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Russia Information - Page 1
Geography
The Russian Federation is the largest country on earth, spanning over seventeen million square kilometres. It is situated in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. The Ural mountain range forms a natural border between Europe and Asia. Its vast expanses stretch from the Arctic Ocean, to Eastern Europe and to the North Pacific Ocean.

Bordering countries are Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mongolia, North Korea, Norway, Poland and Ukraine.

Moscow is the capital city of the Russian Federation. Other major cities are St Petersburg, Novosibirsk and Nizhniy Novgorod.

Russia's terrain consists of plains, low hills west of the Ural Mountains, uplands and mountains (Caucasus) along the southern borders and coniferous forest and tundra in Siberia. The Volga is the country's major river.

Russia's climate is very diverse. The summers can be warm and humid, whilst the winters can be harsh and bitterly cold.

Environment
The Russian Federation has over one hundred nature reserves, or Zapovedniks, and a number of national parks.

World Heritage sites for natural properties are the Volcanoes of Kamchatka, the Altai Mountains, the Western Caucasus, the Central Sikhote-Alin mountain range and temperate forests, Virgin Komi Forests and Lake Baikal.

Over thirty-five sites regions are UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserves and almost the same number are Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance.

Animals range from hamsters, sabels, gazelles, bears, cheetahs and lynx to Siberian tigers. The tundra is the habitat of polar foxes, snow leopards and polar bears. Birds include nightingales, owls, woodpeckers, falcons and eagles.

Architecture
Novgorod, founded in the ninth century, was Russia's first capital. It was also a religious centre and today many of its early religious buildings remain. (Byzantine architecture, along with Christianity, was introduced to Russia at the end of the tenth century).

St. Petersburg was built during the reign of Peter the Great. Two architectural splendours of St Petersburg are the Baroque style Winter Palace and the golden domed St. Isaac's Cathedral.

Domes are an impressive feature of Russian architecture. Examples include the Archangel Cathedral (1501-1508), the Cathedral of the Annunciation (1484-1489) and Moscow's Kremlin with the Ivan the Great Bell-Tower.

The Kremlin, built over many centuries, was both a royal palace and a religious centre. The Kremlin opens on to Red Square and the famous Saint Basil Basilica.

Population
Russia's population was estimated at 140,702,096 in 2008.

Languages
Russian is the official language.

Religion
The Russian Orthodox Church is the main religious body. It survived the atheist Stalin era, and today a greater number of people are becoming involved in the Church. A number of the minorities living in Russia are of the Islamic faith.

Food
Russia is famous for caviar, roe from the sturgeon, either beluga, osciotr or sevruga. It is eaten on blinis (thin buckwheat pancakes), or on toast, often accompanied by vodka. Herring, with onion and potatoes, is a less expensive seafood dish enjoyed by Russians.

Bread (wheat and rye) is important in the Russian diet. Soup and borscht (beetroot soup) are traditional first courses that are often followed by meat dishes, for example, meat dumplings. Russian recipes such as stroganov and Russian salad are popular in many countries.

In some parts of the country customary Russian and ethnic foods are being replaced by current international favourites: hamburgers, pizza and sushi. This is particularly widespread in the major cities of Moscow and St Petersburg, where there are large numbers of western-style supermarkets.

Russia's favourite alcoholic drinks are kvass (fermented rye-bread water) and vodka. Vodka is served in a variety of ways, for example, straight, or flavoured with pepper, bison grass or berries. The use of the samovar for preparing tea dates back to the eighteenth century.

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