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Russia

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THE RUSSIA COAT OF ARMS
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Russia - Location Map (2013) - RUS - UNOCHA.svg
Location of Russia within the continent of Asia
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Map of Russia
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Russia Flag Description:three equal horizontal bands of white (top), blue, and red

note: the colors may have been based on those of the Dutch flag; despite many popular interpretations, there is no official meaning assigned to the colors of the Russian flag; this flag inspired other Slav countries to adopt horizontal tricolors of the same colors but in different arrangements, and so red, blue, and white became the Pan-Slav colors.

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Official name Rossiyskaya Federatsiya (Russian Federation), or Rossia (Russia)
Form of government federal multiparty republic with a bicameral legislative body (Federal Assembly comprising the Federation Council [1661] and the State Duma [450])
Head of state President: Vladimir Putin
Head of government Prime Minister: Dmitry Medvedev
Capital Moscow
Official language Russian
Official religion none
Monetary unit ruble (RUB)
Population (2013 est.) 143,304,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 6,601,700
Total area (sq km) 17,098,200
Urban-rural population

Urban: (2012) 73.9%
Rural: (2012) 26.1%

Life expectancy at birth

Male: (2009) 62.8 years
Female: (2009) 74.7 years

Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate

Male: (2008) 99.8%
Female: (2008) 99.2%

GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2013) 13,860

1Statutory number per Inter-Parliamentary Union Web site.

Background of Russia

Russia, country that stretches over a vast expanse of eastern Europe and northern Asia. Once the preeminent republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.; commonly known as the Soviet Union), Russia became an independent country after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

Russia is a land of superlatives. By far the world’s largest country, it covers nearly twice the territory of Canada, the second largest. It extends across the whole of northern Asia and the eastern third of Europe, spanning 11 time zones and incorporating a great range of environments and landforms, from deserts to semiarid steppes to deep forests and Arctic tundra. Russia contains Europe’s longest river, the Volga, and its largest lake, Ladoga. Russia also is home to the world’s deepest lake, Baikal, and the country recorded the world’s lowest temperature outside the North and South poles.

The inhabitants of Russia are quite diverse. Most are ethnic Russians, but there also are more than 120 other ethnic groups present, speaking many languages and following disparate religious and cultural traditions. Most of the Russian population is concentrated in the European portion of the country, especially in the fertile region surrounding Moscow, the capital. Moscow and St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) are the two most important cultural and financial centres in Russia and are among the most picturesque cities in the world. Russians are also populous in Asia, however; beginning in the 17th century, and particularly pronounced throughout much of the 20th century, a steady flow of ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking people moved eastward into Siberia, where cities such as Vladivostok and Irkutsk now flourish.

Russia’s climate is extreme, with forbidding winters that have several times famously saved the country from foreign invaders. Although the climate adds a layer of difficulty to daily life, the land is a generous source of crops and materials, including vast reserves of oil, gas, and precious metals. That richness of resources has not translated into an easy life for most of the country’s people, however; indeed, much of Russia’s history has been a grim tale of the very wealthy and powerful few ruling over a great mass of their poor and powerless compatriots. Serfdom endured well into the modern era; the years of Soviet communist rule (1917–91), especially the long dictatorship of Joseph Stalin, saw subjugation of a different and more exacting sort.

The Russian republic was established immediately after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and became a union republic in 1922. During the post-World War II era, Russia was a central player in international affairs, locked in a Cold War struggle with the United States. In 1991, following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia joined with several other former Soviet republics to form a loose coalition, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Although the demise of Soviet-style communism and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union brought profound political and economic changes, including the beginnings of the formation of a large middle class, for much of the postcommunist era Russians had to endure a generally weak economy, high inflation, and a complex of social ills that served to lower life expectancy significantly. Despite such profound problems, Russia showed promise of achieving its potential as a world power once again, as if to exemplify a favourite proverb, stated in the 19th century by Austrian statesman Klemens, Fürst (prince) von Metternich: “Russia is never as strong as she appears, and never as weak as she appears.”

Russia can boast a long tradition of excellence in every aspect of the arts and sciences. Prerevolutionary Russian society produced the writings and music of such giants of world culture as Anton Chekhov, Aleksandr Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, Nikolay Gogol, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The 1917 revolution and the changes it brought were reflected in the works of such noted figures as the novelists Maksim Gorky, Boris Pasternak, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and the composers Dmitry Shostakovich and Sergey Prokofiev. And the late Soviet and postcommunist eras witnessed a revival of interest in once-forbidden artists such as the poets Vladimir Mayakovsky and Anna Akhmatova while ushering in new talents such as the novelist Victor Pelevin and the writer and journalist Tatyana Tolstaya, whose celebration of the arrival of winter in St. Petersburg, a beloved event, suggests the resilience and stoutheartedness of her people:

The snow begins to fall in October. People watch for it
impatiently, turning repeatedly to look outside. If only it
would come! Everyone is tired of the cold rain that taps
stupidly on windows and roofs. The houses are so drenched
that they seem about to crumble into sand. But then, just as
the gloomy sky sinks even lower, there comes the hope that
the boring drum of water from the clouds will finally give
way to a flurry of…and there it goes: tiny dry grains at first,
then an exquisitely carved flake, two, three ornate stars,
followed by fat fluffs of snow, then more, more, more—a
great store of cotton tumbling down.

For the geography and history of the other former Soviet republics, see Moldova, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Ukraine. See also Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.


Geography of Russia

Land Russia is bounded to the north and east by the Arctic and Pacific oceans, and it has small frontages in the northwest on the Baltic Sea at St. Petersburg and at the detached Russian oblast (region) of Kaliningrad (a part of what was once East Prussia annexed in 1945), which also abuts Poland and Lithuania. To the south Russia borders North Korea, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. To the southwest and west it borders Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, and Estonia, as well as Finland and Norway.

Extending nearly halfway around the Northern Hemisphere and covering much of eastern and northeastern Europe and all of northern Asia, Russia has a maximum east-west extent of some 5,600 miles (9,000 km) and a north-south width of 1,500 to 2,500 miles (2,500 to 4,000 km). There is an enormous variety of landforms and landscapes, which occur mainly in a series of broad latitudinal belts. Arctic deserts lie in the extreme north, giving way southward to the tundra and then to the forest zones, which cover about half of the country and give it much of its character. South of the forest zone lie the wooded steppe and the steppe, beyond which are small sections of semidesert along the northern shore of the Caspian Sea. Much of Russia lies at latitudes where the winter cold is intense and where evaporation can barely keep pace with the accumulation of moisture, engendering abundant rivers, lakes, and swamps. Permafrost covers some 4 million square miles (10 million square km)—an area seven times larger than the drainage basin of the Volga River, Europe’s longest river—making settlement and road building difficult in vast areas. In the European areas of Russia, the permafrost occurs in the tundra and the forest-tundra zone. In western Siberia permafrost occurs along the Yenisey River, and it covers almost all areas east of the river, except for south Kamchatka province, Sakhalin Island, and Primorsky Kray (the Maritime Region).

On the basis of geologic structure and relief, Russia can be divided into two main parts—western and eastern—roughly along the line of the Yenisey River. In the western section, which occupies some two-fifths of Russia’s total area, lowland plains predominate over vast areas broken only by low hills and plateaus. In the eastern section the bulk of the terrain is mountainous, although there are some extensive lowlands. Given these topological factors, Russia may be subdivided into six main relief regions: the Kola-Karelian region, the Russian Plain, the Ural Mountains, the West Siberian Plain, the Central Siberian Plateau, and the mountains of the south and east.--->>>>Read More.<<<

  • Drainage
RIVERS

The vast lowland plains that dominate the Russian landscape carry some of the world’s longest rivers. Five main drainage basins may be distinguished: the Arctic, Pacific, Baltic, Black Sea, and Caspian. Of these basins the most extensive by far is the Arctic, which lies mostly in Siberia but also includes the northern part of the Russian Plain. The greater part of this basin is drained by three gigantic rivers: the Ob (2,268 miles [3,650 km], which with its main tributary, the Irtysh, extends for a continuous 3,362 miles [5,410 km]), the Yenisey (2,540 miles [4,090 km]), and the Lena (2,734 miles [4,400 km]). Their catchments cover a total area in excess of 3 million square miles (8 million square km) in Siberia north of the Stanovoy Range, and their combined discharge into the Arctic averages 1,750,000 cubic feet (50,000 cubic metres) per second. Smaller, but still impressive, rivers make up the remainder of the Arctic drainage: in the European section these include the Northern Dvina (with its tributaries the Vychegda and Sukhona) and the Pechora, and in Siberia the Indigirka and Kolyma. The Siberian rivers provide transport arteries from the interior to the Arctic sea route, although these are blocked by ice for long periods every year. They have extremely gentle gradients—the Ob, for example, falls only 650 feet (200 metres) in more than 1,250 miles (2,010 km)—causing them to meander slowly across immense floodplains. Owing to their northward flow, the upper reaches thaw before the lower parts, and floods occur over vast areas, which lead to the development of huge swamps. The Vasyuganye Swamp at the Ob-Irtysh confluence covers some 19,000 square miles (49,000 square km).

The rest of Siberia, some 1.8 million square miles (4.7 million square km), is drained into the Pacific. In the north, where the watershed is close to the coast, numerous small rivers descend abruptly from the mountains, but the bulk of southeastern Siberia is drained by the large Amur system. Over much of its 1,755-mile (2,824-km) length, the Amur forms the boundary that divides Russia and China. The Ussuri, one of the Amur’s tributaries, forms another considerable length of the border.

Three drainage basins cover European Russia south of the Arctic basin. The Dnieper, of which only the upper reaches are in Russia, and the 1,162-mile- (1,870-km-) long Don flow south to the Black Sea, and a small northwestern section drains to the Baltic. The longest European river is the Volga. Rising in the Valdai Hills northwest of Moscow, it follows a course of 2,193 miles (3,530 km) to the Caspian Sea. Outranked only by the Siberian rivers, the Volga drains an area of 533,000 square miles (1,380,000 square km). Separated only by short overland portages and supplemented by several canals, the rivers of the Russian Plain have long been important transport arteries; indeed, the Volga system carries two-thirds of all Russian waterway traffic.

LAKES Russia contains some two million fresh- and saltwater lakes. In the European section the largest lakes are Ladoga and Onega in the northwest, with surface areas of 6,830 (inclusive of islands) and 3,753 square miles (17,690 and 9,720 square km), respectively; Peipus, with an area of 1,370 square miles (3,550 square km), on the Estonian border; and the Rybinsk Reservoir on the Volga north of Moscow. Narrow lakes 100 to 200 miles (160 to 320 km) long are located behind barrages (dams) on the Don, Volga, and Kama. In Siberia similar man-made lakes are located on the upper Yenisey and its tributary the Angara, where the 340-mile- (550-km-) long Bratsk Reservoir is among the world’s largest. All these are dwarfed by Lake Baikal, the largest body of fresh water in the world. Some 395 miles (636 km) long and with an average width of 30 miles (50 km), Baikal has a surface area of 12,200 square miles (31,500 square km) and a maximum depth of 5,315 feet (1,620 metres). (See Researcher’s Note: Maximum depth of Lake Baikal.)

There are innumerable smaller lakes found mainly in the ill-drained low-lying parts of the Russian and West Siberian plains, especially in their more northerly parts. Some of these reach considerable size, notably Beloye (White) Lake and Lakes Top, Vyg, and Ilmen, each occupying more than 400 square miles (1,000 square km) in the European northwest, and Lake Chany (770 square miles [1,990 square km]) in southwestern Siberia.

Several basic factors determine Russia’s variable climates. The country’s vast size and compact shape—the great bulk of the land is more than 250 miles (400 km) from the sea, while certain parts lie as much as 1,500 miles (2,400 km) away—produce a dominance of continental regimes. The country’s northerly latitude ensures that these are cold continental regimes—only southwestern Russia (the North Caucasus region and the lower Don and Volga basins), small sections of southern Siberia, and the maritime region of southeastern Siberia are below latitude 50° N, and more than half the federation is north of latitude 60° N. The great mountain barriers to the south and east prevent the ingress of ameliorating influences from the Indian and Pacific oceans, but the absence of relief barriers on the western and northern sides leaves the country open to Atlantic and Arctic influences. In effect there are only two seasons, winter and summer; spring and autumn are brief periods of rapid change from one extreme to the other.--->>>>Read More.<<<


Climate, soils, vegetation, and animal life are closely interrelated, and variations among these within Russia form a series of broad latitudinal environmental belts that sweep across the country’s plains and plateaus from the western border to the Lena River. In the mountain zones of the south and east, the pattern is more complex because elevation rather than latitude is the dominant factor, and there are striking changes over relatively short distances. Within Russia there are six main environmental belts (some with subdivisions): Arctic desert, tundra, taiga, mixed and deciduous forest, wooded steppe, and steppe. Forests of various kinds account for more than two-fifths of Russia’s total land area.>>>Read More.<<<

Demography of Russia

The People-Russia

  • Ethnic groups and languages

Although ethnic Russians comprise more than four-fifths of the country’s total population, Russia is a diverse, multiethnic society. More than 120 ethnic groups, many with their own national territories, speaking some 100 languages live within Russia’s borders. Many of these groups are small—in some cases consisting of fewer than a thousand individuals—and, in addition to Russians, only a handful of groups have more than a million members each: the Tatars, Ukrainians, Chuvash, Bashkir, Chechens, and Armenians. The diversity of peoples is reflected in the 21 minority republics, 10 autonomous districts, and autonomous region contained within the Russian Federation. In most of these divisions, the eponymous nationality (which gives its name to the division) is outnumbered by Russians. Since the early 1990s, ethnicity has underlain numerous conflicts (e.g., in Chechnya and Dagestan) within and between these units; many national minorities have demanded more autonomy and, in a few cases, even complete independence. Those parts of Russia that do not form autonomous ethnic units are divided into various territories (kraya) and regions (oblasti), and there are two federal cities (St. Petersburg and Moscow). For more detail on Russian regions, see below Regional and local government.--->>>>Read More.<<

Economy of Russia

The Russian republic, by virtue of its great size and abundant natural resources, played a leading role in the economy of the Soviet Union. In the first decades of the Soviet regime, these resources made possible great economic advances, including the rapid development of mining, metallurgy, and heavy engineering, the expansion of the railway network, and a massive increase in the energy supply. In the 1960s a second phase of Soviet industrial development began to exert a particularly strong effect on the Russian republic. In addition to further growth in established industries—especially in the production of oil, gas, and electricity and in the chemical industries—there was a marked diversification in industrial output, including a limited expansion in consumer goods. In the years before the dissolution of the Soviet Union, however, the economy of Russia and of the entire country was in a state of decline, and official statistics masked industrial inefficiencies.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian government implemented a series of radical reforms designed to transform the economy from one that was centrally planned and controlled to one based on capitalist principles. Major components of the reforms included establishing privately owned industrial and commercial ventures (using both foreign and Russian investment) and privatizing state-owned enterprises. To encourage privatization, the government issued vouchers to Russian citizens that enabled them to purchase of shares in privatized firms, though in practice these vouchers frequently were sold for cash and were accumulated by entrepreneurs. A commodity- and stock-exchange system also was established.

The privatization process was slow, however, and many firms—particularly in the heavy industries—remained under state ownership. In addition, there was significant debate regarding the buying and selling of land. In 2001 the government legalized the sale of land, though it did so only for urban housing and industrial real estate—which together accounted for only a small fraction of Russia’s total area. At the beginning of the 21st century, similar legislation was also under discussion for rural and agricultural areas. Though full private ownership of land is provided for in the 1993 constitution, the practice has not yet been implemented. As a result of delays in implementing structural reforms, the conversion to market-based agriculture was slow, as many clung to the old, familiar collective system.

The reforms beginning in the 1990s caused considerable hardships for the average Russian citizen; in the decade after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Russian economy contracted by more than two-fifths. The monetary system was in disarray: the removal of price controls caused a huge escalation in inflation and prices; the value of the ruble, the country’s currency, plummeted; and real incomes fell dramatically. Conditions began to improve by the mid-1990s, but the recovery was interrupted in 1998 by a severe financial crisis, which caused the government to sharply devalue the ruble. Numerous banks became insolvent, and millions of citizens lost their life savings. Gradually, corrective measures were implemented. For example, the licensing of private banks became more rigorous, and the government cracked down on tax evasion, which had been rampant since the implementation of economic reforms. To accommodate business growth, taxes on medium and small enterprises were moderated, and the government began to offer incentives for reinvesting profits into the domestic economy. By the early 21st century, the measures had begun to have a positive effect on the Russian economy, which showed signs of recovery and stable growth. Steady earnings from oil exports permitted investments in factories, and the devalued currency made Russian goods more competitive on the international market.

In the post-Soviet years, foreign direct investment was encouraged, but it was constrained by unfavourable conditions, including state intervention in industry, corruption, and weakness in the rule of law. An upsurge in violence by organized crime syndicates contributed to hampering Western investment, and though the activity of such groups was curtailed in the early 21st century, it still presented severe obstacles to both Western and Russian businesses. Investment by non-Russian companies was also discouraged by moves taken by the Russian government to increase state ownership in various industries, including oil and gas, aviation, and automobile manufacturing.

In addition to the difficulties the country encountered in its effort to restructure the economy, Russia had been subjected to serious long-term environmental degradation during the Soviet period, the full extent of which became apparent only in the 1990s. The most visible aspects of this situation—such as the Chernobyl accident at a nuclear power plant in Ukraine in 1986, widespread industrial pollution, and the drastic reduction in the volume of the Aral Sea as a result of inflow diversions—were only symptomatic of decades of wasteful resource exploitation. These environmental concerns placed another burden on Russia’s already overwhelmed economic structure.

The economic foundation of the country itself remained similar to that which had been developed during the Soviet period. For purposes of description it is convenient to refer to the official set of 11 traditional economic regions into which Russia is divided (though the federal districts created in 2000 have begun to replace the traditional economic regions for statistical purposes). In Europe the regions are the North, Northwest, Central, Volga-Vyatka, Central Black Earth, North Caucasus, Volga, and Ural, and in Asia they are West Siberia, East Siberia, and the Far East.--->>>>Read More.<<<

Government and politics of Russia

The politics of the Russian Federation take place in a framework of a federal presidential republic. According to the 1993 constitution, the president is head of state, and of a pluriform multi-party system with executive power exercised by the government, headed by the prime minister, who is appointed by the president by the parliament's approbation. Legislative power is vested in the two chambers of the federal assembly, while the president and the government issue numerous legally binding by-laws. Although Russia has traditionally been ruled by absolute monarchs and dictators, in 2007 it had a democratic system of government.


Structure

For the executive, the president is elected by popular vote for a six-year term (eligible for a second term, but not for a third consecutive term). The president appoints a cabinet comprising the premier and his deputies, ministers, and selected other individuals.

The legislature, termed the Federal Assembly or Federalnoye Sobraniye, consists of two chambers, the 450-member State Duma or Gosudarstvennaya Duma and the 178-member Federation Council or Soviet Federatsii.

Duma members, who serve four-year terms, are put forward from party lists on a basis of proportional representation. A party gains representation by winning at least five percent of the vote. There are 225 party list seats, and 225 seats representing electorates. Sobraniye members are appointed by the top executive and legislative officials in each of the 88 federal administrative units - oblasts, krays, republics, autonomous okrugs and oblasts, and the federal cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, to serve four-year terms. United Russia won 37.1 percent of the vote in 2003, CPRF 12.7 percent, LDPR 11.6 percent, Motherland 9.1 percent, and other 29.5 percent.

The Russian judiciary is divided into three branches: The courts of general jurisdiction (including military courts) subordinated to the Supreme Court; the arbitration (commercial) court system under the High Court of Arbitration; and the Constitutional Court (including constitutional courts in a number of administrative entities). Civil and criminal cases are tried in municipal courts, which hear more than 90 percent of all civil and criminal cases, courts of appeals, and higher courts. Judges for all courts are appointed for life by the Federation Council on the recommendation of the president.

The legal system is based on civil law system, there is judicial review of legislative acts, and the Russian Federation has not accepted compulsory International Court of Justice jurisdiction. Constitutional justice is based on the equality of all citizens. Judges are independent and subject to the law. Trials are to be open, and the accused is guaranteed a defense.


Constitutional challenges

Since gaining its independence with the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, Russia has faced serious challenges in its efforts to forge a political system to follow nearly 75 years of Soviet rule. For instance, leading figures in the legislative and executive branches have put forth opposing views of Russia's political direction and the governmental instruments that should be used to follow it. That conflict reached a climax in September and October 1993, when President Boris Yeltsin used military force to dissolve the parliament and called for new legislative elections. This event marked the end of Russia's first constitutional period, which was defined by the much-amended constitution adopted by the Russian Republic in 1978. A new constitution, creating a strong presidency, was approved by referendum in December 1993.

With a new constitution and a new parliament representing diverse parties and factions, Russia's political structure subsequently showed signs of stabilization. As the transition period extended into the mid-1990s, the power of the national government continued to wane as Russia's regions gained political and economic concessions from Moscow. Although the struggle between executive and legislative branches was partially resolved by the new constitution, the two branches continued to represent fundamentally opposing visions of Russia's future. Most of the time, the executive was the center of reform, and the lower house of the parliament, the State Duma, was a bastion of anti-reform communists and nationalists.


Foreign relations


Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush sign SORT. The Russian Federation (Russia), recognized in international law as continuing the legal personality of the former Soviet Union, continues to implement the international commitments of the USSR, and has assumed the USSR's permanent seat on the UN Security Council, membership in other international organizations, the rights and obligations under international treaties and property and debts. Russia is one of the key players in international relations. As one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Russia has a special responsibility for maintaining international peace and security.

Russia is the leading nation of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Since 1994, Russia has participated as a member of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations, although the Finance Ministers/Secretaries of Finance and Leaders of the G7 central banks continue to meet several times a year, without their Russian counterparts. Russia is a member of the Council of Europe and OSCE. Russia takes a special role in the organizations created on the territory of the former USSR, largely under the leadership of Russia: CIS, EurAsEC, CSTO, SCO.

The collapse of the Soviet Union has also resulted in Russia becoming a somewhat more NATO-friendly country and the establishment of the NATO-Russia Council, which brings together the NATO members and the Russian Federation; however, Russia has not formally joined the NATO as an ally, nor has Russia expressed any desire to join NATO.

Russia has a multifaceted foreign policy. It maintains diplomatic relations with 178 countries and has 140 embassies. Russia's foreign policy is determined by the President and implemented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Subdivisions


Map of the subdivisions of the Russian Federation The Russian Federation comprises 85 federal subjects, namely:

47 oblasts (provinces) 21 republics (states) which enjoy a high degree of autonomy on most issues and which correspond to some of Russia's numerous ethnic minorities eight krais (territories) six okrugs (autonomous districts) two federal cities (Moscow and St. Petersburg) the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. Federal subjects are grouped into seven federal districts, each administered by an envoy appointed by the President of Russia. Unlike the federal subjects, the federal districts are not a sub-national level of government, but are a level of administration of the federal government. Federal districts' envoys serve as liaisons between the federal subjects and the federal government and are primarily responsible for overseeing the compliance of the federal subjects with the federal laws.

For economic and statistical purposes the federal subjects are grouped into 12 economic regions. Economic regions and their parts sharing common economic trends are in turn grouped into economic zones and macrozones.


Military


Russian paratroopers at an exercise in Kazakhstan. After the dissolution of the USSR, in 1991, Russia assumed control of Soviet assets abroad, and received the lion's share of the Soviet Union's production facilities and military forces. About 70 percent of the former Soviet Union's defense industries are located in the Russian Federation.

The Russian military is divided into the ground forces, navy, and air force. There are also three independent arms of service: Strategic Rocket Forces, Russian Space Forces (VKS), and the airborne troops. Russia ranks at or near the top of many measures of military power including in numbers of tanks, fighter aircraft and naval vessels; it has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons. It also has the second largest fleet of ballistic missile submarines, and is the only country apart from the U.S. with a modern strategic bomber force. As of 2005, 330,000 men are brought into the army via conscription annually, though the army in 2007 was phasing out conscription altogether.

Defense spending is consistently increasing by at least a minimum of one-third year-on-year, leading to overall defense expenditure almost quadrupling over the past six years. Official government military spending for 2007 was $32.4-billion, though various sources, including the US Department of Defense, have estimated Russia’s military expenditures to be considerably higher than the reported amount. By some estimates, overall Russian defense expenditure is now at the second highest in the world after the US. The recent steps towards modernization of the armed forces has been made possible by Russia's spectacular economic resurgence based on oil and gas revenues as well a strengthening of its own domestic market. Currently, the military is in the middle of a major equipment upgrade, with the government in the process of spending about $200-billion (what equals to about $400-billion in PPP dollars) on development and production of military equipment between 2006-2015. Russia is the world's top supplier of weapons, a spot it has held since 2001, accounting for around 30 percent of worldwide weapons sales. Russia is the principal weapons supplier of China and India, and provides weapons to Iran, Algeria, Venezuela and other countries.

Culture Life of Russia

History of Russia

Early Russia

Numerous remains indicate that Russia was inhabited in the Paleolithic period. By the 7th cent. B.C. the northern shore of the Black Sea and the Crimea were controlled by the Scythians (see under Scythia); in the 3d cent. B.C. the Scythians were displaced by the Sarmatians (see under Sarmatia). Later the open steppes of Russia were invaded by numerous peoples, notably the Germanic Goths (3d cent. A.D.), the Asian Huns (4th cent.), and the Turkic Avars (6th cent.). The Turkic Khazars built up (7th cent.) a powerful state in S Russia, and the Eastern Bulgars established (8th cent.) their empire in the Volga region. By the 9th cent. the Eastern Slavs had settled in N Ukraine, in Belarus, and in the regions of Novgorod and Smolensk, and they had established colonies to the east on the Oka and upper Volga rivers. The chief Slavic tribes in S Russia were dominated by the Khazars.

The origin of the Russian state coincides with the arrival (9th cent.) of Scandinavian traders and warriors, the Varangians. Tradition has it that one of their leaders, Rurik, established himself peaceably at Novgorod by 862 and founded a dynasty. The name Russ or Rhos possibly originally designated the Varangians, or some of them, but it was early extended to the Eastern Slavs and became the name of their country in general. Rurik's successor, Oleg (reigned 879–912), transferred (882) his residence to Kiev, which remained the capital of Kievan Rus until 1169. He united the Eastern Slavs and freed them from Khazar suzerainty, and signed (911) a commercial treaty with the Byzantine Empire. Under Sviatoslav (reigned 964–72) the duchy reached the peak of its power.

Christianity was made the state religion by Vladimir I (reigned 980–1015), who adopted (988–89) the Greek Orthodox rite. Thus Byzantine cultural influence became predominant. After the death of Yaroslav (reigned 1019–54), Kievan Rus was divided in a rotation system among his sons. Political supremacy shifted, passing from Kiev to the western principalities of Halych and Volodymyr (see Volodymyr-Volynskyy and Volhynia) and to the northeastern principality of Suzdal-Vladimir (see Vladimir). In 1169, Kiev was stormed by the Suzdal prince Andrei Bogolubsky (reigned 1169–74), who made Vladimir the capital of the grand duchy. In 1237–40 the Mongols (commonly called Tatars) under Batu Khan invaded Russia and destroyed all the chief Russian cities except Novgorod and Pskov. In S and E Russia the Tatars established the empire of the Golden Horde, which lasted until 1480.

Belarus, most of the Ukraine, and part of W Russia were incorporated (14th cent.) into the grand duchy of Lithuania. Thus NE Russia became the main center of economic and political life. At the end of the 13th cent. Tver was the most important political center, but in the 14th cent. the Muscovite princes of the grand duchy of Vladimir, although still tributary to the Tatars, began to consolidate their position. Under Ivan I (Ivan Kalita; reigned 1328–41), Moscow took precedence over the other cities. After the victory of Dmitri Donskoi (reigned 1359–89) over the Tatars at Kulikovo in 1380, the grand duchy of Vladimir was bequeathed, without the sanction of the Golden Horde, to his son Vasily (reigned 1389–1425), and its rulers began to be called grand dukes of Moscow or Muscovy (see Moscow, grand duchy of).

  • Consolidation of the Russian State

Under Ivan III (1462–1505) and his successor, Vasily III (1505–33), the Muscovite state expanded, and its rulers became more absolute. The principality of Yaroslavl was annexed in 1463 and Rostov-Suzdal in 1474; Novgorod was conquered in 1478, Tver in 1485, Pskov in 1510, and Ryazan in 1521. The Mari, Yurga, and Komi were subjugated at the end of the 14th cent., and the Pechora and Karelians at the end of the 15th cent. Ivan ceased to pay tribute to the Tatars, and in 1497 he adopted the first code of laws. Having married the niece of the last Byzantine emperor, Ivan considered Moscow the "third Rome" and himself heir to the tradition of the Byzantine Empire.

In 1547, at the age of 17, Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible; reigned 1533–84) was crowned czar of all Russia. He conquered the Tatar khanates of Kazan (1552) and Astrakhan (1556), establishing Russian rule over the huge area of the middle and lower Volga; thus he laid the basis for the colonization and annexation of Siberia, begun by the Cossack Yermak in 1581. The conquered border territories were colonized by Russian settlers and defended by the Cossacks. At home, Ivan crushed the opposition of the great feudal nobles—the boyars—and set up an autocratic government. After the reign of the sickly Feodor I (1584–98), state power passed to Boris Godunov (reigned 1598–1605), who was elected czar by a zemsky sobor [national council].

With the death of Boris in 1605 began the "Time of Troubles"—a political crisis marked by the appearance of pretenders (see Dmitri) and the intervention of foreign powers. In 1609, Sigismund III of Poland invaded Russia, and in 1610 Polish troops entered Moscow according to an agreement concluded with the boyars. However, in 1612, Russian forces led by Prince Dmitri Pozharski took Moscow, and in 1613 a zemsky sobor unanimously chose Michael Romanov as czar (see Michael; reigned 1613–45). Thus began the Romanov dynasty, which ruled Russia until 1917. Michael was succeeded by Alexis (reigned 1645–76), who gained E Ukraine from Poland.

Russia in the 17th cent. was still medieval in culture and outlook, and it was not regarded as a member of the European community of nations. In its economic development it was centuries behind Western Europe; distrust of foreign ways and innovations kept its inhabitants ignorant and isolated. The consolidation of central power was effected not with the help of the almost nonexistent middle class or by social reforms but by forcibly depriving the nobility and gentry of their political influence. The nobles were compensated with land grants and with increasing rights over the peasants. Thus serfdom (see serf), which became a legal institution in Russia in 1649, included growing numbers of persons and became increasingly oppressive. The process of enserfment, which reached its peak in the 18th cent., resulted in several violent peasant revolts, notably those led by Stenka Razin (1667–71) and by Pugachev (1773–75).

  • Empire and European Eminence

During the reign (1689–1725) of Peter I (Peter the Great) Russian politics, administration, and culture were altered considerably. However, the trend of increased autocracy and enserfment of peasants was accelerated by the changes. Peter, who assumed (1721) the title of emperor, "Westernized" Russia by using stringent methods to force on the people a series of reforms. He created a regular conscript army and navy. He abolished the patriarchate of Moscow (see Orthodox Eastern Church) and created (1721) the Holy Synod, directly subordinate to the emperor, thus depriving the church of the last vestiges of independence. He recast the administrative and fiscal systems, creating new organs of central government and reforming local administration, and he also founded the first modern industries and made an attempt to introduce elements of Western education.

Seeking to make Russia a maritime power, Peter acquired Livonia, Ingermanland (Ingria), Estonia, and parts of Karelia and Finland as a result of the Northern War (1700–1721), thus securing a foothold on the Baltic Sea. As a symbol of the new conquests he founded (1703) Saint Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland and transferred (1712) his capital there. Russia was rapidly becoming a European power. Peter also began the Russian push to the Black Sea, taking Azov in 1696, but his war with Turkey from 1711 to 1713 ended in failure and the loss of Azov. In addition, he sent (1725) Vitus Bering on an exploratory trip to NE Siberia.

The Russo-Turkish Wars of the next two centuries resulted in the expansion of Russia at the expense of the Ottoman Empire and in the growing influence of Russia on Ottoman affairs (see Eastern Question). Russia also took an increasing part in European affairs. The immediate successors of Peter the Great were Catherine I (reigned 1725–27), Peter II (reigned 1727–30), Anna (reigned 1730–40), and Ivan VI (reigned 1740–41). Empress Elizabeth (reigned 1741–62) successfully sided against Prussia in the Seven Years War, but her successor, Peter III, took Russia out of the war.

Peter's wife successfully seized power from him (1762), and when he was murdered shortly thereafter she became empress as Catherine II (Catherine the Great; reigned 1762–96). Under her rule Russia became the chief power of continental Europe. She continued Peter I's policies of absolute rule at home and of territorial expansion at the expense of neighboring states. The three successive partitions of Poland (1772, 1793, 1795; see Poland, partitions of), the annexations of the Crimea (1783) and of Courland (1795), and the treaties of Kuchuk Kainarji (1774) and Jassy (1792) with Turkey gave Russia vast new territories in the west and south, including what is now Belarus, parts of Ukraine W of the Dnieper River, and the Black Sea shores. Catherine's administrative reforms further centralized power. The suppression of Pugachev's rebellion strengthened the privileged classes and lessened the chances of social reform. However, under her "enlightened despotism," Russian writers, scientists, and artists began the great creative efforts that culminated in the late 19th and early 20th cent.

Russia became involved in the French Revolutionary Wars under Catherine's successor, the demented Paul I, who was murdered in 1801. His son, Alexander I (reigned 1801–25), joined the third coalition against Napoleon I, but made peace with France at Tilsit (1807) and annexed (1809) Finland from Sweden. In wars with Turkey and Persia, Alexander gained Bessarabia by the Treaty of Bucharest (1812) and Caucasian territories by the Treaty of Gulistan (1813). In 1812, Napoleon began his great onslaught on Russia and took Moscow, but his army was repulsed and nearly annihilated in the winter of that year. Napoleon's downfall and the peace settlement (see Vienna, Congress of) made Russia and Austria the leading powers on the Continent at the head of the Holy Alliance.

  • Reaction, Reform, and Expansion

Liberal ideas gained influence among the Russian aristocracy and educated bourgeoisie despite Alexander I's growing intransigence. They found an outlet in the unsuccessful Decembrist Conspiracy of 1825 (see Decembrists), which sought to prevent the accession of Nicholas I. Under Nicholas (reigned 1825–55), Russia became the most reactionary European power, acting as the "policeman of Europe" in opposing liberalism and helping Austria to quash the Hungarian revolution (1848–49). Russian Poland, nominally a kingdom ruled by the Russian emperor, lost its autonomy after an unsuccessful rising there in 1830–31.

A clash of interests between Russia and the Western powers over the Ottoman Empire led to the Crimean War (1854–56), which revealed the inner weakness of Russia. Alexander II (reigned 1855–81), who acceded one year before the war ended, passed important liberal reforms during the first decade of his reign, after which time he became increasingly conservative. Just as he seemed to be entering another liberal phase, Alexander was assassinated in 1881. Among his reforms, the liberation (1861) of the serfs (see Emancipation, Edict of) was the most far-reaching, but significant changes were also made in local government, the judicial system, and education.

During the second half of the 19th cent., Russia continued its territorial expansion, and industrialization was accelerated. The remainder of the Caucasus was acquired and pacified; the territories of what is now the Central Asian Republics, including Turkistan, were taken during 1864–65; and the southern section of the Far Eastern Territory (see Russian Far East) was acquired from China. Russia thus reached the frontiers of Afghanistan and China and the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Vladivostok was founded in 1860; in the early 20th cent. it became an important naval base. The Trans-Siberian RR (constructed 1891–1905) opened much of Siberia to colonization and exploitation.

Alexander III (reigned 1881–94), who succeeded Alexander II, pursued a reactionary domestic policy, guided by the influential Pobyedonostzev. Alexander was followed by Nicholas II (reigned 1894–1917), the last Russian emperor, a generally incompetent ruler surrounded by a reactionary entourage. However, there was considerable financial and industrial development, directed largely by Count Witte. Russia, having suffered a severe diplomatic setback at the Congress of Berlin (see Berlin, Congress of, 1878), eventually abandoned the Three Emperors' League with Germany and Austria-Hungary and in 1892 entered into an alliance with republican France. This alliance led to the Triple Entente (see Triple Alliance and Triple Entente) of England, France, and Russia.

  • War and Revolution

The disastrous and unpopular Russo-Japanese War (1904–5) led to the Revolution of 1905 (see Russian Revolution). Nicholas II was forced to grant a constitution, and a parliament (see duma) was established. Soon, however, the new democratic freedoms were curtailed, as the government again became reactionary. As a result, there was renewed agitation by revolutionaries; the emperor countered with police terror and attempted to channel popular discontent into anti-Semitic outbreaks (see pogrom). At the same time, Piotr Stolypin (prime minister during 1906–11) tried to create a class of independent landowning peasants by breaking up and redistributing the land held by village communities (see mir); however, he refused to split up the estates held by large landlords and generally ignored the peasant masses.

Although the Russian economy was mainly agricultural and underdeveloped, industry—largely financed by foreign capital—was growing rapidly in a few centers, notably St. Petersburg, Moscow, and the Baku (Bakı; now in Azerbaijan) oil fields. It was particularly among the industrial workers, who because of their geographic concentration possessed great political strength, that the leftist Social Democratic party found its adherents. The formal split of the party into Bolshevism and Menshevism in 1912 had crucial consequences after the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1917. By promoting Pan-Slavism in the Balkan Peninsula and in Austria-Hungary, Russia played a leading role in the events that led to the outbreak (1914) of World War I. Ill-prepared and cut off from its allies in the West, the country suffered serious reverses in the war at the hands of the Germans and Austrians.

Inflation, food shortages, and poor morale among the troops contributed to the outbreak of the February Revolution of 1917. Nicholas abdicated in Mar., 1917 (he was executed in July, 1918). A provisional government under Prince Lvov, a moderate, tried to continue the war effort, but was opposed by the soviets (councils) of workers and soldiers. Kerensky, who succeeded Lvov as prime minister in July, 1917, was also unable to enforce the authority of the central government. Finally, on Nov. 7, 1917 (Oct. 25 O.S.), the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, seized the government. Russia ended its involvement in World War I by signing the humiliating Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (Mar., 1918), under which it lost much territory to the Central Powers.

Shortly after the signing of the treaty, and partly because of the reaction to its poor terms, civil war (complicated by foreign intervention) broke out in Russia. It continued until 1920, when the Soviet regime emerged victorious. (For a more detailed account of the intellectual and political background of the Russian Revolution and for the events of the revolution and the civil war, see Russian Revolution.) Poland, Finland, and the Baltic countries emerged as independent states in the aftermath of the civil war; Ukraine, Belorussia, and the Transcaucasian countries of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia proclaimed their independence, but by 1921 were conquered by the Soviet armies. In 1917, Russia was officially proclaimed the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic, which in 1922 was united with the Ukrainian, Belorussian, and Transcaucasian republics to form the see Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

  • Post-Soviet Russia

After more than seven decades of Soviet rule, the regime of President Gorbachev marked the end of repressive political controls and permitted nationalist movements to arise in the constituent republics of the USSR. In 1990, Boris Yeltsin and other nationalists and reformers were elected to the Russian parliament; Yeltsin was subsequently chosen Russian president. Under Yeltsin, Russia declared its sovereignty (but not its independence) and began to challenge the central government's authority. In 1991, Yeltsin was reelected in the first popular election for president in the history of the Russian Republic.

Yeltsin and the leaders of eight other republics reached a power-sharing agreement with Gorbachev, but its imminent signing provoked a coup attempt (Aug., 1991) by Soviet hard-liners. In the aftermath, the USSR disintegrated. With Ukraine and Belarus, Russia established the Commonwealth of Independent States. When Gorbachev resigned (Dec., 1991), Yeltsin had already taken control of most of the central government, and Russia assumed the USSR's UN seat.

Yeltsin moved rapidly to end or reduce state control of the economy, but control of parliament by former Communists led to conflicts and power struggles. On Sept. 21, 1993, Yeltsin suspended the parliament and called for new elections. Parliament retaliated by naming Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi as acting president, and anti-Yeltsin forces barricaded themselves inside the parliament building. On Oct. 3, supporters of the anti-Yeltsin group broke through a security cordon to join the occupation, and also attacked other sites in the capital. The military interceded on Yeltsin's side, and on Oct. 4, after a bloody battle, troops recaptured the parliament building. Many people were jailed, and the parliament was dissolved.

In Dec., 1993, voters approved a new constitution that strengthened presidential power, establishing a mixed presidential-parliamentary system similar to that of France. In legislative elections at the same time, Yeltsin supporters fell short of a majority, as voters also supported ultranationalists, radical reformers, Communists, and others. The Russian government, under Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, generally advocated moderate reform. The program made slow but discernible progress in stimulating growth and halting rampant inflation, but the economy continued to suffer from serious malfunctions, including a weak banking system and widespread corruption. Corruption has since worsened and become more pervasive.

In Feb., 1994, parliament granted amnesty to persons implicated in the Aug., 1991, coup attempt and the Oct., 1993, rebellion. In the Dec., 1995, legislative elections the Communist party won the largest share of the vote (22%) and more than a third of the seats in the State Duma. The results were a new rebuff to Yeltsin and his government, and he subsequently replaced the more liberal ministers in the government with pragmatists and conservatives. Although his popularity had significantly diminished since he was first elected president, he ran again in June, 1996. He finished ahead of his chief rival, Communist Gennady Zyuganov, in the first round and was reelected after a runoff in July. Ministerial replacements continued, and in Mar., 1998, Yeltsin dismissed his entire cabinet, hiring a new group of economic reformers and naming Sergei Kiriyenko as prime minister. By August he had dismissed many of his top aides and attempted to reinstate Chernomyrdin as prime minister. The nomination was rejected by parliament, however, and Yevgeny Primakov, a compromise candidate agreeable to reformers and Communists, became the prime minister in September; two Communists became ministers in the government.

Primakov acted as a stabilizing influence, avoiding economic disaster in the wake of Russia's Aug., 1998, financial crisis, but his increasing popularity and his public support for the Communists in his government even as their party was mounting an impeachment of Yeltsin in the Duma led to his firing in May, 1999. Yeltsin appointed Sergei Stepashin as prime minister, and the impeachment failed to win the necessary votes. A sense of political crisis returned in August when Islamic militants from Chechnya invaded Dagestan (see below), and Yeltsin replaced Stepashin with Vladimir Putin. After a series of terrorist bombings in Moscow and elsewhere that were blamed on Chechen militants, Putin launched an invasion of Chechnya. That action bolstered his popularity, as did a slight upturn in the economy due to rising prices for oil, Russia's most important export (industrial output continued to contract). Although with slightly less than a quarter of the vote the Communist party remained the single largest vote-getter in the Dec., 1999, parliamentary elections, center-right parties allied with Putin won nearly a third, and the vote was regarded as a mandate for Putin. On Dec. 31, Yeltsin resigned as president, and Putin became acting president.

One of Putin's first acts was to form an alliance with the Communists in the Duma; together his supporters (the Unity bloc) and the Communists held about 40% of the seats. In the elections of Mar., 2000, Putin bested ten other candidates to win election as Russia's president. Putin introduced several measures designed to increase central government control over the various Russian administrative units, including grouping them in seven large regional districts, ending the right of the units' executives to serve in the Federation Council, and suspending a number of laws that conflicted with federal law. He also won the authority to remove governors and dissolve legislatures that enact laws that conflict with the national constitution. Mikhail M. Kasyanov, a liberal, was appointed prime minister, and a broad plan for liberal economic reforms was enacted. The alliance with the Communists lasted until 2002, when Unity, which had earlier absorbed the populist Fatherland bloc, was strong enough to control the Duma alone.

Putin secured parliamentary ratification of the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty and the SALT II treaty (see disarmament, nuclear), and actively opposed modifying the ABM treaty so that the United States could build a larger missile defense system than the agreement permitted. Russia has proposed, however, a mobile, pan-European missile defense system that would function similarly, although it would not violate the ABM treaty. Significant reductions in the size of the armed forces also have been undertaken.

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia had to confront separatist movements in several ethnically based republics and other areas, including Tatarstan and, most notably, Chechnya, which declared independence upon the dissolution of the Soviet Union in Dec., 1991. Russian troops were sent there in Dec., 1994; subsequent fighting resulted in heavy casualties, with the Chechen capital of Grozny reduced to rubble by Russian bombardment. A peace accord between Russia and Chechnya was signed in Moscow in May, 1996. The invasion of Dagestan by Islamic militants from Chechnya in 1999 and a series of terrorist bombings in Russia during Aug.–Sept., 1999, however, led to Russian air raids on Chechnya in Sept., 1999, and a subsequent full-scale ground invasion of the breakaway republic that again devastated its capital and resulted in ongoing guerrilla warfare. Chechen terrorists have also continued to mount attacks outside Chechnya, including the seizure of a crowded Moscow theater in Oct., 2002, and a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, in Sept, 2004.

In the mid- and late 1990s, Russia took steps toward closer relations with some of the former Soviet republics. Several agreements designed to bring about economic, military, and political integration with Belarus were signed, but progress toward that goal has been slow. Both nations also signed an agreement with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan that called for establishing stronger ties. Tajikistan and Uzbekistan later joined the economic grouping the four established, which has been known as the Eurasian Economic Community since 2001. Years of negotiations with Ukraine over the disposition of the Black Sea fleet ended in an accord in 1997 that divided the ships between them and permitted Russia to base its fleet in Sevastopol for 20 years. A 25-year extension of that lease (in exchange for Russia's giving Ukraine a discounted price for natural gas) was negotiated in 2010.

The agreement with Ukraine was seen in part as an attempt to forestall closer Ukrainian ties with NATO. Russia has objected to any NATO expansion that excludes Russia; in June, 1994, Russia reluctantly agreed to an association with NATO under the arrangement known as the Partnership for Peace. Although several former Eastern European satellites joined NATO in 1999, any expansion that included nations once part of the Soviet Union would be highly sensitive. In the civil war and subsequent clashes in the former Yugoslavia, Russia was sympathetic toward the Serbs, a traditional ally, and there was considerable Russian opposition to such policies as NATO's bombing of Serb positions, especially in 1999.

Under Putin, Russia also revived its ties with many former Soviet client states, and used its economic leverage to reassert its sway over the more independent-minded former Soviet republics, particularly Georgia. The country nonetheless continued to maintain warmer ties with the West than the old Soviet Union did. Putin was a supporter of the U.S. "war on terrorism", and in 2001 Russia began to explore establishing closer ties with NATO, which culminated in the establishment (2002) of a NATO-Russia Council through which Russia could participate in NATO discussions on many nondefense issues. Russia even returned to Afghanistan, providing aid in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Taliban. Russia did, however, resist the idea of resorting to military intervention in Iraq in order to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, and as the United States pressed in 2003 for a Security Council resolution supporting the use of force, Russia joined France in vowing to veto such a resolution. By the end of 2003, Russia had experienced five years of steady economic growth, and recovered (and even seen benefits) from the collapse of the ruble in 1998.

In 2003 tensions flared with Ukraine over the Kerch Strait, sparked by Russia's building of a sea dike there, but the conflict was peacefully resolved. In Sept., 2003, Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine signed an agreement to create a common economic space. Internally, there was a conflict between the government and the extremely rich tycoons known as the oligarchs over the extent of the role business executives would be allowed to play in politics. Mikhail Khodorkovsky, chairman of the Russian oil giant Yukos, was arrested in October on charges of fraud and tax evasion, but his political aspirations and the government's desire to regain control over valuable resources were believed to have had as much to due with the government's move against him as any crime. In Dec., 2004, Yukos assests were sold to a little-known, newly established company that was soon acquired by a state-run oil company. Khodorkovsky was convicted in May, 2005; he was convicted of additional charges in Dec., 2010, after a trial that was seen by many as pretext for keeping him in prison. Meanwhile, the Dec., 2003, elections resulted in a major victory for the United Russia bloc and its allies. The loose group of Putin supporters ultimately secured two thirds of the seats, but outside observers criticized the election campaign for being strongly biased toward pro-government candidates and parties.

Prior to the Mar., 2004 presidential elections Putin dismissed Prime Minister Kasyanov and his government; the prime minister had been critical of Yukos investigation. Mikhail Y. Fradkov, who had served largely in a number of economic and trade positions, was named to replace Kasyanov. Putin was reelected by a landslide in Mar., 2004, but observers again criticized the campaign as biased. A series of deadly, Chechnya-related terror attacks during the summer culminated in the seizure of a school in Beslan, North Ossetia, which ended with the deaths more of more than 300 people, many of them children. Putin responded by calling for, among other changes, an end to the election of Duma representatives from districts and the appointment (instead of election) of the executives of oblasts and similar divisions of Russia. These moves, which were subsequently enacted, further centralized power in the Russian Federation and diminished its federal aspects. The federal government also sought to reduce the number of oblasts and regions by encouraging the merger of smaller units into larger ones.

Russia's reputation suffered internationally in late 2004 when it threw its support behind presidential candidates in Ukraine and the Georgian region of Abkhazia; in both elections, the candidates Moscow opposed ultimately succeeded despite strong resistance on the part of the existing governments to change. Russia subsequently (Mar., 2005) moved quickly to side with opponents of Kyrgyzstan president Akayev when he was forced from office. Large-scale violence re-erupted in the Caucasus in Oct., 2005, when militants with ties to the Chechen rebels mounted coordinated attacks in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria.

In late 2005 Russia found itself accused of using its state-controlled gas monopoly, Gazprom, as a punitive instrument of foreign policy when the company insisted that Ukraine pay market rates for natural gas, despite having been given a favorable long-term contract when Russia had unsuccessfully tried to influence the Ukrainian presidential race. When negotiations failed, Gazprom cut off supplies to Ukraine in Jan., 2006, a move that also affected supplies in transit to other European nations, provoking European concerns about the reliability of Russian gas deliveries. (The subsequent reduction in deliveries to Europe during a extreme cold snap in Russia in Jan., 2006, only reinforced concerns about reliability.) Although the dispute was soon resolved by a compromise, the affair hurt Russia's and Gazprom's image, and led to tensions with with the nations of the European Union.

The question of Russia's manipulation of its energy shipments for political purposes became an issue again in late 2006 when Gazprom announced it would double the rate it charged Georgia (to roughly market rates); the move followed several retaliatory actions taken against Georgia by the Russian government (see below). Gazprom also increased its charges for natural gas to several other formerly Soviet-ruled nations. One such nation, Belarus, usually a strong Russian ally, responsed to an increase in the Russian duty on oil exported to it by imposing a transit tax on Russian oil exported through pipelines in Belarus. The move provoked a spat that led Russia to cut off oil for several days before Belarus revoked the tax; the cutoff again raised questions in the EU about Russia's reliability as an energy supplier.

Tensions with Moldova (over the Trans-Dniester region) and with Georgia increased in early 2006, and Russia banned the imports of wine and brandy from both nations, supposedly for health reasons. The arrest by Georgia in Sept., 2006, of several Russians on charges of spying provoked a strong retaliatory response from Russia, including the breaking of all transport and postal links; the links were not restored until 2008. Within Georgia, however, the Russian actions seemed to solidify support for the Georgian government. Asserted health issues have been used by Russia to ban food imports from other nations, such as Poland and Ukraine, with whom Russia has had conflicts, and other forms of economic retaliation were used against Estonia in 2007 after a Soviet war memorial was relocated from downtown Tallinn. New membership requirements for political parties, introduced in 2007, forced the dissolution of a number of opposition parties, but those requirements were greatly eased by legislation passed in 2012.

American plans, revealed in 2007, to include components of its missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic provoked a strong response from Russia. President Putin said in June that such a move would force Russia to target Europe with its weapons; the president also announced that he was suspending Russia's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (the suspension took effect in Dec., 2007). In Sept., 2007, Putin replaced Prime Minister Fradkov with Viktor Zubkov, the head of Russia's financial monitoring service and an associate of Putin's since the early 1990s.

United Russia, running in Dec., 2007, with Putin's explicit support, again dominated the parliamentary elections; once again, foreign observers noted the progovernment bias of the campaigning, and there were some complaints of vote fraud. The same month Putin announced his support for Dmitri Medvedev, a first deputy prime minister, to succeed him as president in 2008. In the Mar., 2008, vote Medvedev was easily elected to the post, but the presidential election also was marred by progovernment bias and other irregularities.

Meanwhile, in February, Russia's Gazprom threatened to cut Ukraine's gas supply over unpaid debts; although the cut was averted, the issue reemerged in March, when supplies were reduced for several days. Russia's strong objections to NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia contributed to NATO's decision to offer those nations eventual membership but not begin the process that would ultimately lead to their admission. Those objections may also have been behind Russia's increasingly provocative actions in 2008 with respect to the Georgian separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

In July, 2008, the Czech Republic signed an agreement with the United States to base a radar system there; shortly thereafter there was a decrease in Russian oil supplies to the Czech Republic that Russia attributed to technical problems. Poland agreed to allow the basing of interceptors on its territory the following month. Also in July, Russia and China signed an agreement that finalized the demarcation of their shared borders; the pact was the last in a series of border agreements (1991, 1994, and 2004).

In Aug., 2008, after Georgia attempted to reestablish control over South Ossetia by force following a period of escalating tensions and violence, Russian troops drove Georgian troops from the region and invaded and occupied for a time neighboring parts of Georgia. Russia also reinforced its forces in Abkhazia, and it subsequently recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent and established defense pacts with them. Putin's active and public role in the events was seen as confirmation of his continuing preeminence in Russia's leadership.

Russia's attack against Georgia sparked concern in the United States and Europe, especially in E Europe, but also in the Commonwealth of Independent States, which President Medvedev subsequently declared by all but name as an area of special Russian privilege and influence. The fighting in Georgia also negatively affected international investment in Russia. Subsequently, the global financial crisis and falling oil, gas, and metals prices adversely affected Russian banks and stock markets, requiring massive government financial interventions, some of which continued into 2010. In Jan., 2009, Russia and Ukraine again reached an impasse over Russian natural gas sales to Ukraine, and it led a three-week shipment stoppage that also affected many European nations for part of that time. Shipments resumed after a new, ten-year agreement between Russian and Ukrainian energy companies was signed, but relations remained prickly. A drop in Ukrainian energy needs led Ukraine seek modification of the agreement in late 2009, and gas shipments and transshipments remained a point of contention is subsequent years. Local elections in Oct., 2009, resulted in significant wins for United Russia, but opposition leaders and independent observers denounced the results as fraudulent, and many opposition candidates were disqualified from running.

In Nov., 2009, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia signed agreements to establish in 2010 the customs union envisioned in the 2003 common economic space agreement; Ukraine, whose relations with Russia had soured since 2003, did not join. Although Russia's relations with Belarus were strained in Jan., 2010, over the amount of discounted oil Russia would sell its neighbor—Russia agreed to sell Belarus only enough discounted oil to meet its needs, but Belarus had been refining and exporting additional discounted oil at significant profit—when the customs union was begun in July, 2010, Belarus was a member. N Caucasus Islamist insurgents mounted terror bombings in the Moscow subway in Mar., 2010, that killed 39 people; other bombings followed in Dagestan. The following month Russia and the United States signed the New START nuclear disarmament treaty; replacing START I, it set lower deployed warhead limits.

In June–Aug., 2010, many parts of Russia suffered from an extended heat wave, which continued into September in some sections of S Russia. The heat and its associated drought had a devastating affect on crops, especially grain, and as a price-stabilization measure the government banned most grain exports until mid-2011. Conditions also led to an outbreak of wildfires, particularly in W Russia, which produced unhealthy smogs in Moscow and other cities. Caucasus Islamists claimed credit for the suicide bombing of one of Moscow's airports in Jan., 2011, in which 35 people died. In the Mar., 2011, regional elections, the ruling United Russia party won, but with less than half the vote it triumphed largely due to the divided opposition.

Putin announced in September that he would run again for president in 2012; at the same time, he called for Medvedev to lead United Russia in the Dec., 2011, parliamentary elections and become prime minister. In the parliamentary vote, United Russia won about 50% of the votes and a majority of the seats, but suffered significant losses compared to 2007 in a result that was seen as a personal setback for Putin. Observers criticized the election as flawed, and the Communists and others charged the government with fraud, leading to the most significant antigovernment protests in years. In the Mar., 2012, presidential election, Putin won with more than 60% of the vote amid charges of voting fraud and vote-counting irregularities. After Putin took office in May, he named Medvedev prime minister. Putin's new term as president was marked by increased government suppression and harassment of opposition groups, increased government control of the media, and recurring confrontations, mainly focused on trade and energy, with many of the E European nations that were formerly part of the Soviet Union.

Russian Orthodox church

Russian Orthodox church largest autocephalous, or ecclesiastically independent, Eastern Orthodox church in the world. Its membership is estimated at more than 85 million. Christianity was apparently ...>>>Readv On<<<


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This is not the official site of this country. Most of the information in this site were taken from the U.S. Department of State, The Central Intelligence Agency, The United Nations, [1],[2], [3], [4], [5],[6], [7], [8], [9], [10], [11], [12], [13], [14],[15], [16], [17], [18], [19], [20], [21], [22], [23], [24],[25], [26], [27], [28], [29], [30],[31], [32], [33], [34], and the [35].

Other sources of information will be mentioned as they are posted.