Russia has almost twice the land area of The United States, but has a population of only 150 million. Because of its size (it covers 10 time zones and is the largest country on earth) Russia has a diverse landscape and climate, from mountain areas to plains and deserts. Most of the population is found in the Western (European) region where the largest cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg, are located.
The Russian Federation came into being in 1991, and is the successor to the old Soviet Union. It is made up of a bewildering array of republics and regions having both strong and weak ties to the central government in Moscow. Russia is the main republic in the federation, and exerts considerable influence over the others.
The region that is modern Russia was settled by Slavic tribes around the Eight Century, AD. They are believed to have migrated westward from Asia. Some believe these tribes first settled in what is now Poland. But, whatever their origins, the Slavs settled most of Eastern Europe and Russia, and their heritage is still visible today in the similarities among the languages and physical appearance of the people who inhabit that part of the world.
Russian is the most prevalent language in the country, but over a hundred other dialects are spoken in different regions. Most Russians who claim to be religious belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. The country is rich in natural resources, including oil, natural gas, timber, furs, precious and nonferrous metals. In agriculture, Russia produces grain (for the Vodka, of course), sugar beets, sunflower seeds, meat and dairy products. Manufacturing output is varied, including automobiles, trucks, trains, agricultural equipment, advanced aircraft, aerospace, machine and equipment products, medical and scientific instruments, and construction equipment.
Looking only at the cities I visited, Moscow has a population of 8 - 10 million permanent residents, with as many as 4 million more who commute in and out. The city was founded between 1100 and 1200 AD. St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad), built by Peter the Great three hundred years ago, has 5 million inhabitants. Novgorod, the oldest city of the three, has a population of around 200 thousand.
There is much more that is worth knowing about Russia, especially the country's political history during the Twentieth Century. For those who are interested, these links are good places to begin:
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