Russia or Russian Federation referat

Russia or Russian Federation (Russian Rossiyskaya Federatsiya), independent republic in Eastern Europe and northern Asia, the world’s largest country by area. Russia was once the largest and the most prominent republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR, or Soviet Union). In 1991 the USSR broke apart and Russia became an independent country. The USSR had a totalitarian political system in which Communist Party leaders held political and economic power. The state owned all companies and land, and the government controlled production of goods and other aspects of the economy, a system known as a command, or planned, economy. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia began transforming itself into a more democratic society with an economy based on market mechanisms and principles. Russia has made many successful changes: There have been free elections at all levels of government; private ownership of property has been legalized; and large segments of the economy are now privately owned. The transformation is far from complete, however. In the economic sphere, privatized assets have not been allocated fairly among the population and privatization of land is still in its infancy. Russia must also deal with the large-scale environmental destruction and other problems inherited from the Soviet Union. In the political arena, a stable society based on citizen involvement in local, regional, and national affairs has yet to develop.

The transformation has affected the people of Russia in a variety of ways. Under the Soviet system, Russians became accustomed to having the government define many aspects of their lives. For many, the collapse of the USSR and the Communist ideal created an ideological void, and Russians have increasingly turned to traditional and nontraditional faiths to fill that void. The post-Soviet era has also seen an overall decline in Russia’s population, despite the influx of immigrants from other parts of the former Soviet Union. Russia has the lowest life expectancy and the highest infant mortality rate of the industrialized countries. In addition, the incidence of several infectious diseases has increased markedly in recent years. The social welfare system, already constrained by inadequate funding, is greatly challenged to combat these growing problems.

In general, Russia’s climate is similar to that of Canada. Much of the land lies north of the 50th parallel of latitude and far from the moderating influences of oceans. Like Canada, though colder and with greater temperature extremes in many places, most of Russia has a harsh continental climate. Although climate, and to some degree soils, limit the country’s agricultural wealth, mineral wealth is considerable: Russia’s mineral resources are unmatched by any other country. Russia’s borders measure more than 20,100 km (12,500 mi). On the north Russia is bounded by extensions of the Arctic Ocean: the Barents, Kara, Laptev, East Siberian, and Chukchi seas. On the east the country is bounded by the Pacific Ocean and several of its extensions: the Bering Strait (which separates Russia from Alaska), the Bering Sea, the Sea of Okhotsk, and the Sea of Japan (East Sea). In the extreme southeast Russia abuts the northeastern tip of North Korea. On the south it is bounded by China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and the Black Sea. On the southwest it is bounded by Ukraine, and on the west by Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, the Gulf of Finland, and Finland. In the extreme northwest, Russia is bounded by Norway. Lithuania and Poland border Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea.

Administratively, Russia includes 21 republics; 6 territories known as krays; 10 national areas called okrugs; 49 districts, or oblasts; 1 autonomous region; and 2 cities with federal status. The capital and largest city is Moscow.

Kurt E. Engelmann contributed the introduction to this article.

LAND AND RESOURCES In both total area and geographic extent Russia is the largest country in the world. With an area of 17,075,200 sq km (6,592,770 sq mi), Russia constitutes more than one-ninth of the world’s land area and nearly twice the area of the United States or China. From north to south Russia extends more than 4000 km (2400 mi) from Arctic islands in the Barents Sea to the southern border along the Caucasus Mountains. From the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea to Big Diomede Island (Ratmanov Island) in the Bering Strait, Russia’s maximum east-west extent is almost 10,000 km (6200 mi), a distance encompassing 11 time zones and spanning nearly half the circumference of the earth. Russia also stretches across parts of two continents, Europe and Asia, with the Ural Mountains and Ural River marking the boundary between them.

Russia’s principal islands lie in the Arctic and Pacific oceans and their extensions. Farthest north, in the Arctic Ocean, is Franz Josef Land, an archipelago consisting of about 100 small islands. The other main Arctic islands, from west to east, include the two islands of Novaya Zemlya, Vaygach Island, the group of islands called Severnaya Zemlya, the New Siberian Islands, and Wrangel Island. Between these major islands lie numerous small islands and island chains. In the Pacific Ocean are the Kuril Islands, which extend southwest in an arc from the Kamchatka Peninsula to the main islands of Japan. Russia occupies and administers all the Kuril Islands, although ownership of the four southernmost islands is disputed with Japan. The Pacific also includes the large island of Sakhalin, which separates the Seas of Okhotsk and Japan.

Russia contains complex geologic structures and surface formations. Very simply, however, the landmass consists of vast plains in the west and north, and a discontinuous belt of mountains and plateaus on the south and east. The upland and mountainous regions include most of Siberia and extend to the Pacific.

Rivers and Lakes Russia’s longest rivers are all located in Siberia. The Ob’ and Irtysh rivers form Russia’s largest river system, which is also the largest in Asia and the fourth largest in the world. Together, these rivers flow 5410 km (3362 mi) north from western China through western Siberia to the Arctic Ocean. Several tributaries of the Ob’, including the Irtysh, flow through neighboring Kazakhstan. The Amur and its headwaters, the Onon and the Shilka, form Russia’s second longest system, with a total length of 4416 km (2744 mi). The Onon flows northeast from Mongolia into southern Siberia, where it joins the Ingoda to form the Shilka, which continues in a northeasterly direction. At the border with China the Shilka joins the Argun to form the Amur, which continues along the border for about 1610 km (about 1000 mi) before heading north to the Pacific Ocean. Among individual rivers, the Lena River is longest; it flows 4400 km (2700 mi) north through Siberia to the Arctic Ocean from its source near Lake Baikal. The next longest individual rivers are the Irtysh and the Ob’. The Volga, located in European Russia, is the country’s fourth longest river and the longest river in Europe. Together with its two main tributaries, the Kama and Oka rivers, it drains a large eastern portion of the Great European Plain southeast to the Caspian Sea. The fifth longest river, the Yenisey, flows north from Mongolia through central Siberia to the Arctic Ocean. Its main tributary is the Angara River, which flows from Lake Baikal, Russia’s largest freshwater lake. The Yenisey River carries more water than any other stream system in the country. In size of flow, it is followed by the Lena, Ob’ Amur, and Volga rivers. All the other rivers have much smaller flows.

Many other streams and rivers are significant because they serve as transportation routes or power sources in densely populated areas, or because their waters are used for irrigation. Notable among these is the Don River, which lies in the southern portion of European Russia and drains south to the Sea of Azov. On the northern portion of the Great European Plain, the Daugava (Western Dvina) and Narva rivers flow north and west to the Baltic Sea; the Pechora, Northern Dvina, Mezen’ and Onega rivers flow to the Barents Sea and the White Sea. The Terek and Kuban’ rivers originate in the Greater Caucasus and are important for irrigation purposes. The Terek descends steeply from the mountains before flowing east to the Caspian Sea, while the Kuban’ flows west to the Sea of Azov.

During the Soviet period the government was active in building large dams for electrical power, irrigation, flood control, and navigational purposes. On some rivers a series of huge reservoirs have transformed the drainage basins. The most extensive construction has taken place on the Volga-Kama system and the Don River on the Great European Plain, and on the upper portions of the Yenisey-Angara system and Ob’-Irtysh system in Siberia. A series of dams on the Volga has significantly slowed the river and decreased the volume of water it can carry. The decline in the flow of the Kuban’ and Don rivers has been even greater. As a result, the rivers retain even more of the pollutants that are discharged into their waters, and the spawning grounds of sturgeon and other fish have been greatly reduced. Many of the dams do not have properly functioning fish ladders, and as a result many fish do not make it past the dams to their spawning grounds. Inadequate or nonexistent wastewater treatment also contributes to the degradation of rivers and lakes.

Many natural lakes occur in Russia, particularly in the glaciated northwestern portion of the country. The Caspian Sea on Russia’s southern border is the world’s largest lake in terms of surface area. Although called a sea, it is actually a saline lake that occupies a land depression. Rivers drain into the Caspian, but the deep basin does not fill with water and overflow to the sea. Water escapes only through evaporation; over a period of time the salts that are left behind accumulate in the water, making the lake saline. Lake Baikal in southern Siberia has the largest surface area of any lake entirely within Russia, and it is the largest in the world in terms of volume; it is estimated to contain one-fifth of the earth’s fresh surface water. With a maximum depth of 1637 m (5371 ft), Lake Baikal is also the world’s deepest freshwater lake. Russia’s next two largest lakes in terms of surface area are Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega. Located in northwestern Russia, these freshwater lakes are the two largest lakes in Europe.

Soils and Vegetation The broad zones of natural vegetation and soils correspond closely to the country’s climate zones. Summers are too cool for trees in the far north, where tundra vegetation of mosses, lichens, and low shrubs grows instead. Permafrost, or permanently frozen subsoil, is found throughout this region. The ground is frozen to great depths, and even in summer only a shallow surface layer thaws. There is a polar desert zone on several Arctic islands to the north of the tundra zone; the vegetation in this zone consists of a limited number of moss and lichen groupings scattered in patches.

Russia’s forests, located mostly in Siberia, cover more than two-fifths of the country’s total territory, and account for nearly one-fourth of the world’s total forested area. The forest zone has two distinct areas: a large, mainly coniferous forest, or taiga, lies in the north, and a much smaller area of mixed forest lies in the south.

The taiga occupies two-fifths of European Russia and extends across the Urals to cover much of Siberia. Much of the taiga also has permafrost. This vast zone is made up primarily of coniferous trees, but birch, poplar, aspen, willow, and other deciduous trees add to the diversity of the forest in some places. The taiga contains the world’s largest coniferous forest, representing about one-third of the earth’s softwood timber. In the extreme northwestern part of the European region, the taiga is dominated by a variety of pines, although significant numbers of fir, birch, and other trees are also present. Eastward to the western slopes of the Urals, pines are still common, but firs predominate. Some regions, however, have stands of trees that are made up almost exclusively of birch. The taiga of the West Siberian Plain consists primarily of various species of pine, but birch is dominant along the southern fringes of the forest. Larch, a deciduous conifer, becomes dominant throughout much of the Central Siberian Upland and the mountains of eastern Siberia.

Throughout the taiga zone, trees are generally small and widely spaced. Large areas are devoid of trees, particularly where the soil is poorly drained. In these areas marsh grasses and bushes form the vegetative cover. The taiga contains infertile, acidic soils known as ultisols, or podzols.

A mixed forest, containing both coniferous and broad-leaved deciduous trees, occupies the central portion of the Great European Plain between Saint Petersburg and the Ukrainian border. The mixed forest is dominated by coniferous evergreen trees in the north and broad-leaved trees in the south. The principal broad-leaved species are oak, beech, maple, and hornbeam. A similar forest of somewhat different species prevails along the middle Amur River valley and south along the Ussuri River valley. Gray-brown soils are found in the mixed forest zone. Less infertile than the soils of the taiga, these soils can be kept quite productive with proper farming methods and heavy fertilization.

To the south, the mixed forest transitions through a narrow zone of forest-steppe and then passes into the zone of a true steppe. The natural vegetation of a forest-steppe is grassland with scattered groves of trees. However, much of Russia’s forest-steppe has been cleared of its original cover and is now under cultivation. The forest-steppe zone averages about 150 km (about 95 mi) wide and stretches east across the middle Volga Valley and southern Ural Mountains into the southern portions of the West Siberian Plain. Isolated areas of this zone can be found in the southern basins between the mountains of eastern Siberia.

The natural vegetation of a true steppe consists of a mixture of grasses with only a few stunted trees in sheltered valleys. Like the forest-steppe, Russia’s steppe is now mostly under cultivation. It includes the area northwest of the Greater Caucasus Mountains and a strip of land that extends east across the southern Volga Valley, the southern Urals, and parts of western Siberia.

Both the forest-steppe and the steppe have fertile soils and together form a region known as the chernozem, or black-earth, belt; this is the agricultural heartland of Russia. Soils in the chernozem belt are high in humus content and have a balance of minerals that is suitable for most crops. The forest-steppe has a better moisture supply than the steppe during the growing season, and consequently is the best agricultural area of Russia. The chestnut and brown soils of the southern steppe are not quite as rich in humus as the chernozems to the north, but are very high in mineral content and can be productive with adequate moisture.

Animal Life Animal life is abundant and varied throughout many parts of Russia. The tundra, which spans the Arctic and northern Pacific coasts and encompasses Russia’s offshore Arctic islands, is home to polar bears, seals, walruses, polar foxes, lemmings, reindeer, and white hare. Bird life includes white partridges, polar owls, gulls, and loons. Geese, swans, and ducks migrate into the region during summer, when mosquitoes, gnats, and other insects also emerge. South of the tundra, the taiga is a habitat for elks, brown bears, lynx, sables, and a variety of forest birds, including owls and nightingales. Swamps in this zone have been stocked with muskrats from Canada. Muskrats and squirrels are now the main source of pelts trapped in the wild. The broad-leaved forests of the Central European and West Siberian plains contain boars, deer, wolves, foxes, and minks. There are also a variety of birds, snakes, lizards, and tortoises. The forests of far southeastern Russia are known for their Siberian tigers—the largest cat in the world—as well as leopards, bears, and deer. The steppe primarily contains rodents such as marmots and hamsters, but there are also a number of hoofed animals, including steppe antelope. The main beasts of prey are steppe polecats and Tatar foxes. Bird life includes cranes and eagles. The Caucasus region is particularly abundant in wildlife, including mountain goats, chamois, Caucasian deer, wild boars, porcupines, leopards, hyenas, jackals, squirrels, and bears. There is also a variety of game fowl, including black grouses, turkey hens, and stone partridges. Reptiles and amphibians are also numerous in the Caucasus region.

Many animal species are threatened or endangered, including snow leopards and Siberian tigers. A great number of threatened or endangered species are found in far eastern Russia, including Chinese egrets, red-crowned cranes, and Nordmann’s greenshanks.

Natural Resources Russia contains the greatest reserves of mineral resources of any country in the world. Although minerals are abundant, many are in remote areas with extreme climate conditions, which makes them expensive to extract.

Russia is especially rich in mineral fuels. The country may hold as much as one-half of the world’s potential coal reserves and may hold larger reserves of petroleum than any other nation. Coal deposits are scattered widely throughout the country; by far the largest fields lie in central and eastern Siberia, but the most developed fields are in western Siberia, the northeastern European region, the area around Moscow, and the Urals. The major petroleum deposits are in western Siberia and the Volga-Urals region. Smaller deposits are found in many other parts of the country. The principal natural gas deposits, of which Russia holds about 40 percent of the world’s reserves, are along Siberia’s Arctic coast, in the northern Caucasus region, and in the northwestern Russia. The primary iron-ore deposits are found south of Moscow, near the Ukrainian border in an area known as the Kursk Magnetic Anomaly; in this area, vast deposits of iron ore have caused a deviation in the earth’s magnetic field. Smaller iron ore deposits are scattered throughout the country. The Urals contain minor deposits of manganese. Other important iron alloys—such as nickel, tungsten, cobalt, and molybdenum—occur in adequate or even abundant quantities.

Russia is also well endowed with most of the nonferrous metals. The aluminum ores Russia does have are found primarily in the Urals, northwestern European Russia, and south central Siberia. Copper, on the other hand, is abundant: Reserves are found in the Urals, the Noril’sk area near the mouth of the Yenisey River in eastern Siberia, and the Kola Peninsula. A large deposit east of Lake Baikal became commercially exploitable when the Baikal-Amur Magistral (BAM) railroad was completed in 1989.

Lead and zinc ores are abundant in the northern Caucasus, far eastern Russia, and the western edge of the Kuznetsk Basin in southern Siberia. These ores are commonly found with copper, gold, silver, and a variety of rare metals. Russia has some of the world’s largest gold reserves, primarily in Siberia and the Urals. There are mercury deposits in the far northeastern part of Russia. Large asbestos deposits exist in the central and southern Urals and in south central Siberia.

Raw materials for the manufacture of chemicals are also abundant. These include potassium and magnesium salt deposits in the Kama River district of the western Urals. Some of the world’s largest deposits of apatite (a mineral from which phosphate is derived) are in the central Kola Peninsula; other types of phosphate ores are found in other parts of the country. Common rock salt is found in the southwestern Urals and southwest of Lake Baikal. Surface deposits of salt are derived from salt lakes along the lower Volga Valley. Sulfur is found in the Urals and the middle Volga Valley. High-grade limestone, used for the production of cement, is found in many parts of the country, but particularly near Belgorod near the border with Ukraine, and in the Zhiguli Hills area of the middle Volga Valley.

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