Russia (Russian: Россия, Rossiya, Russian pronunciation: [rɐˈsʲijə]), or the Russian Federation, is a transcontinental country spanning Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. It extends from the Baltic Sea in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east, and from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Black, Azov, and Caspian seas in the south. Russia covers over 17,125,191 square kilometres (6,612,073 sq mi), stretching more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area, with eleven time zones, and bordering 16 sovereign nations. Moscow is the country's capital and largest city, while Saint Petersburg is the second-largest city.
Russia is the largest country in the world, the ninth-most populous country, as well as the most populous country in Europe. The country is one of the world's most sparsely populated and urbanised. About half of the country's total area is forested, concentrating around four-fifths of its total population of over 146.8 million on its smaller and dense western portion, as opposed to its larger and sparse eastern portion. Russia is administratively divided into 85 federal subjects. The Moscow Metropolitan Area is the largest metropolitan area in Europe, and among the largest in the world, with more than 20 million residents.
The East Slavs emerged as a recognisable group in Europe between the 3rd and 8th centuries AD. The medieval state of Rus' arose in the 9th century. In 988 it adopted Orthodox Christianity from the Byzantine Empire, beginning the synthesis of Byzantine and Slavic cultures that defined Russian culture for the next millennium. Rus' ultimately disintegrated into a number of smaller states, until it was finally reunified by the Grand Duchy of Moscow in the 15th century. By the 18th century, the nation had greatly expanded through conquest, annexation, and exploration to become the Russian Empire, which became a major European power, and the third-largest empire in history. Following the Russian Revolution, the Russian SFSR became the largest and leading constituent of the Soviet Union, the world's first constitutionally socialist state. The Soviet Union played a decisive role in the Allied victory in World War II, and emerged as a superpower and rival to the United States during the Cold War. The Soviet era saw some of the most significant technological achievements of the 20th century, including the world's first human-made satellite and the launching of the first human in space. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian SFSR reconstituted itself as the Russian Federation. In the aftermath of the constitutional crisis of 1993, a new constitution was adopted, and Russia has since been governed as a federal semi-presidential republic.
Russia is described as a potential superpower; with the world's second-most powerful military, and the fourth-highest military expenditure. As a recognised nuclear-weapon state, the country possesses the world's largest stockpile of nuclear weapons. Its economy ranks as the eleventh-largest in the world by nominal GDP and the sixth-largest by PPP. Russia's extensive mineral and energy resources are the largest in the world, and it is one of the leading producers of oil and natural gas globally. It is simultaneously ranked very high in the Human Development Index, with a universal healthcare system and free university education. Russia is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a member of the the G20, the SCO, the Council of Europe, the APEC, the OSCE, the IIB and the WTO, as well as the leading member of the CIS, the CSTO, and the EAEU. It also hosts the ninth-greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The name Russia is derived from Rus', a medieval state populated primarily by the East Slavs. However, this proper name became more prominent in later history, and the country typically was called by its inhabitants "Русская земля" (Russkaya zemlya), which can be translated as "Russian land" or "land of Rus'". In order to distinguish this state from other states derived from it, it is denoted as Kievan Rus' by modern historiography. The name Rus' itself comes from the early medieval Rus' people, and Swedish merchants and warriors, who relocated from across the Baltic Sea and founded a state centred on Novgorod that later became Kievan Rus'.
An old Latin version of the name Rus' was Ruthenia, mostly applied to the western and southern regions of Rus' that were adjacent to Catholic Europe. The current name of the country, Россия (Rossiya), comes from the Byzantine Greek designation of the Rus', Ρωσσία Rossía—spelled Ρωσία (Rosía pronounced [roˈsia]) in Modern Greek.
The standard way to refer to citizens of Russia is "Russians" in English. There are two Russian words which are commonly translated into English as "Russians". One is "русские" (russkiye), which most often means "ethnic Russians". Another is "россияне" (rossiyane), which means "Russian citizens", regardless of ethnicity.
In classical antiquity, the Pontic Steppe was known as Scythia. Beginning in the 8th century BC, Ancient Greek traders brought their civilisation to the trade emporiums in Tanais and Phanagoria. Ancient Greek explorers, most notably Pytheas, even went as far as modern day Kaliningrad, on the Baltic Sea. Romans settled on the western part of the Caspian Sea, where their empire stretched towards the east.[dubious ] In the 3rd to 4th centuries AD a semi-legendary Gothic kingdom of Oium existed in Southern Russia until it was overrun by Huns. Between the 3rd and 6th centuries AD, the Bosporan Kingdom, a Hellenistic polity which succeeded the Greek colonies, was also overwhelmed by nomadic invasions led by warlike tribes, such as the Huns and Eurasian Avars. A Turkic people, the Khazars, ruled the lower Volga basin steppes between the Caspian and Black Seas until the 10th century.
The ancestors of modern Russians are the Slavic tribes, whose original home is thought by some scholars to have been the wooded areas of the Pinsk Marshes. The East Slavs gradually settled Western Russia in two waves: one moving from Kiev toward present-day Suzdal and Murom and another from Polotsk toward Novgorod and Rostov. From the 7th century onwards, the East Slavs constituted the bulk of the population in Western Russia and assimilated the native Finno-Ugric peoples, including the Merya, the Muromians, and the Meshchera.
The establishment of the first East Slavic states in the 9th century coincided with the arrival of Varangians, the traders, warriors and settlers from the Baltic Sea region. Primarily they were Vikings of Scandinavian origin, who ventured along the waterways extending from the eastern Baltic to the Black and Caspian Seas. According to the Primary Chronicle, a Varangian from the Rus' people, named Rurik, was elected ruler of Novgorod in 862. In 882, his successor Oleg ventured south and conquered Kiev, which had been previously paying tribute to the Khazars. Oleg, Rurik's son Igor and Igor's son Sviatoslav subsequently subdued all local East Slavic tribes to Kievan rule, destroyed the Khazar khaganate and launched several military expeditions to Byzantium and Persia.
In the 10th to 11th centuries Kievan Rus' became one of the largest and most prosperous states in Europe. The reigns of Vladimir the Great (980–1015) and his son Yaroslav the Wise (1019–1054) constitute the Golden Age of Kiev, which saw the acceptance of Orthodox Christianity from Byzantium and the creation of the first East Slavic written legal code, the Russkaya Pravda.
In the 11th and 12th centuries, constant incursions by nomadic Turkic tribes, such as the Kipchaks and the Pechenegs, caused a massive migration of the East Slavic populations to the safer, heavily forested regions of the north, particularly to the area known as Zalesye (now the areas around Vladimir and Moscow), intermingling with the native Volga Finnic tribes.
The age of feudalism and decentralisation was marked by constant in-fighting between members of the Rurik Dynasty that ruled Kievan Rus' collectively. Kiev's dominance waned, to the benefit of Vladimir-Suzdal in the north-east, the Novgorod Republic in the north-west and Galicia-Volhynia in the south-west.
Ultimately Kievan Rus' disintegrated, with the final blow being the Mongol invasion of 1237–40 that resulted in the destruction of Kiev and the death of about half the population of Rus'. The invading Mongol elite, together with their conquered Turkic subjects (Cumans, Kipchaks, Bulgars), became known as Tatars, forming the state of the Golden Horde, which pillaged the Russian principalities; the Mongols ruled the Cuman-Kipchak confederation and Volga Bulgaria (modern-day southern and central expanses of Russia) for over two centuries.
Galicia-Volhynia was eventually assimilated by the Kingdom of Poland, while the Novgorod Republic and Mongol-dominated Vladimir-Suzdal, two regions on the periphery of Kiev, established the basis for the modern Russian nation. The Novgorod Republic escaped Mongol occupation and together with Pskov retained some degree of autonomy during the time of the Mongol yoke and were largely spared the atrocities that affected the rest of the country. Led by Prince Alexander Nevsky, Novgorodians repelled the invading Swedes in the Battle of the Neva in 1240, as well as the Germanic crusaders in the Battle of the Ice in 1242, breaking their attempts to colonise the Northern Rus'.
Grand Duchy of Moscow
The most powerful state to eventually arise after the destruction of Kievan Rus' was the Grand Duchy of Moscow ("Muscovy" in the Western chronicles), initially a part of Vladimir-Suzdal. While still under the domain of the Mongol-Tatars and with their connivance, Moscow began to assert its influence in the Central Rus' in the early 14th century, gradually becoming the leading force in the process of the Rus' lands' reunification and expansion of Russia. Moscow's last rival, the Novgorod Republic, prospered as the chief fur trade centre and the easternmost port of the Hanseatic League.
Times remained difficult, with frequent Mongol-Tatar raids. Agriculture suffered from the beginning of the Little Ice Age. As in the rest of Europe, plague was a frequent occurrence between 1350 and 1490. However, because of the lower population density and better hygiene—widespread practicing of banya, a wet steam bath—the death rate from plague was not as severe as in Western Europe, and population numbers recovered by 1500.
Led by Prince Dmitry Donskoy of Moscow and helped by the Russian Orthodox Church, the united army of Russian principalities inflicted a milestone defeat on the Mongol-Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380. Moscow gradually absorbed the surrounding principalities, including formerly strong rivals such as Tver and Novgorod.
Ivan III ("the Great") finally threw off the control of the Golden Horde and consolidated the whole of Central and Northern Rus' under Moscow's dominion. He was also the first to take the title "Grand Duke of all the Russias". After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Moscow claimed succession to the legacy of the Eastern Roman Empire. Ivan III married Sophia Palaiologina, the niece of the last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI, and made the Byzantine double-headed eagle his own, and eventually Russia's, coat-of-arms.
Tsardom of Russia
In development of the Third Rome ideas, the Grand Duke Ivan IV (the "Terrible") was officially crowned first Tsar ("Caesar") of Russia in 1547. The Tsar promulgated a new code of laws (Sudebnik of 1550), established the first Russian feudal representative body (Zemsky Sobor) and introduced local self-management into the rural regions.
During his long reign, Ivan the Terrible nearly doubled the already large Russian territory by annexing the three Tatar khanates (parts of the disintegrated Golden Horde): Kazan and Astrakhan along the Volga River, and the Siberian Khanate in southwestern Siberia. Thus, by the end of the 16th century Russia was transformed into a multiethnic, multidenominational and transcontinental state.
However, the Tsardom was weakened by the long and unsuccessful Livonian War against the coalition of Poland, Lithuania, and Sweden for access to the Baltic coast and sea trade. At the same time, the Tatars of the Crimean Khanate, the only remaining successor to the Golden Horde, continued to raid Southern Russia. In an effort to restore the Volga khanates, Crimeans and their Ottoman allies invaded central Russia and were even able to burn down parts of Moscow in 1571. But in the next year the large invading army was thoroughly defeated by Russians in the Battle of Molodi, forever eliminating the threat of an Ottoman–Crimean expansion into Russia. The slave raids of Crimeans, however, did not cease until the late 17th century though the construction of new fortification lines across Southern Russia, such as the Great Abatis Line, constantly narrowed the area accessible to incursions.
The death of Ivan's sons marked the end of the ancient Rurik Dynasty in 1598, and in combination with the famine of 1601–03 led to civil war, the rule of pretenders, and foreign intervention during the Time of Troubles in the early 17th century. The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth occupied parts of Russia, including Moscow. In 1612, the Poles were forced to retreat by the Russian volunteer corps, led by two national heroes, merchant Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitry Pozharsky. The Romanov Dynasty acceded to the throne in 1613 by the decision of Zemsky Sobor, and the country started its gradual recovery from the crisis.
Russia continued its territorial growth through the 17th century, which was the age of Cossacks. Cossacks were warriors organised into military communities, resembling pirates and pioneers of the New World. In 1648, the peasants of Ukraine joined the Zaporozhian Cossacks in rebellion against Poland-Lithuania during the Khmelnytsky Uprising in reaction to the social and religious oppression they had been suffering under Polish rule. In 1654, the Ukrainian leader, Bohdan Khmelnytsky, offered to place Ukraine under the protection of the Russian Tsar, Aleksey I. Aleksey's acceptance of this offer led to another Russo-Polish War. Finally, Ukraine was split along the Dnieper River, leaving the western part, right-bank Ukraine, under Polish rule and the eastern part (Left-bank Ukraine and Kiev) under Russian rule. Later, in 1670–71, the Don Cossacks led by Stenka Razin initiated a major uprising in the Volga Region, but the Tsar's troops were successful in defeating the rebels.
In the east, the rapid Russian exploration and colonisation of the huge territories of Siberia was led mostly by Cossacks hunting for valuable furs and ivory. Russian explorers pushed eastward primarily along the Siberian River Routes, and by the mid-17th century there were Russian settlements in Eastern Siberia, on the Chukchi Peninsula, along the Amur River, and on the Pacific coast. In 1648, the Bering Strait between Asia and North America was passed for the first time by Fedot Popov and Semyon Dezhnyov.
Under Peter the Great, Russia was proclaimed an Empire in 1721 and became recognised as a world power. Ruling from 1682 to 1725, Peter defeated Sweden in the Great Northern War, forcing it to cede West Karelia and Ingria (two regions lost by Russia in the Time of Troubles), as well as Estland and Livland, securing Russia's access to the sea and sea trade. On the Baltic Sea, Peter founded a new capital called Saint Petersburg, later known as Russia's "window to Europe". Peter the Great's reforms brought considerable Western European cultural influences to Russia.
The reign of Peter I's daughter Elizabeth in 1741–62 saw Russia's participation in the Seven Years' War (1756–63). During this conflict Russia annexed East Prussia for a while and even took Berlin. However, upon Elizabeth's death, all these conquests were returned to the Kingdom of Prussia by pro-Prussian Peter III of Russia.
Catherine II ("the Great"), who ruled in 1762–96, presided over the Age of Russian Enlightenment. She extended Russian political control over the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and incorporated most of its territories into Russia during the Partitions of Poland, pushing the Russian frontier westward into Central Europe. In the south, after successful Russo-Turkish Wars against Ottoman Turkey, Catherine advanced Russia's boundary to the Black Sea, defeating the Crimean Khanate. As a result of victories over Qajar Iran through the Russo-Persian Wars, by the first half of the 19th century Russia also made significant territorial gains in Transcaucasia and the North Caucasus, forcing the former to irrevocably cede what is nowadays Georgia, Dagestan, Azerbaijan and Armenia to Russia. Catherine's successor, her son Paul, was unstable and focused predominantly on domestic issues. Following his short reign, Catherine's strategy was continued with Alexander I's (1801–25) wresting of Finland from the weakened kingdom of Sweden in 1809 and of Bessarabia from the Ottomans in 1812. At the same time, Russians colonised Alaska and even founded settlements in California, such as Fort Ross.
In alliances with various European countries, Russia fought against Napoleon's France. The French invasion of Russia at the height of Napoleon's power in 1812 reached Moscow, but eventually failed miserably as the obstinate resistance in combination with the bitterly cold Russian winter led to a disastrous defeat of invaders, in which more than 95% of the pan-European Grande Armée perished. Led by Mikhail Kutuzov and Barclay de Tolly, the Russian army ousted Napoleon from the country and drove through Europe in the war of the Sixth Coalition, finally entering Paris. Alexander I headed Russia's delegation at the Congress of Vienna that defined the map of post-Napoleonic Europe.
The officers of the Napoleonic Wars brought ideas of liberalism back to Russia with them and attempted to curtail the tsar's powers during the abortive Decembrist revolt of 1825. At the end of the conservative reign of Nicolas I (1825–55), a zenith period of Russia's power and influence in Europe was disrupted by defeat in the Crimean War. Between 1847 and 1851, about one million people died of Asiatic cholera.
Nicholas's successor Alexander II (1855–81) enacted significant changes in the country, including the emancipation reform of 1861. These Great Reforms spurred industrialisation and modernised the Russian army, which had successfully liberated Bulgaria from Ottoman rule in the 1877–78 Russo-Turkish War.
The late 19th century saw the rise of various socialist movements in Russia. Alexander II was killed in 1881 by revolutionary terrorists, and the reign of his son Alexander III (1881–94) was less liberal but more peaceful. The last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II (1894–1917), was unable to prevent the events of the Russian Revolution of 1905, triggered by the unsuccessful Russo-Japanese War and the demonstration incident known as Bloody Sunday. The uprising was put down, but the government was forced to concede major reforms (Russian Constitution of 1906), including granting the freedoms of speech and assembly, the legalisation of political parties, and the creation of an elected legislative body, the State Duma of the Russian Empire. The Stolypin agrarian reform led to a massive peasant migration and settlement into Siberia. More than four million settlers arrived in that region between 1906 and 1914.
February Revolution and Russian Republic
In 1914, Russia entered World War I in response to Austria-Hungary's declaration of war on Russia's ally Serbia, and fought across multiple fronts while isolated from its Triple Entente allies. In 1916, the Brusilov Offensive of the Russian Army almost completely destroyed the military of Austria-Hungary. However, the already-existing public distrust of the regime was deepened by the rising costs of war, high casualties, and rumors of corruption and treason. All this formed the climate for the Russian Revolution of 1917, carried out in two major acts.
The February Revolution forced Nicholas II to abdicate; he and his family were imprisoned and later executed in Yekaterinburg during the Russian Civil War. The monarchy was replaced by a shaky coalition of political parties that declared itself the Provisional Government. On 1 September (14), 1917, upon a decree of the Provisional Government, the Russian Republic was proclaimed. On 6 January (19), 1918, the Russian Constituent Assembly declared Russia a democratic federal republic (thus ratifying the Provisional Government's decision). The next day the Constituent Assembly was dissolved by the All-Russian Central Executive Committee.
Russian Civil War and Soviet power establishment
An alternative socialist establishment co-existed, the Petrograd Soviet, wielding power through the democratically elected councils of workers and peasants, called Soviets. The rule of the new authorities only aggravated the crisis in the country, instead of resolving it. Eventually, the October Revolution, led by Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Provisional Government and gave full governing power to the Soviets, leading to the creation of the world's first socialist state.
Following the October Revolution, the Russian Civil War broke out between the anti-Communist White movement and the new Soviet regime with its Red Army. Bolshevist Russia lost its Ukrainian, Polish, Baltic, and Finnish territories by signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk that concluded hostilities with the Central Powers of World War I. The Allied powers launched an unsuccessful military intervention in support of anti-Communist forces. In the meantime both the Bolsheviks and White movement carried out campaigns of deportations and executions against each other, known respectively as the Red Terror and White Terror. By the end of the civil war, Russia's economy and infrastructure were heavily damaged. There were an estimated 7–12 million casualties during the war, mostly civilians. Millions became White émigrés, and the Russian famine of 1921–22 claimed up to five million victims.
The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (called Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic at the time), together with the Ukrainian, Byelorussian, and Transcaucasian Soviet Socialist Republics, formed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), or Soviet Union, on 30 December 1922. Out of the 15 republics that would make up the USSR, the largest in size and over half of the total USSR population was the Russian SFSR, which came to dominate the union for its entire 69-year history.
Following Lenin's death in 1924, a troika was designated to govern the Soviet Union. However, Joseph Stalin, an elected General Secretary of the Communist Party, managed to suppress all opposition groups within the party and consolidate power in his hands to become the Soviet Union's de facto dictator by the 1930s. Leon Trotsky, the main proponent of world revolution, was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1929, and Stalin's idea of Socialism in One Country became the primary line. The continued internal struggle in the Bolshevik party culminated in the Great Purge, a period of mass repressions in 1937–38, during which hundreds of thousands of people were executed, including original party members and military leaders accused of coup d'état plots.
Under Stalin's leadership, the government launched a command economy, industrialisation of the largely rural country, and collectivisation of its agriculture. During this period of rapid economic and social change, millions of people were sent to penal labor camps, including many political convicts for their opposition to Stalin's rule; millions were deported and exiled to remote areas of the Soviet Union. The transitional disorganisation of the country's agriculture, combined with the harsh state policies and a drought, led to the Soviet famine of 1932–1933, which killed between 2 and 3 million people in the Russian SFSR. The Soviet Union made the costly transformation from a largely agrarian economy to a major industrial powerhouse in a short span of time.
Under the doctrine of state atheism in the Soviet Union, there was a "government-sponsored program of forced conversion to atheism". The Soviet government targeted religions based on state interests, and while most organised religions were never outlawed, religious property was confiscated, believers were harassed, and religion was ridiculed while atheism was propagated in schools. In 1925 the government founded the League of Militant Atheists to intensify the persecution. While persecution accelerated following Stalin's rise to power, a revival of Orthodoxy was fostered by the government during World War II and the Soviet authorities sought to control the Russian Orthodox Church rather than liquidate it.
World War II
On 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany broke their non-aggression treaty with their erstwhile partner and invaded the Soviet Union with the largest and most powerful invasion force in human history, opening the largest theater of World War II. The Nazi Hunger Plan foresaw the "extinction of industry as well as a great part of the population". Nearly 3 million Soviet POWs in German captivity were murdered in just eight months of 1941–42. Although the Wehrmacht had considerable early success, their attack was halted in the Battle of Moscow. Subsequently, the Germans were dealt major defeats first at the Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942–43, and then in the Battle of Kursk in the summer of 1943. Another German failure was the Siege of Leningrad, in which the city was fully blockaded on land between 1941 and 1944 by German and Finnish forces, and suffered starvation and more than a million deaths, but never surrendered. Under Stalin's administration and the leadership of such commanders as Georgy Zhukov and Konstantin Rokossovsky, Soviet forces took Eastern Europe in 1944–45 and captured Berlin in May 1945. In August 1945 the Soviet Army ousted the Japanese from China's Manchukuo and North Korea, contributing to the allied victory over Japan.
The 1941–45 period of World War II is known in Russia as the "Great Patriotic War". The Soviet Union together with the United States, the United Kingdom and China were considered as the Big Four of Allied powers in World War II and later became the Four Policemen which was the foundation of the United Nations Security Council. During this war, which included many of the most lethal battle operations in human history, Soviet civilian and military death were about 27 million, accounting for about a third of all World War II casualties. The full demographic loss to the Soviet peoples was even greater. The Soviet economy and infrastructure suffered massive devastation which caused the Soviet famine of 1946–47, but the Soviet Union emerged as an acknowledged military superpower in Europe.
After the war, Eastern and Central Europe including East Germany and parts of Austria were occupied by Red Army according to the Potsdam Conference. Dependent socialist governments were installed in the Eastern Bloc satellite states. Becoming the world's second nuclear power, the USSR established the Warsaw Pact alliance and entered into a struggle for global dominance, known as the Cold War, with the United States and NATO. The Soviet Union supported revolutionary movements across the world, including the newly formed People's Republic of China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and, later on, the Republic of Cuba. Significant amounts of Soviet resources were allocated in aid to the other socialist states.
After Stalin's death and a short period of collective rule, the new leader Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin and launched the policy of de-Stalinisation. The penal labor system was reformed and many prisoners were released and rehabilitated (many of them posthumously). The general easement of repressive policies became known later as the Khrushchev Thaw. At the same time, tensions with the United States heightened when the two rivals clashed over the deployment of the United States Jupiter missiles in Turkey and Soviet missiles in Cuba.
In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, thus starting the Space Age. Russia's cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth, aboard the Vostok 1 manned spacecraft on 12 April 1961.
Following the ousting of Khrushchev in 1964, another period of collective rule ensued, until Leonid Brezhnev became the leader. The era of the 1970s and the early 1980s was later designated as the Era of Stagnation, a period when economic growth slowed and social policies became static. The 1965 Kosygin reform aimed for partial decentralisation of the Soviet economy and shifted the emphasis from heavy industry and weapons to light industry and consumer goods but was stifled by the conservative Communist leadership.
In 1979, after a Communist-led revolution in Afghanistan, Soviet forces entered that country. The occupation drained economic resources and dragged on without achieving meaningful political results. Ultimately, the Soviet Army was withdrawn from Afghanistan in 1989 due to international opposition, persistent anti-Soviet guerrilla warfare, and a lack of support by Soviet citizens.
From 1985 onwards, the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who sought to enact liberal reforms in the Soviet system, introduced the policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt to end the period of economic stagnation and to democratise the government. This, however, led to the rise of strong nationalist and separatist movements. Prior to 1991, the Soviet economy was the second largest in the world, but during its last years it was afflicted by shortages of goods in grocery stores, huge budget deficits, and explosive growth in the money supply leading to inflation.
By 1991, economic and political turmoil began to boil over, as the Baltic states chose to secede from the Soviet Union. On 17 March, a referendum was held, in which the vast majority of participating citizens voted in favour of changing the Soviet Union into a renewed federation. In August 1991, a coup d'état attempt by members of Gorbachev's government, directed against Gorbachev and aimed at preserving the Soviet Union, instead led to the end of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. On 25 December 1991, the USSR was dissolved into 15 post-Soviet states.
Post-Soviet Russia (1991–present)
In June 1991, Boris Yeltsin became the first directly elected president in Russian history when he was elected President of the Russian SFSR, which became the independent Russian Federation in December of that year. The economic and political collapse of the USSR led to a deep and prolonged depression, characterised by a 50% decline in both GDP and industrial output between 1990 and 1995, although some of the recorded declines may have been a result of an upward bias in Soviet-era economic data. During and after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, wide-ranging reforms including privatisation and market and trade liberalisation were undertaken, including radical changes along the lines of "shock therapy" as recommended by the United States and the International Monetary Fund.
The privatisation largely shifted control of enterprises from state agencies to individuals with inside connections in the government. Many of the newly rich moved billions in cash and assets outside of the country in an enormous capital flight. The depression of the economy led to the collapse of social services; the birth rate plummeted while the death rate skyrocketed. Millions plunged into poverty, from a level of 1.5% in the late Soviet era to 39–49% by mid-1993. The 1990s saw extreme corruption and lawlessness, the rise of criminal gangs and violent crime.
In late 1993, tensions between Yeltsin and the Russian parliament culminated in a constitutional crisis which ended after military force. Yeltsin found himself increasingly in conflict with the parliament, which resisted his policies, and on 21 September, he signed a decree dissolving the parliament and setting elections for a new bicameral legislature, overstepping his authority. Legislators barricaded themselves in the parliament building and voted to impeach Yeltsin. Clashes between anti-Yeltsin protesters and police broke out and armed demonstrators stormed the Moscow mayoral office and Ostankino Tower leading to Yeltsin to declare a state of emergency and to deploy the army on 4 October to attack the parliament building, where tanks fired rounds at the parliament building. The resistance leaders were then arrested and Yeltsin prevailed. During the crisis, Yeltsin was backed by Western governments and over 100 people were killed. In December, a constitutional referendum was held and approved which introduced a new constitution, giving the president enormous powers. Political scientist Hans-Henning Schröder argued that the day the new constitution was voted in was "the birthdate of a 'guided democracy' in Russia".
The 1990s were plagued by armed conflicts in the North Caucasus, both local ethnic skirmishes and separatist Islamist insurrections. From the time Chechen separatists declared independence in the early 1990s, an intermittent guerrilla war has been fought between the rebel groups and the Russian military. Terrorist attacks against civilians carried out by separatists, most notably the Moscow theater hostage crisis and Beslan school siege, caused hundreds of deaths and drew worldwide attention.
Russia took up the responsibility for settling the USSR's external debts, even though its population made up just half of the population of the USSR at the time of its dissolution. In 1992, most consumer price controls were eliminated, causing extreme inflation and significantly devaluing the Ruble. With a devalued Ruble, the Russian government struggled to pay back its debts to internal debtors, as well as international institutions like the International Monetary Fund. Despite significant attempts at economic restructuring, Russia's debt outpaced GDP growth. High budget deficits coupled with increasing capital flight and inability to pay back debts, caused the 1998 Russian financial crisis, and resulted in a further GDP decline.
On 31 December 1999, President Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned, handing the post to the recently appointed Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin. Yeltsin left office widely unpopular, with an approval rating as low as 2% by some estimates. Putin then won the 2000 presidential election and suppressed the Chechen insurgency, although sporadic violence still occurs throughout the North Caucasus. As a result of high oil prices, a rise in foreign investment, and prudent economic and fiscal policies, the Russian economy grew for eight straight years; improving the standard of living, and increasing Russia's influence on the world stage. Putin went on to win a second presidential term in 2004. Following the global economic crisis of 2008 and a subsequent drop in oil prices, Russia's economy stagnated in 2009. And from 2010 to 2013, Russia enjoyed high economic growth; until falling oil prices coupled with international sanctions after the annexation of Crimea and the Russo-Ukrainian War led to the economy shrinking in 2015, though it rebounded in 2016, and the recession officially ended. Many reforms made during the Putin presidency have been criticised as authoritarian, while Putin's leadership over the return of order, stability, and prosperity has won him widespread admiration in Russia.
On 2 March 2008, Dmitry Medvedev was elected President of Russia while Putin became Prime Minister. The Constitution of Russia prohibited Putin from serving a third consecutive presidential term. Putin returned to the presidency following the 2012 presidential elections, and Medvedev was appointed Prime Minister. This quick succession in leadership change was coined "tandemocracy" by outside media. Some critics claimed that the leadership change was superficial, and that Putin remained as the decision making force in the Russian government, while other political analysts viewed it as truly tandem. Alleged fraud in the 2011 parliamentary elections and Putin's return to the presidency in 2012 sparked mass protests.
In 2014, after President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine fled as a result of a revolution, Putin requested and received authorisation from the Russian parliament to deploy Russian troops to Ukraine, leading to the takeover of Crimea. Following a Crimean referendum in which separation was favoured by a large majority of voters, the Russian leadership announced the accession of Crimea into the Russian Federation, though this and the referendum that preceded it were not accepted internationally. The annexation of Crimea led to sanctions by Western countries, in which the Russian government responded with its own against a number of countries.
In September 2015, Russia started military intervention in the Syrian Civil War in support of the Syrian government, consisting of air strikes against militant groups of the Islamic State, al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda in the Levant), the Army of Conquest and other rebel groups.
In 2018, Putin was elected for a fourth presidential term overall. In January 2020, substantial amendments to the Constitution of Russia were proposed and took effect in July following a national vote, allowing Putin to run for two more six-year presidential terms after his current term ends. The vote was originally scheduled for April, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Russia.
According to the Constitution of Russia, the country is an asymmetric federation and semi-presidential republic, wherein the President is the head of state, and the Prime Minister is the head of government. The Russian Federation is fundamentally structured as a multi-party representative democracy, with the federal government composed of three branches:
- Legislative: The bicameral Federal Assembly of Russia, made up of the 450-member State Duma and the 170-member Federation Council, adopts federal law, declares war, approves treaties, has the power of the purse and the power of impeachment of the President.
- Executive: The President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, can veto legislative bills before they become law, and appoints the Government of Russia (Cabinet) and other officers, who administer and enforce federal laws and policies.
- Judiciary: The Constitutional Court, Supreme Court and lower federal courts, whose judges are appointed by the Federation Council on the recommendation of the President, interpret laws and can overturn laws they deem unconstitutional.
The president is elected by popular vote for a six-year term (eligible for a second term, but not for a third consecutive term). Ministries of the government are composed of the Premier and his deputies, ministers, and selected other individuals; all are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Prime Minister (whereas the appointment of the latter requires the consent of the State Duma).
- Federal subjects
According to the constitution, Russia comprises 85 federal subjects. In 1993, when the new constitution was adopted, there were 89 federal subjects listed, but later some of them were merged. These subjects have equal representation—two delegates each—in the Federation Council. However, they differ in the degree of autonomy they enjoy.
- 46 oblasts (provinces): most common type of federal subjects, with locally elected governor and legislature.
- 22 republics: nominally autonomous; each is tasked with drafting its own constitution, direct-elected head of republic or a similar post, and parliament. Republics are allowed to establish their own official language alongside Russian but are represented by the federal government in international affairs. Republics are meant to be home to specific ethnic minorities.
- 9 krais (territories): essentially the same as oblasts. The "territory" designation is historic, originally given to frontier regions and later also to the administrative divisions that comprised autonomous okrugs or autonomous oblasts.
- 4 autonomous okrugs (autonomous districts): originally autonomous entities within oblasts and krais created for ethnic minorities, their status was elevated to that of federal subjects in the 1990s. With the exception of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, all autonomous okrugs are still administratively subordinated to a krai or an oblast of which they are a part.
- 1 autonomous oblast (the Jewish Autonomous Oblast): historically, autonomous oblasts were administrative units subordinated to krais. In 1990, all of them except for the Jewish Autonomous Oblast were elevated in status to that of a republic.
- 3 federal cities (Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Sevastopol): major cities that function as separate regions.
- Federal districts
Federal subjects are grouped into eight federal districts, each administered by an envoy appointed by the President of Russia. Unlike the federal subjects, the federal districts are not a subnational level of government, but are a level of administration of the federal government.
Russia is recognised in international law as the successor state of the former Soviet Union. As of 2019[update], it has the fifth-largest diplomatic network in the world; maintaining diplomatic relations with 242 countries, with 144 embassies. The foreign policy is determined by the President and implemented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia.
Russia is considered a potential superpower; and is one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The country participates in the Quartet on the Middle East and the Six-party talks with North Korea. Russia is a member of the G20, Council of Europe, OSCE, and APEC, and takes a leading role in regional organisations such as the CIS, EAEU, CSTO, and the SCO. In 1998, Russia ratified the European Convention on Human Rights. The legal basis for EU relations with Russia is the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which came into force in 1997. In May 2003, the EU and Russia agreed to reinforce their cooperation on the basis of common values and shared interests. President Vladimir Putin had advocated a strategic partnership with close integration in various dimensions, including establishment of EU-Russia Common Spaces.
From the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia had initially developed a friendlier relationship with the United States and NATO. However, today, the trilateral relationship has significantly deteriorated due to several issues and conflicts between Russia and Western countries. The NATO-Russia Council was established in 2002 to allow Russia and NATO members to work together as equal partners to pursue opportunities for joint collaboration, however co-operation was suspended by NATO in 2014; following Russia's annexation of Crimea.
Russia maintains positive relations with other SCO and BRICS countries. In recent years, the country has significantly strengthened bilateral ties with China by signing the Treaty of Friendship as well as building the Trans-Siberian oil pipeline and gas pipeline from Siberia to China, and has since formed a special relationship with China. India is the largest customer of Russian military equipment and the two countries share extensive defence and strategic relations.
The Russian Armed Forces are divided into the Ground Forces, Navy, and Air Force. There are also three independent arms of service: Strategic Missile Troops, Aerospace Defence Forces, and the Airborne Troops. As of 2017[update], the military comprised over one million active duty personnel, the fifth-largest in the world. Additionally, there are over 2.5 million reservists, with the total number of reserve troops possibly being as high as 20 million. It is mandatory for all male citizens aged 18–27 to be drafted for a year of service in Armed Forces.
Russia boasts the world's second-most powerful military, and is among the five recognised nuclear-weapons states, with the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world. More than half of the world's 14,000 nuclear weapons are owned by Russia. The country possesses the second-largest fleet of ballistic missile submarines, and is one of the only three states operating strategic bombers, with the world's most powerful tank force, the second-most powerful air force, and the third-most powerful navy fleet. According to SIPRI estimates, Russia has the highest military expenditure in Europe, and the fourth-highest in the world, with a budget of $65.1 billion, or 3.9% of its total GDP.
Russia has a large and fully indigenous arms industry, producing most of its own military equipment with only a few types of weapons imported. It has been one of the world's top supplier of arms since 2001, accounting for around 30% of worldwide weapons sales. In 2020, according to a research from SIPRI, Russia is the third-biggest exporters of arms in the world, behind only the United States and China.
Human rights and corruption
The Constitution of Russia grants numerous de jure protections to human rights for its citizens, such as the precedence of international law over federal legislation, which includes how Russia has ratified by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Since the re-election of Vladimir Putin as president in 2004, Russia's human rights management has been increasingly criticised by leading democracy and human rights watchdogs. In particular, such organisations as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch consider Russia to have not enough democratic attributes and to allow few political rights and civil liberties to its citizens. Since 2004, Freedom House, an international organisation funded by the United States, has ranked Russia as "not free", citing "carefully engineered elections" and "absence" of debate. Since 2011, the UK-based Economist Intelligence Unit has ranked Russia as an "authoritarian regime".
Media freedom has been consistently rated no higher than 140th out of between 167 and 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders' annual Press Freedom Index rankings since 2006, citing in 2020 that pressure on independent media has steadily increased since major anti-government protests from 2011 to 2013, and that independent journalists who question the neoconservative and patriotic discourse vehemently spread by Russian state media have fallen under a climate of oppression. RSF also reported that murders and attacks against journalists remain under impunity, while selectively applied anti-extremism laws as well as territorial sovereignty grounds have been used to arrest journalists and bloggers.
According to the Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, Russia ranked 137th out of 180 countries in 2019 with the lowest score in Europe. Corruption is perceived as a significant problem in Russia, impacting all aspects of life, including economy, business, public administration, law enforcement, healthcare, and education. The phenomenon of corruption is strongly established in the historical model of public governance in Russia and attributed to general weakness of rule of law in Russia.
Russia is the largest country in the world; covering a total area of 17,075,200 square kilometres (6,592,800 sq mi). It is a transcontinental country spanning much of Eurasia, in two continents: Europe and Asia. European Russia is roughly 4,000,000 km², which is around 40% of the total landmass of Europe, making Russia the largest country in Europe; and Asian Russia, which covers all of Northern Asia, is around 13,100,000 km², making Russia the largest country in Asia.
Russia has the fourth-longest coastline in the world, at 37,653 km (23,396 mi). Owing to its vast expanse, it also has the fourth-largest EEZ of 7,566,673 km2 (2,921,509 sq mi) with 200 nautical miles (370.4 km; 230.2 mi) from its shores. It is larger, by size, than the continents of Oceania, Europe and Antarctica; and lies between latitudes 41° and 82° N, and longitudes 19° E and 169° W.
The two most widely separated points in Russia are about 8,000 km (4,971 mi) apart along a geodesic line. These points are: a 60 km (37 mi) long Vistula Spit the boundary with Poland separating the Gdańsk Bay from the Vistula Lagoon and the most southeastern point of the Kuril Islands. The points which are farthest separated in longitude are 6,600 km (4,101 mi) apart along a geodesic line. These points are: in the west, the same spit on the boundary with Poland, and in the east, the Big Diomede Island.
Most of Russia consists of vast stretches of plains that are predominantly steppe to the south and heavily forested to the north, with tundra along the northern coast. Russia possesses 7.4% of the world's arable land. Mountain ranges are found along the southern borders, such as the Caucasus (containing Mount Elbrus, which at 5,642 m (18,510 ft) is the highest point in both Russia and Europe) and the Altai (containing Mount Belukha, which at the 4,506 m (14,783 ft) is the highest point of Siberia outside of the Russian Far East); and in the eastern parts, such as the Verkhoyansk Range or the volcanoes of Kamchatka Peninsula (containing Klyuchevskaya Sopka, which at the 4,750 m (15,584 ft) is the highest active volcano in Eurasia as well as the highest point of Siberia). The Ural Mountains, rich in mineral resources, form a north–south range that divides Europe and Asia.
The Barents Sea, White Sea, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, East Siberian Sea, Chukchi Sea, Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, and the Sea of Japan are linked to Russia via the Arctic and Pacific. Russia's major islands and archipelagos include Novaya Zemlya, the Franz Josef Land, the Severnaya Zemlya, the New Siberian Islands, Wrangel Island, the Kuril Islands, and Sakhalin. The Diomede Islands (one controlled by Russia, the other by the United States) are just 3 km (1.9 mi) apart, and Kunashir Island is about 20 km (12.4 mi) from Hokkaido, Japan.
Russia has thousands of rivers and inland bodies of water, providing it with one of the world's largest surface water resources. Its lakes contain approximately one-quarter of the world's liquid fresh water. The largest and most prominent of Russia's bodies of fresh water is Lake Baikal, the world's deepest, purest, oldest and most capacious fresh water lake. Baikal alone contains over one-fifth of the world's fresh surface water. Other major lakes include Ladoga and Onega, two of the largest lakes in Europe. Russia is second only to Brazil in volume of the total renewable water resources. Of the country's 100,000 rivers, the Volga is the most famous, not only because it is the longest river in Europe, but also because of its major role in Russian history. The Siberian rivers of Ob, Yenisey, Lena and Amur are among the longest rivers in the world.
The enormous size of Russia and the remoteness of many areas from the sea result in the dominance of the humid continental climate, which is prevalent in all parts of the country except for the tundra and the extreme southwest. Mountains in the south obstruct the flow of warm air masses from the Indian Ocean, while the plain of the west and north makes the country open to Arctic and Atlantic influences.
Most of Northern European Russia and Siberia has a subarctic climate, with extremely severe winters in the inner regions of Northeast Siberia (mostly the Sakha Republic, where the Northern Pole of Cold is located with the record low temperature of −71.2 °C or −96.2 °F), and more moderate winters elsewhere. Both the strip of land along the shore of the Arctic Ocean and the Russian Arctic islands have a polar climate.
The coastal part of Krasnodar Krai on the Black Sea, most notably in Sochi, possesses a humid subtropical climate with mild and wet winters. In many regions of East Siberia and the Far East, winter is dry compared to summer; other parts of the country experience more even precipitation across seasons. Winter precipitation in most parts of the country usually falls as snow. The region along the Lower Volga and Caspian Sea coast, as well as some areas of southernmost Siberia, possesses a semi-arid climate.
Throughout much of the territory there are only two distinct seasons—winter and summer—as spring and autumn are usually brief periods of change between extremely low and extremely high temperatures. The coldest month is January (February on the coastline); the warmest is usually July. Great ranges of temperature are typical. In winter, temperatures get colder both from south to north and from west to east. Summers can be quite hot, even in Siberia. The continental interiors are the driest areas.
From north to south the East European Plain, also known as Russian Plain, is clad sequentially in Arctic tundra, coniferous forest (taiga), mixed and broad-leaf forests, grassland (steppe), and semi-desert (fringing the Caspian Sea), as the changes in vegetation reflect the changes in climate. Siberia supports a similar sequence but is largely taiga. Russia has the world's largest forest reserves, known as the "Lungs of Europe"; which is second only to the Amazon Rainforest in the amount of carbon dioxide it absorbs.
There are 266 mammal species and 780 bird species in Russia. A total of 415 animal species have been included in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation as of 1997 and are now protected. There are 28 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Russia, 40 UNESCO biosphere reserves, 41 national parks and 101 nature reserves. Russia still has many ecosystems which are still untouched by man— mainly in the northern areas taiga and in subarctic tundra of Siberia. Over time Russia has been having improvement and application of environmental legislation, development and implementation of various federal and regional strategies and programmes, and study, inventory and protection of rare and endangered plants, animals, and other organisms, and including them in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation.
Russia has an upper-middle income mixed economy, with enormous natural resources, particularly oil and natural gas. It has the world's eleventh-largest economy by nominal GDP and the sixth-largest by PPP. According to the World Bank, Russia's GDP per capita by PPP was $29,181 in 2019. The average nominal salary in Russia was ₽47,867 per month in 2019, and approximately 12.9% of Russians lived below the national poverty line in 2018. Unemployment in Russia was 4.5% in 2019, and officially more than 70% of the Russian population is categorised as middle class; though some experts disagree with that. By the end of December 2019, Russian foreign trade turnover reached $666.6 billion. Russia's exports totalled over $422.8 billion, while its imported goods were worth over $243.8 billion.
Oil, natural gas, metals, and timber account for more than 80% of Russian exports abroad. As of 2012[update], the oil-and-gas sector accounted for 16% of GDP, 52% of federal budget revenues and over 80% of total exports. As of August 2020[update], foreign reserves in Russia are $438 billion. Russia has one of the lowest foreign debts among major economies.
Russia ranks 28th of 190 countries in the 2019 ease of doing business index. It has a flat tax rate of 13%; and is the country with the world's second most attractive personal tax system for single managers after the United Arab Emirates. Inequality of household income and wealth has also been noted, with Credit Suisse finding Russian wealth distribution so much more extreme than other countries studied it "deserves to be placed in a separate category."
In recent years, Russia has frequently been described in the media as an energy superpower. The country has the world's largest natural gas reserves, the second-largest coal reserves, the eighth-largest oil reserves, and the largest oil shale reserves in Europe. Russia is the world's leading natural gas exporter, the second-largest natural gas producer, the second-largest oil exporter, and the third-largest oil producer. Fossil fuels cause most of the greenhouse gas emissions by Russia.
Russia is the fourth-largest electricity producer in the world, and the ninth-largest renewable energy producer in 2019. It was the first country to develop civilian nuclear power and to construct the world's first nuclear power plant. In 2019, the country was the fourth-largest nuclear energy producer in the world; nuclear generated 20% of the country's electricity.
Agriculture and fishery
Russia has the fourth-largest cultivated area in the world, at 1,237,294 square kilometres (477,722 sq mi). From 1999 to 2009, Russia's agriculture grew steadily, and the country turned from a grain importer to the third-largest grain exporter. The production of meat has grown from 6,813,000 tonnes in 1999 to 9,331,000 tonnes in 2008, and continues to grow. In 2016, Russia exceeded Soviet grain production levels, and became the world's largest exporter of wheat.
This restoration of agriculture was supported by a credit policy of the government, helping both individual farmers and large privatised corporate farms that once were Soviet kolkhozes and which still own the significant share of agricultural land. While large farms concentrate mainly on grain production and husbandry products, small private household plots produce most of the country's potatoes, vegetables and fruits. Since Russia borders three oceans (the Atlantic, the Arctic, and the Pacific), its fishing fleets are a major world fish supplier. Russia captured 3,191,068 tons of fish in 2005. Both exports and imports of fish and sea products grew significantly in recent years, reaching $2,415 and $2,036 million, respectively, in 2008.
Railway transport in Russia is mostly under the control of the state-run Russian Railways monopoly. The total length of common-used railway tracks exceeds 85,500 km (53,127 mi), second only to the United States. The most renowned railway in Russia is the Trans-Siberian Railway, the longest railway-line in the world. As of 2016[update], Russia had 1,452.2 km of roads; and its road density is the lowest among the BRICS. Much of Russia's inland waterways, which total 102,000 km (63,380 mi), are made up of natural rivers or lakes. Among Russia's 1,216 airports, the busiest are Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo, and Vnukovo in Moscow, and Pulkovo in Saint Petersburg.
Major sea ports of Russia include Rostov-on-Don on the Sea of Azov, Novorossiysk on the Black Sea, Astrakhan and Makhachkala on the Caspian, Kaliningrad and St Petersburg on the Baltic, Arkhangelsk on the White Sea, Murmansk on the Barents Sea, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean. The world's only fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers advances the economic exploitation of the Arctic continental shelf of Russia and the development of sea trade through the Northern Sea Route.
Science and technology
Russia is a leading nation in scientific research; its research and development budget is the ninth-highest in the world, with an expenditure of approximately 422 billion rubles on domestic research and development. In 2019, Russia was ranked tenth worldwide in the number of scientific publications. Since 1904, Nobel Prize were awarded to twenty-six Russian and Soviet people in physics, chemistry, medicine, economy, literature and peace.
Mikhail Lomonosov proposed the law of conservation of matter preceding the energy conservation law. Since the time of Nikolay Lobachevsky (the "Copernicus of Geometry" who pioneered the non-Euclidean geometry) and a prominent tutor Pafnuty Chebyshev, the Russian mathematical school became one of the most influential in the world. Dmitry Mendeleev invented the Periodic table, the main framework of modern chemistry. Nine Soviet/Russian mathematicians were awarded with the Fields Medal. Grigori Perelman was offered the first ever Clay Millennium Prize Problems Award for his final proof of the Poincaré conjecture in 2002. Russian discoveries and inventions include the electric filament lamp, the aircraft, the safety parachute, sputnik, radio receiver, electrical microscope, colour photos, caterpillar tracks, track assembly, electrically-powered railway wagons, videotape recorder, helicopter, solar cell, transformers, yogurt, television, petrol cracking, synthetic rubber and grain harvester.
Roscosmos is Russia's national space agency; while Russian achievements in the field of space technology and space exploration are traced back to Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the father of theoretical astronautics. His works had inspired leading Soviet rocket engineers, such as Sergey Korolyov, Valentin Glushko, and many others who contributed to the success of the Soviet space program in the early stages of the Space Race and beyond.
In 1957, the first Earth-orbiting artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, was launched; in 1961 the first human trip into space was successfully made by Yuri Gagarin. Many other Soviet and Russian space exploration records ensued, including the first spacewalk performed by Alexei Leonov, Luna 9 was the first spacecraft to land on the Moon, Zond 5 brought the first Earthlings (two tortoises and other life forms) to circumnavigate the Moon, Venera 7 was the first to land on another planet (Venus), Mars 3 then the first to land on Mars, the first space exploration rover Lunokhod 1, and the first space station Salyut 1 and Mir. Russia is the largest satellite launcher.
Russia has completed the GLONASS satellite navigation system, and is developing its own fifth-generation jet fighter and constructing the first serial mobile nuclear plant in the world. Soyuz rockets are the only provider of transport for astronauts at the International Space Station. Luna-Glob is a Russian Moon exploration programme, with first planned mission launch in 2021. Roscosmos is also developing the Orel spacecraft, to replace the aging Soyuz, it could also conduct mission to lunar orbit as early as 2026. In February 2019, it was announced that Russia is intending to conduct its first crewed mission to land on the Moon in 2031.
According to a UNWTO report, Russia is the sixteenth-most visited country in the world, and the tenth-most visited country in Europe, as of 2018, with 24.6 million visits. Russia is ranked 39th in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019. According to Federal Agency for Tourism, the number of inbound trips of foreign citizens to Russia amounted to 24.4 million in 2019. Russia's international tourism receipts in 2018 amounted to $11.6 billion. In 2020, tourism accounted for about 4% of country's GDP. Major tourist routes in Russia include a journey around the Golden Ring theme route of ancient cities, cruises on the big rivers like the Volga, and journeys on the famous Trans-Siberian Railway. Russia's most visited and popular landmarks include Red Square, the Peterhof Palace, the Kazan Kremlin, the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius and Lake Baikal.
Russia had a population of 142.8 million according to the 2010 census, which rose to 146.7 million as of 2020. It is the most populous country in Europe, and the ninth-most populous country in the world, its population density stands at 9 inhabitants per square kilometre (23 per square mile). The overall life expectancy in Russia at birth is 72.4 years (66.9 years for males and 77.6 years for females). Since the 1990s, Russia's death rate has exceeded its birth rate. As of 2018, the total fertility rate (TFR) across Russia was estimated to be 1.82 born per woman, one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, below the replacement rate of 2.1, and considerably below the high of 7.44 children born per woman in 1908. Subsequently, the country has one of the oldest populations in the world, with an average age of 40.3 years.
Nevertheless, Russia's overall birth rate is higher than that of most European countries (10.8 births per 1000 people in 2020, compared to the EU average of 9.5 per 1000), though its death rate is also substantially higher (in 2020, Russia's death rate was 11.1 per 1000 people, compared to the EU average of 10.7 per 1000). Since 2010, Russia has seen increased population growth due to declining death rates, increased birth rates and increased immigration. In 2009, it recorded annual population growth for the first time in fifteen years, with total growth of 10,500. In 2012, the trend continued, with 1,896,263 births, the highest since 1990, and even exceeding annual births during the period 1967–1969.
According to the United Nations, Russia's immigrant population is the third-largest in the world, numbering over 11.6 million. Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Kazakhstan were the leading countries of origin for immigrants to Russia. There are about 3 million Ukrainians living in Russia. In 2016, 196,000 migrants arrived, mostly from the ex-Soviet states.
Russia is a multinational state, with more than 193 ethnic groups within its borders. It had a population of 142.8 million according to the 2010 Russian Census, of which around 111 million were ethnic Russians, who consisted of 80.9% of the total population, while rest of the 19% of the population were minorities. The sizable numbers of Tatars, Ukrainians, Bashkirs, Chuvash and Chechens in the country made up around 8.4% of the total population. Rest of the 10.6% of the population were diverse Indo-European, Turkic and Baltic-Finnic peoples.
Around 84.93% of the Russian population belonged to the European ethnic groups in 2010, of which the vast majority were Slavs, with minorities of Germanic, Baltic-Finnic and other groups. Russia is home to a large population from the Post-Soviet states of the former Soviet Union, of which Ukrainians consist the largest number.
|Officially ethnic Russian-minority regions in Russia|
|Republic||ethnic Russians (%)|
Russia's official language is the Russian language, which is the native language of ethnic Russians; however, Russia's 192 minority ethnic groups speak over 100 languages. According to the 2002 Census, 142.6 million people speak Russian, followed by Tatar with 5.3 million, and Ukrainian with 1.8 million speakers. The constitution of Russia gives the individual republics the right to establish their own state languages in addition to Russian.
Despite its wide distribution, the Russian language is homogeneous throughout the country; and is the most spoken native language in Europe, the most geographically widespread language of Eurasia, as well as the most widely spoken Slavic language in the world. It belongs to the Indo-European language family and is one of the living members of the East Slavic languages, the others being Belarusian and Ukrainian (and possibly Rusyn). Written examples of Old East Slavic (Old Russian) are attested from the 10th century onwards.
Russian is the second-most used language on the Internet after English, one of two official languages aboard the International Space Station, and is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. 35 languages are officially recognised in Russia in various regions by local governments:
|Officially recognized minority languages in Russia|
|Language||Language family||Federal subject(s)||Source|
|Bashkir||Turkic||Bashkortostan||; see also regional law|
|Crimean Tatar||Turkic||Republic of Crimea|
|Hill Mari||Uralic||Mari El|
|Meadow Mari||Uralic||Mari El|
|Ukrainian||Indo-European||Republic of Crimea|
Russia is a secular state by constitution, and its largest religion is Christianity; it has the largest Eastern Orthodox population in the world. As of a different sociological surveys on religious adherence, from 41% to over 80% of the total population of Russia adhere to the Russian Orthodox Church.
The 2017 Survey Religious Belief and National Belonging in Central and Eastern Europe made by the Pew Research Center showed that 73% of Russians declared themselves Christians—including 71% Orthodox, 1% Catholic, and 2% Other Christians, while 15% were unaffiliated, 10% were Muslims, and 1% were from other religions. According to the same study, Christianity experienced significant increase since the fall of the USSR in 1991, and more Russians say they are Christian now (73%) than say they were raised Christian (65%). According to various reports, the proportion of not religious people in Russia is between 16% and 48% of the population. According to recent studies, the proportion of atheists has significantly decreased over the decades after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Islam is the second-largest religion in Russia. It is the traditional or predominant religion amongst the Caucasian ethnicities of the North Caucasus (notably the Chechens, the Avars, the Ingush and the Circassians), and amongst some Turkic peoples of the Volga Region (notably the Tatars, the Chuvash, and the Bashkirs). Buddhism is traditional in three republics of Russia: Buryatia, Tuva, and Kalmykia, the latter being the only region in Europe where Buddhism is the most practiced religion.
Russia has the most college-level or higher graduates in terms of percentage of population in the world, at 54%. Russia has a free education system, which is guaranteed for all citizens by the Constitution. As a result of great emphasis on science and technology in education, Russian medical, mathematical, scientific, and aerospace research is generally of a high order.
Since 1990, the 11-year school education has been introduced. Education in state-owned secondary schools is free. University level education is free, with exceptions. A substantial share of students is enrolled for full pay (many state institutions started to open commercial positions in the last years).
The oldest and largest Russian universities are Moscow State University and Saint Petersburg State University. In the 2000s, in order to create higher education and research institutions of comparable scale in Russian regions, the government launched a program of establishing "federal universities", mostly by merging existing large regional universities and research institutes and providing them with a special funding. These new institutions include the Southern Federal University, Siberian Federal University, Kazan Volga Federal University, North-Eastern Federal University, and Far Eastern Federal University.
The constitution of Russia guarantees free, universal health care for all its citizens. In practice, however, free health care is partially restricted because of mandatory registration. Russia has more physicians, hospitals, and health care workers than almost any other country in the world on a per capita basis. In the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the health of the Russian population declined as a result of social, economic, and lifestyle changes; the trend has been reversed while in the recent years, average life expectancy increased considerably; 6.8 years for males and 4.2 years for females between 2006 and 2018.
As of 2018[update], the average life expectancy at birth in Russia is 72.4 years (66.9 years for males and 77.6 years for females). The biggest factor contributing to the relatively low life expectancy for males is a high mortality rate among working-age males; which mostly occurs from preventable causes, including alcohol poisoning, smoking, traffic accidents and violent crime. As a result, Russia has one of the world's most female-biased sex ratios, with 0.859 males to every female.
Music in 19th-century Russia was defined by the tension between classical composer Mikhail Glinka along with other members of The Mighty Handful, and the Russian Musical Society led by composers Anton and Nikolay Rubinstein. The later tradition of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era, was continued into the 20th century by Sergei Rachmaninoff. World-renowned composers of the 20th century include Alexander Scriabin, Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich and Alfred Schnittke.
Russian conservatories have turned out generations of famous soloists. Among the best known are violinists Jascha Heifetz, David Oistrakh, Leonid Kogan, Gidon Kremer, and Maxim Vengerov; cellists Mstislav Rostropovich, Natalia Gutman; pianists Vladimir Horowitz, Sviatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels, Vladimir Sofronitsky and Evgeny Kissin; and vocalists Fyodor Shalyapin, Mark Reizen, Elena Obraztsova, Tamara Sinyavskaya, Nina Dorliak, Galina Vishnevskaya, Anna Netrebko and Dmitry Hvorostovsky.
Modern Russian rock music takes its roots both in the Western rock and roll and heavy metal, and in traditions of the Russian bards of the Soviet era, such as Vladimir Vysotsky and Bulat Okudzhava. Popular Russian rock groups include Mashina Vremeni, DDT, Aquarium, Alisa, Kino, Kipelov, Nautilus Pompilius, Aria, Grazhdanskaya Oborona, Splean, and Korol i Shut. Russian pop music developed from what was known in the Soviet times as estrada into full-fledged industry.
Art and design
Early Russian painting is represented in icons and vibrant frescos, the two genres inherited from Byzantium. As Moscow rose to power, Theophanes the Greek, Dionisius and Andrei Rublev became vital names associated with a distinctly Russian art.
The Russian Academy of Arts was created in 1757, and gave Russian artists an international role and status. Ivan Argunov, Dmitry Levitzky, Vladimir Borovikovsky and other 18th-century academicians mostly focused on portrait painting. In the early 19th century, when neoclassicism and romantism flourished, mythological and Biblical themes inspired many prominent paintings, notably by Karl Briullov and Alexander Ivanov.
In the mid-19th century the Peredvizhniki (Wanderers) group of artists broke with the Academy and initiated a school of art liberated from academic restrictions. These were mostly realist painters who captured Russian identity in landscapes, as well as vigorous genre scenes and robust portraits of their contemporaries. Some artists focused on depicting dramatic moments in Russian history, while others turned to social criticism. Under the reign of Alexander II, critical realism flourished. Leading realists include Ivan Shishkin, Arkhip Kuindzhi, Ivan Kramskoi, Vasily Polenov, Isaac Levitan, Vasily Surikov, Viktor Vasnetsov, Ilya Repin, and Boris Kustodiev.
The turn of the 20th century saw the rise of symbolist painting, represented by Mikhail Vrubel, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin, and Nicholas Roerich. The Russian avant-garde was a large, influential wave of modernist art that flourished in Russia from approximately 1890 to 1930. The term covers many separate, but inextricably related art movements that occurred at the time, namely neo-primitivism, suprematism, constructivism, rayonism, and Russian Futurism. Notable artists from this era include El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich, Wassily Kandinsky, and Marc Chagall. Since the 1930s the revolutionary ideas of the avant-garde clashed with the newly emerged conservative direction of socialist realism.
Soviet art produced works that were furiously patriotic and anti-fascist during and after the Great Patriotic War. Multiple war memorials, marked by a great restrained solemnity, were built throughout the country. Some influential Soviet sculptures were Vera Mukhina, Yevgeny Vuchetich and Ernst Neizvestny.
Russian architecture began with the woodcraft buildings of ancient Slavs. Some characteristics taken from the Slavic pagan temples are the exterior galleries and the plurality of towers. Since the Christianization of Kievan Rus', for several centuries Russian architecture was influenced predominantly by the Byzantine architecture, until the Fall of Constantinople. Apart from fortifications (kremlins), the main stone buildings of ancient Rus' were Orthodox churches, with their many domes, often gilded or brightly painted.
Aristotle Fioravanti and other Italian architects brought Renaissance trends into Russia. The 16th century saw the development of unique tent-like churches culminating in Saint Basil's Cathedral. By that time the onion dome design was also fully developed. In the 17th century, the "fiery style" of ornamentation flourished in Moscow and Yaroslavl, gradually paving the way for the Naryshkin baroque of the 1690s. After the reforms of Peter the Great led to Russia absorbing Western culture; the change of the architectural styles in the country generally followed that of Western Europe.
The 18th-century taste for Rococo architecture led to the splendid works of Bartolomeo Rastrelli and his followers. During the reign of Catherine the Great and her grandson Alexander I, the city of Saint Petersburg was transformed into an outdoor museum of Neoclassical architecture. The second half of the 19th century was dominated by the Byzantine and Russian Revival style (this corresponds to Gothic Revival in Western Europe).
Prevalent styles of the 20th century were the Art Nouveau (Fyodor Shekhtel), Constructivism (Moisei Ginzburg and Victor Vesnin), and Socialist Classicism (Boris Iofan). After Stalin's death; a new Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, condemned the "excesses" of the former architectural styles, and in the late Soviet era the architecture of the country was dominated by plain functionalism. After the end of the Soviet Union the situation improved. Many churches demolished in the Soviet times were rebuilt, and this process continues along with the restoration of various historical buildings destroyed in World War II. As for the original architecture, there is no more any common style in modern Russia, though International style has a great influence.
Literature and philosophy
Russian literature is considered to be among the most influential and developed in the world. In the 18th century, during the era of Russian Enlightenment, the development of Russian literature was boosted by the works of Mikhail Lomonosov and Denis Fonvizin. By the early 19th century a modern national tradition had emerged, producing some of the greatest writers in Russian history. This period, known also as the Golden Age of Russian Poetry, began with Alexander Pushkin, who is considered the founder of the modern Russian literary language and often described as the "Russian Shakespeare". It continued with the poetry of Mikhail Lermontov and Nikolay Nekrasov, dramas of Alexander Ostrovsky and Anton Chekhov, and the prose of Nikolai Gogol and Ivan Turgenev. Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky have been described by literary critics as the greatest novelists of all time.
By the 1880s, the age of the great novelists was over, and short fiction and poetry became the dominant genres. The next several decades became known as the Silver Age of Russian Poetry, when the previously dominant literary realism was replaced by symbolism. Leading authors of this era include such poets as Valery Bryusov, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Alexander Blok, Nikolay Gumilev and Anna Akhmatova, and novelists Leonid Andreyev, Ivan Bunin, and Maxim Gorky.
Russian philosophy blossomed in the 19th century, when it was defined initially by the opposition of Westernizers, who advocated Western political and economical models, and Slavophiles, who insisted upon historical Slavic values and institutions. The latter group includes Nikolai Danilevsky and Konstantin Leontiev, the founders of Eurasianism. In its further development Russian philosophy was always marked by a deep connection to literature and interest in creativity, society, politics and nationalism; Russian cosmism and religious philosophy were other major areas. Notable philosophers of the late 19th and the early 20th centuries include Vladimir Solovyev, Sergei Bulgakov, and Vladimir Vernadsky.
Following the Russian Revolution, many prominent writers and philosophers left the country, including Bunin, Vladimir Nabokov and Nikolay Berdyayev, while a new generation of talented authors joined together in an effort to create a distinctive working-class culture appropriate for the new Soviet state. In the 1930s censorship over literature was tightened in line with the policy of socialist realism. In the late 1950s restrictions on literature were eased, and by the 1970s and 1980s, writers were increasingly ignoring official guidelines. Leading authors of the Soviet era include novelists Yevgeny Zamyatin (emigrated), Ilf and Petrov, Mikhail Bulgakov (censored) and Mikhail Sholokhov, and poets Vladimir Mayakovsky, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, and Andrey Voznesensky.
The largest internationally operating news agencies in Russia are TASS, RIA Novosti, and Interfax. Television is the most popular media in Russia, with 74% of the population watching national television channels routinely, and 59% routinely watching regional channels. There are three main nationwide radio stations in Russia: Radio Russia, Radio Mayak, and Radio Yunost. Russia has the largest video gaming market in Europe, with 65 million players nationwide.
Russian and later Soviet cinema was a hotbed of invention, resulting in world-renowned films such as The Battleship Potemkin by Sergei Eisenstein. Eisenstein was a student of filmmaker and theorist Lev Kuleshov, who developed the Soviet montage theory. Dziga Vertov's "film-eye" theory had a huge impact on the development of documentary film making and cinema realism. Many Soviet socialist realism films were artistically successful, including Chapaev, The Cranes Are Flying, and Ballad of a Soldier.
The 1960s and 1970s saw a greater variety of artistic styles in Soviet cinema. Eldar Ryazanov's and Leonid Gaidai's comedies of that time were immensely popular, with many of the catch phrases still in use today. In 1961–68 Sergey Bondarchuk directed an Oscar-winning film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's epic War and Peace, which was the most expensive film made in the Soviet Union. In 1969, Vladimir Motyl's White Sun of the Desert was released, a very popular film in a genre of ostern; the film is traditionally watched by cosmonauts before any trip into space.
Russian cuisine widely uses fish, caviar, poultry, mushrooms, berries, and honey. Crops of rye, wheat, barley, and millet provide the ingredients for various breads, pancakes and cereals, as well as for kvass, beer and vodka drinks. Black bread is very popular in Russia. Flavourful soups and stews include shchi, borsch, ukha, solyanka and okroshka. Smetana (a heavy sour cream) is often added to soups and salads. Pirozhki, blini and syrniki are native types of pancakes. Chicken Kiev, pelmeni and shashlyk are popular meat dishes, the last two being of Tatar and Caucasian origin respectively. Other meat dishes include stuffed cabbage rolls (golubtsy) usually filled with meat. Salads include Olivier salad, vinegret and dressed herring.
Football is one of the most popular sports in Russia. The Soviet national team became the first European Champions by winning Euro 1960; and reached the finals of Euro 1988. In 1956 and 1988, the Soviet Union won gold at the Olympic football tournament. Russian clubs CSKA Moscow and Zenit Saint Petersburg won the UEFA Cup in 2005 and 2008. The Russian national football team reached the semi-finals of Euro 2008. Russia was the host nation for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Russia won the 1993, 2008, 2009, 2012, and the 2014 IIHF World Championships. Bandy is another traditionally popular ice sport in the country. The Soviet Union won all the Bandy World Championships for men between 1957 and 1979, and some thereafter too. The Russian national basketball team won the EuroBasket 2007; and the Russian basketball club PBC CSKA Moscow won the Euroleague in 2006 and 2008. Formula One is also becoming increasingly popular in Russia.
Historically, Russian athletes have been one of the most successful contenders in the Olympic Games; ranking third in an all-time Olympic Games medal count. Soviet Union dominated the sport of gymnastics for many years. Today, Russia is the leading nation in rhythmic gymnastics. Olympic gold medalist Alexander Popov is widely considered the greatest sprint swimmer in history. Russian synchronized swimming is the best in the world. Figure skating is another popular sport in Russia. Tennis has grown in popularity and Russia, and Russia has produced a number of famous tennis players, including Maria Sharapova. Chess is also a widely popular pastime. The 1980 Summer Olympic Games were held in Moscow, and the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2014 Winter Paralympics were hosted in Sochi.
- Official Russian governmental portal
- Chief of State and Cabinet Members
- Russian News Agency "Ria Novosti"
- Russian radio "Voice of Russia"
- General information
- Russia at Curlie
- Wikimedia Atlas of Russia
- Geographic data related to Russia at OpenStreetMap
- Russia. The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency.
- Russia at UCB Libraries GovPubs
- Russia from the BBC News
- Russia at Encyclopædia Britannica
- Key Development Forecasts for Russia from International Futures