Russia is the largest country in the world by area, and the most populous country in Europe.
After rebounding from the collapse of the Soviet Union, with its resurgent economy Russia has spent the last decade redefining its role on the European and world stage.
In particular, Russia has recently been pursuing a much more aggressive foreign policy – including intervening in the civil wars of Ukraine and Syria, and annexing the territory of Crimea from Ukraine.
Demographics of Russia
With a population of 146,519,759 Russia in 2016 is the most populous country in Europe and the ninth most populous in the world.
Russia reached it’s peak population of 148 million in 1991, just before the breakup of the Soviet Union. Since then it’s population has fallen at a rate of around 0.5% per year – uncertainty about the future led to low birth rates and high emigration and death rates rose in a struggling economy.
As Russia’s economy has improved in recent years its population appears to have stabilised. 2012 saw a modest increase in population of 292,000.
Ethnic Russians are the largest ethnic group in Russia, according to the 2010 census. They make up 81% of the population. Other ethnic groups with a population of more than one million people are Tartars (3.9%), Ukrainians (1.4%), Bashkir (1.1%), Chechens (1.0%) and Armenians (0.9%).
Russia has a GDP of $2.022 trillion which makes it the seventh largest economy in the world. GDP has been growing consistently over the past decade. The most recent figures – for 2012 – show a growth rate of 3.4%.
However, Russia’s GDP per capita is just $18,000. This places Russia 99th in the world – much lower than that of many other major economies.
Russia has a market economy which is based heavily on exploiting and exporting its natural resources – especially oil, metals, timber, gas and diamonds. In many ways, Russia’s economy is unrecognisable when compared to the economy of the Soviet Union, it still retains a legacy of strong governmental oversight. Many would argue that governmental control has increased in recent years under the Vladimir Putin’s leadership.
In recent years, Russia has invested heavily in repaying its post-Soviet debts, the last of which was cleared in 2006. Russia now has foreign reserves of over $550 billion – one of the largest in the world.
Russia is no longer a communist state. Today constitutionally, Russia is a democratic semi-presidential state where a President (currently Vladimir Putin) serves alongside a Prime Minister (currently Dmitry Medvedev). The President is elected for a six year term, and the Prime Minister is appointed by the President.
Russia has a bicameral legislature made up of the State Duma and Federation Council, an Executive led by the President, and a legislature.
Russia is also a federation with 83 federal subjects – 46 oblasts (provinces), 21 republics, 9 krais (territories), 4 autonomous okrugs (districs), 2 federal cities (Moscow and St Petersburg) and 1 autonomous oblast.
Capital City of Russia
Moscow is the capital city and largest city in Russia. The population of Moscow at the 2010 census was 11,503,501 and in 2014 it was estimated to have grown to 12,108,257 which also makes Moscow the second largest city in Europe, after Istanbul.
Moscow became Russia’s capital city (and the capital of the Soviet Union) in March 1918, after the Russian Revolution. Before that, St Petersburg was the capital city of the Russian Empire.
Russia has a tricolor flag. Its top bar is white, its middle bar is blue and its bottom bar is red.
The Russian flag was first used by Peter the Great and it remained the flag of Russia until the communist revolution in November 1917. It was adopted again as Russia’s flag on 21 August 1991, just before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. A slightly revised version with taller bars (in the picture above) was introduced on 11 December 1993.
Russian National Anthem
The national anthem of Russia is a slightly reworked version of the Soviet Anthem. If you click play in the box below you can listen to the Russian anthem.
It was introduced in 2000, partly because the previous anthem did not have any lyrics and Russian sportsmen were unable to sing during sporting events. The current Russian anthem was composed by Alexander Alexandrov in 1939, and its lyrics were composed by Sergey Mikhailov in 2000.
History of Russia
Russia’s harsh environment and bountiful natural resources have combined to create a country that has, for hundreds of years, been one of the world’s most powerful and influential.
The Russian state that exists today has its foundation in Kievan Rus’, a medieval collection of principalities with its capital in Kiev. Spreading from the Baltic to the Black Sea, the Kievan Rus’ developed a comparatively rich culture and economy based on trade before being overrun by the Mongol Horde in the 13th century.
Several hundred years later in 1547 Ivan IV, more commonly known as Ivan the Terrible, proclaimed himself Tsar of All the Russias. In doing so, he set Russia on a path that was to lead another famous leader – Peter the Great – to proclaim the foundation of the Russian Empire in 1721. And, of course, to proclaim himself Emperor of Russia.
Over the next two hundred years, Russia developed into one of Europe’s most powerful states, although it’s position on the periphery of Europe meant that it was never fully able to dominate the continent. Instead Russia expanded towards the empty east, gradually extending its control across Asian Russia – into Siberia, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was at this point that Russia truly became a country of two continents. At it’s greatest extent, in 1866, the Russian Empire controlled even extended into North America, with colonies in Alaska and as far south as California.
Internally, though, Russian political and social development stagnated and the Tsars and aristocracy remained distant from Russian peasants (mostly serfs) and workers in cities. The public’s lack of trust in the regime, combined with the high cost of the First World War, eventually led to its overthrow in the Russian Revolution of 1917. Tsar Nicholas II and his family were executed shortly after.
Russia became the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the largest republic in the Soviet Union. Under the leadership of Lenin and then Stalin the Soviet Union gradually established itself and, ultimately, became strong enough to survive a brutal Second World War (known as the Great Patriotic War in Russia) during which between 10 and 15 million Soviet citizens died.
Victory over Nazi Germany was followed by a four-decade long Cold War with the United States which very nearly turned hot during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The Soviet Union ultimately found it impossible to compete economically or militarily with the United States and its NATO allies. Although Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, attempted a number of domestic political reforms (notably perestroika and glasnost) the underlying weaknesses of the Soviet Union led to its dissolution on 25 December 1991.
Russia, along with the other 14 Soviet states, became an independent country. Under its first President, Boris Yeltsin, Russia underwent a painful transition to a market economy. It also fought two brutal wars in Chechnya, which attempted to secede from Russia. Today, the economy has stablised and is steadily growing, although it remains overly dependent on export of resources such as oil and gas. Russia is also more politically stable under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin, although some criticise his autocratic approach.
Throughout 2014, Russia has been accused of being involved in conflict in neighbouring Ukraine. On March 27, 2014, Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, a move which was widely condemned internationally and opposed by the UN General Assembly.