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Russian Federation: General Information

Russian Federation. General Information

Territory of the Russian Federation

With a total area of 17 million square kilometers, Russia is the largest country in the world. It spans two continents (Europe and Asia) and borders Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic countries to the west, Finland to the north, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Mongolia and China to the south, and North Korea to the east. The United States and Japan are not far from the eastern coast of Russia.

The extreme northernmost point of the country's mainland is Cape Fligely on Rudolf Island of Franz Josef Land archipelago; the southernmost point is located in the Republic of Dagestan on the border with Azerbaijan. The distance between the western and the eastern borders of Russia is 9,000 km (from the Vistula Spit in Kaliningrad Bay to Cape Dezhnev in Chukotka); the easternmost point is Rotmanov Island in the Bering Strait. Thus, Russia's territory spans over 4,000 km from north to south, and almost 10,000 km from west to east.

Russia has the longest border in the world, a total of 60,932 km, including 38,808 km of maritime borders (in the north and east) and 14,508 of land borders (in the south and west). Russia borders Kazakhstan (6,846 km), China (3,645 km), Mongolia (3,485 km), Ukraine (1,576 km), Finland (1,340 km), Belarus (959 km), Georgia (723 km), Estonia (294 km), Azerbaijan (284 km), Lithuania (280.5 km), Poland (232 km), Latvia  (217 km), Norway (196 km), and North Korea (19 km).

Russia has about 120,000 rivers over 10 kilometers long. The total length of these rivers is 2.3 million kilometers. The largest rivers are the Ob, Irtysh, Yenisey, Amur, and  Volga in the European part of the country. There are about 2 million freshwater and salt lakes in Russia. The largest lakes are Lake Baikal (which holds about 20% of the world's total freshwater supply, not counting the fresh water frozen in the polar ice caps and glaciers), Lake Ladoga, Lake Onega, and Lake Taimyr.

The forest zone covers 41% of Russia's plainlands; the share of the forest-steppe zone is 11.2% and the tundra forest belt 20.5%.

The coasts of Russia are washed by 12 seas of three ocean basins: the Atlantic Ocean (the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov), the Arctic Ocean (the Barents Sea, the White Sea, the Kara Sea, the Laptev Sea, the East Siberian Sea and the Chukchee Sea) and the Pacific Ocean (the Bering Sea, the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan), as well the Caspian Sea, which is a closed basin.


Due to its vast territory, Russia is a country of natural contrasts. The northern part of the country is located in the arctic and subarctic climate zones, while the southern regions have a subtropical climate. The climate of other regions of the country is moderate.

Russian time zones

There are eleven time zones in Russia (more than in any other country in the world): from UTC +1 in Kalinigrad to UTC +12  in Kamchatka. 



Russia's population (about 142 million) is extremely diverse in cultural terms. Slavs (the first inhabitants of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus) comprise the major ethnicity. Other ethnic groups include Armenians, Georgians, Germans, Iranians, Turks and Finno-Ugric peoples. The Tatars, the Bashkirs and the Mordovians form national minorities. All three peoples inhabit the Volga valley alongside other ethnic groups such as the Udmurts, the Chuvashs and the Mari.

Over one hundred peoples live in Russia, including the Russians (81.5%), the Tatars (3.8%), the Ukrainians (3.0%), the Chuvash people (1.2%), the peoples of Dagestan (1.1%), the Bashkirs (0.9%), the Belarusians (0.8%), the Mordovians (0.7%), the Chechens (0.6%) and the Udmurts (0.5%).


Russian is the official language of the Russian Federation. It is spoken by 99% of the population. Some administrative entities have additional official languages, including Tatar (Tatarstan), Chechen (Chechnya), etc. English is widely taught across the country. Many officials and business people speak English. German could also be very useful for communication in specialized areas such as engineering.


In the 1830s, Russian literature entered its Golden Age, which started with the poetry of Alexander Pushkin and culminated in the works of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Anton Chekhov.

The world famous poets Vladimir Mayakovsky, Boris Pasternak, Anna Akhmatova, Josef Brodsky and the writers Maxim Gorky, Vladimir Nabokov, Mikhail Bulgakov and Alexander Solzhenitsyn were the leading figures of the Russian literature in the 20th century.


The major portion of Russia's ethnic population belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church. However, in the Soviet era, atheism was made a cornerstone of official ideology resulting in a significant decrease in church believers. Islam and animism prevail among ethnic minorities. Judaism is another fairly wide-spread religion, as is the Roman Catholic Church, Protestantism, and Buddhism.


A Microsoft executive once shared his observations, "Where we have a simple problem, we can solve it in America; where it is a difficult one we'll find a solution in India; but if no one knows how to get around a problem – go ask the Russians."

This is because Russian graduates are in a great demand on the world labor market.

The Russian Federation has announced education to be one of the national priorities.

Today's fairly high level of education in Russia, compared to other countries, is due to the educational boom the country has experienced in the past decade and the unquestionable benefits of the Soviet educational heritage.

Most important developments have taken place in higher education. In the past 12 years, the numbers of both educational institutions and students have doubled in this segment.

Currently, Russia is among the world's leaders in the ratio of people with a higher education to the total economically active population (23%). Outstripped only by the US, Norway and the Netherlands, Russia is ahead of Japan, Canada, Spain and the UK. In Germany, this ratio is 16%, and in Portugal and Austria, merely 8%.

As for expenditures on education, Russia has fallen behind not only the Western Europe, including Austria, Germany, the UK, etc., but also Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia. However, according to the Concept of Social and Economic Development of Russia to 2020, expenditures on education will be increased from 4.1% to 5.5 - 6% of GDP.


Russian folk music originates from the folklore of the Slavonic tribes who lived in Kiev Russia. Since there was a large diversity of ethnic people in the area, Russian music incorporated Finno-Ugric, Turkic and other tunes in addition to Slavonic melodies. Many types of songs that survived have a pagan origin, sometimes in combination with Christian ritualism. 

The genres of folk music include ritual, wedding, epical, dance and lyrical songs. Folk music relied on human voice rather than on instruments (possibly because of the ban to use musical instruments in church). Ditties (humorous folk verses). Folk instruments are a common attribute of the pastoral lifestyle. They are also used for certain types of dances and songs. Among the most widespread instruments are string instruments (gudok (3-4 strings bow-instrument), gusli (Russian harp) , and wind instruments (pipe, reed pipe/horn, Pan-pipe (multi-barreled flute). Chronicles mention warrior's trumpets, huntsmen's horns and tambourines. The following instruments are often associated with Russian music: balalaika, mandolin, guitar, button accordion (harmonica). However, they originated in Western Europe and did not reach Russia until quite late (19-20 cc.).

Russian classical music includes the heritage of such great composers as Petr Tchaikovsky, Mikhail Glinka, composers from the "Mighty Lot" group, and Sergey Rakhmaninov. The most prominent composers of the Soviet era are Sergey Prokofiev, Dmitry Shostakovich, Aram Khachaturian, Alfred Schnittke. 

European music is traditionally described in terms of style (baroque, romanticism, expressionism). However, Mousorgsky, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev created a unique style in music, which can hardly be attributed to any musical trend. Music in Russia has always been exclusive and characteristic only of its authors.


Before the fall of Constantinople, Russian architecture was strongly influenced by the Byzantine style. The Renaissance era that followed marked Aristotle Fioravanti and other famous Italian architects.

During the reign of Ivan the Terrible and Boris Godunov many domed churches were built, including the most famous, the Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed on Red Square in Moscow.

In the 17th century, flamboyant ornaments thrived in Moscow and Yaroslavl, paving the way to the Naryshkin Baroque of the 1690s.

In the 18th century, Rococo reached its peak in the brilliant works by Bartolomeo Rastrelli and his apprentices and followers.

During the reign of Catherine the Great and her grandson Alexander I, St. Petersburg turned into a museum of neoclassical architecture. The 19th century was the Age of the Renaissance for Russia's architecture.

Art Nouveau was represented, among others, by Fyodor Shekhtel and Constructivism (Alexey Shchusev and Konstantin Melnikov) prevailed in the 20th century.


The first Russian feature films were screen versions of episodes from classical works of Russian literature ("Song about Merchant Kalashnikov", "The Idiot", "The Fountain of Bakhchisarai"), folk songs ("Ukhar the Merchant"), or illustrated episodes of Russian history ("The death of Ivan the Terrible", "Peter the Great"). In 1911, Russian cinemas showed the first Russian full-length feature film "Defence of Sebastopol" directed by Alexander Khanzhonkov and Vasily Goncharov.  

In 1913, Russian cinema enjoyed dynamic growth fuelled by the growth of Russian economy. New cinema companies were formed, including the leading company established by I.Ermoliev. They have created more than 120 motion pictures, including such significant achievements as "Queen of Spades" (1916) and "Father Serguiy" (released in 1918, a film of Yakov Protazanov). The hey-day of Russian feature movies coincided with the First World War. This was the time when outstanding cinema director Evgueny Bauer made his best films, and Vladimir Gardin and Viacheslav Viskovsky were active. 

After the breakup of the USSR, Russian film studios faced financial problems. Russian film industry is heavily influenced by American movies. In 1990, there were few high-budget films (this is when "The Barber of Siberia" and "Russian Riot" appeared). From 2000 on, film industry has been reinventing itself in terms of both number of films and their quality. 

Russian and Soviet films have collected awards from leading film festivals, such as Berlin, Cannes or Moscow film festivals. 

Russia holds dozens of film festivals each year, the leading among which are Moscow film festival and Kinotavr (Cinetaurus).


Sports are strongly developed and promoted in Russia. Many Russian sportsmen have won top prizes in major international contests, including the Olympic Games. Starting with the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Soviet and later Russian sportsmen have consistently taken top medals.

The 1980 Summer Olympics were held in Moscow. In July 2007, the Russian city of Sochi won the right to host the 2014 Olympic Games.

Football, basketball, ice hockey and tennis are the most popular sports in Russia. Figure skating, Olympic and artistic gymnastics, the biathlon and wrestling are also widespread.  


The world's deepest lake (Lake Baikal), the highest peak of Europe (Elbrus), Europe's longest river (the Volga), Europe's largest lake (Lake Ladoga) and the Northern Pole of Cold (the village of Oimyakon) are located in Russia.   

There are over 100 resorts in Russia. The major national resorts are Sochi, Kavkazskiye Mineralniye Vody (a group of resorts), Nalchik, Anapa, Sergievskiye Mineralniye Vody, and Belokurikha.

Visa to Russia

Foreign nationals need a visa to enter Russia. A Russian visa is a special document attached to the foreign national's passport in a Russian embassy or consulate in his or her country of residence, which allows the foreign citizen to enter and leave the Russian Federation during the period indicated on the visa.


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