Cities in RUSSIA


Geography and Landscape


The Russian Federation (Russian: Rossiskaja Federacija; also: Russian Federative Republic [Russian: Rossiskaja Federativnaja Respoeblika]) or Russia (Russian: Rossija), is a republic located in the continents of Europe and Asia.

Russia satellite photoRussia satellite photoPhoto: Public domain

The total area of Russia is 17,075,200 km2, making it the largest country in the world. The maximum distance from east to west is no less than approximately 10,000 km (from Poland to the Bering Strait), and Russia therefore has ten time zones. The European part of Russia covers about a quarter of Russia's total territory.

The border between Europe and Asia is formed by the Ural Mountains. Russia further borders the following countries: Norway (196 km), Finland (1340 km), Estonia (294 km) and Latvia (217 km) to the north and west, and via the exclave Kaliningrad to Lithuania (227 km) and Poland (206 km), in the southwest to Belarus (959 km) and Ukraine (1576 km) and in the south to Georgia (723 km), Azerbaijan (284 km) and Kazakhstan (6846 km). In the far east, Russia borders China (3645 km), Mongolia (3845 km) and North Korea (19 km).

Russia is surrounded in the north by a large number of Arctic Ocean fringes, such as the Barents Sea, the White Sea, the Carian Sea, the Laptev Sea and the East Siberian Sea. To the east, Russia borders the Bering Sea, the Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan; to the south on the Caspian Sea; in the west on the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland. Russia's coastline totals 20,017 km.

Russia also includes Kaliningrad (German: Königsberg; Polish: Krolewice), an exclave between Lithuania and Poland in the Bight of Gdansk.

The following islands and archipelagos also belong to Russia: Nova Zembla, Francois Joseph Islands, Northland, New Siberian Islands, Vrangel, Commander Islands, Kuril and Sakhalin.

The northernmost point of the Eurasian landmass, and in fact the northernmost part of the Earth's mainland, is the Tajmyr Peninsula. The peninsula extends up to 1100 km north of the Arctic Circle. The most northerly point in Russia is Cape Rodolfo on one of the French Joseph Islands near Novaya Zemlya.


Tundra landscape RussiaTundra landscape RussiaPhoto: Ninaras CC 4.0 International no changes made

The Eastern European plain is a gently undulating area that rises slightly towards the east and is bounded there by the Ural Mountains. This plain lies mostly at an altitude of less than 200 meters, but some hilly areas reach heights of 300 to 400 meters (including the Timan Ridge, the Valdaj Heights and the North Russian Ridge). The highest peak of the Ural Mountains is the Narodnaja with 1894 meters, the rest of the mountain is much lower.

Three landscape types are found to the east of the Ural Mountains. In the far north is the treeless tundra, which on a permanently frozen subsoil, the permafrost, covers the Eurasian landmass for a length of 4000 km. To the south of this, extensive coniferous forests (spruce, pine and also birch) of the taiga make way for extensive grasslands, the steppes.

The tundra is a desolate cold desert that covers the northern part of the Eurasian landmass from the tree line to the Arctic Ocean like a hood. Because of the intense cold and the long winters, only mosses, lichens and, in the southern part, dwarf shrubs grow. The average annual temperature is around -10 °C. During the three summer months, the soil surface is thawed several decimeters. Below it is the permafrost or "Vetchnaya Mertslota", a permanently frozen layer of earth several tens to hundreds of meters thick.

The forests (mainly birch and coniferous) of the taiga stretch from the Baltic Sea to the Bering Strait and from the Arctic Circle to the central Siberian highlands north of Lake Baikal; a total of 6.5 million km2, making it one of the largest continuous forest areas in the world. The taiga is intersected by rivers that have been frozen over for more than half the year.

The steppes of Russia form a vast belt of open grassland stretching from the Black Sea to Manchuria. Over millennia, the plant material has broken down into a dark, humus-rich soil, the "black soil" (chernozhom), which is very suitable for agriculture.

Rivers, lakes and channels

River Ob, RussiaRiver Ob, RussiaPhoto: Andrew Kudin CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Russia has about 100,000 rivers. Many of these rivers are inaccessible, but they have great hydropower potential, especially the rivers in Siberia. Shipping traffic on the major rivers of European Russia and Siberia is struggling due to the long periods that the rivers under ice. In European Russia, the ice period lasts 100 to 135 days; the mouths of the Siberian rivers have been frozen for 190 days (Ob) to 260 days (Lena).

In spring, major floods occur in both the European and Siberian rivers due to the large supply of melt water and, in the Siberian rivers, due to the backwater of the river level through the estuary ice. The Volga is the longest river in Europe (3531 km). Other important rivers are the Urals (2428 km) and in the Asian part of Russia the Lena (4313 km), the Irtysch (4248 km) and the Ob (3650 km).

Russia has a large number of lakes (about 270,000), of which five have an area of more than 1000 km2. The largest lakes are Lake Baikal near Irkutsk and Lake Ladoga near St. Petersburg; other well-known lakes are the Caspian Sea and the Aral Sea. The lakes and swamps of the Siberian plains are a result of the lack of drainage and the occurrence of frozen soils that prevent the infiltration of melt and rainwater. There are also a number of artificial reservoirs with a total area of approximately 70,000 km2.

The channels mainly serve shipping. The White Sea, Baltic Sea and Black Sea are interconnected via the channels of the Volga system.



Lake Baikal, RussiaLake Baikal, RussiaPhoto: Aleksandr Zykov CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Lake Baikal is about 25 million old and therefore possibly the oldest lake in the world. The lake has an area of 31,500 km2 and a coastline of 2000 km in length. In terms of surface, Lake Baikal is the eighth lake in the world.

It is the deepest lake in the world at a depth of 1,600 meters and contains about 31,500 km2 of water, the same amount as all the major North American lakes combined and one fifth of all fresh water on Earth.

336 rivers flow into the lake, but it has only one discharge river, the Angara. The lake has about 45 islands, of which Olkhon is the largest with even a 1268 meter high mountain.


Elbrus, Russia's highest mountainElbrus, Russia's highest mountainPhoto: Jialiang Gao CC 3.0 Unportedno changes made

The Caucasus is a mountain range in Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, also known as a land bridge between the Black Sea and Caspian Sea. The Caucasus is divided into the Lesser Caucasus and the Greater Caucasus. In the Greater Caucasus you will find the highest mountains in Europe, the Elbrus (5642 meters), the Dych Taoe (5204 meters), the Kosjtan Taoe (5145 meters) and the Kazbek (5047 meters). There are more than 1000 glaciers of which the Bezengi is the longest at 18 km.


Off the far east coast of Siberia lies the Kuril archipelago, 56 islands with about 100 volcano peaks of which 38 are still active. They stretch for 1,200 km from the Kamchatka Peninsula to the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

Climate and Weather

Winter in the Urals, RussiaWinter in the Urals, RussiaPhoto: Alex Alishevskikh CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Russia generally has a continental climate, especially the central regions, but actually has almost all types of climates. Only a tropical climate does not occur anywhere, while it can get warmer in Central Russia than at the equator.

In the central areas large differences can be noted between summer and winter, in which often large amounts of snow fall. Also striking is the rapid transition from winter to summer and vice versa. There is talk of a spring and an autumn, but they are in fact short-lived.

The average temperature in the capital Moscow is 19 °C in the hottest summer month of July and -9 °C in the coldest winter month of January.

In the north of Russia and in Siberia there was a polar climate with very cold, long winters and warm, short summers. In the city of Irkutsk, the average temperature in January is -20.8 °C and 17.9 °C in July. In the far north of Siberia, minimum temperatures of around -50 °C are no exception. The lowest average January temperature is found in Verkhoyansk in Eastern Siberia (-50 °C), where the lowest average annual temperature is also found (-16.1 °C). In Verkhoyansk temperatures have been recorded from -69 °C in winter to + 32 °C in summer!

Sunrise RussiaSunrise RussiaPhoto: Oleg Bor CC 4.0 International no changes made

In the south of Russia, around the Black Sea and in the Caucasus, there is a subtropical climate, along the Arctic Ocean an icy tundra climate. Winters here are long and extremely cold, but during the short summer, temperatures above freezing are noted, where all the snow may melt.

Rainfall generally decreases from west to east, except on the Pacific coast and in the mountainous regions of the Mongolia border. Most precipitation falls on the Caucasian coast of the Black Sea, while in the desert and steppe regions of Eastern Siberia much less rain, sometimes less than 50 mm per year.

In the middle of the European zone of the Russian Federation, the average annual rainfall is usually between 500 and 600 mm. Inland most precipitation falls in spring and summer, while in the area east of the Black Sea most precipitation falls in the winter months. Summers are hot and dry in the Central Asian part of Russia. Most of the rain falls here in the spring.

A cold fall wind, the Bora, occurs in winter and the temperatures usually stay well below 0 °C. Other local winds are the Buran in southern Russia and Siberia and the Purga in northern Russia. Both are characterized by the fact that cold, continental polar air is displaced at great speed, often accompanied by drifting snow.

Plants and Animals


Birch trees RussiaBirch trees RussiaPhoto: Brian Jeffery Beggerly CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The flora of Russia is strongly influenced by the continental climate. The vegetation can be divided from north to south into tundra, taiga, deciduous forest, steppe and desert areas.

The tundra extends several hundred kilometers south of the Arctic Ocean. The arctic tundra, on the islands and the northernmost parts of the mainland, is treeless and there are hardly any shrubs. The vegetation consists mainly of mosses and lichens, including reindeer mosses. The broad southern tundra is somewhat more overgrown with dwarf shrubs, such as peatlands with sphagnum moss in front, especially (12 species) birch (the national tree of Russia), spruce, larch, juniper, heather and willow.

Taiga RussiaTaiga RussiaPhoto: Elkwiki CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The taiga is characterized by a landscape of coniferous forests with many lakes and swamps. Spruce and Scots pine often dominate, further east Larix sibirica, Abies sibirica and Pinus sibirica occur. Blueberry varieties, such as bearberry, cranberry and blueberry, are characteristic in the undergrowth. The coniferous forests of the taiga pass through mixed forests with silver birch and aspen and oak, and in European Russia with hornbeam and yew, into a zone of deciduous forest, with trees as diverse as elms, ash, maples, linden, alder and in the west the beech. However, many of these forests have been destroyed and the swamps have been largely drained here.

Feather grass RussiaFeather grass RussiaPhoto: Le Loup Gris CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

A broad belt of tree steppes, mainly oak in the west and birch in the east, forms a transition to the zone of grass steppes, which mainly covers the area of the fertile black soil and is largely cultivated. Feather grass, fescue, torch grass and wormwood species dominate the steppes. In the spring, during the rainy season, the steppe turns into a colorful flower carpet with bulbs and tubers, annuals, including Citellus pygmaeus, and anemone and adonis species.

Locally there are salt marshes with salt-loving plants such as marsh herb and samphire. The vegetation of the deserts is sparse and, in addition to wormwood species, consists of some salt-loving plants such as Kochia, Camphorosma, Salsola and Anabasis.

In some places along the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, the vegetation has a Mediterranean character. The Caucasus has a very rich mountain vegetation.

Chamomile is the national flower of RussiaChamomile is the national flower of RussiaPhoto: Fatih.sanli58 CCe 4.0 International no changes made

The national flower of Russia is the real chamomile.


Golden Eagle, RussiaGolden Eagle, RussiaPhoto: Takashi Hososhima CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

In the north of Russia and on the islands arctic fauna occurs, where rodents form the main part of the animal world, including lemmings and voles. These rodents are hunted by arctic foxes. The reindeer can be kept here as the only pet. In the summer many migratory birds (especially water birds) nest on the tundra, including curlews, ruffs, snipes, black-tailed godwits, stand runners and plovers. Polar bears, walruses, seals, seals and snow hares and snowy owls are found along the shores of the Arctic Ocean. The most common bird of prey is the rough-legged hawk, while the white-tailed eagle and the gyr-falcon also hunt larks, siskins, swallows, buntings and bluethroat. The golden eagle is Russia's national bird.

Brown Bear, RussiaBrown Bear, RussiaPhoto:Robert F. Tobler CC 4.0 International no changes made

The taiga south of the tundra is characterized, among other things, by the presence of wolf, wolverine, lynx, brown bear (the national animal of Russia) and moose. Red deer, roe deer and countless species of fur game are also found here, including the sable, weasel, ermine, silver fox and polecat.

The taiga is very rich in birds, especially typical forest dwellers such as woodpeckers, tits, finches, hawks, owls, reed geese, hookbills, crossbills and nutcrackers. Blueberry bushes produce dark blue fruits here, which birds such as hazel grouse, bullfinch and waxwings love. Among the birds of prey, the marsh harrier dominates, but eagles and sparrowhawks are also common.

Wild Boar in winter in RussiaWild Boar in winter in RussiaPhoto: Vlod007 CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The mixed forest and deciduous forest area has a typical Central European fauna including red deer, wild boars, foxes and badgers. Before the extinction, the bison was the largest mammal here; it was released again on a modest scale.

The fauna of the tree steppes is derived from that of the deciduous forest, but also shows elements of that of the grass steppes (including the spotted suet, a kind of ground squirrel). The grass-steppe animal world has suffered the most from hunting; although the saïga, a steppe antelope, has recovered well, large ungulates like wild horses, and rodents like the bobak marmot have been wiped out.

Small rodents are still well represented; this is also the area of the locust plagues with the rosy starling as the main enemy of the locusts. Rodents also play a major role in the sand scooters, where the sand lark also occurs.

Sturgeon RussiaSturgeon RussiaPhoto:Jonathan Cardy CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Sharks, sturgeons, monk seals and toothed whales such as dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and porpoises occur in the Black Sea, in addition to about 170 fish species. The large inland seas such as the Caspian Sea and Lake Baikal often house a peculiar animal world.

These two largest lakes are also quite different; the Caspian Sea is very depleted, but Lake Baikal has a much richer animal world with 1700 species of which about 1100 are endemic. The best-known example is the Bajkalrob, the only freshwater seal in the world. The oil fish is also only found in Lake Baikal.

The bottom of the lake is covered with giant sponges, and swarms of algae-eating crustaceans and shrimp keep the water crystal clear.


Early Middle Ages

Battle between the Scythians and the Slavs, Russia Battle between the Scythians and the Slavs, RussiaPhoto: Public domain

After the Great Migration, the core area of the later Russian Empire was inhabited by Slavic peoples. They were again indebted to the Khazars, who controlled the caravan routes between Europe and Asia.

Since the 6th century, the tribes from Scandinavia have penetrated Russia with boats from the Baltic Sea and conquered Novgorod and Kiev in the ninth century.

Under the inspiring leadership of their famous Scandinavian chieftain Rurik, several tribes around Novgorod were united in 862. This gave rise to the name Rossiya, which means "the land of the Russian".

The Empire of Kiev (ca.880-1240)

Mosaics Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, ca 1100Mosaics Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev, ca 1100Photo: Public domain

Rurik was succeeded by Oleg, who conquered Kiev around 880 and is considered the true founder of the Russian state. The Scandinavian tribes conquered more and more areas, but assimilated themselves as a people with the native Slavic population. In 998, Vladimir the Holy married the daughter of the Byzantine emperor, Anna. This sealed the transition to a kind of state religion, orthodox Christianity. This was of great importance for the later building of the Russian state. Vladimir's son, Yaroslav the Wise, led the Empire of Kiev-Rus until 1054 to become one of the richest and most powerful in the then Christian world.

The decline of the empire started from 1054 due to the many invasions of steppe nomads and the Slavic succession system, which led to a great fragmentation of the once powerful empire. In the 13th century it was therefore no longer possible to properly defend against attackers who came from both the east and the west. Sweden and the Teutonic Order threatened Russia from the northwest and Lithuania conquered Black Russia and Polotsk, among others.

From the east, the Mongols invaded Russia in 1237, led by Batu Chan. Within a few years almost all major cities were attacked and burned to the ground, including Kiev in 1240. This brought an end to the Empire of Kiev.

Mongols and Tatars

Mongol invasion of RussiaMongol invasion of RussiaPhoto: Public domain

Daniel of Galicia tried to stop the Mongols, but in 1259 another invasion followed and Galicia stopped fighting. Lithuania, which had also conquered many Russian principalities, managed to inflict a heavy defeat on the Mongols at Sinyje Vody. Eastern Russia, on the other hand, suffered for a long time from the Tatars, who were doing things for the Mongols and maintaining a cruel regime.

Alexander Nevsky in particular, previously Prince of Novgorod, was humiliated as Grand Duke of Vladimir. After his death, the land was divided among his sons and Daniil became governor of Moscow. Daniil and his successors managed to expand the Moscow Empire considerably and made Moscow the core of a new Russian state.

The Tsardom of Muscovy

Ivan IV the terrible, RussiaIvan IV the terrible, RussiaPhoto: Jimmyweee CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Only under Ivan III one can speak of a large Russian unified state. He conquered the last principalities and by 1480 his empire was completely independent from the Tatars. Meanwhile, the Byzantine Empire had fallen in 1453, and the Russian Grand Duke Ivan III became worldly head of all Orthodox believers. Moscow has even been referred to as the "third Rome". The title "Tsar" (of Caesar) became official upon the ascension to the throne by Ivan IV. Russia was now ruled by autocrats, and the boyars (noble landowners) were, much to their displeasure, outflanked. This led to bloody conflicts, especially under the rule of Ivan IV the Terrible (1533-1584). He exercised a terrible terror against the boyars, but after his coronation as tsar in 1547 the empire calmed down.

Ivan did try to expand his territory in all directions. In the east, Kazan and Astrakhan were conquered, but in the west Ivan suffered a heavy defeat against the Poles and the Swedes when he tried to conquer Livonia. The battle lasted 24 years, from 1558 to 1582.

The position of farmers also changed radically in the 16th century. The land they owned went to landlords and many farmers then moved to the south, among other places, where they lived a fairly independent existence as semi-nomads as Cossacks. The Cossack Yermak became famous, who began to conquer Siberia in the service of the Stroganov family.

During the reign of Ivan IV, a regular trade between England and Russia also started and later Dutch merchants were also added. In 1584 Ivan was succeeded by his feeble son Fyodor, who could not prevent power from eventually falling into the hands of Boris Gudunov, who had first held a regency on behalf of Fyodor. He managed to win another war with Sweden and thereby reclaim areas on the Baltic Sea. After the death of Fyodor, Boris became the official head of state of Russia.

17th century

Michael Romanov, RussiaMichael Romanov, RussiaPhoto: Public domain

The period 1604-1613 was called the "time of troubles" and began with an invasion from Poland by the pretender to the throne Dimitri, the so-called "false Dimitri". In 1605 Boris Gudunov died and Dimitri fell to the throne. Unfortunately for him, he was soon killed by boyars. This whole period can be seen as a period of civil war and total confusion. A new Dimitri, false Dimitri II, announced himself, but he too was short-lived; in 1610 he was murdered.

After this troubled period, the clergy called on cities and nobles to join forces and save Russia from destruction. A state assembly or "zemski sobor" was then proclaimed and Michael, son of Fyodor Romanov, was elected tsar in 1613. Under Michael, peace was quickly restored. With Michael a new dynasty came to power, that of the Romanovs.

Michael was succeeded by Tsar Alexei, while the government was in the hands of his guardian and favorite Morozov. However, this administration was so corrupt that a revolt followed in 1648, which in turn prompted legislative reform. This new legislation made serfs in particular increasingly dependent on the state or on their masters. The second half of the seventeenth century was also marked by a split in the church. The so-called "raskolniki" did not want to go along with the ecclesiastical reforms.

Furthermore, a Russo-Polish war was fought from 1654 to 1667.

Era Peter the Great

Tombe of Peter the great, RussiaTombe of Peter the great, RussiaPhoto: Eino Mustonen CC 3.0 no changes made

From 1689, Tsar Peter the Great, son of Alexei, ruled Russia. His main focus was abroad, especially the superpower on the other side of the Baltic Sea, Sweden. The Great Northern War (1700-1721) was important here. At the Peace of Nystad, Russia took control of a large part of the Baltic Sea coast and thus became the main power on the sea so important for international trade.

At home, everyone was tied even more to the state, the administrative apparatus modernized and the church placed under the authority of the state. Furthermore, Saint Petersburg became the capital instead of Moscow. Under Peter the Great, Russia became the most powerful state in Eastern Europe.

Era Catherine II (1762-1796)

Tsarina Catherine II, RussiaTsarina Catherine II, RussiaPhoto:Richard Mortel CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

After an interval of 37 years and six monarchs, Catherine II seized power in Russia. From that time on the line of Peter the Great was also continued. This also includes the strong concentration on Western, especially French, civilization. The power of the nobility continued to expand under Catherine, while the situation for the serfs became more and more hopeless and came close to pure slavery. As a result, great peasant revolts broke out in the period 1773-1775.

Catherine achieved great military success abroad. The Black Sea coast and Crimea were conquered from the Turks, parts of Poland in the west and Courland was also annexed. Catherine was succeeded by her son Paul, who made peace with the Emperor of France, Napoleon, in 1799.

19th century

Alexander I of RussiaAlexander I of RussiaPhoto: Shakko CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Paul was succeeded by Alexander I, who tried to implement all kinds of reforms in his first period, but failed at all. In response, the second period of his reign was characterized by the suppression of liberal thinking. In 1825 Alexander died suddenly, immediately revealing the displeasure of the upper classes with Alexander's reign.

In foreign policy, he initially fought with England and Austria against the French in the so-called Coalition Wars. In the War of the Fourth Coalition, Russia was defeated at Friedland in 1807. During the peace negotiations, he befriended Napoleon, much to the dismay of the Russian merchants and traders, who saw their lucrative trade with England endangered.

In 1812, however, Napoleon invaded Russia and Moscow was occupied for a short time. The French were eventually expelled from Russia. After the War of the Sixth Coalition, Russia acquired Poland in personal union at the Congress of Vienna, and was allowed to keep Finland.

Nicholas I (1825-1855) pursued a strict reactionary regime in which many groups were repressed. Nicholas's foreign policy led, among other things, to the Crimean War, in which Russia suffered a painful defeat. At the Peace of Paris (March 30, 1856), Russia was cut off from the Danube and the Black Sea became a neutral territory.

Alexander II of RussiaAlexander II of RussiaPhoto: Public domain

Alexander II carried out important domestic reforms, the main achievements of which were the abolition of serfdom in 1861 and the reform of local government in 1864.

In 1877 war was declared on Turkey. The Turks threatened to overrun Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro, creating a nationalist-Pan-Slavist mood in Russia. After a fierce battle with the Turks, the Turks were forced into the Peace of San Stefano, which was later revised at the Congress of Berlin in 1878.

In the meantime, the Russians had also been busy and conquered, among others, Tashkent, Samarkand and the Hanaat Chiwa; The Chanates Bukhara and Kokand became Russian client states (Chanaat = principality ruled by a Chan).

Under Alexander III, almost all of the reforms initiated by his predecessor were reversed and any form of opposition was brutally suppressed. As far as foreign policy was concerned, a defensive alliance with France was made in 1893, while Chancellor Bismarck's Germany broke up.

20th century

Battlefields in the Russo Japanese WarBattlefields in the Russo Japanese WarPhoto: Public domain

For East Asia, the Russians had an economic-military imperialist future in store. As a result, the Russians clashed fiercely with Japan, which became increasingly stronger economically and militarily. Russia had occupied Manchuria after the Boxer Uprising in 1900, but promised to vacate it by a specified date.

This did not happen and as a result war broke out with Japan that lasted from 1904-1905. This war fell very badly among its own population, after which the Russian government promised to create a parliament, the "Duma". In August 1905, however, it became known that the powers of the duma would be very limited, and that in turn generated much protest among the population. The government now took its place, and far-reaching civil liberties and democratic suffrage were promised.

However, when the Duma took a stand against the government, there was an immediate reaction and the Duma was immediately dissolved. A second duma was established but it had even more radical positions and was also dissolved. The third Duma (1907) did not last long either, and the fourth Duma (1912) was also increasingly in conflict with the regime.

Moreover, the peasants, workers and intellectuals became increasingly hostile to the government based on conservative circles (nobility and capitalists).

Russian Revolution

Revolutionaries attacking the Tzar's police during the first days of the Revolution, RussiaRevolutionaries attacking the Tzar's police during the first days of the Revolution, RussiaPhoto: Public domain

Russian tsarism had been greatly weakened in early 1917 by the defeats and losses in World War I and the great rift that had developed between landowners and entrepreneurs and peasants and workers.

On February 17, 1917, a bread riot broke out in Petrograd. The rulers called in the army, but the soldiers refused to intervene. To restore order, the Duma established an executive committee, while the workers formed councils, the so-called "soviets", together with soldiers. In response, the army leadership sided with the Soviets, after which the Tsar resigned and handed over power to his brother Michael. However, he refused, after which the Duma appointed a provisional government headed by Prince Lvov.

The socialists, divided into revolutionary socialists and social democrats, gained more and more influence through the creation of more soviets. These soviets organized many provincial and one major national congress, from which a central executive committee was elected in June, acting as the official representative of all soviets to the provisional government.

Meanwhile, the position of that government was weakening, with the local government often already taken over by the soviets. At that point the Duma and the police organization had already disappeared. The program of the provisional government, a continuation of the war in Europe, no abolition of large land ownership and a liberal form of government, caused great unrest.

In April 1917 there was a demonstration against the belligerent minister Miliukov, after which it became clear that the provisional government would not survive without the socialists. A coalition government was therefore formed on 5 May with the moderate socialists. Their policies were opposed from the outset by the leader of the so-called "Bolsheviks," Lenin. His main demand was that all power belong to the soviets.

When the Minister of War, Kerensky, nevertheless continued to wage war and suffered a severe defeat in Galicia, an uprising broke out in Petrograd led by the Bolsheviks, who now demanded all power from the Soviets. However, the central executive committee of the soviets refused to cooperate and the Bolshevik party was banned and Lenin fled abroad. The chairman of the important Petrograder Soviet, Trotsky, was arrested.

On August 27, another revolt threatened by the commander in chief of the army, General Kornilov. However, most of his soldiers committed insubordination, which failed this liberal and conservative-backed attempt to establish a military dictatorship.

Kerensky unable to do anything and a power vacuum was created. Farmers increasingly took possession of estates and factory workers en masse joined the Bolsheviks, who were more or less in control in large cities such as Moscow and Petrograd. At the end of September Lenin announced an armed insurrection from Finland, which was being prepared by Trotsky. On October 25, strategic points in Petrograd were occupied by Trotsky's troops. Some resistance was offered in Moscow and southern Russia, but in fact the Bolsheviks met no major opposition anywhere. On October 26, the second general congress of all soviets was held, with the Bolsheviks clearly in the majority. The first official Bolshevik government was therefore elected at the suggestion of Lenin.

Period Lenin

Lenin, RussiaLenin, RussiaPhoto: Wwamirhosseinww CC 4.0 International no changes

The settlement of the First World War caused a lot of problems. On December 2, 1917, a difficult truce was signed. The Germans launched another offensive, but on March 3, 1918, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was concluded, ending the war on the Eastern Front. Lenin was the great animator behind this peace treaty, much to the dismay of a large number of Bolsheviks and the Left Social Revolutionaries in the government.

In order to maintain power, a number of decrees were issued and the political opposition had a hard time, including censorship and the use of violence by the secret police, the Cheka. The real power of the Bolsheviks, however, was limited only to Central Russia.

From the spring of 1918, the Antibolsheviks really took off. Thus, the so-called Czechoslovak legion conquered Siberia, and the east coast was occupied by the Americans and the Japanese. Right-wing groups formed armies but found no support among the peasant population, who were afraid of losing their own land. The left-wing Socialist Revolutionaries staged a coup d'état in July 1918 and committed several attacks, which in turn triggered great activity by the secret police. However, this civil war could never be won by the "whites", because they were insufficiently organized and, moreover, had to compete against an army of 5 million men.

Russia, meanwhile, had also gone to war with Poland due to a border dispute. A definitive boundary was established at the Peace of Riga on October 12, 1920.

The development of communism, the power to the people, fell on two minds. On the one hand, industry was being nationalized at an accelerated pace, but on the other, a reinforced party dictatorship seriously hindered the development of workers' power. There was much dissatisfaction about this and this led to an uprising in the garrison town of Kronstadt in March 1921. However, this revolution was bloody suppressed. In 1922, a treaty was signed between the Ukrainian and Belarusian Soviet Republics and the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR, was established.

However, discontent among large groups in society became more intense and Lenin decided to grant some liberties, the so-called New Economic Policy (NEP). The NEP was reasonably successful because in 1928, despite an initial famine and high unemployment, the economic level of 1913 was again reached.

Period Stalin

Stalin, RussiaStalin, RussiaPhoto: Ephraim Stillberg CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Politically, there was still turmoil, and this got worse when Lenin fell seriously ill in 1922 and the struggle for his succession began. At first it seemed to be Trotsky, but he faced opposition from a triumvirate, the secretary-general of the party, Joseph Stalin, taking the lead. However, the struggle for power continued; Stalin wanted to maintain the NEP politics and pursue socialism, Trotsky wanted rapid industrialization at the expense of the peasants and pursued permanent revolution. At the end of 1927, Trotsky was sidetracked and Stalin adopted his ideas and found himself opposed to his former allies Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky. The resistance of this group was broken in 1929, after which one man held all power: Stalin.

Stalin's foreign policy was dominated by the ideological broadening of the communist revolution, but also in a traditional policy, in which the own state was paramount. The world revolution therefore failed to materialize and more and more treaties were concluded with other countries, followed by recognition in 1924/1925. A treaty was concluded with Turkey in 1921, and with Germany in 1922 by the Treaty of Rapallo, but after the murders of communists, cooperation with the government of Chinese leader Tjiang K'ai-shek was ended.

The first five-year plan was put into effect domestically in 1928, as a result of which efforts were made to rapidly bring (heavy) industry to a higher level. In 1929 a collectivity program for agriculture was started. Initially the farmers did not cooperate and in 1932/1933 a great famine followed and a lowered standard of living due to the forced unilateral industrialization.

The Stalin period was further characterized by personality cult and people were no longer allowed to have their own ideas. After a hesitant thawing period, a period of state terror by the secret police followed in the period 1936-1938. Important former leaders were convicted and the entire military top was liquidated. Approx. 5% of the population was affected by the terror.


Soviet officer leading his soldiers in WW II, RussiaSoviet officer leading his soldiers in WW II, RussiaPhoto: RIA Novosti archive, image #543 / Alpert CC-BY-SA 3.0 no changes made

In foreign policy, people increasingly moved to the west and not to Germany and Japan. Alliances were even made with countries such as France and the Soviets joined the League of Nations.

On the eve of World War II, the Soviets failed to cooperate with the Western powers against Germany's National Socialism. Nevertheless, a treaty was concluded with the Soviet Union in August 1939; the Molotov-von Ribbentrop Pact. When World War II broke out, Germany and the Soviet Union divided Poland, Russia unsuccessfully attacked Finland, but annexed the Baltic States in 1940. However, Germany turned out not to be trusted and in June 1941 the two superpowers faced each other.

German troops penetrated Moscow and besieged Leningrad. At that time Stalin took over all offices in the country and was at that time party leader, prime minister and people's commissioner of defense. The Battle of Stalingrad was to be the final defeat of the Germans, after which the Soviet armies moved rapidly towards Berlin. Internationally, the Soviet Union was strengthened from World War II, as several areas were added to the empire, including Eastern Poland and the northern part of East Prussia. After the end of the war in Europe, the Soviet Union attacked Japan in Manchuria and took possession of the Kurils and South Sakhalin in the east. More important than these conquests was the fact that the Soviet Union gained a decisive influence in the countries it liberated in Eastern Europe, with the exception of Yugoslavia. All countries in Eastern Europe were given a communist regime and that would largely determine world news for decades.

The post-war period was dominated by Stalin's personal dictatorship. Science and culture were bound by very strict regulations and contacts with the West were limited. Purges and locking up dissidents and other unwanted persons in so-called "gulags" were the order of the day.

Period Khrushchev

Khrutschev, RussiaKhrutschev, RussiaPhoto: Public domain

After Stalin's death in 1953, a struggle for supremacy broke out between Khrushchev, Malenkov and Beria. In March 1953 Khrushchev became party secretary and in the years 1955-1957 his opponents were sidetracked. At the 20th Party Congress in 1956, Khrushchev dealt with the Stalin period and Stalinism, but in fact only the excesses of the regime were criticized; the communist system remained intact. Yet things did change for the common people, in the sense that there were more personal freedoms and more security was guaranteed. However, this only lasted for a short time as this de-Stalinization led to the "Polish Spring" in Czechoslovakia and the Hungarian uprising in 1956 in Hungary. The Soviet Union quickly retreated and the old situation was restored by early 1957.

Khrushchev, meanwhile, was both party and government leader and his opponents had disappeared from the highest party organs. His economic policy increasingly focused on the consumer industry and no longer on heavy industry.

In terms of foreign policy, there were a number of major crises in relations between the East and the West, particularly the United States. Some examples are the Suez Canal (1956), Berlin (1958) and the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). Relations with the other communist superpower China also came under severe pressure and even led to a split in 1963. Border disputes led to explosive situations in 1969 that just did not get out of hand. The generally bad economic situation in the Soviet Union and especially the difficult agricultural situation led to the fall of Khrushchev in 1964.

Period Brezhnev

Brezhnev, RussiaBrezhnev, RussiaPhoto: Public domain

Khrushchev was succeeded as party leader by Leonid Brezhnev and as prime minister by Kosygin. However, they too were unable to force an economic breakthrough, on the contrary, the economic problems continued to accumulate.

The period of Brezhnev-Kosygin was characterized in the interior by a definitive return to the repressive policy before the de-Stalinization. The secret service (KGB) and the judiciary were constantly looking to subtly or harshly sideline the so-called "democratic opposition". Many dissidents were also forced to emigrate to the West.

Yet the opposition among intelligentsia and the (forbidden) churches emerged and came to stand against the party framework and the army. Marxism-Leninism as an ideology lost more and more ground among the population in those years, while Russian nationalism was reviving, especially in military circles.

Foreign policy under Brezhnev increasingly tended towards relaxation, despite the bad relations with China and, for example, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia (1968). The relationship with the Federal Republic of Germany in particular improved considerably and the normalization of relations between the German Democratic Republic, a puppet state of the Soviet Union, was important. A good sign was the signing by the Soviet Union of the Helsinki Final Act in 1975.

Relations with the United States were reasonably good in the early 1970s under Richard Nixon's presidency. After Nixon, another cooling-off period followed under Carter and Reagan, which was partly caused by the Soviet expansionism in the third world and also the position in the oil-rich Middle East in relation to the Americans. The Soviet invasion and subsequent war in Afghanistan (1979-1989) was a low point in the relationship between the two superpowers, and the military coup in Poland (1981) did not help that relationship either.

Period Gorbachev

Gorbachev, RussiaGorbachev, RussiaPhoto: The Official CTBTO Photostream CC 2.0no changes made

After the death of Brezhnev and the intervals between Andropov and Chernenko, Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev came to power and was appointed Secretary General of the Communist Party on March 11, 1985.

Gorbachev's policy was based on openness ("glasnost") and innovation ("perestroika"). At the 27th Party Congress in 1986 it was decided to improve and perfect the electoral system and to improve the work of the elected organs of the popular power. However, the party remained the leading force behind this process.

On January 10, 1988, the time had come: in by-elections for the Supreme Soviet, a choice was possible between two candidates for one seat in a constituency. These were the first free elections since November 1917, although both persons were members of the communist party. After the 19th Party Congress, constitutional changes were made in December 1988 with regard to electoral law, parliament and the judiciary. In addition to being a party leader, Gorbachev also became chairman of parliament. From this time on, this parliament would also determine politics in Russia. The until then powerful politburo lost more and more power and the party apparatus was gradually dismantled.

As a result of these radical developments, all kinds of nationalist movements began to emerge in the constituent republics, which quickly pushed for full sovereignty. Elections in these republics were, of course, all won by national popular fronts.

On March 11, 1990, Lithuania unilaterally declared independence. The Soviet Parliament responded by passing a law setting out the contours of a new federative structure. By passing an Withdrawal Act, they tried to turn the tide, but this would prove to be in vain. Estonia and Latvia took steps towards autonomy and Boris Yeltsin's RSFSR (Russia) passed a declaration declaring themselves sovereign. In concrete terms, this meant that the RSFSR itself would decide whether a law adopted by the Soviet Union would also apply in its territory (the so-called war of laws).

Forced by changing circumstances, the first draft of a new Union agreement was published on 24 November 1990. During this period Gorbachev began to surround himself with some conservative advisers and ministers to restore power in the center. A referendum on the preservation of the Soviet Union was held on 17 March 1991 and consultations followed between Gorbachev, Yeltsin and the leaders of the eight remaining republics.

These consultations led to an agreement between Gorbachev and the republics on April 23. The new text of the Union Agreement was due to be signed on August 20, but it never happened. On August 17, the conservative leaders of the republics decided on a coup, which, however, was very ill-prepared and failed due to the poor cooperation of the army. The courageous actions of Yeltsin, who had already been elected president of the Federation in June 1991, would be important for the further history of Russia.

As a result, however, the republics concluded that the Soviet Union no longer existed. On September 5, the Congress of Deputies agreed and proposed a transition period. Furthermore, the Soviet Union recognized the independence of the three Baltic states.

At the time, negotiations for an Economic Community were underway, but Ukraine was very hesitant. At the time of the coup in August, this important republic had already declared its independence and had called a referendum for it. The population voted in favor en masse and the Ukraine immediately declared itself officially independent, effectively ending the existence of the Soviet Union.

Russia, Ukraine and Belarus founded the Slavic League at the end of December, which was expanded on December 21 to include most other republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States (Sodruzjestvo Nezavisimych Gosudarstv). In the south of Russia, the Chechens proclaimed the republic of Chechnya in 1991.

Period Jeltsin

Jeltsin, RussiaJeltsin, RussiaPhoto: Public domain

On December 25, 1991, President Gorbachev resigned and the Soviet Union was officially dissolved on January 1, 1992. On that date, the Russian Federation officially became an independent state.

Yeltsin immediately took some tough economic decisions; for example, state controls on prices were released and state-owned companies were privatized. The first measure in particular did lead to hyperinflation, which did not improve the dire economic situation very much.

In March 1993, the People's Congress passed a vote of no confidence towards Yeltsin's economic and political reforms, but the required two-thirds majority was just missed. A referendum on these matters worked out favorably for Yeltsin, considerably strengthening his position. However, the crisis around Yeltsin continued because in September the congress denied Yeltsin the right to, among other things, legislation. A vote was taken to oust Yeltsin and Vice President Alexandr Rutskoy became president. The new president and parliament chairman Hasbulatov even called for an uprising against Yeltsin. Armed supporters of both figures occupied Ostankino Town Hall and Television Center on October 3, 1993.

Yeltsin-loyal troops quickly ended the uprising, and Rutskoy and Hasbulatov were captured. Elections and a referendum were again held in December. A new constitution was also passed, giving the president even more powers. The communists and the far right also received a lot of votes, which made the government increasingly conservative. It was significant that in January 1994, two important reformers, Gajdar and Fedorov, had to leave the field.

In February, all those detained in coup attempt attempts in 1991 and 1993 were released. Chechnya was again in the news in 1994. In the second half of 1994, a conflict broke out between Chechen President Dudayev and the pro-Russian opposition. Yeltsin issued an ultimatum, but at the end of December Russian troops entered Chechnya and bloody fighting took place. In June 1995, Chechen rebels took approximately 1,500 people from the Russian city of Budyonnovsk hostage in revenge. Russian security forces tried to end the hostage situation, but some 100 people were killed.

At the end of July, the Russian forces withdrew, although agreement on the sovereignty question was far from being reached. In June 1994, Russia joined NATO's Partnership for Peace, but continued to strongly oppose NATO expansion with the accession of some former Eastern Bloc countries.

Elections to the State Duma in 1995 clearly showed the great division between them. The communists and the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party won a lot of votes due to the deteriorating socio-economic situation the country was in.

The economic crisis persisted despite the rise in industrial production and the growth of the economy in 1995. The main reason for this was that government deficits could not be tackled simply by printing money. Despite reassuring figures from the government, it was well known that more than 40% of the labor force was unemployed.

The presidential elections of June and July 1996 were again won by Yeltsin, who defeated communist Zyuganov in the second round. Yeltsin continued with economic reforms, but the only thing that succeeded in reducing inflation. In order to continue the reforms in full, Anatoli Chubais was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister in 1997 and Boris Nemtsov as Deputy Prime Minister. Meanwhile, the fighting in Chechnya had continued and in April 1996 rebel leader Dudayev was killed. An armistice was signed in August and a peace treaty was signed on 12 May 1997. At the end of February 1996, Russia had already become a member of the Council of Europe.

In March 1998, Yeltsin fired the entire cabinet of Prime Minister Chernomyrdin without further notice.

The Russian Federation played an important role in the 1999 Kosovo crisis. The Russians were deeply involved in the negotiations between the Serbs and the Kosovars during the February and March negotiations in Rambouillet and Paris. Russia was clearly on the side of the Serbs, and then strongly opposed the NATO air strikes over Serbia after the failure of the negotiations. Ultimately, the Russians would play an important role in finding a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

On May 6, Russia agreed to the terms for the cessation of the bombing. Serbia thus lost one of its main supporters and there was no other option than to follow the demands of the G8 at the beginning of June. To keep the peace, Russia sent more than 3,600 soldiers to Kosovo.

Period Putin first and second term

Putin, RussiaPutin, RussiaPhoto: CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

On May 12, 1999, President Yeltsin fired Prime Minister Primakov and all his ministers. Home Secretary and First Deputy Prime Minister Stepashin was appointed by Yeltsin as his successor, but he was suddenly fired on August 9.

Yeltsin then nominated the head of the Secret Service and President of the Presidential Security Council, Vladimir Putin, as Stepashin's successor. He also appointed Putin as his intended successor.

The December 19, 1999 Duma elections were gloriously won by Putin and his Unity party. Putin was popular among the population because of the crackdown on the problems in the rebellious Chechnya Republic.

On December 31, 1999, President Yeltsin unexpectedly announced his resignation and appointed Prime Minister Putin as acting president.

Presidential elections were held on March 26, 2000, and Putin was elected president by an absolute majority and was sworn in on May 7. Putin appointed Mikhail Kashanov prime minister.

Putin's priority was to strengthen central state authority and enforce the law. He wanted to limit the power of the regions and the autonomous republics, of course with Chechnya as a specter in mind. He established seven federal districts by decree on May 13 to oversee compliance with federal laws.

On 28 June, the new government presented a reform program, focusing on reform and simplification of the tax system, modernization of the banking system and increased supervision of privatized monopoly companies, such as Gazprom.

Furthermore, Putin declared war on the 'oligarchs', the group of businessmen who had made big money and gained great political influence under Yeltsin. The tax authorities and the judiciary began investigating several magnates, who were suspected of embezzlement and tax evasion.

On August 12, the Kursk, a nuclear submarine of the Russian Navy, sank during exercises in the Barents Sea. The accident was seriously discredited by the Russian authorities, and it was not until the end of October that divers managed to remove twelve corpses from the submarine.

Russian attempts to break resistance in the renegade Autonomous Republic of Chechnya were unsuccessful. Informal contacts with the Chechen president, Aslan Masjadov, ultimately did not lead to negotiations. The local government installed by Russia failed to gain authority, so Russian soldiers and Chechen rebels continue the bloody battle with all their fierce. The rebels were not only active in Chechnya itself. In March 2001 they hijacked a Russian airliner in Turkey and detonated three car bombs in South Russia.

Still, international support for Russia's action in Chechnya grew, but that was merely a result of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. In his support for the fight against international terrorism, President Putin said that the war in Chechnya cannot be ignored. According to him, it was also about counterterrorism. President Bush, following Putin, called on the Chechen rebels to cut off their contacts with international terrorists. Within Russia, too, support for military action in Chechnya grew after September 11.

Russia developed into an important strategic partner of the West in 2001, thanks to the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. After the attacks, President Putin pledged support for the international campaign against terrorism and fully agreed to the US airstrikes on Afghanistan. During a visit to Germany, Putin called for the creation of a new security system, with important roles for Europe and Russia. Cooperation with NATO has also been deepened. Putin nuanced Russia's opposition to NATO expansion, and ties with the United States were also strengthened.

Relations with China, the largest buyer of Russian weapon systems, also continued to improve. Both countries signed a friendship treaty on July 16.

President Putin maintained his strong political position and remained popular with the common people, despite the hopeless war in Chechnya. In the Duma, he had a reassuring majority of members who were sympathetic to him. Things got even better for him when Unity and Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) merged in February and continued under the name United Russia.

According to an opinion poll, appreciation for his decisive actions during the Moscow hostage drama in October even increased his rating in November to a record high of 83%. On October 23, 50 Chechen rebels raided a musical theater in Moscow and took more than 750 visitors hostage. The rebels demanded the end of the war in Chechnya and the immediate withdrawal of the Russian army.

President Putin this year stuck to the pro-Western course he had set after the attacks of September 11, 2001. During the state visit of US President Bush to Moscow, both presidents signed a treaty on May 24 to reduce their nuclear arsenals. Russia also did not oppose the expansion of NATO, which the alliance decided in November 2002.

Russia pursued the plan to end the conflict in Chechnya through a new constitution and the election of a new president. On March 23, a referendum was held on the new constitution, which stipulated that Chechnya would remain a full part of Russia. 96% of the voters voted in favor of the law, which would further give Russia more say in the autonomous republic. Voters also voted in large numbers for the election of a new president and a new parliament.

Putin meets Kadirov, RussiaPutin meets Kadirov, RussiaPhoto: CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Human rights organizations criticized the referendum, partly because Russian soldiers stationed in Chechnya were allowed to vote. Presidential elections were held on October 5, and Achmed Kadirov, backed by Moscow, received 81% of the vote. Characteristic of the situation was that the main rival candidates withdrew before the elections. Rebel leader Aslan Masjadov, Chechnya's legally elected president, had rejected the Russian plan.

Putin also remained popular in 2003. A July poll found that if presidential elections were to be held at that time, he could count on 49% of the vote. The communist Gennadi Zyuganov would not have gotten more than 13%. On December 18, Putin declared that he would stand for re-election in the presidential election of March 14, 2004.

In the months before the British-American intervention, Russia opposed military action by the United States against Iraq. According to Moscow, the UN weapons inspectors should be given as much time as they needed to find weapons of mass destruction. Russia would then veto a Security Council resolution that would pave the way for military intervention.

On May 23, Russia agreed to UN Security Council Resolution 1483. The resolution recognized the British-American occupation authority and provided for the designation of a UN special envoy to Iraq. The Bush-Putin summit on September 26-27 reaffirmed that the Iraq issue had not harmed relations. Putin, for example, renounced the French demand to hand over sovereignty to the Iraqis as soon as possible. According to him, the transfer was a complex matter and it took more time.

Parliamentary elections were held on December 7. United Russia received 37.57% of the vote, the Communists (KPRF) 12.61%, the Zhirinovsky Liberal Democrats 11.45% and the Motherland Bloc 9.02%. The other parties failed to reach the 5% electoral threshold. The result was a serious setback for the opposition, as the communists lost half of their voters and the reform-minded parties Jabloko and SPS did not even meet the electoral threshold and disappeared from the Duma. Putin strengthened his position as United Russia, the pro-presidential party, took 223 of the 450 seats. With the help of two well-disposed Putin parties, the two-thirds majority needed for constitutional changes seemed within reach.

It had long been clear that Putin would be re-elected in the presidential election on March 14. He received 71.2 percent of the vote. Shortly before, he had fired his Prime Minister Mikhail Kashanov and his government, who had served him for nearly four years, but had always acted as relatively independent towards Putin.

Observers saw the dismissal mainly as an election stunt to add color to a boring presidential campaign. On March 1, he nominated the relatively unknown director Mikhail Fradkov as prime minister, and on March 5, the State Duma approved the prime minister's appointment.

On May 9, a bomb attack at the stadium in the Chechen capital Grozny killed the pro-Russian president of Chechnya, Akhmed Kadirov. The attack was likely committed by Chechen rebels and dealt a severe blow to Putin's Chechnya policy.

Putin still has a lot of goodwill among most of the Russian population, because many see in him a strong leader, and he is in the economic tide: the Russian economy today is one of the fastest growing in the world, although it was hit by the Yukos affair and according to many the economy is still too focused on minerals such as oil and gas.

However, progress has been made with regard to agriculture during Putin's presidency. At the end of 2005, the Russo-Ukrainian gas dispute broke out, which also affected some countries in Europe and prompted some observers to say that Russia is trying to tighten its grip on its "near neighbors". The Russian economy is increasingly focused on India and China, where there is a great demand for Russian raw materials, weaponry and nuclear energy technology, among other things. Many Chinese are also moving to southern Siberian cities, leading some nationalists to call it an "invasion", but other forecasts indicate that immigration is slower than previously thought.

Problems such as Chechnya, the negative population growth, the deplorable state of the Russian Army (including the persistent problematic Dovshchina), the nationality problem, crime (such as mafia groups) and terrorism are far from resolved, and sooner or later they can arise again. can come to the fore. Under Putin, corruption continued to grow between 2001 and 2006 to seven times what it was before his presidency.

Period Medvedev

Medvedev RussiaMedvedev RussiaPhoto: CC 4.0 International no changes made

Putin was expected to step down after his second term in office in 2008. Several groups within Russia have tried to get Putin to consider accepting a third term by changing the constitution, mainly out of fear that Russia will collapse after Putin's resignation. will deposit. In the Russian presidential elections in May 2008, Putin's kindred spirit and fellow party member Dmitry Medvedev emerged as the winner. Putin will assume the prime position under him, and as the party says, act as his big brother. This actually continues the Putin era.

In August 2008 the conflict with Georgia turned into a military strike. After a week of hostilities, the parties sign a peace agreement. Russia does recognize the renegade provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In January 2009, Russia will stop gas supplies to Ukraine. Ultimately and after much pressure, both countries sign a new agreement for a period of ten years. In July 2009, Medvedev and Obama signed an agreement to limit the supply of nuclear weapons. In late 2009 and early 2010 there were suicide attacks by Muslim militants from the Caucasus.

In June 2010 Medvedev visits Obama in the White House, the atmosphere between the two leaders is relaxed. In October 2010, Medvedev fired the popular Moscow mayor Juri Luzhov.

Period Putin third and fourth term

Putin olympic games Socchi, RussiaPutin olympic games Socchi, RussiaPhoto: CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In March 2012, Putin is elected president again and in May 2012 he appoints Medvedev as prime minister. In August 2012, members of the punk group Pussy Riot were sentenced to 2 years in prison, the EU and human rights organizations protest against this verdict. In December 2013, Putin is engaged in a charm offensive. He pardons his former opponent Khodorkovsky and releases those on board the Arctic Sunrise, including two Dutchmen. A link is made with the Sochi Olympics in February 2014. Just after the Olympics, the crisis surrounding Ukraine breaks out. Russia is intervening to protect its citizens in Crimea, according to its own words. The United States and the EU announce sanctions if Putin does not withdraw his troops. In May 2014, Gazprom signed a deal with China to supply that country with oil for 30 years. The west sees this as Putin's response to the impending sanctions.

In June and July 2014, Russia received a lot of criticism over arms transfers to the pro Russian separatists. Especially the drama surrounding the downing of the Malaysian airliner with 298 passengers on board, including 194 Dutch people, is heavily blamed on Russia for allegedly supplying heavy weapons. In February 2015, opposition leader Boris Nemtsov is shot dead in front of the Kremlin. From September 2015, Russia intervenes in the conflict in Syria with air strikes. Turkey downed a Russian plane in November 2015, resulting in tensions and mutual sanctions. In September 2016, Putin increased his majority in the parliamentary elections. The EU is continuing sanctions against Russia in June 2017 because of the country's role in the Ukraine conflict. Putin visits Syria in December 2017 and declares that the Russian armed forces have accomplished their task. The Olympic committee is excluding Russia from the 2018 Winter Games due to Sochi's state-sponsored doping program. In may 2018 Vladimir Putin is inaugurated for fourth term as president after beating minor candidates in the March election. In 2020 president Putin announces plans to change the constitution ahead of the end of his presidential term in 2024, and dismisses the government. In august 2020 Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent and has been transferred to a german hospital.



Russian Football fansRussian Football fansPhoto: Unkown CC 3.0 Unported no changes

Approx. 77.7% of Russia's total population consists of Russians (2017). There are also about a hundred smaller peoples scattered across the vast country, of which the largest and best known are the Tatars (3.7%) and the Ukrainians (1.4%). Finno-Ugric peoples live in the northeast of the European part, in the Volga-Kama area and further east. The Mongols live near Lake Baikal and the Caspian Sea, and the Tungus live in the area between Yenisei and Lena, between Lena and the Sea of Okhotsk and in the basin of the Indigirka.

Of the northern peoples are the Nenets (35,000) from the Arkhangelsk region are the most numerous, followed by the Evenki (30,000) from the Krasnoyarsk region, the Eveni (17,000) from the Enisoy and the Chukchen (15,000) from the north of Kamchatka.

Van the Dolgans on the Tajmyr peninsula there are less than 7,000 left and other groups are even smaller: the Nganasans of Tajmyr (1300), the Jenets of the Lower Enisej (200), the Yukaghir of Kolyma (1100), the Inuit of the Bering Strait (1700), the Aleutian Islands of Kamchatka (700) and the Nivkhs (4600) and Oroks (700) of Sakhalin.


People walking in Moscow, RussiaPeople walking in Moscow, RussiaPhoto: Pawel Maryanov CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Most of the population lives in the European part of Russia; the most sparsely populated are the parts of the country east of the Urals and the north of European Russia. The center, located around Moscow, has the highest total population density.

74.4% of the population lives in an urban area, but this percentage varies greatly by region: in Central Russia no less than 83% of the population lives in cities, in the North Caucasus it is only 57%. The main two cities are Moscow (10.5 million inhabitants) agglomeration: 12.4 million) and Saint-petersburg (5.4 million inhabitants).

There are more than 8 people per km2 in Russia, which makes Russia, of the largest countries after Canada, the country with the lowest population density.


In 2017, there were 142,527,519 inhabitants in Russia, making it the tenth country in the world in terms of population. The economic and social changes in the 1990s resulted in negative demographic developments. The population is aging due to a falling birth rate (in 2017: 11 per 1000 inhabitants) and an increasing death rate (in 2017: 13 per 1000 inhabitants).

The deteriorating socio-medical conditions (including alcohol and drug use) are reflected in the relatively low average life expectancy, especially for men: 63.5 years for men and 77.1 years for women in 2017. Russians returning from other former Soviet republics in the 1990s provided a balance for some time, but by 2004 the immigration balance had fallen to 1.02% per 1000 inhabitants. They mainly left the crisis areas of neighboring countries such as Tajikistan, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

Age structure population

0-14 years 17.1%
15-64 years 68.7%
65+ 14.2 %

Population groups

The Russian Federation has more than 120 different
nationalities and ethnic groups.

Russians 77.7%
Tatars 3.7%
Ukrainian 1.4%
Other 17.2%


Russian language mapRussian language mapPhoto: Felipe Menegaz, Peter Fitzgerald CC 4.0 International no changes made

The Russian language is one of the East Slavic languages, along with Ukrainian and Belarusian. In addition to most residents of Russia, many residents of former Soviet republics still speak Russian as a second language. Several million immigrants around the world, for example in Israël, also speak Russian. Russian is one of the top ten languages with the most speakers, totaling some 275 million.

It was not until the 13th century that Russian developed as a separate language. Contemporary Russian took its present form in the early 19th century, and is a combination of purely Russian and Church Slavic elements. Many foreign words made their appearance, including from Greek, Latin, Polish, German, French and also Dutch. The Russian dialects are not very different from each other. A northern dialect group, a middle group and a southern group are distinguished.

In addition to Russian, the official language of the Russian Federation, and its dialects, approximately 150 other languages are spoken, both from the Indo-European language family. (Slavic languages) as from the Altaic and Finno-Ugrian language groups.

The Cyrillic alphabet has 33 letters. Any Russian Vowel can be pronounced in two ways (hard and soft), and there are several consonants that have no equivalent in English. Some letters can be pronounced in different ways depending on their position within a word.

Russian, like German, has cases, but in Russian there are six instead of four. The form changes resulting from all those cases are more drastic than in German.
I also find it difficult that the stress of a word can jump when that word is conjugated or inflected. All this does not make Russian an easy language to learn.

Some words and phrases:



Thank you


Good morning

dóbroje oétro

good evening

dóbry vétsjer

Good day

dóbry djenj




























16th century icon St george and the dragon, Russia16th century icon St george and the dragon, RussiaPhoto: Public domain

The Russian Orthodox Church (Russkaya Pravoslavnaya Tserkov) originated from the Byzantine (Greek Orthodox) faith. The Russian Prince Vladimir I of Kiev wanted to marry Anna, the sister of the Byzantine Emperor. However, he was denied permission because he was a heathen and was forced to first be baptized and adopt the Orthodox faith. Vladimir and all his people were baptized Orthodox in 988 and then he was allowed to marry Anna.

In 1448, the Russian Orthodox Church gained independence from the Patriarchate of Constantinople and was recognized as the only state church in Russia until 1905 .The Russian Orthodox Church is now the largest of all the Eastern Churches with about 100 million members; this includes the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Patriarch (also: Metropolitan or Archbishop) of Moscow has been the head of the Russian Orthodox Church since 1589.

During and after the Russian Revolution of 1917, the freedom of the Church in Russia was progressively restrained and imprisoned priests, bishops and believers. In 1938 almost all churches in the Soviet Union were closed. In 1961 the Russian Orthodox Church joined the World Council of Churches and after 1990 new churches and monasteries were allowed to be built. Religious education also became possible again and the separation between church and state was officially enshrined in law in 1997.

 The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, MoscowPhoto: Dudva CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

A lot of the liturgy and rites of the Russian Orthodox Church are similar to those of the other Eastern Orthodox Churches, such as the Greek Orthodox Church. For example, Russian Orthodox crosses from the forehead, through the right shoulder to the left shoulder. In the 1950s, the then Patriarch of Moscow, Nikon, carried out reforms in Russian Orthodox teaching. For example, from now on believers have to strike a sign of the cross with 3 fingers instead of with two.

Many believers are against this reform and led proto-priest Avvakum they separate themselves off from the Russian Orthodox Church from Nikon. They call themselves Old Believers. However, the Russian Orthodox Church banned them, calling them schismatics. The ban was not lifted again by the official Russian Orthodox Church until 1971. The decisive distinction between the great Greek and Slavic churches and Western Catholic and Protestant Christianity is that the Eastern emphasize the world and resurrection of Christ, while Western theology emphasizes the atonement of the guilt on the cross and forgiveness.

Ca. 82% of the total Russian population is Christian. Besides the Russian Orthodox are Russian Catholics (especially in Moscow and Siberia, Baptists, Jews and Muslims (mainly Sunni Tatars, Basjkiren and Chechens).

Among the nomadic peoples in Siberia, especially among the Kalmuks, there are followers of Buddhism.

Most Mari and some of the Udmurts are animists and shamanists.


State Structure

Duma RussiaDuma RussiaPhoto: CC 4.0 International no changes made

The president, now Putin, plays a crucial role in the political system of the Russian Federation. For example, the president appoints the prime minister (with the consent of the House of Representatives, the "Duma") and he can defeat the government or individual members thereof at any time. The latter happens very regularly. Furthermore, the president can promulgate far-reaching legislative measures outside parliament by means of decrees and orders. He is also the commander in chief of the army and responsible for domestic and foreign policy. An important body like the national Security Council is directly answerable to the president, and the secretary is again appointed by the president. In theory, it is possible for parliament to remove the president from office, but in practice this is almost impossible. The president may serve a maximum of two four-year terms and is elected by universal suffrage.

The State Duma ("Lower House") consists of 450 deputies and is elected every four years by universal suffrage. The voters may then cast two votes: one vote for a regional candidate and one vote for a national candidate for a particular party.

The Federation Council ("Senate") has 178 members and consists of two representatives from all 89 administrative units. Each region is intended to delegate the region's governor or president, along with someone elected by the regional parliament. For the current political situation see chapter history.

Administrative division

Map of administrative divisions of RussiaMap of administrative divisions of RussiaPhoto: TUBS CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Russian Federation is not a real Federation, but is based on the idea of the united state, with a certain autonomy for a number of areas. The territory is divided into 21 (sub ) republics , one autonomous region, six regions or border areas (krajs), ten autonomous districts (okrug), two federal cities (Moscow and Saint Petersburg) and 49 districts (oblasts). The Republic of Chechnya ,formerly part of the Soviet republic of Checheno-Ingusetia, declared itself unilaterally independent in 1991. Most republics and also the provinces are divided into districts (rajons). The republics have a constitution which is very similar to that conducted by the federation, provinces and other local governing bodies by directly elected soviets or Duma, with the local administration and governing body. Furthermore exist at lower levels also autonomous regions and other national entities, such as national districts, towns and villages .

In 2000, all republics and provinces were subdivided into seven federal districts, which do not form a separate administrative layer, but serve to strengthen federal control over the decentralized administration. Each federal district is headed by a representative of the president . The seven districts are: North-West, Central, Caucasus, Volga, Ural, Siberia and the Far East.


Adygië7600 km2449.000
Alanië8000 km2664.000
Altaj92.600 km2202.000
Basjkirië143.600 km24.134.000
Boerjatië351.300 km21.050.000
Chakassië61.900 km2584.000
Dagestan50.300 km22.121.000
Ingoesjetië2.700 km2190.000
Kabarda-Balkarië12.500 km2789.000
Kalmukkië76.100 km2317.000
Karatsjajevo-Tsjerkessië14.100 km2436.000
Karelië172.400 km2780.000
Komi415.900 km21.172.000
Mari23.200 km2764.000
Mordovië26.200 km2950.000
Oedmoertië42.100 km21.636.000
Sacha3.103.200 km21.093.000
Tatarstan68.000 km23.763.000
Toevinië170.500 km2310.000
Tsjetsjenië16.600 km2862.000
Tsjoevasië18.300 km21.359.000

Autonomous area

Birobidjan (Jewish autonomous 36,000 km2 216,000 area)

Autonomous regions (okroegi)

Aginski-Boerjatski19.000 km278.000
Evenki768.000 km225.000
Jamalo-Neneti750.000 km2493.000
Khantys-Mansts523.000 km21.314.000
Komi-Permjak30.000 km2160.000
Korjaki302.000 km240.000
Neneti178.000 km255.000
Oest-Ordynski20.000 km2138.000
Tajmyr (Dolgano-Neneti)862.000 km254.000
Tsjoektsji738.000 km287.000

Federal cities city population

Moscow - 8,300,000

Saint Petersburg - 4,700,000

Districts (oblasti)

Amur Oblast363.700 km2905.000
Arkhangelsk Oblast587.400 km21.340.000
Astrakhan Oblast44.100 km21.005.000
Belgorod Oblast27.100 km21.511.000
Bryansk Oblast34.900 km21.375.000
Chelyabinsk Oblast87.900 km23.605.000
Chita Oblast431.500 km21.155.000
Irkutsk Oblast767.900 km22.770.000
Ivanovo Oblast21.400 km21.150.000
Kaliningrad Oblast15.000 km2970.000
Kaluga Oblast29.900 km21.045.000
Kamchatka Oblast472.300 km2360.000
Kemerovo Oblast95.700 km22.900.000
Kirov Oblast120.800 km21.505.000
Kostroma Oblast60.200 km2740.000
Kurgan Oblast71.500 km21.020.000
Kursk Oblast29.800 km21.235.000
Leningrad Oblast85.900 km21.670.000
Lipetsk Oblast24.100 km21.215.000
Magadan Oblast461.400 km2185.000
Moscow Oblast45.000 km26.620.000
Murmansk Oblast144.900 km2895.000
Nizhny Novgorod Oblast76.900 km23.525.000
Novgorod Oblast53.895 km2685.000
Novosibirsk Oblast178.200 km22.695.000
Omsk Oblast139.700 km22.080.000
Orenburg Oblast124.000 km22.180.000
Oryol Oblast24.700 km2865.000
Penza Oblast43.300 km21.450.000
Perm Oblast160.600 km22.820.000
Pskov Oblast55.400 km2750.000
Rostov Oblast100.800 km24.405.000
Ryazan Oblast39.600 km21.230.000
Sakhalin Oblast87.100 km2550.000
Samara Oblast53.600 km23.240.000
Saratov Oblast100.200 km22.670.000
Smolensk Oblast49.786 km21.050.000
Sverdlovsk Oblast194.800 km24.490.000
Tambov Oblast34.539 km21.160.000
Tomsk Oblast316.900 km21.060.000
Tula Oblast25.700 km21.680.000
Tver Oblast84.586 km21.445.000
Tyumen Oblast1.435.200 km23.265.000
Ulyanovsk Oblast37.300 km21.385.000
Vladimir Oblast29.000 km21.525.000
Volgograd Oblast114.100 km22.700.000
Vologda Oblast145.700 km21.270.000
Voronezh Oblast52.400 km22.380.000
Yaroslavl Oblast36.400 km21.370.000

Regions (krajs)

169.100 km2

Region (kraj)areapopulation
Altai Krai 2.600.000
Khabarovsk Krai788.600 km21.160.000
Krasnodar Krai76.000 km25.130.000
Krasnoyarsk Krai2.403.520 km23.700.000
Primorsky Krai165.900 km22.305.000
Stavropol Krai66.500 km22.680.000


Main building of Moscow State University in MoscowMain building of Moscow State University in MoscowPhoto: Dmitry A. Mottl CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In Russian schools, all age groups are usually present at one educational institute. Children are obliged to go to school from the age of six to seventeen, starting with the so-called 1st department, grades 1 to 4.

Then they go on to department 2, grades 5 to 9 of the secondary Education. In this department, a package of subjects is followed that is already tailored to personal preference and aptitude.

Finally, there are grades 10 and 11 in the 3rd department of secondary education. All children receive the compulsory curriculum here, including Russian literature, mathematics, physics, astronomy, a modern language and physical education.

Higher education in Russia is provided at universities, institutes and academies. Both vocational and university programs are offered at all institutions. Universities provide programs in various disciplines, more recently in agriculture, medicine and technology.

In addition, there are hundreds of institutes in Russia that provide training for regulated professions in a number of disciplines. This includes agricultural, pharmaceutical, medical, pedagogical, and technical institutes. In recent years these institutes have often been given the status of universities. Academies provide training in one discipline.

The first two years of higher education studies are broadly oriented, with subjects such as mathematics, physics, chemistry and languages. The last two or three years are devoted to a specialization: and then one is not trained as a general structural engineer, but for example as a specialist in refrigeration technology.



Russian Ruble coinsRussian Ruble coinsPhoto: Brateevsky CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

After the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, the Russian Federation took over a chaotic economy on January 1, 1992. That economy was characterized by, among other things, enormous inflation and bankruptcy vis-à-vis other countries.

In order to face the severe economic crisis, the Yeltsin government (notably Finance Minister Gajdar) launched a radical policy of liberalization. They wanted to liberalize prices, drastically limit the budget deficit and reach an arrangement with foreign creditors and the IMF. In the long term, the government wanted to create an OECD-type economic system and also become a member of the EU. The results of the new policy were mixed, but were generally not easy.

The price liberalization was successful, but led to hyperinflation in the first years. Limiting the budget deficit turned out to be very difficult, mainly due to the poor tax morality of both citizens and companies. Privatization of the many state and collective companies met with great resistance because many cities were completely dependent on that one industrial complex that they had within the city limits. Its inevitable closure or downsizing would sweep away the economic base beneath such a city and was therefore usually thwarted by local administrators and their representatives at higher levels.

1997 saw the first signs of an economic recovery: GDP grew by 1.5%, industrial production increased by more than 2% and inflation remained 'limited' to 16% as a result of strict monetary policy (2004 11%). Annoyingly, the Communist-nationalist-dominated Duma often held back economic reforms: tax reform and privatization, for example, barely got off the ground. In August 1998 the Russian government could no longer meet its financial obligations; the country was in fact bankrupt. The ruble was devalued and the IMF and other international financial institutions provided emergency aid.

After 1998 the economy slowly recovered, partly due to the low exchange rate of the ruble, which led to an increase in exports. This was beneficial because the large stocks of raw materials form the cork on which the economy floats. However, this one-sided dependence makes the economy very vulnerable to price fluctuations on the world market.

Russia is now one of the world's leading producers of oil and natural gas and is also a top exporter of metals such as steel and aluminum. The economy grew by an average of 7% during the years 1998-2008 as a result of oil prices rising rapidly. However, the economy was badly hit by the global economic crisis of 2008-09 when oil prices plummeted and foreign credit dried up. In the fall of 2013, the Ministry of Economic Development reduced its growth forecast through 2030 to an average of just 2.5% per year, down from the previous forecast of 4.0 to 4.2%. In 2014, after Russia's military intervention in Ukraine, the outlook for economic growth continued to decline. The growth slowed to 1.5% in 2017.

More than 60% of the labor force works in the public and service sectors. The registered unemployment rate was 5.2% in 2017; however, there is a suspicion of large hidden unemployment.

Agriculture, livestock, fishing and forestry

Grain is the most important agricultural product of RussiaGrain is the most important agricultural product of RussiaPhoto: Essenseio CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Approx. 32% of Russia's territory can only be used for agriculture, as much of the land is permanently frozen or polluted. Most agriculture is therefore concentrated in the south and in the west of Siberia. Despite the increasing growth in production, especially grain, the Russian agricultural sector cannot meet domestic demand and imports are necessary.

About 9.4% of the labor force is employed in the agricultural sector; together they supply 4.7% of the gross domestic product (2017).

The situation in agriculture after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was very problematic. Revenues fell, food was scarce and even rationed in many places. The situation was so worrisome that the mighty country was heavily dependent on food imports. The government agreed to a sweeping plan of agrarian reform, transforming the former state-owned companies into individual private companies, corporations or genuine cooperatives.

By meeting the desires and interests of the rural population, it was hoped to quickly change the former communist agricultural system. All state and collective companies have now been decollectivized.

Meat, egg and milk production has increased in recent years, despite a decline in livestock. The aim is to become self-sufficient in all these products.

Fishing is still an important economic sector for Russia, despite a sharp decline since the 1980s. The country supplies a significant part of the world production of fresh and frozen fish and approximately canned fish. Kamchatka, a peninsula in Eastern Siberia on the Bering Sea, is important to the fishing industry. Fish consumption per capita in Russia is about 23 kg per year.

Forestry is an important sector for the Russian economy. The country has the largest forests (770 million hectares, 45% of the surface) in the world, but timber extraction is very inefficient.


Industry RussiaIndustry RussiaPhoto: Alt-n-Anela CC 2.0 Generic no changes made


The industrial capacity of the former Soviet Union was very unbalanced, mainly focused on the extraction of raw minerals, the production of steel and weapons. The manufacturing of consumer goods was clearly second to none.

In the Gorbachev period, the military industry was converted into a consumer industry. This revolutionary turn was accelerated at the time of the Russian Federation.

Industry employed 27.6% of the labor force in 2017 and provided 32.4% of GDP; in 1990 this was still almost 50%. The main industrial areas are the industrial center around Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod, and the Ural region around Ekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk.


After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the production of machines fell significantly. In recent years, this sector has grown again due to the increasing demand for machines. However, domestic production cannot cope with the demand and therefore many machines are imported. Another reason for buying machines abroad is the relatively low quality level of the machines produced in Russia.


To increase sales and production for most Russian car manufacturers, joint ventures with foreign companies seem the best solution. Ford, Renault, Daewoo, Fiat and Skoda have already entered the Russian market; others will soon follow, it is expected.

The largest car manufacturer of passenger cars in Russia is AvtoVAZ. This Togliatti-based company makes about 70% of all Russian cars. Other major car manufacturers are GAZ, Moskvich and the truck manufacturers UAZ and KamAZ.

Parts factories are usually located near car factories or are part of the company itself.


In recent years, the chemical industry has been growing considerably. The cause is an increasing demand at home and abroad. The main products of the Russian chemical industry are basic chemicals. Other products include synthetic yarns, synthetic rubber, fiberglass, paints, varnishes and finished products for the agricultural, transport, health and construction sectors.

The internal market for polymers, in particular polyethylene and PVC and polypropylene, is new for Russia, but very promising. The sale of all these products will mainly have to be done domestically.


This sector is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Russian economy in recent years.

Growth sectors are confectionery, fruit juices, beer and tobacco. The demand for vodka is declining considerably, while the wine consumption is increasing by 30% annually.

The fast food market grew by 8% in the years 2000-2004. McDonalds opened its 109th branch in Russia in 2004.

Mining and energy

The Krasnoyarsk Dam in RussiaThe Krasnoyarsk Dam in RussiaPhoto: Alex Polezhaev CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

The gigantic Russia has enormous energy reserves and other valuable mineral reserves. These enormous stocks have made Russia one of the largest producers and exporters in the world. Russia has the largest gas reserves in the world, the second largest coal reserves and enormous oil reserves.

The largest stocks are in the northwest (Kola), the Far East, Siberia and the Urals. The main minerals are iron ore and coal (Cusbas Basin and Altai region), bauxite (Komi republic), gas, oil, coal, uranium, gold, chromium, silver, platinum, diamond, nickel cobalt, magnesium, manganese, lead and tungsten. Many of these minerals unfortunately do not meet Western quality standards. Only the nickel and aluminum sector meets these standards. The main export products in mining are currently aluminum, nickel, copper and iron.

The Russian mineral market is in the hands of a small number of mega-companies, which often control a large part of the world production.

Russia has more than 400 thermal and hydroelectric power plants and several dozen often outdated nuclear power plants, all located in the European part of Russia. In the coming years they also want to build a few more nuclear reactors.

The hydropower of the Volga and Angara rivers in Russia is harnessed by some of the largest hydropower plants in the world. Most of the energy in Russia comes from oil and nuclear power plants.

Concern for the environment has not kept pace with the growth of the mining and blast furnace industries. Especially in the Urals and Siberia the landscape has been completely destroyed and polluted in some places. For example, the current natural gas network contains various fractures and cracks, polluting rivers and soil.

In many Russian cities, the concentration of harmful substances in the air has reached a value that far exceeds Western standards. Drinking water is also highly polluted in many cities. The gigantic dams in the Volga, Dnepr, Dnestr, Don and Kuban threaten the ecological balance in these regions.


Major russian gas pipelines to europeMajor russian gas pipelines to europePhoto: Nzeemin CC 4.0 International no changes made

When the Russian Federation became independent, the foreign market was still mainly in the hands of state organizations and companies. The then government wanted to liberalize foreign trade while skimming off most of the revenues generated by the oil, gas and forestry sectors for the benefit of the central government. Export taxes apply to a number of raw materials, so that a portion is always retained for domestic use.

Russia's main export partners are the European Union, and within it mainly Germany and the Netherlands; also China, the United States, Turkey and Belarus.

Russia mainly exports electricity, oil, natural gas, coal, ores, timber and timber products. The total value of exports in 2017 was $ 353 billion.

Many food (products) are imported, as well as machine (parts), vehicles and pharmaceutical products. The main import partners are China, Germany, Japan, United States and the countries of the EU. The total value of the imports was $ 3238 billion in 2013. Russia thus has a large trade surplus.


Russian high-speed trainRussian high-speed trainPhoto: Mika Stetsovski CC 4.0 International no changes made

The Russian road network has a total length of over 1,000,000 km. The main roads connect Moscow and Saint Petersburg with cities such as Minsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl, Simferopol and Samara.

For the modernization of the road network, the Russian government has drawn up a program that will have to be implemented in two phases. Actual implementation started in 2006. At the moment they are still busy with the implementation.

The poor condition of the road network is the reason that less than 15% of total freight transport is by road.

The total length of the railway network is 150,000, of which 86,300 km is used for passenger trains; the other lines are for industrial transport. The Russian railways are responsible for most of the national freight traffic.

The Trans-Siberian Railway connects Moscow with Vladivostok on the Sea of Japan. The main lines in the Urals and in Western Siberia are electrified. The second, economically very important, major railway through Siberia, the Baikal-Amur Railway (BAM), connects Tajshet with Komsomolsk.

The waterways have a total length of 106,000 km. The busiest rivers are the Volga, the Don, the Ob, the Lena and the Amur.

Main ports are Saint Petersburg, Kaliningrad exclave, Moscow, Arkhangelsk, Novorossijsk, Nizhny Novgorod and Vladivostok; Petropavlovsk (on the Kamchatka peninsula), Nakhodka (east of Vladivostok) and Makhachkala (on the Caspian Sea) are gaining importance as ports. Russia has a total of 43 seaports. More than 70% of all Russian-European freight is handled through ports on the Gulf of Finland.

Russian territory is covered by a dense network of flight paths. Moscow is the center for national and international air traffic with four airports, of which Domodedovo is the largest and most modern.

Saint Petersburg, Omsk and Vladivostok also have international airports. In total, Russia has more than 500 airports.

The largest airline is Aeroflot. There are also about 200 other airlines, which often do not own more than a few aircraft.

Holidays and Sightseeing

Sochi, RussiaSochi, RussiaPhoto: Ganoshenko Roman CC 3.0 Unported no changes

Especially the European part of Russia has a lot of potential in terms of nature, history and cultural riches. However, the tourist infrastructure is still insufficient to take full advantage of this. In particular, the stock of hotels in the middle class is far below par. Moscow has more than 70,000, mostly luxurious hotel rooms. Many hotels are also not up to western standards.

The World Tourism Organization expects the tourism sector to grow at an average of 10% per year in the coming decades. The main attractions of Russia have long been the cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg. But Sochi has also received a boost as a winter and summer destination thanks to the Olympic games that were held there.

Red square, MoscowRed square, MoscowPhoto: Raul P CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Right in the center of Moscow is the Red Square. The name refers to the red walls of the Kremlin and is derived from the Russian word "krasnyj" which means both "beautiful" and "red". Red Square has been officially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since the 1990s. The square has gigantic dimensions (100 meters wide and 550 meters long) and is surrounded by the Kremlin with its impressive churches and palaces. The square has always been the scene of important moments in the history of Russia; from speeches by the Tsars to major military manifestations and executions in the days of the Soviet Union. Another interesting historical landmark of Moscow is the Lenin Mausoleum. Vladimir Lenin was the first head of the Soviet Union. After his death, he was embalmed and initially housed in a wooden mausoleum in Red Square. Later, a large mausoleum on Red Square was designed by the architect Shchusev. The tomb is in the shape of a pyramid and is 24 meters long and 12 meters high. Behind the Lenin mausoleum, more famous Soviet-era leaders are buried, including Lenin's successor: Stalin.

Hermitage Museum in Saint PetersburgHermitage Museum in Saint PetersburgPhoto: Pedro Szekely CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

In Saint Petersburg, the main attraction is the world famous Hermitage museum. It is also one of the largest and oldest museums in the world. Catherine the Great founded the museum in 1764 and initially consisted of her own art collection. The Hermitage's collection consists of more than three million pieces. The buildings in which the museum is located are also worth seeing. The Winter Palace in particular is a feast for the eyes. Another particularly beautiful structure is the Saint Petersburg Mosque. This prayer house dates from 1913 and was the largest mosque in Europe when it opened. The 40-meter high dome has a beautiful sea blue color and the minarets are even 48 meters high.

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Last updated December 2021
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