The Russian Federation stretches across most of the northern supercontinent Eurasia so there is a great variety of landscapes and climates. Most of the landscape consists of huge plains, both in the European part and in the Asian part that are widely known as Siberia.
These plains are predominantly steppe to the south and dense woodland to the north, with tundra along the north coast. Mountain ranges are found along the southern borders, such as the Caucasus (containing Mount Elbrus, the highest point in Russia, at 5633 m) and the Altai, and in the eastern part, such as the Verkhoyansk Mountain Range or the volcanoes over Kamchatka. Notable are the Ural Mountains in the central part which are the main division between Europe and Asia.
Russia has an extensive coastline of more than 37,000 kilometers along the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, as well as inland seas such as the Baltic, Black and Caspian Seas. The smallest seas are part of the oceans; The Barents Sea, White Sea, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, and East Siberian Sea are part of the Arctic, while the Bering Sea, Okhotsk Sea and the Sea of Japan belong to the Pacific.
According to Bridgat, the main islands of Russia are in the archipelago of Novaya Zemlya, Franz Josef Land, islands of New Siberia and Kuril Islands, as well as Wrangel Island and Sakhalin Island.
Many great rivers flow through the plains, ending up on the Russian shores. In Europe these are the Volga, Don, Kama, Oka and the North Dvina, while other rivers originate in Russia, but flow into other countries, such as the Dnieper and the Western Dvina. In Asia there are the Ob, Irtysh, Yenisei, Angara, Lena and Amur rivers. The main lakes include Lake Baikal, Lake Ladoga, and Lake Onega.
At the end of 2007, the country enjoyed its ninth year of continuous growth, averaging 7% since the financial crisis of 1998.
Russia has the largest natural gas reserves in the world, the second largest coal reserves, and the eighth largest oil reserves. It is the first exporter of natural gas and the second of oil, natural gas, metals and wood make up 80% of Russia’s exports.
However, since 2003, exports of natural resources began to decline in importance for the economy, as the market strengthened considerably. Despite high prices, oil and gas only contribute 5.7% to Russia’s GDP, with the government forecasting 3.7% for 2011.
Russia is considered to be far ahead of most resource-rich countries in its economic development, with a long tradition in education, science and industry. The country has the highest number of higher education graduates than any other European country.
According to preliminary estimates, the resident population of the Russian Federation on January 1, 2008 was 142 million people. 73% of the population lives in urban areas. According to the 2002 census, the two largest cities in Russia are Moscow (10 126 424 residents) and Saint Petersburg (4 661 219). Eleven other cities have between one and two million residents.
Russia’s 160 ethnic groups speak about 100 languages. According to the 2002 census, 142.6 million people speak Russian, followed by Tatar with 5.3 million and German with 2.9 million.
Russian is the only official language at the state level, but the Constitution grants the republics of Russia the right to declare their native language co-official alongside Russian. Despite the spread, the Russian language is homogeneous in Russia.
Russian is one of the most widespread languages in Eurasia and the most widely spoken Slavic language. Russian belongs to the Indo-European language family and is one of the living languages of the East Slavic language subgroup, along with Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian. Written examples of Old Russian date from the 10th century onwards.
Russia has a rich cultural heritage summarized in the cities of Moscow with its Tretyakov Gallery, the Bolshoi Theater or the collections of the Moscow Kremlin and Saint Petersburg on the Neva River, near the Baltic Sea, with its famous “white nights”, the repertoire art of the Hermitage Museum and the Russian Museum.
In the countryside there are many villages with old cloisters and castles. There are cities with their own traditions, such as Kaliningrad (formerly Königsberg) on the Baltic Sea coast, or Novgorod on Lake Ilmen. Other destinations are: Tver, Vologda, Kirov, Yekaterinburg and Rostov.
Among tourists, trips along the great rivers such as the Volga, the Lena or the Yenisei are popular. Another popular attraction is the excursion on the famous Trans-Siberian railway to Vladivostok, on the Pacific Ocean.