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Russia or the Russian Federation, is a country that extends over a large part of northern Eurasia. Its government is a semi-presidential republic and it comprises 83 federal subjects. The Russian Federation, in fact, was established after the termination of the Soviet Union, which occurred in 1991; however, it continues to be recognized as the legal personality of the Soviet Union. Here are some more interesting facts about this beautiful country.

Geography

Comprising 6,592,800 square miles or 17,075,400 square kilometers, and extending over an eighth of the land area of the Earth, Russia is the world's largest country. It also is the 9th largest in the world in terms of population, with more than 143 million people as per census of 2013. It stretches across 40 percent of Europe and the entire region of northern Asia. It spans 11 time zones and contains a wide range of landforms and environment.

Neighboring States

Russia is bordered by a number of countries, viz., North Korea, Mongolia, China, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and Norway. It is also not very far from Japan, Turkey, Denmark, Sweden, and the US state of Alaska, separated by fairly small water stretches, such as La PĂ©rouse Strait, the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Bering Strait.

Biosphere

From the north of the country to its south, it contains a variety of biospheres which occur sequentially, reflecting the changes in the climate. In the northernmost part is the tundra belt, followed by the taiga or the coniferous forest, then comes the broad-leaf and mixed forests, followed by the steppe or grassland, and then the semi-desert which fringes the Caspian Sea. Siberia too has a sequence of environment, but comprises taiga. Russia has 40 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves and 23 World Heritage Sites.

Population and Cities

Moscow, the capital of Russia, which is populated by more than 11 million people, is Europe's largest city. St. Petersburg, known formerly as Leningrad, has a population of more than 5 million people. About two-thirds of the population live in cities and the population residing in the country areas is in decline.

Languages and People

The official language is Russian, which is written with the Cyrillic alphabet, instead of the Latin that most Western countries use. However, there are 48 other languages spoken by the 120 or so nationalities of the Commonwealth of Independent States. About 75 percent of the population is made up of people of Slavic origin such as Russians, Belorussians, Ukrainians, and so on. In the previous Soviet system, people were provided with low-rent accommodations, subsidized factory canteens, sports facilities, shops, and even vacations. Hardly any of these remain today. Plus, before the liberalization of the economy, public transport, utilities, cigarettes, drink, and food were also cheap.

The recent economic reforms have resulted in pushing a significant portion of the population below the poverty line, particularly pensioners. This is because inflation has overtaken the increases in benefits provided by the state. However, there is a growing middle class these days, which is increasingly becoming prosperous by involving itself in the legitimate business, with a few becoming very wealthy. They are known commonly as 'novye Russkie.'

Religion

The main religion is the Russian Orthodoxy, with a few people following other religions like Judaism, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, and Islam. Over the last few years, there has been a revival of religion in Russia, which was strongly suppressed during the Soviet era. This revival is symbolized by the Christ the Savior Cathedral being rebuilt in Moscow.

Other Facts

Russia is known as the 'lungs of Europe' since it has the largest forest reserves in the world, and the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by it, is second only to the rainforests in the Amazon. These forests provide large amounts of oxygen not only to Europe but also to the world.

Russia also has one of the largest energy and mineral deposits in the world, including large deposits of timber, coal, natural gas, and petroleum. It exports its natural gas to Europe and many other countries. Energy is one of the biggest source of revenue for this country.

There are also thousands of inland water bodies and rivers, which make this country one of the largest surface water resources in the world. Amongst these, Lake Baikal is the most prominent, being the most capacious, purest, and deepest freshwater lake in the world. It alone contains more than one-fifth of the surface freshwater of the world. The River Volga is the most prominent and famous amongst the 100,000 rivers of Russia. Apart from it being Europe's longest river, the Volga has played a major role in the history of Russia.

These facts are a proof of how interesting this vast country is. Some would say that this slumbering giant is just beginning to come awake now.