Russia

Useful informations
LocationNorthern part of Eurasia
NeighborhoodNorway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea
Area17,100,000 km2
Density8,4 persons/km2
CapitalMoscow
CurrencyRussian ruble (RUB; ₽)

Russia’s national anthem is simply called “Государственный гимн Российской Федерации” which means … “State Anthem of the Russain Federation”, and was composed by Alexander Alexandrov, and lyricists Sergey Mikhalkov and Gabriel El-Registan. The country is organized as a semi-presidential constitutional republic. There are 85 federal subjects, but only 22 are recognized as republics. The total population of the country reaches up to 146,432,450 people. Other important Russian population can be found in Ukraine ( 8,3 million ), Kazakhstan ( 4,5 million ), Germany ( 1,2 million ), Israel ( 940,000 ), Belarus ( 800,000 ) and Uzbekistan ( 700,000 ). The official currency is Russia is the Russian Ruble (RUB).

Russia is a great power and is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The country is also an important member of the following organizations: G20, Council of Europe, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), World Trade Organization (WTO). Russia is also the leading member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and one of the 5 members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), along with Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Russia has a tricolor flag with three horizontal fields of equal width, with the first being white, blue in the middle and red at the bottom. The Russian flag is the inspiration for the Pan-Slavic colours. This flag was used as the flag of the navy and of the land army in 1693 and was adopted in 1705 as a civil flag to be hoisted to the mast of the merchant vessels. On 7 May 1883, it has been authorized the use of this flag on land. However, it didn’t become the national flag until the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II in 1896.

Old Russians – Nowadays Russia’s wide territories were inhabited between the III and the VI centuries by different tribes, conquered one at a time by invaders such as Goths, Huns and Turkic Avars. Iranian Scythians populated the southern steppes and the Turkic people of Khazars mastered the west of this territory in the VIII century. They were driven away by the Scandinavian group of Varangians, who established their capital in the slavic city of Novgorod and they gradually mixed with the Slavic military leaders. The Slavs constituted the majority population since the VIII century, managing to assimilate gradually both Scandinavian conquerors and Finno-Ugric.

The northern part of Russia, including Novgorod, managed to maintain a certain status of independence during the Mongol yoke and was therefore exempt from the atrocities and exploitation which affected the rest of the country. Also, semi-independent Russian regions have had to fight against Germanic crusaders who attempted to colonize the region. Just as it happened in the Balkans and Asia Minor, the nomadic mastering delayed the social and economic development of the region. Autocratic Asian influences have degraded numerous political institutions of the state and affected its culture and economy in a negative manner.

Despite all this facts, as opposed to the spiritual leader of the Eastern European World, the Byzantine Empire, Russia could be reborn from the ashes, starting a reconquest war and succeeding thus to subjugate the former conquerors and to annex these territories. After the fall of Constantinople (1453), Russia remained the only strong enough Christian country at the eastern extremity of Eastern Europe, which allowed it later to claim itself as the sole heir of the Eastern Roman Empire, more exactly the Third Rome.

After Peter The Great, The Great Russian Empire was stated definitively on the European political scene as a superpower. Thus, the empire was involved in the war for the Polish succession and the 7 Years War. In 1812, after managing to unite under one banner almost half a million soldiers from France and from the countries conquered in Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia and, after a series of successes at the start, he was forced to withdraw. Almost 90% of the invading forces died in the clashes with the Russian regular army, in the clashes with the troops of partisans, but also because of the Russian winter and hunger. In 1813, Russia together with its allies, Austria and Prussia defeated the French at the Battle of Leipzig.

Russia was defeated in the Crimean War of 1853-1856 by the Ottoman Empire, who was backed by England and France. Tsar Alexander II abolished serfdom in 1861 by an imperial decree. Russia, however, continued its anti-Turkish wars, and after the Russian-Romanian-Turkish War of 1877-1878, the Russians forced the Ottoman Empire to recognize the independence of Romania, Serbia and Montenegro and also to grant autonomy to Bulgaria.

At the end of WWI, the fate of Tsar Nikolai II and the Romanov dynasty was permanently sealed by the repeated defeats of the Russian army, the deteriorating economic situation and the numerous public disorder problems in the cities caused by food shortages. The Tsar was overthrown in 1917 after a revolutionary movement, known as “The Bolshevik Revolution”.

At the end of the 1917 revolution, the Bolshevik Marxist faction led by Vladimir Ilych Ulyanov, alias Lenin, seized power in Moscow and Petrograd and the Bolshevik Party changed its name to the Communist Party. There was a civil war, which opposed the communist Red Army forces by a confederation of anti-socialist monarchist and nationalist group, known as the White Army ( mostly Belarusians ). After the Red Army’s victory in 1922, the Soviet Union was proclaimed, Russia becoming the most important country of the new federation.

Russia as part of the Soviet Union – The Soviet Union should’ve been a transnational state of workers freed from nationalism. The concept of Russia as a separate national entity was therefore not emphasized in the early Soviet Union’s existence. Although Russian cities and institutions remained dominant, many people who were not of Russian origin participated in the new governing bodies at all levels. One of these kind of people was Georgian, Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili (Stalin). After Lenin’s death in 1924, a brief power for struggle was held. Stalin managed to get rid of all claimants to supreme power in the state and to destroy all limitations and balances in the political system established by the Soviet power, being able until the end of the decade to assume dictatorial powers. Lev Trotsky and all the veteran Bolsheviks were either exiled or executed. At the beginning of the fourth decade of the last century, Stalin launched the Great Purge, a series of political repression on such a large scale which have never been seen before. Millions of people whom Stalin or the local empowered institutions suspected of disloyalty were executed or deported to labour camps of the Gulag, in the most remote areas of Siberia.

After the brief period when Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko were in power at the head of the Soviet state, reformer Mikhail Gorbachev came at power. He introduced the policies of Glasnost (Transparency) and Perestroika (Restructuring) in a desperate attempt to modernize Soviet communism. Glasnost was designed to reform the very restrictive framework in which people should manifest the freedom of speech. Censorship, which had been a predominant feature of life since the establishment of the Soviet Union, has been dissolved, then free political discourse and criticism of the government became possible again. Perestroika had to ensure the descentralization of the rigid planning of the Soviet economy.

Russian Federation – During and after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, wide-ranging reforms including privatization, market and trade liberalization were undertaken, including radical changes along the lines of the “shock therapy” as recommended by the United States and the International Monetary Fund. All this resulted in a major economic crisis, characterized by a 50% decline in both GDP and industrial output between 1990 and 1995. The privatization largely shifted control of enterprises from state agencies to individuals with inside connections in the government. Many of the newly rich transferred billions in cash and assets outside the country in an enormous capital flight. The depression of the economy led to the collapse of social services; the birth rate plummeted while the death rate skyrocketed. Millions plunged into poverty, from a level of 1.5% in the late Soviet era to 39–49% by mid-1993. The 1990’s saw extreme corruption and lawlessness, the rise of criminal gangs and violent crime.

On 2 March 2008, Dmitry Medvedev was elected President of Russia while Putin became Prime Minister. Putin returned to the presidency following the 2012 presidential elections, and Medvedev was appointed Prime Minister. In 2014, after President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine fled as a result of a revolution, Putin requested and received authorization from the Russian Parliament to deploy Russian troops to Ukraine. Following a Crimean referendum in which separation was favored by a large majority of voters, but not accepted internationally, the Russian leadership announced the accession of Crimea into the Russian Federation. On 27 March the United Nations General Assembly voted in favor of a non-binding resolution opposing the Russian annexation of Crimea by a vote of 100 in favour, 11 against and 58 abstentions.

In September 2015, Russia started a military intervention in the Syrian Civil War, consisting of air strikes against militant groups of the Islamic State, al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda in the Levant), and the Army of Conquest.

Landforms
Russia stretches from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean and has 11 different time zones. The country’s landforms are mainly plains and plateaus, the most important mountainous regions being in the southwest (Caucasus area), in the south (at the Mongolian border) and in the east (at the Chinese border and near the Pacific Coast).

The old Ural Mountains are rich in mineral resources and are a traditionar barrier between European Russia to the west and Asian Russia to the east. The Ural Mountains have a length of more than 2.000 km on the north-south direction, and the maximum altitude is 1,895 meters at Gora Narodnaya. In the Asian parts, between the Yenisei and Lena Rivers, there is the Central Siberian Plateau, with an average altitude of 1.000 meters. It is a giant plateau, among the oldest of the continent. In the southwest, there are the younger Caucasus Mountains with its peak, Elbrus, at 5.642 meters.

In the south of Central Siberia, the Sayan and Altai Mountains can be found, both having an average altitude of 3.000 meters. In the southeast, center-east and east of Siberia there are quite a few mountain ranges with high peaks and glaciers. In the eastern parts, such as the Verkhoyansk Range or the volcanoes of Kamchatka Peninsula (containing Klyuchevskaya Sopka, which at the 4.750 m is the highest active volcano in Eurasia as well as the highest point of Asian Russia). In the far southeast, near the Japan Sea, the Sikhote-Alin Mountains can be seen. Russia’s major islands and archipelagos include Novaya Zemlya, the Franz Josef Land, the Severnaya Zemlya, the New Siberian Islands, Wrangel Island, the Kuril Islands, and Sakhalin.

Russia’s main plains are The Great Russian Plain, in Europe, drained by the Volga and Peciora rivers, and the Great Plains of Western Siberia, a marshy plain in Asia, drained by the Obi river. The largest and most prominent of Russia’s bodies of fresh water is Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest, purest, oldest and most capacious fresh water lake. Baikal alone contains over one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water. Other major lakes include Ladoga and Onega, two of the largest lakes in Europe. Of the country’s 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. The Siberian rivers Obi, Yenisey, Lena and Amur are among the longest rivers in the world.

Climate
Russia’s climate is varied, due to its large territory. A large part of Russia’s territory lies in a temperate climate zone, the islands of the Icy North Ocean and continental northern districts are in the Arctic and sub-Arctic areas. The Black Sea coast of the Caucasus is located in a warm enough subtropical area.

Russia’s main tourist season runs in the warmest months, July and August. This period is the wettest, with rains every two days. To avoid the clutter and the rain, May, June, September or October can be ideal for a holiday. The Winter season’s months include numerous cultural and sporting events, as well as Christmas, New Year and the ancient Yule feast, perfect for revelers and fans of Vodka.

Flora
The climate’s variety leads to a variety of vegetation in Rusia. In the polar region, there can be found the polar tundra (moss, lichens, dwarf plants – some even having flowers in the polar summer, however, the vegetation is not continuous) and forest-tundra (isolated shrubs). In the southern tundra , the Taiga, which occupies about half of the country, there are numerous coniferous forest, which form a vegetation unit from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean. The Taiga is the world’s largest forest.

Fauna
In terms of Fauna, Russia is extremely rich. In the tundra, there can be found: reindeers, mooses, polar foxes, tundra wolves, white rabbits and polar partridges. In the Arctic Ocean Islands, the polar bear still lives. Beneath the waters, there are several seals and walruses. In the Taiga, squirrels, wolves, brown bears, lynx, ermines and sables, reindeers and elks are living, while in the mixed forests there are wolves, bears, foxes and wild cats. The Steppes are rich in rodents and birds of prey while dessert snakes are living in the semi-desert regions.

In Russia, there are almost 25 national parks where rare species of fauna are protected: the Siberian Tiger, the Sika Deer and the Baikal Seal. There are 266 mammal species and 780 bird species in Russia. A total of 415 animal species have been included in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation as of 1997 and are now protected.

Language
Russian is the official and only language, but in every federal republic, the native’s language is recognized as co-official. The Cyrillic alphabet is used, which means that all of the minorities languages are written in Cyrillic. After Russian, Tatar (5.3 million) and Ukrainian (1.8 million) are the most spoken languages. Despite its wide distribution, the Russian language is homogeneous throughout the country. Russian is the most geographically widespread language of Eurasia, as well as the most widely spoken Slavic language. It belongs to the Indo-European language family and is one of the living members of the East Slavic languages, the others being Belarusian and Ukrainian. Also, Russian is the second most used language on the internet, after English.

Religion
The ancestors of many of today’s Russians practised Orthodox Christianity since the 10th century. According to the Orthodox Church Tradition, Christianity was first brought to the territory of modern Belarus, Russia and Ukraine by Saint Andrew, the first Apostle of Jesus Christ. At the time of the 1917 Revolution, the Russian Orthodox Church was deeply integrated into the autocratic state, enjoying official status. This was a significant factor that contributed to the Bolshevik attitude to religion and the steps they took to control it. Bolsheviks consisted of many people with non-Russian, Communist Russians and influential Jewish backgrounds such as Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, Grigori Sokolnikov who were indifferent towards Christianity and based on the writings of Jewish philosopher Karl Marx with Marxism–Leninism as an ideology went on to form the Communist party. Thus the USSR became the first state to have, as an ideological objective, the elimination of religion and its replacement with universal atheism. The communist regime confiscated religious property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in schools. The confiscation of religious assets was often based on accusations of illegal accumulation of wealth.

Results of a survey organized by the Faculty of Sociology at the State University of Moscow, about religion in Russia were presented at the Second International Festival “Faith and Word”, which took place in Lesnye-Dali, near Moscow. According to the survey most respondents claimed to be Christians but they do not have the view of the Church or the true teachings about God. 83% of the working population claimed to be Christian Russian. More than 50% claimed to be Orthodox but not so practicant. Most of them represent a population with an older age. 90% of Muscovites are Christians. Across the country, 10% of Russians declare themselves atheists, 3,5% Muslims (0.8% at Moscow), 0,4% Buddhists (1.6% in Moscow) and 0,3% Catholics (0.5% in capital).

World Heritage
On UNESCO’s list there can be found 16 cultural objectives and 10 natural objectives in Russia:
Cultural Objectives:

Kizhi Pogost
Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow
Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments
White Monuments of Vladimir and Suzdal
Cultural and Historic Ensemble of the Solovetsky Islands
Historic Monuments of Novgorod and Surroundings
Architectural Ensemble of the Trinity Sergius Lavra in Sergiev Posad
Church of the Ascension, Kolomenskoye
Curonian Spit
Ensemble of the Ferapontov Monastery
Historic and Architectural Complex of the Kazan Kremlin
Citadel, Ancient City and Fortress Buildings of Derbent
Ensemble of the Novodevichy Convent
Historical Centre of the City of Yaroslavl
Struve Geodetic Arc
Bolgar Historical and Archaeological Complex
Natural Objectives:

Virgin Komi Forests
Lake Baikal
Volcanoes of Kamchatka
Golden Mountains of Altai
Western Caucasus
Central Sikhote-Alin
Uvs Nuur Basin
Natural System of Wrangel Island Reserve
Putorana Plateau
Lena Pillars Nature Park
Demographics
In spite of the fact that Russia has a numerous population, its density is one of the smallest in the world. The highest density is in the European part, in the Ural Mountains region. In Southeastern Siberia and in the Far East, there is very few population, however, the numbers are increasing towards the Chinese and Mongolian borders. Russian ethnics are representing 79.8% of the population. Russia has about 160 ethnic groups and indigenous people. A low birth rate, combined with alcoholism and a poor health system led to a situation where Russia’s population drops by 500,000 people every year. However, the Russian Federation includes several significant minorities. In 2008, the population decreased by 121.400 people, or -0.085% (in 2007 – by 212.000, or 0.15%, and in 2006 – with 532.600 people, or 0.37%). In 2008, migration has continued to grow at a rate of 2.7% to 281.615 migrants who arrived in the Russian Federation, of which 95% came from the CIS countries, most of them Russians or Russian speakers.

The number of emigrants from Russia decreased by 16% to 39.508, of which 66% went to other CIS countries. There are also an estimated 10 million illegal immigrants in post-Soviet Russia. Roughly, 116 million ethnic Russians live in Russia and about 20 million currently reside in other former republics of the Soviet Union, mostly in Ukraine and Kazakhstan. The main causes of Russia’s decline in population are the high rate of deaths and low birth rate.

Economy

At more than a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia is still trying to build a functioning market economy and to achieve higher economic growth. After the dissolution of the USSR, the first signs of economic recovery emerged in 1997 in Russia, proving the influences of the market economy. However, that year, the Asian financial crisis culminated in August, and affected Russia by the depreciation of the ruble. It followed the rise of the public debt and the decline in living standards for most of the population. The following year, in 1998, the recession continued.

In 1999, the economy began to recover. This recovery was driven by a weak ruble, which has stimulated exports and made imports more expensive. Between 1999-2005, the GDP growth was around 6,7%, largely due to higher oil prices, continuation of the weak ruble policy, and growth of the industrial production. At the moment, Russia has a huge trade surplus, due to its protectionist barriers of imports and to the local corruption which prevents smaller and medium enterprises to import foreign products without the mediation of the local Russian firms.

The country’s economic development was extremely uneven: Moscow region contributes to 1/3 of the GDP, while in the region there is concentrated only 1/10 of the total population. The recent restoration of the country’s economy due to rising oil prices, with renewed government efforts in 2000 and 2001 for carrying out the structural reforms, have raised business people and investors confidence in Russia’s chances in the second decade of transition. Russia remains deeply dependent on exports of commodities, particularly oil, natural gases, metals and timber, which provides 80% of total exports, leaving the country vulnerable to changes in world market prices. In recent years, the domestic demand for consumer goods has greatly increased, about 12% annually in the 2000-2005 period, demonstrating the strengthening of its internal market.

Russian economy began stagnating in late 2013 and in combination with the War in Donbass is in danger of entering stagflation, slow growth and high inflation. The Russian ruble collapsed by 24% from October 2013 to October 2014 entering the level where the central bank may need to intervene to strengthen the currency. Moreover, after bringing inflation down to 3,6% in 2012, the lowest rate since gaining independence from the Soviet Union, inflation in Russia jumped to nearly 7,5% in 2014, causing the central bank to increase its lending rate to 8% from 5,5% in 2013.

Transportation

Railway transport in Russia is mostly under the control of the state-run Russian Railways monopoly. The company accounts for over 3,6% of Russia’s GDP and handles 39% of the total freight traffic (including pipelines) and more than 42% of passenger traffic. The total length of common-used railway tracks exceeds 85.500 km (53.127 mi), second only to the United States.

As of 2006, Russia had 933.000 km of roads, of which 755.000 were paved. Some of these make up the Russian federal motorway system. With a large land area the road density is the lowest of all the G8 and BRIC countries. Much of Russia’s inland waterways, which total 102.000 km, (63.380 mi) are made up of natural rivers or lakes. In the European part of the country the network of channels connects the basins of major rivers. Russia’s capital, Moscow, is sometimes called “the port of the five seas”, because of its waterway connections to the Baltic, White, Caspian, Azov and Black Seas.

By total length of pipelines, Russia is second only to the United States. Currently many new pipeline projects are being realized, including Nord Stream and South Stream natural gas pipelines to Europe, and the Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean oil pipeline (ESPO) to the Russian Far East and China. Russia has 1.216 airports, the busiest being Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo, and Vnukovo in Moscow, and Pulkovo in Sankt Petersburg.

Typically, major Russian cities have well-developed systems of public transport, with the most common varieties of exploited vehicles being bus, trolleybus and tram. Seven Russian cities, namely Moscow, Sankt Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Samara, Yekaterinburg, and Kazan, have underground metros, while Volgograd features a metrotram. The total length of metros in Russia is 465,4 kilometres (289,2 mi). Moscow Metro and Sankt Petersburg Metro are the oldest in Russia, opened in 1935 and 1955 respectively. These two are among the fastest and busiest metro systems in the world, and are famous for rich decorations and unique designs of their stations, which is a common tradition in Russian metros and railways.

People

Discover some of the most popular persons who live / lived in Russia.

Tsar Nicholas II

Tsar Nicholas II

Was the last Tsar of Russia, ruling from 1 November 1894 until his forced abdication on 15 March 1917. His reign saw the fall of Imperial Russia from being one of the foremost great powers of the world to economic and military collapse. Near Sankt Petersburg, on 18 May 1868 was born Tsar Nicholas II, […]

Lev Nikolaievich Tolstoi

Lev Nikolaievich Tolstoi

Was a Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. Born to an aristocratic Russian family in 1828, he is best known for the novels War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877), often cited as pinnacles of realist fiction. Count Lev Tolstoi was the youngest of the four […]

Ceaikovski

Piotr Ilich Tchaikovski

Some of whose works are among the most popular music in the classical repertoire. He was the first Russian composer whose music made a lasting impression internationally, bolstered by his appearances as a guest conductor in Europe and the United States. Tchaikovski was honored in 1884, by Emperor Alexander III, and awarded a lifetime pension. […]

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Culinary

Discover some of the traditional receips from Russia.

Moskovskaya Vodka

Moskovskaya Vodka

or simply Moskovskaya vodka is an early Russian brand of vodka introduced in 1894 by the Russian state vodka monopoly. Its production was stopped (along with other strong spirits) with the introduction of the World War I prohibition in Russia. The brand was restored in 1925 in the Soviet Union. Moskovskaya has been recognized by […]

Stroganoff Beef

Stroganoff Beef

Ingredients: 900g lean boneless sirloin (trimmed of fat and gristle) or 900g bottom round steaks, in one piece (trimmed of fat and gristle) 2 teaspoons salt 1⁄2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper 4 tablespoons butter 1 medium onion (thinly sliced) 1 tablespoon flour 1 teaspoon mustard powder (or 1 Tablespoon prepared Dijon style mustard) 1⁄2 cup […]

Russian Salad

Russian Salad

Ingredients: 1 cup shelled peas 125 g carrots (peeled and diced) 125 g french beans (stringed and cut) 1 large potato (boiled, peeled and cubed) 3 cups mayonnaise sauce 1 Tablespoon Salt 1 Tablespoon black Pepper (freshly powdered) 1 Tablespoon mustard powder   Steps: Boil or steam the chopped vegetables, to bite like consistency, drain […]

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