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1UpTravel - Geography Info and Facts of Countries : . - Russia

Russia Geography and Facts

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

Land boundaries:
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 km

Coastline: 37,653 km

Maritime claims:
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

Elevation extremes:
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, timber
note: formidable obstacles of climate, terrain, and distance hinder exploitation of natural resources

Land use:
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 Change-Kyoto Protocol

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 Asian Russia.

Russia’s 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 be farmed.

The shores of the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains from Russia’s 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).

Capital: Moscow.

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 nationalities.

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 .

Physical Environment

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


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