Location: Northern Asia (that part west of the Urals is
sometimes included with Europe), bordering the Arctic Ocean, between
Europe and the North Pacific Ocean
Geographic coordinates: 60 00 N, 100 00 E
Map references: Asia
total: 17,075,200 sq km
land: 16,995,800 sq km
water: 79,400 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly less than 1.8 times the size
of the US
total: 19,917 km
border countries: Azerbaijan 284 km, Belarus 959 km, China
(southeast) 3,605 km, China (south) 40 km, Estonia 294 km, Finland
1,313 km, Georgia 723 km, Kazakhstan 6,846 km, North Korea 19 km,
Latvia 217 km, Lithuania (Kaliningrad Oblast) 227 km, Mongolia 3,441
km, Norway 167 km, Poland (Kaliningrad Oblast) 206 km, Ukraine 1,576
Coastline: 37,653 km
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: ranges from steppes in the south through humid
continental in much of European Russia; subarctic in Siberia to
tundra climate in the polar north; winters vary from cool along
Black Sea coast to frigid in Siberia; summers vary from warm in
the steppes to cool along Arctic coast
Terrain: broad plain with low hills west of Urals; vast
coniferous forest and tundra in Siberia; uplands and mountains along
southern border regions
lowest point: Caspian Sea -28 m
highest point: Gora El'brus 5,633 m
Natural resources: wide natural resource base including
major deposits of oil, natural gas, coal, and many strategic minerals,
note: formidable obstacles of climate, terrain, and distance
hinder exploitation of natural resources
arable land: 8%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 4%
forests and woodland: 46%
other: 42% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 40,000 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: permafrost over much of Siberia is a major
impediment to development; volcanic activity in the Kuril Islands;
volcanoes and earthquakes on the Kamchatka Peninsula
Environment - current issues: air pollution from heavy industry,
emissions of coal-fired electric plants, and transportation in major
cities; industrial, municipal, and agricultural pollution of inland
waterways and sea coasts; deforestation; soil erosion; soil contamination
from improper application of agricultural chemicals; scattered areas
of sometimes intense radioactive contamination; ground water contamination
from toxic waste
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air
Pollution-Sulphur 85, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic
Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Environmental
Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping,
Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical
Timber 83, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Climate
Geography - note: largest country in the world in terms
of area but unfavorably located in relation to major sea lanes of
the world; despite its size, much of the country lacks proper soils
and climates (either too cold or too dry) for agriculture
Most of this enormous country lies on the Asian continent, but Western
Russia is in Europe. The Ural Mountains are usually considered by
geographers to form the dividing line between European Russia and
Russias climates are hotter in the south and colder and drier
in the east and north. Most northerly regions are covered by ice
and relatively few people live here. Animals such as arctic foxes
and reindeer can survive the bitterly cold temperature.
Dense forest sprawls across the country, also known as Taiga, makes
up the northern part of the belt. The soil here is mainly to poor
to grow crops. Further south ,the forest becomes a mixture of coniferous
and deciduous trees. The climate in this region is milder and can
The shores of the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains from Russias
southernmost area. The slopes of the Caucasus Mountains have lush
,green fertile meadows, while the Urals contain important deposits
of iron and copper.
In the northern & central european Russia,the most varied climate;
mildest areas are along the Baltic coast. Summer sunshine may be
nine hours a day, but winters can be very cold.
While in Siberia,it has very cold winters, but summers can be
pleasant, although they tend to be short and wet. There is considerable
seasonal temperature variation.
And in the southern european russia,the winter is shorter than
in the north. Steppes (in the southeast) have hot, dry summers and
very cold winters. The north and northeastern Black Sea has mild
winters, but heavy rainfall all the year round.
Russia, a vast Eurasian expanse of field, forest, desert, and tundra,
has endured many "times of trouble"the Mongol rule of the
13th to 15th century; czarist reigns of terror; massive invasions
by Swedes, French, and Germans; and the deadly communist period
(1917-91) in which Russia dominated an immense Soviet Union.
General Secretary Mikhail GORBACHEV, in charge during 1985-91, introduced
glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt
to modernize communism, but also inadvertently released forces that
shattered the USSR into 15 independent republics in December 1991.
Russia has struggled in its efforts to build a democratic political
system and market economy to replace the strict social, political,
and economic controls of the communist period.
These reform efforts have resulted in contradictory and confusing
economic and political regulations and practices. Industry, agriculture,
the military, the central government, and the ruble have suffered,
but Russia has successfully held one presidential, two legislative,
and numerous regional elections since 1991.
The severe illnesses of President Boris YEL'TSIN have contributed
to a lack of policy focus at the center.
The defeat of the Russian Empire in World War I led to the seizure
of power by the communists and the formation of the USSR. The brutal
rule of Josef STALIN (1924-53) strengthened 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 broke up the USSR into 15 independent republics.
Since then, Russia has struggled in its efforts to build a democratic
political system and market economy to replace the strict social,
political, and economic controls of the communist period.
Russia is the worlds largest country in area. It is almost twice
as big as Canada, the second largest country. From 1922 until 1991,
Russia was the biggest republic in the Soviet Union, the most powerful
Communist country in the world.
In the 1980s, many of the union republics began making strong demands
for greater control of their own affairs or for independence.
Independence moves by the republics gained strength after a failed
coup in 1991. In that year, the Soviet Union broke apart, and Russia
began to set up a new political, legal, and economic system.
Formal Name: Russian Federation.
Short Form: Russia.
Term for Citizen(s): Russian(s).
Flag: Three equal-sized horizontal bands of white
(top), red, and blue.
Size: 17,075,200 square kilometers.
Topography: Broad plain with low hills west of
Urals in European Russia and vast coniferous forests and tundra
east of Urals in Siberia. Uplands and mountains along southern border
regions in Caucasus Mountains. About 10 percent of land area swampland,
about 45 percent covered by forest.
Climate: Ranges from temperate to Arctic continental.
Winter weather varies from short-term and cold along Black Sea to
long-term and frigid in Siberia. Summer conditions vary from warm
on steppes to cool along Arctic coast. Much of Russia covered by
snow six months of year. Weather usually harsh and unpredictable.
Average annual temperature of European Russia 0°C, lower in
Siberia. Precipitation low to moderate in most areas; highest amounts
in northwest, North Caucasus, and Pacific coast.
Land Boundaries: Land borders extend 20,139 kilometers:
Azerbaijan 284 kilometers, Belarus 959 kilometers, China 3,645 kilometers,
Estonia 290 kilometers, Finland 1,313 kilometers, Georgia 723 kilometers,
Kazakstan 6,846 kilometers, Democratic People's Republic of Korea
19 kilometers, Latvia 217 kilometers, Lithuania 227 kilometers,
Mongolia 3,441 kilometers, Norway 167 kilometers, Poland 432 kilometers,
and Ukraine 1,576 kilometers.
Water boundaries: Coastline makes up 37,653 kilometers
of border. Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans touch shores.
Land Use: 10 percent arable, 45 percent forest,
5 percent meadows and pasture, and 40 percent other, including tundra.
Data as of July 1996
Chapter 3. Physical Environment and Population
CURVING AROUND THE NORTH POLE in a huge arc, Russia (the Russian
Federation) spans almost half the globe from east to west and about
4,000 kilometers from north to south. Divided into eleven time zones,
Russia is by far the world's largest country. It occupies much of
Eastern Europe and northern Asia. The country's terrain is diverse,
with extensive stands of forest, numerous mountain ranges, and vast
plains. On and below the surface of the land are extensive reserves
of natural resources that provide the nation with enormous potential
wealth. Russia ranks sixth in the world in population, trailing
China, India, the United States, Indonesia, and Brazil. The population
is as varied as the terrain. Slavs (Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians)
are the most numerous of the more than 100 European and Asiatic
The Ural Mountains, which extend more than 2,200 kilometers from
north to south, form the boundary separating the unequal European
and Asian sectors of Russia. The continental divide continues another
1,375 kilometers from the southern end of the Ural Mountains through
the Caspian Sea and along the Caucasus Mountains. Asian Russia is
about as large as China and India combined, occupying roughly three-quarters
of the nation's territory. But it is the European western quarter
that is home to more than 75 percent of Russia's inhabitants. This
acutely uneven distribution of human and natural resources is a
striking feature of Russian geography and population. Despite government
attempts to settle people in sparsely populated Asian areas abundant
in resources, this imbalance persists. Meanwhile, depletion of water
and fuel resources in the European part outpaces exploitation of
resource-rich Siberia, the famously forbidding land stretching from
the Urals to the Pacific Ocean. From 1970 to 1989, the campaign
to settle and exploit western Siberia's plentiful fuel and energy
supplies was expensive and only partially successful. Since glasnost
, revelations of extreme environmental degradation have tarnished
the image of the Siberian development program.
The Soviet and Russian environmental record has been generally
dismal. Seven decades of Soviet rule left irradiated landscapes
and marine ecosystems, a desiccated inland sea, befouled rivers,
and toxic urban air as reminders of the consequences of seeking
industrialization at any price. Russia and the other Soviet republics
responded to the pressures of the long and costly Cold War by developing
a defense-oriented, production-obsessed economy amid ecological
devastation. Without a genuine environmental movement until its
final years, the Soviet Union left in its wake an environmental
catastrophe that will take decades and perhaps trillions of dollars
to repair even partially.
During the Soviet period, natural and geopolitical phenomena shaped
the characteristics of Russia's population. In that period, wars,
epidemics, famines, and state-sanctioned mass killings claimed millions
of victims. Before the 1950s, each decade brought to the population
of the former Russian Republic some form of cataclysmic demographic
event. Demographers have calculated that a total of 33.6 million
people died from a brutal collectivization process and the famine
that ensued in the 1920s and 1930s, the Great Terror of Joseph V.
Stalin (in office 1927-53) in the 1930s, and World War II . Although
those events ended more than fifty years ago, such disasters have
had significant long-term effects. In age-groups above forty-five,
women greatly outnumber men.
In the 1990s, demographers and policy makers are concerned about
alarming trends such as a plummeting birthrate, increasing mortality
among able-bodied males, and declining life expectancy. Another
demographic concern is the millions of Russians remaining in the
other newly independent countries of the former Soviet Union, called
by policy makers the "near abroad." These Russians or their forebears
resettled under a variety of conditions. Russian authorities fear
that social and ethnic upheaval in those states could trigger the
mass migration of Russians into the federation, which is ill equipped
to integrate such numbers into its economy and society. By the early
1990s, Russia had already become the destination of greatly increased
numbers of immigrants.
In 1995 the population of the Russian Federation was estimated
at slightly less than 150 million. Whereas Russians had accounted
for only about 50 percent of the Soviet Union's population, in Russia
they are a clear majority of 82 percent of the population in what
remains a distinctively multicultural, multinational state .
Russia's topography includes the world's deepest lake and Europe's
highest mountain and longest river. The topography and climate,
however, resemble those of the northernmost portion of the North
American continent. The northern forests and the plains bordering
them to the south find their closest counterparts in the Yukon Territory
and in the wide swath of land extending across most of Canada. The
terrain, climate, and settlement patterns of Siberia are similar
to those of Alaska and Canada.
Data as of July 1996