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Basic information about Russia

Geography

Russia is the largest country in the world with the total area 17 075 400 square kilometers (over 6.5 million square miles), that is about 1,8 times the size of the USA. It's situated in the Eastern part of Europe and Northern part of Asia. The main part of the European territory of Russia is situated within the Eastern European Plain (Vostochno-Evropeyskaya Ravnina). The southern border is on the North Caucasus. The main part of the Asian area of Russia is on Zapadno-Sibirskaya Ravnina and Sredne-Sibirskoye Ploskogor'ye. The territory of Russia spans through 11 times zones.

Russia borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China and North Korea by land, and with Sweden, Turkey, Japan and the USA by sea.

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.

The largest rivers: Volga, Lena, Irtysh, Yenisey, Ob, Amur.
The largest lakes: Caspean Sea, Aral'skoye More, Baykal, Ladozhskoye, Onezhskoye.

Russia has an extremely wide natural resource base including major deposits of oil, natural gas, coal, strategic minerals, timber, diamonds and gold. There are 85 nature reserves and 25 national parks.

Population

Total population is about 144.7 mln people, with about 72.9% urban population. Most of the population are Russians (81,5%), with more than 100 other nationalities (Tatar 3.8%, Ukrainian 3%, Chuvash 1.2%, Bashkir 0.9%).

Language

The official language is Russian. Every autonomous republic uses its own language as the second official language. Religions: Russian Orthodox, Muslim, Judaic and others. 1066 cities and towns, 2070 urban settlements (1994).

The state

The official name of the state: Russian Federation. It is a democratic federative republic. The country was formed as independent 24 August 1991 from the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic of Soviet Union. The current Constitution was adopted 12 December 1993 by national referendum.

Russia is divided into 21 autonomous republics, 10 autonomous okrugs, 6 krays, 2 federal cities (Moscow and St. Petersburg), 1 autonomous oblast and 49 oblasts. 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 bicameral Federal Assembly (Federal'noye Sobranie), which consists of State Duma (Gosudarstvennaya 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.

Economy

Russia is potentially one of the wealthiest countries with its natural resources, a well-educated population (99.6% adult literacy; 64% tertiary education enrollment rate), and a diverse industrial base. Nevertheless, its economic situation has deteriorated since the beginning of Perestroika in 1985, which announced moving from centrally planned economy to a market economy. The absence of a clear economical doctrine and means led to destruction of internal economical structure and declining of industries. In its turn, it led to significant raise of unemployment, with official unemployment figures of 10.2% (which might be in reality twice as high, since many people do not file for unemployment benefits).

Russian health and education systems, which used to be of the highest standard during the Soviet times, were slowly deteriorating. Inflation, started in 1992, reached its peak in 1994, and increased 10 000% by the end of 1997. In 1998 the government implemented a 1000% denomination of national currency (Rouble), turning back prices from thousands rubles to rubles.

August 1998 brought a new serious crisis. 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%.

However, the crisis gave a boost to the development of national industries, which could not compete with foreign goods with the low dollar rate. Now, 5 years after the crisis, the results become visible with reviving the industrial enterprises, particularly in production of consumer goods and food processing.

Currently the average salary is Russia is about US$100 (salary of a teacher, government employee etc).

The government experiences permanent difficulties with collection of taxes and fulfilling the national budget. A lot of economic activity is officially unaccounted for and organized crime plays a significant role.

National income (GDP): US$310 billion, from which:
industries - 39.4%
agriculture - 7.2%
services - 53.4%
The average annual growth in real GDP in 1991-2001: -3.3%
GDP per head: $2.140

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.

12 economic regions: Northern, Northern-Eastern, Central, Volgo-Vyatskiy, Central-Chernozemniy, Povolzhskiy, Northern-Caucasus, Ural, Western-Siberian, Eastern-Siberian, Far-Eastern and Kaliningrad region.

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