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Russia, or the Russian Federation, as it is known officially, is the largest country in the world. It stretches from the Baltic Sea in the west, across the northern Eurasian land mass, to the Pacific Ocean in the east, from the frozen ports of the Arctic in the north to the waters of the Caspian and Black Sea, the Caucasus, the Altai, and the Sayan Mountains, and the Amur and the Ussuri rivers in the south. The land of Russia varies from thick forests to barren deserts, from high peaked mountains to deep valleys. The Russian Federation is located on two plains: the Great Russian Plain and the West Siberian Lowland. The longest mountain chains are the Urals, separating Europe from Asia, the Caucasus, and the Altai. Russia's most important rivers are the Volga (Europe's biggest river, flowing into the Caspian Sea), the Ob, the Yenisei and the Lena (the main Siberian rivers), and the Amur in the Far East, flowing into the Pacific Ocean. There are more than two million rivers in Russia, and the world's deepest lake -Lake Baikal- is also in Russia.

The climate in Russia varies from an Artic climate prevalent in the north, to a continental climate in the central part, to the subtropical in the south.

Russia covers a total area of over 6.5 million square miles, spanning eleven time zones, and populated by 160 million people. Russia is populated by approximately 130 nationalities and ethnic groups, including some 130 million Russians, over 5 million Tartars, nearly 5 million Ukrainians, 1.7 million Jews, more than 1 million Belorussians, and several other nationalities.

All in all, 73 percent of Russian citizens live in urban areas, and thirteen cities have a population exceeding one million. The largest cities in Russia are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Samara and Yekaterinburg.

The white-blue-red flag of Russia was derived from that of the Netherlands. The colours were selected when Tsar Peter the Great visited the country in 1697 on a mission to learn about shipbuilding. The flag was officially recognized for land use on May 7th, 1883.

The flag was suppressed under Bolshevik rule. Three days after the attempted coup of the Soviet Union President Michail Gorbachev, August 21, 1991, the flag was officially adopted as the national flag.

The history of the Russian state is a remarkable one. Locked in between Europe and Asia, the dramatic events of history have made life in Russia very different to life in the West. Russia went its own way, and for long periods was cut off from mainstream European development.

The history of the Russian state is more than a thousand years old. Looking back into the centuries, we find a set of examples that reveal to us the greatness and originality of the Russian state, of its historical path, of the unique role which the Russians have played in the history of world civilization.

The roots of the Russian state were in the flourishing early medieval principality of Kievan Rus, which converted to Christianity in A.D. 988, and was strongly influenced by Byzantium.

In the 16th century the Russian Empire was founded by Ivan the Terrible with Moscow as its capital.

The 18th century marked the break with the medieval past. Rulers such as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great did their best to modernise Russia along Western lines.

The Russian Empire existed until the Bolshevik revolution in 1917.

World War II and the German invasion almost destroyed the western portion of the Soviet Union and killed millions of people.

The Russians have heroically resisted all disasters: foreign invasions that devastated the landscape, resurrected cities and villages from the dead, and revived temples and monuments of Russian culture.

Russia has traveled the road from an agrarian to an industrial society. The history of Russia has seen evolutionary and revolutionary ways of development that have profoundly influenced the rest of the world. It is marked by great achievements of the Russian people in science, art, literature, economic life and in all aspects of spiritual and material culture. A great number of scientific discoveries and inventions made by Russians were right in step with the global development process. The crowns of the Russian culture have long become universal property. Russia has given Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov and Brodsky to world literature, and has enriched the music world with Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich and Shnitke. The architectural ensembles of Moscow, St. Petersburg and old Russian cities are famous all over the world.

The capital of the Russian Federation is Moscow with a population of about 10 million. Russia is a constitutional Republic with a President as Head of State. The legislative power is vested in the Federal Assembly, consisting of a Council of Federation and the State Duma.

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