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Wednesday 13th December
Russia Facts
The Federation of Russia covers one-eighth of the earth's surface and spans eleven time zones.

The Ural mountain range forms a natural border between Europe and Asia.

During the last days of June, a phenomenon known as the "White Nights" can be seen in parts of Russia. It is a time when night remains bright as the sun does not sink below the horizon.

The Kamchatka Volcanoes are in a region of high volcanic activity.

Lake Baikal in Siberia is one of the oldest and deepest of the world's lakes.

The western Siberian Plain is the largest plain on earth.

Permafrost (subsurface soil which remains frozen) in Siberia is a major impediment to development.

In 1993 Natalya Polosmak, a Russian archaeologist, discovered the burial place of a woman who died in Siberia around 400 BC (two thousand four hundred years ago). Known as the Siberian Ice Maiden, the body had been preserved by permafrost.

Moscow, the capital of the Federation of Russia, is over eight hundred and fifty years old.

Ekaterinburg, founded three hundred years ago, was named in memory of Peter the Great's wife.

During the seventeenth century, under the rule of Peter the Great, Voronezh became the birthplace of the Russian Navy.

St Petersburg is sometimes called the "Venice of the North" as it has many canals and hundreds of bridges.

The Neva River in St Petersburg is the shortest and deepest European river.

The Hermitage is one of the world's largest museums. The museum contains three million works of art from the Stone Age to the Modern Day.

Queen Victoria's granddaughter married the last Czar, Nicholas II.

Carl Faberge, the famous goldsmith, designed a number of Easter Eggs for the Russian royal family.

Rasputin, Grigori Yefimovich, was an unscrupulous mystic who was able to check the haemophilia of the heir to the throne. Rasputin gained influence over the Czarina and her husband, the Czar, Nicholas II. Rasputin was eventually assassinated.

The Russian royal family was executed in Yekaterinburg in 1918.

In 1922 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was formed.

The following countries in Europe were members of the former USSR along with Russia: Belarus, Estonia (from WW2), Latvia (from WW2), Lithuania (from WW2), Moldova (from WW2) and Ukraine; member countries from Asia were: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Moscow's Metro (built in the 1930s) is famous for its thousands of chandeliers and marble decoration.

The Moscow State Circus has been in existence for two hundred years and was given strong support during the Communist era.

The Russian ballet dancer Rudolph Nureyev defected to the West (from the USSR) while touring Paris in 1961. He is famous for his dancing partnership with the British Royal Ballet's leading dancer, Dame Margot Fonteyn.

Yuri Gagarin was the first cosmonaut in space (1961).

The USSR nuclear scientist Andrei Sakarov, a well-known dissident, suffered for his opposition to the Soviet system.

The USSR was a member of the "Warsaw Pact". The Treaty (1955-1991) allowed Red Army bases in member states. (Other Warsaw Treaty Organization member countries were Albania (until 1968), Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic), East Germany (DDR), Hungary, Poland and Romania).

In 1956 a revolutionary Hungarian government left the Warsaw Pact. The "Hungarian Revolution" was suppressed by the Soviet military.

In August 1968 the USSR occupied Czechoslovakia. Alexander Dubcek's government had promised the "widest possible democratization" for the country - "socialism with a human face". Dubcek and government leaders were removed from office.

In 1979 the USSR and other Warsaw Pact countries invaded Afghanistan to support the pro-Soviet government against Muslim uprisings in the country.

At the end of 1991 the USSR was dissolved. Boris Yeltsin became the president of the Russian Federation. Yeltsin was succeeded by Vladimir Putin towards the end of 1999.

The conflict between Chechnya and the government of the Russian Federation followed the dissolution of the USSR.

At the beginning of the school year in 2004, more than one thousand children, teachers and parents were taken hostage in a school in Beslan in North Ossetia. The siege lasted three days; some hostages were executed and over three hundred died.

Russia is a member of the Council of the Baltic Sea States. Other members are Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and the European Commission.

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