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Russia is a vast country with a wealth of natural resources, a well-educated population and a diverse industrial base.

Russia is the largest country in the world. It can be divided into two main parts - western and eastern - roughly along the line of the Yenisey River. It's situated in the Eastern part of Europe and Northern part of Asia. The territory of Russia spans through 11 times zones.

Russian Flag.Officially called the Russian Federation; historically the term is used to refer to the Russian Empire (862-1917), which covered a much larger area than that of present-day Russia. From 1922 until December 25, 1991, the Russian Federation formed part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR; or Soviet Union). The term Russian Federation (or RSFSR), however, originally applied to the state proclaimed by the Bolsheviks in October 1917 as the territorial successor to the whole of the Russian Empire.

Kremlin, Red Square.It was only on the formation of the Soviet Union in 1922, following the decision by the Bolsheviks to respect the self-determination of the empire's many nations, that the Russian Federation became one of the USSR's 15 constitutional republics-albeit the largest and most influential, accounting for more than three quarters of its area and more than half of its population.

Moscow, view of Kremlin, Red Square and Lenin Mausoleum.
Moscow, view of Kremlin, Red Square and Lenin Mausoleum.

The current Constitution was adopted 12 December 1993 by national referendum.

The national capital is Moscow.

The chief of the state - President, elected by popular vote for a four-year term. Current president is Vladimir Putin (since March 2000).

The legislative branch is Federal Assembly, which consists of State Duma and the Federation Council (Sovet Federatzii). The executive branch is run by the government. The head of the government is appointed by the president with approval of the State Duma.

Sunset.The climate of Russia varies from the steppes in the south and coastal on the north-west through humid continental in much of European Russia; sub arctic in Siberia to tundra climate in the polar north and monsoon on the Far East. The average temperatures of January vary from 0 to -50°C, July - from 1 to 25°C. Many regions of Siberia and Far East are situated in the permafrost zone. Thus, Russia is one of the coldest countries in the world. The town of Oimyakon in north-east Siberia is the coldest inhabited place on earth, with temperatures recorded at more than 70°C below zero. The inhabited areas are mostly in the continental climate zones with long freezing winters (5-6 months long) and short warm summers.

Russia, Wildflowers at the Guturluchat Glacier.
Russia, Wildflowers at the Guturluchat Glacier.

The Russian language is the country’s official language and the native tongue of over half the population. It is the most commonly spoken in business, government, and education. Ethnic Russians speak their native tongue almost exclusively. At the time of the 1989 census only 4.1 percent of ethnic Russians in the Soviet Union could speak one of the country’s other languages, while people belonging to most other ethnic groups were bilingual. More than 100 languages are spoken in Russia. Some of the ethnic republics have declared official regional languages, but millions of non-Russians have adopted Russian as their mother tongue. The USSR’s educational policies ensured widespread use of the Russian language.

Northern Asia (that part west of the Urals is sometimes included with Europe), bordering the Arctic Ocean, between Europe and the North Pacific Ocean.

Land area:
17 075 400 sq kms.

Comparative area:
slightly more than 1.8 times the size of the US. NOTE: largest country in the world in terms of area but unfavorably located in relation to major sea lanes of the world; despite its size, much of the country lacks proper soils and climates (either too cold or too dry) for agriculture.

Land boundaries:
Total 20,139 km, Azerbaijan 284 km, Belarus 959 km, China (southeast) 3,605 km, China (south) 40 km, Estonia 290 km, Finland 1,313 km, Georgia 723 km, Kazakhstan 6,846 km, North Korea 19 km, Latvia 217 km, Lithuania (Kaliningrad Region) 227 km, Mongolia 3,441 km, Norway 167 km, Poland (Kaliningrad Region) 432 km, Ukraine 1,576 km.

37,653 kms.

Ranges from steppes in the south through humid continental in much of European Russia; subarctic in Siberia to tundra climate in the polar north; winters vary from cool along Black Sea coast to frigid in Siberia; summers vary from warm in the steppes to cool along Arctic coast.

Natural resources:
Wide natural resource base including major deposits of oil, natural gas, coal, and many strategic minerals, timber. Note: formidable obstacles of climate, terrain, and distance hinder exploitation of natural resources.

The main industries: complete range of mining and extractive industries producing coal, oil, gas, chemicals, and metals; all forms of machine building from rolling mills to high-performance aircraft and space vehicles; shipbuilding; road and rail transportation equipment; communications equipment; agricultural machinery, tractors, and construction equipment; electric power generating and transmitting equipment; medical and scientific instruments; consumer durables, textiles, foodstuffs, handicrafts.

National income: industries - 44,5%, agriculture - 10%, construction - 11,5%, communications, mining and others - 34%.

Current issues: air pollution from heavy industry, emissions of coal-fired electric plants, and transportation in major cities; industrial and agricultural pollution of inland waterways and sea coasts; deforestation; soil erosion; soil contamination from improper application of agricultural chemicals; scattered areas of sometimes intense radioactive contamination.

Natural hazards:
Permafrost over much of Siberia is a major impediment to development; volcanic activity in the Kuril Islands; volcanoes and earthquakes on the Kamchatka Peninsula.

International agreements:
Party to - Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Antarctic Treaty, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Wetlands, Whaling; signed, but not ratified - Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Biodiversity, Law of the Sea.

International disputes:
Inherited disputes from former USSR including: sections of the boundary with China; islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, and Shikotan and the Habomai group occupied by the Soviet Union in 1945, administered by Russia, claimed by Japan; maritime dispute with Norway over portion of the Barents Sea; Caspian Sea boundaries are not yet determined; potential dispute with Ukraine over Crimea; Estonia claims over 2,000 sq km of Russian territory in the Narva and Pechora regions; the Abrene section of the border ceded by the Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic to Russia in 1944; has made no territorial claim in Antarctica (but has reserved the right to do so) and does not recognize the claims of any other nation.


Russia’s total population in 2001 was estimated at 147,501,000, making the country the sixth most populous, after China, India, the United States, Indonesia, and Brazil.

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union the number of immigrants to Russia has exceeded the number of Russians leaving the country. Despite the significant influx of ethnic Russians from neighboring republics during the early to mid-1990s, over the past nine years Russia’s population has shrunk by over 3 million people. Population forecasts are even grimmer. The rate of natural increase (the number of births compared to the number of deaths) has been negative since 1992. In 2001 the birth rate was 9.3 per 1,000, while the death rate was 13.8 per 1,000. 49.

ussia displays the greatest ethnic diversity, with censuses recognizing more than 70 distinct nationalities. Many of these are extremely small - in some cases consisting of only a few thousand individuals - and, in addition to Russians, only a handful of groups have more than a million members each: Tatars, Ukrainians, Chuvash, Bashkir, Belarusians, and Mordvins. Russians, the overwhelming majority, constitute about four-fifths of the total.

Moscow, Red Square, guards outside Lenin's mausoleum. Moscow, Red Square, guards outside Lenin's Mausoleum.

Click here
to listen Russian National Anthem.

Economy and Organized Crime

Russia continues to experience formidable difficulties in moving from its old centrally planned economy to a modern market economy.

Economic situation in Russia has deteriorated since the beginning of Gorbachev's Perestroika.

President Yeltsin's government has made substantial strides in converting to a market economy since launching its economic reform program in January 1992 by freeing nearly all prices, slashing defense spending, eliminating the old centralized distribution system, completing an ambitious privatization program, establishing private financial institutions, and decentralizing foreign trade.
Russia, however, has made little progress in a number of key areas that are needed to provide a solid foundation for the transition to a market economy. Financial stabilization has remained elusive, with wide swings in monthly inflation rates. In addition, Moscow has yet to develop a social safety net that would allow faster restructuring by relieving enterprises of the burden of providing social benefits for their workers and has been slow to develop the legal framework necessary to fully support a market economy and to encourage foreign investment. As a result, output has continued to fall.

ussia achieved a slight recovery in 1997, but the government's stubborn budget deficits and the country's poor business climate made it vulnerable when the global financial crisis swept through in 1998. The crisis culminated in the August depreciation of the ruble, a debt default by the government, and a sharp deterioration in living standards for most of the population. The exchange rate of US Dollar flew up from 6 to 24 rubles in less than 6 weeks. Small businesses were almost devastated. Prices for consumer goods increased in 4-5 times with the salaries increased only on 20-30%.

The economy rebounded in 1999 and 2000, buoyed by the competitive boost from the weak ruble and a surging trade surplus fueled by rising world oil prices. This recovery, along with a renewed government effort in 2000 to advance lagging structural reforms, have raised business and investor confidence over Russia's prospects in its second decade of transition. Yet serious problems persist. Russia remains heavily dependent on exports of commodities, particularly oil, natural gas, metals, and timber, which account for over 80% of exports, leaving the country vulnerable to swings in world prices. Russia's agricultural sector remains beset by uncertainty over land ownership rights, which has discouraged needed investment and restructuring. Another threat is negative demographic trends, fueled by low birth rates and a deteriorating health situation - including an alarming rise in AIDS cases - that have contributed to a nearly 2% drop in the population since 1992. Russia's industrial base is increasingly dilapidated and must be replaced or modernized if the country is to achieve sustainable economic growth.

Typical Russian house in the suburbs.
Typical Russian house in the suburbs.

The government experiences permanent difficulties with collection of taxes and fulfilling the national budget. Frequent changes of prime-ministers and government during the last 1,5 years left the country out of control. A lot of economic activity is officially unaccounted for and organized crime plays a significant role. Other problems include widespread corruption, capital flight, and brain drain.

aving your own business in Russia is a big challenge. The tax system works in the way that if one has a small business (individual private enterprise), he must estimate his future income, and pre-pay taxes proceeding from the assumption. Then he gets a permission to start his business activity; but he must run to the tax department the second he earns 1 Ruble more profit than it was estimated and paid in advance. Otherwise it will be considered a hidden profit, and one can easily get a fine of the size equal to 200% of the amount of the hidden profit. The authorities are suspicious towards owners of small businesses.

The bigger enterprises have a more convenient tax system. In 2000 the government announced united tax of 12% on profits, and even said the hidden (*black*) capitals may be legalized if the owner pays this 12% tax. At the same time there were comments from top government officials that this is only a temporary retreat, and the progressive tax system will be brought back as soon as people get used to paying their taxes. Actually, the government hoped that people would start paying tax and show their real profits - but Russians know their government. They don't want to be easily trapped by showing off their true income, and then be obliged to pay again enormous taxes of the past (up to 90% in different - state, region, city and others - taxes on profit). Collecting taxes is still the biggest concern for the Russian government. Most serious investors of so called "New Russians" transfer their capitals abroad (of course, it's illegal).

Another reality businesses face in Russia is organized crime, which often has close connections with authorities. Small and medium businesses have to pay about 10% of the profits to "raket". Nowadays many businesses prefer to employ "commercial" departments of police organizations or private security companies, which are in reality just a camouflaged "racket". They will "help" you in a case of bad debts, problems with business partners or criminal situations like robbery etc, providing you a "roof". All "criminal cooperations" have official businesses registered, and you pay them an official fee additionally to unofficial.

If you have some problems with your business partner, your "roof" ("krysha") will meet with the other guy's "roof", and they will try to settle your business problems trough mutual discussion. If they can't get right, they may apply to an unbiased source - a person "in law" ("v zakone"), who will take a decision, usually quite just. This decision is final, and you can't apply against of it, or get rid of it. There is an official way of settling the problems through a state court, but it's almost out of use: it's long, unpredictable and rather pathetic.


o read the news from Russia check out www.dni.ru, www.1tv.ru, official russia (russian only) or russiapolitical.com www.english.pravda.ru www.russiajournal.com (english) websites.

To visit website ot the Consulate General Of The Russian Federation in Toronto please click here.

Few more interesting websites about Russian culture, news and travel - face of russia, radio voice of russia, gotorussia.net, russian journal (Russian only), interesting article on how to do business in Russia, www.russiananalitica.com

To learn about Russian lifestyle click here.

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