Russia tourist information
Russia, officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation, is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland (both via Kaliningrad Oblast), Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, and North Korea. It also has maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk, and the United States by the Bering Strait. At 17,075,400 square kilometres (6,592,800 sq mi), Russia is the largest country in the world, covering more than one eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area. Russia is also the eighth most populous nation with 143 million people. It extends across the whole of northern Asia and 40% of Europe, spanning nine time zones and incorporating a wide range of environments and landforms. Russia has the world's largest reserves of mineral and energy resources. It has the world's largest forest reserves and its lakes contain approximately one-quarter of the world's fresh water.
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The nation's history began with that of the East Slavs, who emerged as a recognizable group in Europe between the 3rd and 8th centuries AD. Founded and ruled by a Varangian warrior elite and their descendants, the medieval state of Rus arose in the 9th century. In 988 it adopted Orthodox Christianity from the Byzantine Empire, beginning the synthesis of Byzantine and Slavic cultures that defined Russian culture for the next millennium. Kievan Rus' ultimately disintegrated into a number of smaller states; most of the Rus' lands were overrun by the Mongol invasion and became tributaries of the nomadic Golden Horde. The Grand Duchy of Moscow gradually reunified the surrounding Russian principalities, achieved independence from the Golden Horde, and came to dominate the cultural and political legacy of Kievan Rus'. By the 18th century, the nation had greatly expanded through conquest, annexation, and exploration to become the Russian Empire, which was the third largest empire in history, stretching from Poland in Europe to Alaska in North America.
Following the Russian Revolution, Russia became the largest and leading constituent of the Soviet Union, the world's first constitutionally socialist state and a recognized superpower, which played a decisive role in the Allied victory in World War II. The Soviet era saw some of the most significant technological achievements of the 20th century, including the world's first human spaceflight. The Russian Federation was founded following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, but is recognized as the continuing legal personality of the Soviet state.
Modern-day Russia has the world's 11th largest economy by nominal GDP or the 6th largest by purchasing power parity, with the 5th largest nominal military budget. It is one of the five recognized nuclear weapons states and possesses the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. Russia is a great power and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a member of the G8, G20, the Council of Europe, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Eurasian Economic Community, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and is the leading member of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Geography and climate
Russia is the largest country in the world; its total area is 17,075,400 square kilometres (6,592,800 sq mi). There are 23 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Russia, 40 UNESCO biosphere reserves, 40 national parks and 101 nature reserves. It lies between latitudes 41Â° and 82Â° N, and longitudes 19Â° E and 169Â° W.
Russia has a wide natural resource base, including major deposits of timber, petroleum, natural gas, coal, ores and other mineral resources.
The two widest separated points in Russia are about 8,000 km (4,971 mi) apart along a geodesic line. These points are: the boundary with Poland on a 60 km (37 mi) long Vistula Spit separating the GdaĆsk Bay from the Vistula Lagoon; and the farthest southeast of the Kuril Islands. The points which are furthest separated in longitude are 6,600 km (4,101 mi) apart along a geodesic line. These points are: in the west, the same spit; in the east, the Big Diomede Island. The Russian Federation spans 9 time zones.
Most of Russia consists of vast stretches of plains that are predominantly steppe to the south and heavily forested to the north, with tundra along the northern coast. Russia possesses 10% of the world's arable land. Mountain ranges are found along the southern borders, such as the Caucasus (containing Mount Elbrus, which at 5,642 m (18,510 ft) is the highest point in both Russia and Europe) and the Altai (containing Mount Belukha, which at the 4,506 m (14,783 ft) is the highest point of Siberia outside of the Russian Far East); and in the eastern parts, such as the Verkhoyansk Range or the volcanoes of Kamchatka Peninsula (containing Klyuchevskaya Sopka, which at the 4,750 m (15,584 ft) is the highest active volcano in Eurasia as well as the highest point of Asian Russia). The Ural Mountains, rich in mineral resources, form a north-south range that divides Europe and Asia.
Russia has an extensive coastline of over 37,000 km (22,991 mi) along the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, as well as along the Baltic Sea, Sea of Azov, Black Sea and Caspian Sea. The Barents Sea, White Sea, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, East Siberian Sea, Chukchi Sea, Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk, and the Sea of Japan are linked to Russia via the Arctic and Pacific. Russia's major islands and archipelagos include Novaya Zemlya, the Franz Josef Land, the Severnaya Zemlya, the New Siberian Islands, Wrangel Island, the Kuril Islands, and Sakhalin. The Diomede Islands (one controlled by Russia, the other by the U.S.) are just 3 km (1.9 mi) apart, and Kunashir Island is about 20 km (12.4 mi) from HokkaidĆ, Japan.
Russia has thousands of rivers and inland bodies of water providing it with one of the world's largest surface water resources. The largest and most prominent of Russia's bodies of fresh water is Lake Baikal, the world's deepest, purest, oldest and most capacious fresh water lake. Baikal alone contains over one fifth of the world's fresh surface water. Other major lakes include Ladoga and Onega, two of the largest lakes in Europe. Russia is second only to Brazil in volume of the total renewable water resources. Of the country's 100,000 rivers, the Volga is the most famous, not only because it is the longest river in Europe, but also because of its major role in Russian history. The Siberian rivers Ob, Yenisey, Lena and Amur are among the very longest rivers in the world.
The enormous size of Russia and the remoteness of many areas from the sea 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 southeast. 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 Arctic 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 (mostly the Sakha Republic, where the Northern Pole of Cold is located with the record low temperature of â71.2 Â°C/â96.2 Â°F), and more moderate elsewhere. The strip of land along the shore of the Arctic Ocean, as well as the Russian Arctic islands, have a polar climate.
The coastal part of Krasnodar Krai on the Black Sea, most notably in Sochi, possesses a humid subtropical climate with mild and wet winters. Winter is dry compared to summer in many regions of East Siberia and the Far East, while other parts of the country experience more even precipitation across seasons. Winter precipitation in most parts of the country usually falls as snow. The region along the Lower Volga and Caspian Sea coast, as well as some areas of southernmost Siberia, possesses a semi-arid climate.
Throughout much of the territory there are only two distinct seasonsâwinter and summer; spring and autumn are usually brief periods of change between extremely low temperatures and extremely high. The coldest month is January (February on the coastline), the warmest usually is July. Great ranges of temperature are typical. In winter, temperatures get colder both from south to north and from west to east. Summers can be quite hot, even in Siberia. The continental interiors are the driest areas.
Railway transport in Russia is mostly under the control of the state-run Russian Railways monopoly. The company accounts for over 3.6% of Russiaâs GDP and handles 39% of the total freight traffic (including pipelines) and more than 42% of passenger traffic. The total length of common-used railway tracks exceeeds 85,500 km, second only to the U.S. Over 44,000 km of tracks are electrified, which is the largest number in the world, and additionally there are more than 30,000 km of industrial non-common carrier lines. Railways in Russia, unlike in the most of the world, use broad gauge of 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 5â6 in), with the exception of 957 km on Sakhalin Island using narrow gauge of 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in). The most renown railway in Russia is Trans-Siberian (Transsib), spanning a record 7 time zones and serving the longest single continuous services in the world, Moscow-Vladivostok (9,259 km, 5,753 mi), MoscowâPyongyang (10,267 km, 6,380 mi) and KievâVladivostok (11,085 km, 6,888 mi).
As of 2006 Russia had 933,000 km of roads, of which 755,000 were paved. Some of these make up the Russian federal motorway system. With a large land area the road density is the lowest of all the G8 and BRIC countries.
102,000 km of inland waterways in Russia mostly go by natural rivers or lakes. In the European part of the country the network of channels connects the basins of major rivers. Russia's capital, Moscow, is sometimes called "the port of the five seas", due to its waterway connections to the Baltic, White, Caspian, Azov and Black Seas.
Major sea ports of Russia include Rostov-on-Don on the Azov Sea, Novorossiysk on the Black Sea, Astrakhan and Makhachkala on the Caspian, Kaliningrad and St Petersburg on the Baltic, Arkhangelsk on the White Sea, Murmansk on the Barents Sea, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean. In 2008 the country owned 1448 merchant marine ships. The world's only fleet of nuclear icebreakers advances the economic exploitation of the Arctic continental shelf of Russia and the development of sea trade through the Northern Sea Route between Europe and East Asia.
By total length of pipelines Russia is second only to the U.S. Currently many new pipeline projects are being realized, including Nord Stream and South Stream natural gas pipelines to Europe, and the Eastern Siberia â Pacific Ocean oil pipeline (ESPO) to the Russian Far East and China.
Russia has 1216 airports, the busiest being Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo, and Vnukovo in Moscow, and Pulkovo in St Petersburg. The total length of runways in Russia exceeds 600,000 km.
Typically, major Russian cities have well-developed and diverse systems of public transport, with the most common varieties of exploited vehicles being bus, trolleybus and tram. Seven Russian cities, namely Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Samara, Yekaterinburg and Kazan, have undeground metros, while Volgograd features a metrotram. Total length of metros in Russia is 465.4 km. Moscow Metro and Saint Petersburg Metro are the oldest in Russia, opened in 1935 and 1955 respectively. These two are among the fastest and busiest metro systems in the world, and are famous for rich decorations and unique designs of their stations, which is a common tradition on Russian metros and railways.
There are over 160 different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples in Russia. Ethnic Russians with their Slavic Orthodox traditions, Tatars and Bashkirs with their Turkic Muslim culture, Buddhist nomadic Buryats and Kalmyks, Shamanistic peoples of the Extreme North and Siberia, highlanders of the Northern Caucasus, Finno-Ugric peoples of the Russian North West and Volga Region all contribute to the cultural diversity of the country.
Handicraft, like Dymkovo toy, khokhloma, gzhel and palekh miniature represent an important aspect of Russian folk culture. Ethnic Russian clothes include kaftan, kosovorotka and ushanka for men, sarafan and kokoshnik for women, with lapti and valenki as common shoes. The clothes of Cossacks from Southern Russia include burka and papaha, which they share with the peoples of the Northern Caucasus.
Russian cuisine widely uses fish, poultry, mushrooms, berries, and honey. Crops of rye, wheat, barley, and millet provide the ingredients for various breads, pancakes and cereals, as well as for kvass, beer and vodka drinks. Black bread is rather popular in Russia, compared to the rest of the world. Flavourful soups and stews include shchi, borsch, ukha, solyanka and okroshka. Smetana (a heavy sour cream) is often added to soups and salads. Pirozhki, blini and syrniki are native types of pancakes. Chicken Kiev, pelmeni and shashlyk are popular meat dishes, the last two being of Tatar and Caucasus origin respectively. Other meat dishes include stuffed cabbage rolls (golubtsy) usually filled with meat. Salads include Russian salad, vinaigrette and Dressed Herring.
Russia's large number of ethnic groups have distinctive traditions of folk music. Typical ethnic Russian musical instruments are gusli, balalaika, zhaleika and garmoshka. Folk music had great influence on Russian classical composers, and in modern times it is a source of inspiration for a number of popular folk bands, including Melnitsa. Russian folk songs, as well as patriotic Soviet songs, constitute the bulk of repertoire of the world-renown Red Army choir and other popular ensembles.
Russians have many traditions, including the washing in banya, a hot steam bath somewhat similar to sauna. Old Russian folklore takes its roots in the pagan Slavic religion. Many Russian fairy tales and epic bylinas were adaptated for animation films, or for feature movies by the prominent directors like Aleksandr Ptushko (Ilya Muromets, Sadko) and Aleksandr Rou (Morozko, Vasilisa the Beautiful). Russian poets, including Pyotr Yershov and Leonid Filatov, made a number of well-known poetical interpretations of the classical fairy tales, and in some cases, like that of Alexander Pushkin, also created fully original fairy tale poems of great popularity.
Since Christianization of Kievan Rus' for several ages Russian architecture was influenced predominantly by the Byzantine architecture. Apart from fortifications (kremlins), the main stone buildings of ancient Rus' were Orthodox churches with their many domes, often gilded or brightly painted.
Aristotle Fioravanti and other Italian architects brought Renaissance trends into Russia since the late 15th century, while the 16th century saw the development of unique tent-like churches culminating in Saint Basil's Cathedral. By that time the onion dome design was also fully developed. In the 17th century, the "fiery style" of ornamentation flourished in Moscow and Yaroslavl, gradually paving the way for the Naryshkin baroque of the 1690s. After the reforms of Peter the Great the change of architectural styles in Russia generally followed that in the Western Europe.
The 18th-century taste for rococo architecture led to the ornate works of Bartolomeo Rastrelli and his followers. The reigns of Catherine the Great and her grandson Alexander I saw the flourishing of Neoclassical architecture, most notably in the capital city of Saint Petersburg. The second half of the 19th century was dominated by the Neo-Byzantine and Russian Revival styles. Prevalent styles of the 20th century were the Art Nouveau, Constructivism, and the Stalin Empire style.
In 1955 a new Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, condemned the "excesses" of the former academic architecture, and the late Soviet era was dominated by plain functionalism in architecture. This helped somewhat to resolve the housing problem, but created a large quantity of buildings of low architectural quality, much in contrast with the previous bright styles. The situation improved in the recent two decades. Many temples demolished in Soviet times were rebuilt, and this process continues along with the restoration of various historical buildings destroyed in World War II. A total of 23,000 Orthodox churches have been rebuilt between 1991â2010, which effectively quadrapled the number of operating churches in Russia.
Tourism in Russia has seen rapid growth since the late Soviet times, first inner tourism and then international tourism as well, fueled by rich cultural heritage and great natural variety of the country. Major tourist routes in Russia include a travel around the Golden Ring of ancient cities, cruises on the big rivers like Volga, and long journeys on the famous Trans-Siberian Railway.
Most visited destinations in Russia are Moscow and Saint Petersburg, the current and the former capitals of the country. Recognized as World Cities, they feature such world-renown museums as Tretyakov Gallery and Hermitage, famous theaters like Bolshoi and Mariinsky, ornate churches like Saint Basil's Cathedral, Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Saint Isaac's Cathedral and Church of the Savior on Blood, impressive fortifications like Moscow Kremlin and Peter and Paul Fortress, beautiful squares and streets like Red Square, Palace Square, Tverskaya Street and Nevsky Prospect. Rich palaces and parks are found in the former imperial residences in suburbs of Moscow (Kolomenskoye, Tsaritsyno) and St Petersburg (Peterhof, Strelna, Oranienbaum, Gatchina, Pavlovsk and Tsarskoye Selo). Moscow displays the Soviet architecture at its best, along with modern skyscrapers, while St Petersburg, nicknamed Venice of the North, boasts of its classical architecture, many rivers, channels and bridges.
Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, shows a mix of Christian Russian and Muslim Tatar cultures. The city has registered a brand The Third Capital of Russia, though a number of other major cities compete for this status, including Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Nizhny Novgorod.
Typical Russian souvenirs include matryoshka doll and other handicraft, samovars for water heating, ushanka and papaha warm hats, and fur clothes. Russian vodka and caviar are among the food that attracts foreigners.
The warm subtropical Black Sea coast of Russia is the site for a number of popular sea resorts, like Sochi, the follow-up host of the 2014 Winter Olympics. The mountains of the Northern Caucasus contain popular ski resorts, including Dombay. The most famous natural destination in Russia is Lake Baikal, the Blue Eye of Siberia. This unique lake, oldest and deepest in the world, has crystal-clean waters and is surrounded by taiga-covered mountains. Other popular natural destinations include Kamchatka with its volcanoes and geysers, Karelia with its lakes and granite rocks, the snowy Altai Mountains, and the wild steppes of Tyva.