, other Christian 2% (2006 est.)
note: estimates are of practicing worshipers; Russia has large populations of non-practicing believers and non-believers, a legacy of over seven decades of Soviet rule
Largest Cities – Moscow, Saint Petersburg
Calling code – 7
total: 17,075,200 sq km
land: 16,995,800 sq km
water: 79,400 sq km
lowest point: Caspian Sea -28 m
highest point: Gora El’brus 5,633 m
total: 38.2 years
male: 35 years
female: 41.3 years (2007 est.)
Time zone – UTC+2 to +12
Daylight savings time: UTC+3 to +13
The Russian Federation is the largest of the 21 republics that make up the Commonwealth of Independent States. It occupies most of eastern Europe and north Asia, stretching from the Baltic Sea in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east, and from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Black Sea and the Caucasus in the south. It is bordered by Norway and Finland in the northwest; Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania in the west; Georgia and Azerbaijan in the southwest; and Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China, and North Korea along the southern border.
Russia has the world’s largest forest reserves. It is often called “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.
After the breakup of the Soviet Union, the newly-independent Russian Federation emerged as a great power and is also considered to be an energy superpower. Russia is internationally recognized as continuing the legal personality of the Soviet Union 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. Russia is the leading nation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a member of the G8 as well as other international organizations.
Founded in the 12th century, the Principality of Muscovy, was able to emerge from over 200 years of Mongol domination (13th-15th centuries) and to gradually conquer and absorb surrounding principalities. In the early 17th century, a new Romanov Dynasty continued this policy of expansion across Siberia to the Pacific. Under Peter I (ruled 1682-1725), hegemony was extended to the Baltic Sea and the country was renamed the Russian Empire. During the 19th century, more territorial acquisitions were made in Europe and Asia. Defeat in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 contributed to the Revolution of 1905, which resulted in the formation of a parliament and other reforms. Repeated devastating defeats of the Russian army in World War I led to widespread rioting in the major cities of the Russian Empire and to the overthrow in 1917 of the imperial household. The Communists under Vladimir Lenin seized power soon after and formed the USSR. The brutal rule of Joseph Stalin (1928-53) strengthened Communist rule and Russian dominance of the Soviet Union at a cost of tens of millions of lives. The Soviet economy and society stagnated in the following decades until General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-91) introduced glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt to modernize Communism, but his initiatives inadvertently released forces that by December 1991 splintered the USSR into Russia and 14 other independent republics. Since then, Russia has struggled in its efforts to build a democratic political system and market economy to replace the social, political, and economic controls of the Communist period. While some progress has been made on the economic front, and Russia’s management of its windfall oil wealth has improved its financial standing, recent years have seen a recentralization of power under Vladimir Putin and democratic institutions remain weak.