Russia

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Template:Infobox CountryTemplate:Portal The Russian Federation (Template:Lang-ru, transliteration: Rossiyskaya Federatsiya or Rossijskaja Federacija), or Russia (Russian: Росси́я, transliteration: Rossiya or Rossija), is a country that stretches over a vast expanse of Europe and Asia. With an area of 17,075,200 km² (6,595,600 mi²), it is the largest country in the world (by land mass), covering almost twice the territory of the next-largest country, Canada. It ranks eighth in the world in population. It shares land borders with the following countries (counter-clockwise from NW to SE): Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland (only through Kaliningrad Oblast), Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It is also close to the United States and Japan across stretches of water: the Diomede Islands (one controlled by Russia, the other by the United States) are just 3 km (1.9 mi) apart, and Kunashir Island (controlled by Russia but claimed by Japan) is about 20 kilometres (12 mi) from Hokkaido.

Formerly the dominant republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Russia is now an independent country, and an influential member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, since the Union's dissolution in December 1991. During the Soviet era, Russia was officially called the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR). Russia is usually considered the Soviet Union's successor state in diplomatic matters.

Most of the area, population, and industrial production of the Soviet Union, then one of the world's two superpowers, lay in Russia. After the breakup of the USSR, Russia's global role was greatly diminished compared to that of the former Soviet Union. In October 2005, the federal statistics agency reported that Russia's population has shrunk by more than half a million people dipping to 143 million.

Contents

History

Main article: History of Russia

Ancient Rus

This section covers the pre-Russ ancient history of present Russia and its early medieval period, which is historically referred to as Ancient Rus.

The vast lands of present Russia were home to disunited tribes who were variously overwhelmed by invading Goths, Huns, and Turkish Avars between the third and sixth centuries AD. The Iranian Scythians populated the southern steppes, and a Turkic people, the Khazars, ruled the western portion of these lands through the 8th century. They in turn were displaced by a group of Scandinavians, the Varangians, who established a capital at the Slavic city of Novgorod and gradually merged with Slavic ruling classes. The Slavs constituted the bulk of the population from the 8th century onwards and slowly assimilated both the Scandinavians as well as native Finno-Ugric tribes, such as the Merya, the Muromians and the Meshchera.

File:Muromian-map.png
An approximative map of the cultures in European Russia at the arrival of the Varangians

The Varangian dynasty lasted several centuries, during which they affiliated with the Byzantine, or Orthodox church and moved the capital to Kiev in 1169 A.D. In this era the term "Rhos", or "Russ", first came to be applied to the Varangians and later also to the Slavs who peopled the region. In the 10th to 11th centuries this state of Kievan Rus became the largest in Europe and was quite prosperous, due to diversified trade with both Europe and Asia.

Nomadic Turkic people Kipchaks (Polovtsi) conquered southern Russia at the end of 11th century and founded a nomadic state in the steppes along the Black Sea (Desht-e-Kipchak).

In the 13th century the area suffered from internal disputes and was overrun by eastern invaders, the Golden Horde of the pagan Mongols and Muslim Turkic-speaking nomads who pillaged the Russian principalities for over three centuries. Also known as the Tatars, they ruled the southern and central expanses of present-day Russia, while its western zone was largely incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Poland. The political dissolution of Kievan Rus divided the Russian people in the north from the Belarusians and Ukrainians in the west.

The northern part of Russia together with Novgorod retained some degree of autonomy during the time of the Mongol yoke and was largely spared the atrocities that affected the rest of the country. Nevertheless it had to fight the Germanic crusaders who attempted to colonize the region.

Like in the Balkans and Asia Minor long-lasting nomadic rule retarded the country's economic and social development. Asian autocratic influences degraded many of the country's democratic institutions and affected its culture and economy in a very negative way.

In spite of this, unlike its spiritual leader, the Byzantine Empire, Russia was able to revive, and organized its own war of reconquest, finally subjugating its enemies and annexing their territories. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 Russia remained the only more or less functional Christian state on the Eastern European frontier, allowing it to claim succession to the legacy of the Eastern Roman Empire.

Imperial Russia

Main article: Imperial Russia

While still nominally under the domain of the Mongols, the duchy of Moscow began to assert its influence, and eventually tossed off the control of the invaders late in the 14th century.

In the beginning of the 16th century the Russian state set the national goal to return all Russian territories lost as a result of the Mongolian invasion and to protect the borderland against attacks of hordes. The noblemen, receiving a manor from the sovereign, were obliged to serve in the army. The manor system became a basis for the nobiliary horse army.

The Russian state persistently battled against Nogai-Horde and Crimean khanat which were successors of the Golden Horde. Russians captured by nomads were sold on Crimean slave markets. In 1571 Crimean khan Devlet-Girei, with a horde of 120 thousand horsemen, devastated Moscow. Annually thousands of Russians became victims of attacks by nomads. Tens of thousand of soldiers protected the southern borderland -- a heavy burden for the state which slowed its social and economic development.

Ivan the Great first took the title Tsar (from the Roman Caesar, also written Czar) of Moscow following his marriage to Sofia, a Byzantine Princess (niece of the last Byzantine Emperor) consolidated surrounding areas under Moscow's dominion. At the end of the 16th century Russian cossacks established the first settlements in Western Siberia. In the middle of 17th century Russian settlements were in Eastern Siberia, on Chukotka, the river Amur, coast of Pacific ocean. In 1648 Cossack Semyon Dezhnev opened the passage between America and Asia. The greater and more expansive Russian Empire was born.

File:Prokudin-Gorskii-05.jpg
Three generations of a Russian family, ca. 1910

Muscovite control of the nascent nation continued after the Polish intervention 1605-1612 under the subsequent Romanov dynasty, beginning with Tsar Michael Romanov in 1613. Peter the Great, who ruled from 1689 to 1725, succeeded in bringing ideas and culture from Western Europe to a Russia which had been severely underdeveloped. Catherine the Great, ruling from 1762 to 1796, enhanced this effort, establishing Russia not just as an Asian power, but on an equal footing with Britain, France, and Germany in Europe. She enlarged the Russian empire by the Partitions of Poland. Russia had now taken territories with the ethnic Belarus and Ukrainian population, earlier parts of the medieval Kievan Rus'. As a result of the victorious Russian-Turkish wars, Russia's borders expanded to the Black Sea and Russia set its goal on the protection of Balkan Christians against a Turkish yoke. In 1783 Russia and the Georgian Kingdom (which was almost totally devastated by Persian and Turkish invasions) signed the treatise of Georgiev according to which Georgia received the protection of Russia.

After Peter the Great, Russia emerged as a major European power. Examples of its post-Peter European involvement includes the War of Polish Succession and the Seven Years War.

In 1812, having gathered nearly half a million soldiers from France, as well as from all of its conquered states in Europe, Napoleon invaded Russia and, after a series of initial successes was forced to retreat back to Europe. Almost 90% of the invading forces died as a result of on-going battles with the Russian army, partizans and winter weather. In 1813 the Russian army and its allies , the British and Prussians, defeated the French armies at the Battle of Leipzig.

Russia won the War of 1877-1878 and the Ottoman Empire recognized the independence of Romania, Serbia and Montenegro and autonomy of Bulgaria.

Unrest of the peasants and suppression of the growing liberal Intelligentsia were continuing problems however, and on the eve of World War I, the position of Tsar Nicholas II and his dynasty appeared precarious. Repeated devastating defeats of the Russian army in World War I and the deterioraton of the economy the war caused led to widespread rioting in the major cities of the Russian Empire and to the overthrow in 1917 of the Romanovs.

At the close of this Russian Revolution of 1917, a Marxist political faction called the Bolsheviks seized power in St. Petersburg and Moscow under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin. The Bolsheviks changed their name to the Communist Party. A bloody civil war ensued, pitting the Bolsheviks' Red Army against a loose confederation of anti-socialist monarchist and bourgeois forces known as the White Army. The Red Army triumphed, and the Soviet Union was formed in 1922.

Russia as part of Soviet Union

Main article: History of the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union was meant to be a transnational worker's state free from nationalism, which Leninism teaches is a ruse used by the bourgeoisie to keep the international working classes from realizing their common exploited position and overthrowing the bourgeois. The concept of Russia as a separate national entity was therefore not emphasized in the early Soviet Union. Although Russian institutions and cities certainly remained dominant, many non-Russians participated in the new government at all levels.

One of these was a Georgian named Joseph Stalin. A brief power struggle ensued after Lenin's death in 1924. Stalin gradually eroded the various checks and balances which had been designed into the Soviet political system and assumed dictatorial power by the end of the decade. Leon Trotsky and almost all other Old Bolsheviks from the time of the Revolution were killed or exiled. As the 1930s began, Stalin launched the Great Purges, a massive series of political repressions. Millions of people who Stalin and local authorities suspected of being a threat to their power were executed or exiled to Gulag labor camps in remote areas of Siberia.

Stalin forced rapid industrialization of the largely rural country and collectivization of its agriculture. Stalin also strengthened Russia's dominance within the Soviet Union as he buttressed his own hold on power. In 1928, Stalin introduced his "First Five-Year Plan" for modernizing the Soviet economy. Most economic output was immediately diverted to establishing heavy industry. Civilian industry was modernized and heavy weapon factories were established. The plan worked, in some sense, as the Soviet Union successfully transformed from an agrarian economy to a major industrial powerhouse in an unbelievably short span of time, but widespread misery and famine ensued for many millions of people as a result of the severe economic upheaval.

In 1936 the USSR was in strong opposition to Nazi Germany, and supported the republicans in Spain who struggled against German and Italian troops. However, in 1938 Germany and the other major European powers signed the Munich treaty. Germany then divided Czechoslovakia with Poland. The Soviet government, being afraid of a German attack on the USSR, began diplomatic maneuvers. In 1939 after Poland's refusal to participate in any measures of collective deterrence the USSR signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany which in effect stated that each country would occupy a portion of Poland, which they did thus obliterating the independent state of Poland. On September, 17, 1939, when German armies were within 150 kilometers (93 mi) of the Soviet border, the Soviet army invaded eastern portions of Poland, populated by ethnic Ukrainians and Belorussians.

In the following year the Soviet Union invaded Finland, a former part of the Russian Empire in an attempt to secure itself against future invasion by Germany (which Finland had good relations with) and to gain control of the country, separating it from Europe, and most importantly, from Germany. This conflict is now known as the Winter War. The invasion had disappointing results, as only the eastern parts of Finland (Karelia) were occupied.

Germany and its allies (Hungary, Italy, Finland, Romania and Slovakia) invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. Although the Wehrmacht reached the outskirts of Moscow, where they were first defeated. The Red Army then stopped the Nazi offensive at the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943, which became the decisive turning point for Germany's fortunes in the war. The Soviets drove through Eastern Europe and captured Berlin before Germany surrendered in 1945 (see Great Patriotic War). About 10 million Soviet citizens became victims of the oppressive policies and war crimes of Germany and its allies in the occupied territory.

Although ravaged by the war, the Soviet Union emerged from the conflict as an acknowledged great power. The Red Army occupied Eastern Europe after the war, including the eastern half of Germany. Stalin installed loyal Communist governments in these satellite states.

During the immediate postwar period, the Soviet Union first rebuilt and then expanded its economy, with control always exerted exclusively from Moscow. The Soviets extracted heavy war reparations from the areas of Germany under their control, mostly in the form of machinery and industrial equipment. The Soviet Union consolidated its hold on eastern Europe (see Eastern bloc). The United States helped the western European countries establish democracies, and both countries sought to achieve economic, political, and ideological dominance over the Third World. The ensuing struggle became known as the Cold War, which turned the Soviet Union's wartime allies, the United Kingdom and the United States, into its foes.

Stalin died in early 1953 presumably without leaving any instructions for the selection of a successor. His closest associates officially decided to rule the Soviet Union jointly, but secret police chief Lavrenty Beria appeared poised to seize dictatorial control. General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev and other leading politicians organized an anti-Beria alliance and staged a coup d'etat. Beria was arrested in June of 1953 and executed later that year; Khrushchev became the undisputed leader of the USSR.

Under Khrushchev, the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, and Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person to orbit the earth. Khrushchev's reforms in agriculture and administration, however, were generally unproductive, and foreign policy toward China and the United States suffered reverses, notably the Cuban Missile Crisis, when he began installing nuclear missles in Cuba and nearly provoked a war with the United States. Over the course of several angry outbursts at the United Nations, Khrushchev was increasingly seen by his colleagues as belligerent, boorish, and dangerous. The remainder of the Soviet leadership removed him from power in 1964.

Following the ousting of Khrushchev, another period of rule by collective leadership ensued, lasting until Leonid Brezhnev established himself in the early 1970s as the preeminent figure in Soviet political life. Brezhnev is frequently derided by historians for stagnating the development of the Soviet Union. In contrast to the revolutionary spirit that accompanied the birth of the Soviet Union, the prevailing mood of the Soviet leadership at the time of Brezhnev's death in 1982 was one of aversion to change.

In the mid 1980s, the reform-minded Mikhail Gorbachev came to power. He introduced the landmark policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring), in an attempt to modernize Soviet communism. Glasnost meant that the harsh restrictions on free speech that had characterized most of the Soviet Union's existence were removed, and open political discourse and criticism of the government became possible again. Perestroika meant sweeping economic reforms designed to decentralize the planning of the Soviet economy. However, his initiatives provoked strong resentment amongst conservative elements of the government, and an unsuccessful military coup that attempted to remove Gorbachev from power instead led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Boris Yeltsin seized power in Russia and declared the end of exclusive Communist rule. The USSR splintered into 15 independent republics, and was officially dissolved in December of 1991 (see History of the Soviet Union (1985-1991)).

Since then, Russia has struggled in its efforts to build a democratic political system and a market economy to replace the strict centralized social, political, and economic controls of the Soviet era.

Post-Soviet Russia

Main article: History of post-Soviet Russia
File:October1993crisis.jpg
The shelling of the Russian White House, October 4-5, 1993.

Prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Boris Yeltsin had been elected President of Russia in June 1991 in the first direct presidential election in Russian history. In October 1991, as Russia was on the verge of independence, Yeltsin announced that Russia would proceed with radical market-oriented reform along the lines of Poland's "big bang," also known as "shock therapy."

After the disintegration of the USSR, the economy of Russia went through a crisis. Outside Russia, in the newly independent states, were most of the nonfreezing ports, consumer goods factories, former Soviet pipelines, and significant numbers of the hi-tech enterprises (including the atomic power station). In Russia there was mainly heavy and military industry. Russia has taken up the responsibility for payment of the USSR's external debts, though its population is 50% of the population of the USSR. The largest state enterprises (petroleum industry, metallurgy etc) were controversially privatized for the small sum of $US 600 million, far less than they were worth.

Russia's Congress of People's Deputies attempted to impeach Yeltsin on 1993-03-26. Yeltsin's opponents gathered more than 600 votes for impeachment, but fell 72 votes short. On 1993-09-21, Yeltsin disbanded the Supreme Soviet and the Congress of People's Deputies by decree, which was illegal under the constitution. On September 21 there was a military showdown, the Russian constitutional crisis of 1993. With military help, Yeltsin held control. The conflict resulted in a number of civilian casualties, and was resolved in Yeltsin's favor. Elections were held on 1993-12-12.

Since the Chechnyan separatists declared independence in the early 1990s, an intermittent guerrilla war (First Chechen War, Second Chechen War) has been fought between disparate Chechen groups and the Russian military. Some of these groups have become increasingly Islamist over the course of the struggle. It is estimated that over 200,000 people have died in this conflict. Minor conflicts also exist in North Ossetia and Ingushetia.

After Yeltsin's presidency in the 1990s, Vladimir Putin was elected in 2000. Under Putin, the intensified state control of the Russian media has raised Western concerns over Russian civil liberties. At the same time, the rising oil prices, tensions, and war in the Middle East have helped increase Russia's revenue from oil production and export, and have stimulated economic expansion. Putin's presidency has shown improvements in the Russian standard of living, as compared to the 1990s; despite acute crises, human rights abuses, and largely criticized government failures.

Politics

Main article: Politics of Russia

The Russian Federation is a federal republic with a president, directly elected for a four-year term, who holds considerable executive power. The president, who resides in the Kremlin, nominates the highest state officials, including the prime minister (or premier), who must be approved by the State Duma, the lower house of Russian parliament, and governors, who must be approved by regional legislatures. The president can pass decrees (executive orders) without consent from Parliament and is also head of the armed forces and of the Russian National Security Council.

Russia's bicameral parliament, the Federal Assembly (Russian: Федеральное Собрание, English transliteration: Federalnoye Sobraniye) consists of an upper house known as the Federation Council (Совет Федерации, Sovet Federatsii), composed of 178 delegates, which are appointed by executive and legislative bodies of each of 89 federal subjects for the term of four or five years, and a lower house known as the State Duma (Государственная Дума, Gosudarstvennaya Duma), comprising 450 deputies also serving a four-year term, of which 225 are elected by direct popular vote from single member constituencies and 225 are elected by proportional representation from nation-wide party lists.

From the next elections, which are to be held in December 2007, all 450 members of the Duma will be elected from party lists.

Subdivisions

Main article: Subdivisions of Russia
See also: Federal districts of Russia, Federal subjects of Russia, Republics of Russia, Oblasts of Russia, Krais of Russia, Autonomous Oblasts of Russia, Autonomous Districts of Russia, Federal cities of Russia.
File:Russia-Subdivisions.png
Federal subjects of the Russian Federation

The Russian Federation consists of a great number of different federal subjects, making a total of 88 constituent components. There are 21 republics within the federation that enjoy a high degree of autonomy on most issues and these correspond to some of Russia's ethnic minorities. The remaining territory consists of 48 oblasts (provinces) and 7 krais (territories), as well as 9 autonomous okrugs (autonomous districts), and 1 autonomous oblast. Beyond these there are two federal cities (Moscow and St. Petersburg). Recently, seven extensive federal districts (four in Europe, three in Asia) have been added as a new layer between the above subdivisions and the national level.

Geography and Climate

Main article: Geography of Russia
File:Rs-map.png
Map of the Russian Federation

The Russian Federation stretches across much of the north of the supercontinent of Eurasia. Although it contains a large share of the world's Arctic and sub-Arctic areas, and therefore has less population, economic activity, and physical variety per unit area than most countries, the great area south of these still accommodates a great variety of landscapes and climates. Most of Russia is in zones of a continental and Arctic climate. Russia is the coldest country of the world. The mid-annual temperature is −5.5°C (22°F). For comparison, the mid-annual temperature in Iceland is 1.2°C (34°F) and in Sweden is 4°C (39°F).

Most of the land consists of vast plains, both in the European part and the Asian part that is largely known as Siberia. These plains are predominantly steppe to the south and heavily forested to the north, with tundra along the northern coast. The permafrost (areas of Siberia and the Far East) occupies more than half of territory of Russia. Mountain ranges are found along the southern borders, such as the Caucasus (containing Mount Elbrus, Russia's and Europe's highest point at 5,633 m / 17,605 ft) and the Altai, and in the eastern parts, such as the Verkhoyansk Range or the volcanoes on Kamchatka. The more central Ural Mountains, a north-south range that form the primary divide between Europe and Asia, are also notable.

Russia has an extensive coastline of over 37,000 kilometres (23,000 mi) along the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, as well as more or less inland seas such as the Baltic, Black and Caspian seas. Some smaller bodies of water are part of the open oceans; the Barents Sea, White Sea, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea and East Siberian Sea are part of the Arctic, whereas the Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan belong to the Pacific Ocean.

Major islands found in them include Novaya Zemlya, the Franz-Josef Land, the New Siberian Islands, Wrangel Island, the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin. (See List of islands of Russia).

Many rivers flow across Russia. See Rivers of Russia.

Major lakes include Lake Baikal, Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega. See List of lakes in Russia.

Borders

The most practical way to describe Russia is as a main part (a large contiguous portion with its off-shore islands) and an exclave (at the southeast corner of the Baltic Sea).

The main part's borders and coasts (starting in the far northwest and proceeding counter-clockwise) are:

The exclave, constituted by the Kaliningrad Oblast,

  • shares borders with
  • has a northwest coast on the Baltic Sea.

The Baltic and Black Sea coasts of Russia have less direct and more constrained access to the high seas than its Pacific and Arctic ones, but both are nevertheless important for that purpose. The Baltic gives immediate access with the nine other countries sharing its shores, and between the main part of Russia and its Kaliningrad Oblast exclave. Via the straits that lie within Denmark, and between it and Sweden, the Baltic connects to the North Sea and the oceans to its west and north. The Black Sea gives immediate access with the five other countries sharing its shores, and via the Dardanelles and Marmora straits adjacent to Istanbul, Turkey, to the Mediterranean Sea with its many countries and its access, via the Suez Canal and the Straits of Gibraltar, to the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The salt waters of the Caspian Sea, the world's largest lake, afford no access with the high seas.

Spatial extent

The two most widely separated points in Russia are about 8,000 km (5,000 mi) apart along a geodesic (i.e. shortest line between two points on the Earth's surface). These points are: the boundary with Poland on a 60-km-long (40-mi-long) spit of land separating the Gulf of Gdańsk from the Vistula Lagoon; and the farthest southeast of the Kurile Islands, a few miles off Hokkaido Island, Japan.

However, this is confusing because the points which are furthest separated in longitude are "only" 6,600 km (4,100 mi) apart along a geodesic. These points are: in the West, the same spit; in the East, the Big Diomede Island (Ostrov Ratmanova).

It is also often mentioned that the Russian federation spans eleven time zones.

Cities

As of 2005 Russia has 13 cities with over a million inhabitants (from largest to smallest): Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Omsk, Kazan, Chelyabinsk, Rostov-on-Don, Ufa, Volgograd and Perm.

See also: List of cities in Russia

Economy

Main article: Economy of Russia

More than a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia is now trying to establish a market economy and achieve more consistent economic growth. Russia saw its comparatively developed centrally-planned economy contract severely for five years, as the executive and legislature dithered over the implementation of reforms and Russia's industrial base faced a serious decline. Moreover, an emergency livestock shortage in 1987, which triggered large-scale international aid, severely bruised the ego, as well as the economy, of the emerging Russian state.

After the breakup of the USSR, Russia's first slight recovery, showing the signs of open-market influence, occurred in 1997. That year, however, Asian financial crisis culminated in the August depreciation of the ruble in 1998, a debt default by the government, and a sharp deterioration in living standards for most of the population. Consequently, the year 1998 was marked by recession and intense capital flight.

Nevertheless, the economy started recovering in 1999. Then it entered a phase of rapid economic expansion, the GDP growing by an average of 6.7% annually in 1999-2005 on the back of higher petroleum prices, weaker ruble, and increasing service production and industrial output. The economic development of the country, however, has been extremely uneven: the capital region of Moscow contributes a third to the country's GDP having only a tenth of its population.

The recent recovery, made possible due to high world oil prices, along with a renewed government effort in 2000 and 2001 to advance lagging structural reforms, has raised business and investor confidence over Russia's prospects in its second decade of transition. Russia remains heavily dependent on exports of commodities, particularly oil, natural gas, metals, and timber, which account for about 80% of exports, leaving the country vulnerable to swings in world prices. In recent years, however, the economy has also been driven by growing internal consumer demand that has increased by over 12% annually in 2000-2005, showing the strengthening of its own internal market.

The country's GDP shot up to reach €1.2 trillion ($1.5 trillion) in 2004, making it the ninth largest economy in the world and the fifth largest in Europe. If the current growth rate is sustained, the country is expected to become the second largest European economy after Germany (€1.9 trillion or $2.3 trillion) and the sixth largest in the world within a few years.

The greatest challenge facing the Russian economy is how to encourage the development of SME (small and medium sized enterprises) in a business climate with a young and dysfunctional banking system, dominated by Russian oligarchs. Many of Russia's banks are owned by oligarchs, who often use the deposits to lend to their own businesses.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank have attempted to kick-start normal banking practices by making equity and debt investments in a number of banks, but with very limited success.

Other problems include disproportional economic development of Russia's own regions. While the huge capital region of Moscow is a bustling, affluent metropolis living on the cutting edge of technology with a per capita income rapidly approaching that of the leading Eurozone economies, much of the country, especially its indigenous and rural communities in Asia, lags significantly behind. Market integration is nonetheless making itself felt in some other sizeable cities such as Saint Petersburg, Kaliningrad, and Ekaterinburg, and recently also in the adjacent rural areas.

Encouraging foreign investment is also a major challenge due to legal, some cultural, linguistic, economic and political peculiarities of the country. Nevertheless, there have been significant inflow of capital in recent years from many European investors attracted by cheaper land, labor and higher growth rates than in the rest of Europe. Amazingly high levels of education and societal involvement achieved by the majority of the population, including women and minorities, secular attitudes, mobile class structure, better integration of various minorities in the mainstream culture set Russia far apart from the majority of the so-called developing counties and even some developed nations.

So far, the country is also benefiting from rising oil prices and has been able to pay off much of its formerly huge debt. Equal redistribution of capital gains from the natural resource industries to other sectors is however a problem. Still, since 2003, exports of natural resources started decreasing in economic importance as the internal market has strengthened considerably largely stimulated by intense construction, as well as consumption of increasingly diverse goods and services. Yet teaching customers and encouraging consumer spending is a relatively tough task for many provincial areas where consumer demand is primitive. Some laudable progress has however been made in larger cities especially in clothing, food, entertainment industries.

The arrest of Russia's wealthiest businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky on charges of fraud and corruption in relation to the large-scale privatizations organized under then-President Yeltsin has caused many foreign investors to worry about the stability of the Russian economy. Most of the large fortunes currently prevailing in Russia are the product of either acquiring government assets at particularly low costs or gaining concessions from the government. Other countries have expressed concerns and worries at the "selective" application of the law against individual businessmen, though the government actions have been received positively by most of the aggravated Russians.

Additionally, some international firms are investing heavily in Russia. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Russia had nearly $26 billion in cumulative foreign direct investment inflows during the 2001-2004 period (of which $11.7 billion occurred last year alone).

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Russia

Despite its comparatively high population, Russia has a low average population density due to its enormous size. Population is densest in the European part of Russia, in the Ural Mountains area, and in the south-western parts of Siberia; the south-eastern part of Siberia that meets the Pacific Ocean, known as the Russian Far East, is sparsely populated, with its southern part being densest. The Russian Federation is home to as many as 160 different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples. As of the 2002 census, 79.8% of the population is ethnically Russian, 3.8% Tatar, 2% Ukrainian, 1.2% Bashkir, 1.1% Chuvash, 0.9% Chechen, 0.8% Armenian, and the remaining 10.3% includes those who did not specify their ethnicity as well as (in alphabetical order) Avars, Azerbaijanis, Belarusians, Buryats, Chinese, Evenks, Georgians, Germans, Greeks, Ingushes, Inuit, Jews, Kalmyks, Karelians, Kazakhs, Koreans, Maris, Mordvins, Nenetses, Ossetians, Poles, Tuvans, Udmurts, Uzbeks, Yakuts, and others. Nearly all of these groups live compactly in their respective regions; Russians are the only people significantly represented in every region of the country.

The Russian language is the only official state language, but the individual republics have often made their native language co-official next to Russian. Cyrillic alphabet is the only official script, which means that these languages must be written in Cyrillic in official texts.

The Russian Orthodox Church is the dominant Christian religion in the Federation; other religions include Islam, various Protestant faiths, Judaism, Roman Catholicism and Buddhism. Induction into religion takes place primarily along ethnic lines. Majority of Russians are Orthodox, majority of people of Turkic descent are Muslim, Judaism is very uncommon among non-Jews and Neopaganism is on the rise, especially among Slavic people. See Religion in Russia for more.

Culture

Main article: Culture of Russia

Name

Template:NameWikt

Main article: Etymology of Rus and derivatives.

The name of the country derives from the name of the Rus' people. The origin of the people itself and of their name is a matter of controversy.

Miscellaneous topics

References

  • The New Columbia Encyclopedia, Col.Univ.Press, 1975
  • World Civilizations:The Global Experience, by Peter Stearns, Michael Adas, Stuart Schwartz, and Marc Gilbert

External links

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Government resources

General information

Template:Russiantie

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af:Rusland als:Russland ang:Russland ar:الاتحاد الروسي an:Rusia roa-rup:Rusii ast:Rusia bg:Русия zh-min-nan:Lō·-se-a be:Расея bs:Rusija ca:Rússia cv:Раççей Патшалăхě cs:Rusko cy:Ffederasiwn Rwsia da:Rusland de:Russland et:Venemaa el:Ρωσία es:Rusia eo:Rusio fa:روسیه fr:Russie fy:Ruslân ga:An Rúis gd:An Ruis gl:Rusia - Россия ko:러시아 ht:Risi hy:Ռուսաստան hi:रुस hr:Rusija io:Rusia id:Rusia iu:ᐅᓛᓴ is:Rússland it:Russia he:רוסיה ka:რუსეთი kk:Ресей csb:Ruskô ks:रूस ky:Оруссия ku:Rûsya la:Russia lv:Krievija lt:Rusija lb:Russland li:Rösland hu:Oroszország mk:Русија ms:Russia mo:Русия na:Russia nl:Rusland nds:Russland ja:ロシア no:Russland nn:Russland os:Уæрæсе pl:Rosja pt:Rússia ro:Rusia ru:Россия se:Ruošša sq:Rusia sh:Rusija scn:Russia simple:Russia sk:Rusko sl:Rusija sr:Русија su:Rusia fi:Venäjä sv:Ryssland tl:Russia ta:ரஷ்யா tt:Räsäy te:రష్యా th:สหพันธรัฐรัสเซีย vi:Nga tr:Rusya uk:Росія ur:روس uz:Rossiya wa:Rûsseye yi:רוסלאַנד zh:俄罗斯

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