Russia is the worlds largest country in area. It is almost twice as big as
Canada, the second largest country. From 1922 until 1991, Russia was the biggest
republic in the Soviet Union, the most powerful Communist country in the world.
In the 1980s, many of the union republics began making strong demands for
greater control of their own affairs or for independence.
Independence moves by the republics gained strength after a failed coup in 1991.
In that year, the Soviet Union broke apart, and Russia began to set up a new
political, legal, and economic system.
A Short Background
The defeat of the Russian Empire in World War I led to the seizure of power
by the communists and the formation of the USSR. The brutal rule of Josef STALIN
(1924-53) strengthened Russian dominance of the Soviet Union at a cost of tens
of millions of lives.
The Soviet economy and society stagnated in the following decades until General
Secretary Mikhail GORBACHEV (1985-91) introduced glasnost (openness) and
perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt to modernize communism, but his
initiatives inadvertently released forces that by December 1991 splintered the
USSR into 15 independent republics.
Since then, Russia has struggled in its efforts to build a democratic political
system and market economy to replace the strict social, political, and economic
controls of the communist period.
||Northern Asia (that part west
Urals is sometimes included with Europe),
bordering the Arctic Ocean,
Europe and the North Pacific Ocean
||60 00 N, 100 00 E
||145,470,197 (July 2001 est.)
||Russian 81.5%, Tatar 3.8%,Ukrainian 3%,
Chuvash 1.2%, Bashkir 0.9%,
Byelorussian 0.8%, Moldavian 0.7%,
||Russian Orthodox, Muslim, other
||Russian ruble (RUR)
||Russian rubles per US dollar -
28.3592 (January 2001), 28.1292 (2000), 24.6199 (1999), 9.7051 (1998), 5,785
(1997), 5,121 (1996)
1 EURO to Russian Rouble: 34,679 (April 2004)
note: the post-1 January 1998 ruble is equal to 1,000 of the pre-1
January 1998 rubles