The Russian Federation was the core of the old Soviet Union, which broke up in 1991. Russia is still the world’s largest state. Its diversity is a source of both strength and problems.
Geography: The Ural Mountains divide the European steppes and forests from the tundra and forests of Siberia. South central deserts and mountains.
Climate: Continental in European Russia. Elsewhere climate ranges from sub-arctic to Mediterranean and hot desert.
People and Society: Besides the ethnic Russian majority, there are 57 “nationalities” with territorial status, and a further 95 minorities without their own region. Most ethnic republics are in European Russia. The number of Muslims is rising, though the overall population is predicted to fall by 30% in 50 years. Nation-based separatism is brutally suppressed, as in Chechnya. HIV/AIDS is spreading. Healthcare and education are underfunded. Crime is a serious problem.
Insight: The Trans-Siberian Railroad, which runs 5578 miles (9297 km) from Moscow to Vladivostok, is the longest in the world, passing through eight time zones
The Economy: Huge natural resources (oil and natural gas, precious metals, timber) account for 80% of exports. Important military, engineering, and scientific base. Wealth disparities and black-market activities have accompanied reforms. Organized crime syndicates own huge areas of the economy. Widespread tax evasion, corruption. Lingering inefficiencies in industry and agriculture. High oil prices brought strong GDP growth and budget surpluses in 2000’s, allowing Russia to repay its Soviet-era debt. Stock market collapse, devaluation of rouble in 2008, then recession in 2009.
Official Name: Russian Federation
Date Of Formation: 1480
Population: 141 million
Total Area: 6,592,735 sq. miles (17,075,200 sq. km)
Density: 21 people per sq. mile
Languages: Russian*, other
Religions: Orthodox Christian 75%, Muslim 14%, other 11%
Ethnic Mix: Russian 80%, other 13%, Tatar 4%, Ukrainian 2%, Chavash 1%
Government: Mixed presidential–parliamentary system
Currency: Russian rouble = 100 kopeks