The Russian Federation
The Russian Federation is the largest country in the world with an area of over 17,000,000 km2. It covers almost twice the territory of the next largest country, Canada. Russia ranks eighth in the world in population; 143 million people live there. Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It is also close to the United States and Japan across stretches of water.
The Russian Federation stretches across much of the north of Eurasia and spans eleven time zones. The country accommodates a great variety of landscapes and climates. Most of Russia is in zones of a continental and Arctic climate. Most of the land consists of vast plains, both in the European part and the Asian part known as Siberia. These plains are steppe to the south and heavily forested to the north, with tundra along the northern coast. Mountain ranges are found along the southern borders, such as the Caucasus (containing Mount Elbrus, Europe's highest point at 5,633 m) and the Altai, and in the eastern parts, such as the Verkhoyansk Range or the volcanoes on Kamchatka. The more central Ural Mountains, a north-south range that forms the primary divide between Europe and Asia, are also notable.
Russia's most important rivers are the Volga (the longest river in Europe), and the Ob, the Yenisei and the Lena in Siberia and the Amur in the Far East. Major lakes include Lake Baikal, the world's deepest lake with the depth of 1,600 metres, Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega. Russia has 13 cities with over a million inhabitants: Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod and others.
The Russian Federation is a federal republic with a president, directly elected for a four-year term. The president nominates the highest state officials and governors and is also head of the armed forces and the Russian National Security Council. Russia's bicameral parliament, the Federal Assembly consists of an upper house known as the Federation Council whose delegates are appointed by executive and legislative bodies of federal subjects, and a lower house known as the State Duma. The State Duma comprises 450 deputies who will be elected by proportional representation from nation-wide party lists from the next election in 2007. The Russian Federation consists of 88 different federal subjects. The capital of the Russian Federation is Moscow with a population of over 10 million people.
Russia is a highly industrialized-agrarian republic. Its vast mineral resources include oil and natural gas, iron, coal, zinc, lead, nickel, aluminum, gold and other non-ferrous metals. Russia has the world's largest oil and natural gas resources. Approximately 10 million people are engaged in agriculture, and produce grain, meat, dairy products, etc.
In 1999 Russia's economy entered a phase of rapid economic expansion. Service production and industrial output began to grow. Russia remains heavily dependent on exports of commodities, particularly oil, natural gas, metals, and timber. In 2004 Russia was the ninth largest economy in the world and the fifth largest in Europe. If the current growth rate is sustained, the country is expected to become the second largest European economy after Germany and the sixth largest in the world within a few years. The greatest challenge facing the Russian economy is how to encourage the development of small and medium-sized enterprises in a business climate with a banking system, dominated by Russian oligarchs. Other problems include disproportional economic development of Russia's own regions.
79.8 % of the population is ethnically Russian. The Russian language is the only official state language, but the republics have often made their native languages co-official next to Russian. The Russian Orthodox Church is the dominant Christian religion in the Federation; other religions include Islam, various Protestant faiths, Judaism, Roman Catholicism and Buddhism.
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