Russia is by a considerable margin the largest country in the world by area, covering more than one-eight of the Earth’s inhabited land area. Russia’s capital, Moscow, is one of the largest cities in the world and the second largest city in Europe. Extended across the entirety of Northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe Russia spans 11 time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea.

Following the Russian Revolution, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic became the largest and leading constituent of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R), the world’s first constitutionally socialist state. The Soviet era saw some of the most significant technological achievements of the 20th century, including the world’s first human-made satellite and the launching of the first humans in space.

Russia became an independent country after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

Today the politics of Russia take place in the framework of the federal semi-presidential republic of Russia. According to the Constitution of Russia, the President of Russia is the head of state, and of a multi-party system with executive power exercised by the government, headed by the Prime Minister, who is appointed by the President with the parliament’s approval. Legislative power is vested in the two houses of the federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, while the President and the government issue numerous legally binding by-laws.

The enormous size of Russia and the remoteness of many areas from the se result in the dominance of the humid continental climate, which is prevalent in all parts of the country except for the tundra and the extreme southwest. Mountains in the south obstruct the flow of warm air masses from the Indian Ocean, while the plain of the west and north makes the country open to Artic and Atlantic influences.

Most of Northern European Russia and Siberia has a subarctic climate, with extremely severe winters in the inner regions of Northeast Siberia and more moderate winters elsewhere.

The Russian Constitution guarantees free universal health care for all its citizens. In practice., however, free health care is partially restricted because of mandatory registration. While Russia has more physicians, hospitals and health care workers than almost any other country in the world on a per capita basis, since the dissolution of the Soviet Union the health of the Russian population has declined considerably as a result of social, economic and lifestyle changes although in resent years, the average life expectancy have increased 5.2 years for males and 3.1 years for female.

Religion in Russia is diverse with Christianity, especially Eastern Orthodox Christianity, being the most widely professed faith, but with significant minorities of irreligious people, Muslims and Pagans. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 there has been a revival and spread of Siberian shamanism (often mixed with Orthodox elements) and the emerge of Hindu and new religious movements throughout Russia.

Facts about Russia

  • Russia is the world’s largest country by area. It covers 17 million square km (6.6 million square miles), accounting for more than one ninth of Earth’s terrestrial area.

  • Russia has the world’s longest railway. The Trans-Siberian spans nearly the whole country, departing Moscow in the west and travelling to Vladivistok in the east. The entire journey is 9.200 km long (5.700 miles) and would take 152 hours and 27 minutes to complete non-stop.

  • The restaurant The Twin Stars diner in Moscow only employs identically dressed twins and takes inspiration from 1964 Soviet film Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors.

  • St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow was created by Postnik Yakovlev. Legend has it that Ivan the Terrible blinded him afterwards, so he couldn’t build anything to rival it.

  • Russia has more time zones than any other country in the world. It used to have 11, but this was culled in 2010 to ‘only’ nine.

  • Vladimir Putin (the current leader) once saved a Tv crew from a Siberian tiger… but later acknowledged that the rescue was staged. Other of his documented publicity stunts include tagging whales and frolicking with a rare snow leopard.