Russia -- Geography --
Official Name: Russian Federation
Capital City: Moscow (population 10.1 million); other cities: St. Petersburg (population 4.6 million), Vladivostok, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, Yekaterinburg (formerly Sverdlovsk), Krasnoyarsk, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Samara, Rostov-na-Donu, and Chelyabinsk.
Languages: Russian (official), others
Official Currency: Ruble
Religions: Russian Orthodox, others
Land Area: 17,075,400 sq km
Russia -- History --
In IX century the ancient Russian – Kiew country has formed on the Russian’s territory. In the beginning of XII century it broke down into independent and dependent possession (principalities). In XIII century the Russian territory was invaded from Tartar-Mongolians from east and Swedes and German feudal from northwest. In 1240 Alexander Nevski, prince of Novgorod principality, defeated Swedes invasions from river Neva, and in 1242 defeated the German knights on Chudsko lake. In the battle of Kulikov in 1380, the Russian army, led by Dmitrij Ivanovich Donski, inflicted decisive defeat on Tartar-Mongolians. Since XIV century, center of the united Russian land becomes the Moscow principality, which is in the base of the formed in XV century Russian centralized country. In 1480 the Tartar-Mongolian yoke in completely rejected. In the beginning of XVII century, the Russian people repulse the attacks of the Poland-Lithuanian and Swedes feudal. In 1654 Ukraine and Russia brought their territory together. The feudalism’s development sharpens the class fight (peasant wars in Russia in 1606-07 led by Bolotnikov, and in 1670-71 led by Razin) the reforms Peter I introduced (1682-1725) stabilized the Russian country (since 1721 – Russian empire). After the north war with Sweden, Russia obtained an outlet on the Baltic Sea. The intensified feudal oppression provokes mass peasant movements (Peasant war 1773-75 led by Pugachov). In the homeland war of Russia (1812) the Russian people and army defeats the Napoleon invaders. As a result of the Russian – Turkish war in 1877-78 Bulgaria is emancipated from the Turkish yoke. The cancellation of serfdom (1861) is the first of many bourgeois reforms that contributes to the development of capitalism. In the Russian-Japanese war (1904-05) suffers defeat. Bourgeois – democratic revolution burst out. In 1914 tsarist Russia involves itself in the I WW against the German-Austrians. As a result of the February’s bourgeois – democratic revolution (1917) tsarism is overthrown. On the 7th of November 1917, the Great October Socialists’ revolution breaks. In April - June 1918 the Russian United Federative Socialist Republic is pronounced. In March 1918 the Bredski peace contract was signed. The Civil war and the Foreign military intervene in Russia (1918 - 20) ends in failure for the internal and foreign contra revolution. RUFCR becomes the main body and on its bases in 1922 is formed the multinational Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
The Soviet Union formally came into being under the treaty of union in December 1922, which was signed by Russia and three other union republics — Belarus, Ukraine, and what was then the Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (an entity including Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia). Under the treaty, Russia became known officially as the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR). The treaty of union was incorporated into the first Soviet constitution, which was promulgated in 1924. Nominally, the borders of each subunit were drawn to incorporate the territory of a specific nationality. The constitution endowed the new republics with sovereignty, although they were said to have voluntarily delegated most of their sovereign powers to the Soviet center. Formal sovereignty was evidenced by the existence of flags, constitutions, and other state symbols, and by the republics' constitutionally guaranteed "right" to secede from the union. Russia was the largest of the union republics in terms of territory and population. Ethnic Russians dominated Soviet politics and government; they also controlled local administration.
In the first periods of the Great homeland war (1941-45), a part of the RYFCR’s territory is occupied by Hitler’s army. Russian people have a great contribution to the rout of fascist Germany.
Leaders of the August 1991 coup Boris Pugo, Gennady Yanayev, and Oleg Baklanov (from left) go public with the formation of a State of Emergency Committee.Yeltsin used his role as president to trumpet Russian sovereignty and patriotism, and his legitimacy as president was a major cause of the collapse of the coup by hard-line government and party officials against Gorbachev in August 1991 Soviet Coup of 1991. (see August 1991 coup) The coup leaders had attempted to overthrow Gorbachev in order to halt his plan to sign a confederation treaty that they believed would wreck the Soviet Union. Yeltsin defiantly opposed the coup plotters and called for Gorbachev's restoration, rallying the Russian public. Most important, Yeltsin's opposition led elements in the "power ministries" that controlled the military, the police, and the KGB to refuse to obey the orders of the coup plotters. The opposition led by Yeltsin, combined with the irresolution of the plotters, caused the coup to collapse after three days.
Following the failed coup, Gorbachev found a fundamentally changed constellation of power, with Yeltsin in de facto control of much of a sometimes recalcitrant Soviet administrative apparatus. Although Gorbachev returned to his position as Soviet president, events began to bypass him. Communist party activities were suspended. Most of the union republics quickly declared their independence, although many appeared willing to sign Gorbachev's vaguely delineated confederation treaty. The Baltic states achieved full independence, and they quickly received diplomatic recognition from many nations. Gorbachev's rump government recognized the independence of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in August and September 1991.
The presidential election of 1996 was a major episode in the struggle between Yeltsin and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (Kommunisticheskaya partiya Rossiyskoy Federatsii--KPRF), which sought to oust Yeltsin from office and return to power. Yeltsin had banned the Communist Party of the Russian Republic for its central role in the August 1991 coup against the Gorbachev government. As a member of the Politburo and the Secretariat of the banned party, Gennady Zyuganov had worked hard to gain its relegalization. Despite Yeltsin's objections, the Constitutional Court cleared the way for the Russian communists to reemerge as the KPRF, headed by Zyuganov, in February 1993. Yeltsin temporarily banned the party again in October 1993 for its role in the Supreme Soviet's just-concluded attempt to overthrow his administration. Beginning in 1993, Zyuganov also led efforts by KPRF deputies to impeach Yeltsin. After the KPRF's triumph in the December 1995 legislative elections, Yeltsin announced that he would run for reelection with the main purpose of safeguarding Russia from a communist restoration.
Russia -- Economy --
The economy of Russia experienced a dramatic transformation in the 1990s. Although only half the size of the former Soviet economy, the Russian economy includes formidable assets. Russia possesses ample supplies of many of the world's most valued natural resources, especially those required to support a modern industrialized economy. It also has a well-educated labor force with substantial technical expertise.
The mineral-packed Ural Mountains and the vast oil, gas, coal, and timber reserves of Siberia and the Russian Far East make Russia rich in natural resources. However, most such resources are located in remote and climatically unfavorable areas that are difficult to develop and far from Russian ports. Oil and gas exports continue to be the main source of hard currency, but declining energy prices have hit Russia hard. Russia is a leading producer and exporter of minerals, gold, and all major fuels. The Russian fishing industry is the world's fourth-largest, behind Japan, the United States, and China. Russia accounts for one-quarter of the world's production of fresh and frozen fish and about one-third of world output of canned fish. Natural resources, especially energy, dominate Russian exports. Ninety percent of Russian exports to the United States are minerals or other raw materials.
Russia is one of the most industrialized of the former Soviet republics. Besides its resource-based industries, it has developed large manufacturing capacities, notably in machinery. Russia inherited most of the defense industrial base of the Soviet Union, so armaments are the single-largest manufactured goods export category for Russia.
Russia comprises roughly three-quarters of the territory of the former Soviet Union but has relatively little area suited for agriculture because of its arid climate and inconsistent rainfall. Northern areas concentrate mainly on livestock, and the southern parts and western Siberia produce grain.
In 1999, exports were up slightly, while imports slumped by 30.5%. As a consequence, the trade surplus ballooned to $33.2 billion, more than double the previous year's level. In 2001, the trend shifted, as exports declined while imports increased. World prices continue to have a major effect on export performance, since commodities, particularly oil, natural gas, metals, and timber comprise 80% of Russian exports. Ferrous metals exports suffered the most in 2001, declining 7.5%. On the import side, steel and grains dropped by 11% and 61%, respectively.
Foreign trade rose 34% to $151.5 billion in the first half of 2005, mainly due to the increase in oil and gas prices which now form 64% of all exports by value.
Trade with the EU forms 52.9%, with Asia-Pacific Economic Community - 15.9%.
Trade volume between China and Russia reached $29.1 billion in 2005, an increase of 37.1 percent compared with 2004
China’s export of machinery and electronic goods to Russia grew 70 percent, which is 24 percent of China’s total export to Russia in the first 11 months of 2005. During the same time, China’s export of high-tech products to Russia increased by 58 percent, and that is 7 percent of China’s total exports to Russia. Also in this time period border trade between the two countries reached $5.13 billion, growing 35 percent and accounting for nearly 20 percent of the total trade. Most of China’s exports to Russia remain apparel and footwear.
Russia is China’s eighth largest trade partner and China is now Russia’s fourth largest trade partner, and
China now has over 750 investment projects in Russia, involving $1.05 billion. China’s contracted investment in Russia totaled $368 million during January-Spetember of 2005, twice that in 2004.
Chinese imports from Russia are mainly those of energy sources, such as crude oil, which is mostly transported by rail, and electricity exports from neighboring Siberian and Far Eastern regions. In the near future, exports of both of these commodities are set to increase, as Russia is building a giant pipeline to Pacific Ocean with a branch to Chinese border, and Russian power grid monopoly UES is building some of its hydropower stations with a view of future exports to China.
Russia -- Culture --
As of 2002, Russia had approximately 145 million inhabitants, roughly 103 million in the European part, and 42 million in the Asian part.
Most Russians derive from the Eastern Slavic family of peoples, with Turkic (8.4%), Caucasian (3.3%), Uralic (1.9%) and other minorities.
The Russian Federation is home to as many as 160 different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples. As of the 2002 census, 79.83% of the population (115 889 107 people) is ethnically Russian, followed by (groups larger than one million):
3.83 % Tatars (5,554,601), 2.03% Ukrainians (2,942,961), 1.15% Bashkirs (1,673,389),
1.13% Chuvashs (1,637,094), 0.94% Chechens (1,360,253), 0.78% Armenians (1,130,491).
Demographic structure of Russia gradually changes over time. In 1970 Russia had the third largest population of Jews in the world (est. 2.15 million), following only United States and Israel. By 2002, due to Jewish emigration, their number fell as low as 230 thousand (est.) At the same time, Russia experiences a constant flow of immigration. On average, 200 thousand legal immigrants enter the country every year; about half are ethnic Russians from the republics of the former Soviet Union. In addition, there are at least 1.5 million illegal immigrants in the country. There is a significant inflow of ethnic Georgians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Tajiks, and Ukrainians into big Russian cities, something that is treated very unfavorably by many citizens and even gives rise to nationalist sentiments. Numbers of Chinese flee the overpopulation and birth control regulations of their home country and settle in southern Siberia. Many immigrant ethnic groups have much higher birth rates than native Russians, further shifting the balance.
Russian is the common official language throughout the Russian Federation understood by 99% of its current inhabitants and widespread in many adjacent areas of Asia and Eastern Europe. National subdivisions of Russia have additional official languages, see their respective articles. There more than 100 languages spoken in Russia. Many of them are endangered to extinct.
Russia's free, widespread and in-depth educational system, inherited with almost no changes from Soviet Union, has produced nearly 100% literacy. Private schools are rare (although getting more popular) and can be mainly found in the capital region. 97% of children receive their compulsory 8-year basic or complete 10-year education in Russian. Other languages are also used in their respective republics, for instance tatar (1%), Yakut (0.4%) etc.
About 3 million students attend Russia's 519 institutions of higher education and 48 universities. As a result of great emphasis on science and technology in education, Russian medical, mathematical, scientific, and space and aviation research is generally of a high order.
The number of doctors in relation to the population is high by American standards.
The Russian labor force is undergoing tremendous changes. Although well-educated and skilled, it is largely mismatched to the rapidly changing needs of the Russian economy. Millions of Russian workers are underemployed. Unemployment is highest among women and young people. Many Russian workers compensate by working other part-time jobs. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic dislocation it engendered, the standard of living fell dramatically. The standard of living has been on the rise since 1999, but almost one-third of the population still does not meet the minimum subsistence level for money income. The Russian Ministry of Economic Development and Trade estimates that the percentage of people under the subsistence level will gradually decrease by 23%-25% in the period up to 2005.
As of 2004, average life expectancy in Russia was 59 years for males and 72 years for females. The biggest factor that contributes to low life expectancy is high mortality among working-age males. By 1985, life expectancy for males was only 62.7 years in Russia, compared to 71.6 in Great Britain and 74.8 in Japan. Turmoil of early 1990s and economic crisis of 1998 caused life expectancy in Russia to go down while it was steadily growing in the rest of the world.
Russia -- Political system, law and government --
With the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, Russia (formally, the Russian Federation) becomes an independent state. A new constitution, creating a strong presidency, was approved by referendum in December 1993.
With a new constitution and a new parliament representing diverse parties and factions, Russia's political structure subsequently showed signs of stabilization.
The 1993 constitution declares Russia a democratic, federative, law-based state with a republican form of government. State power is divided among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Diversity of ideologies and religions is sanctioned, and a state or compulsory ideology may not be adopted. The right to a multiparty political system is upheld. The content of laws must be made public before they take effect, and they must be formulated in accordance with international law and principles. Russian is proclaimed the state language, although the republics of the federation are allowed to establish their own state languages for use alongside Russian.
The 1993 constitution created a dual executive consisting of a president and prime minister, but the president is the dominant figure. Russia's strong presidency sometimes is compared with that of Charles de Gaulle (in office 1958-69) in the French Fifth Republic. The constitution spells out many prerogatives specifically, but some powers enjoyed by Yeltsin were developed in an ad hoc manner.
Russia's president determines the basic direction of Russia's domestic and foreign policy and represents the Russian state within the country and in foreign affairs. The president has broad authority to issue decrees and directives that have the force of law without legislative review. Under certain conditions, the president may dissolve the State Duma, the lower house of parliament (as a whole, now called the Federal Assembly). The president has the prerogatives of scheduling referendums, submitting draft laws to the State Duma, and promulgating federal laws.
The president is empowered to appoint the prime minister to chair the Government (called the cabinet or the council of ministers in other countries), with the consent of the State Duma. The president chairs meetings of the Government, which he also may dismiss in its entirety.
The constitution prescribes that the Government of Russia, which corresponds to the Western cabinet structure, consist of a prime minister (chairman of the Government), deputy prime ministers, and federal ministers and their ministries and departments. Within one week of appointment by the president and approval by the State Duma, the prime minister must submit to the president nominations for all subordinate Government positions, including deputy prime ministers and federal ministers. The prime minister carries out administration in line with the constitution and laws and presidential decrees. The ministries of the Government, which numbered 24 in mid-1996, execute credit and monetary policies and defense, foreign policy, and state security functions; ensure the rule of law and respect for human and civil rights; protect property; and take measures against crime. If the Government issues implementing decrees and directives that are at odds with legislation or presidential decrees, the president may rescind them.
The Government formulates the state budget, submits it to the State Duma, and issues a report on its implementation. In late 1994, the parliament successfully demanded that the Government begin submitting quarterly reports on budget expenditures and adhere to other guidelines on budgetary matters, although the parliament's budgetary powers are limited. If the State Duma rejects a draft budget from the Government, the budget is submitted to a conciliation commission including members from both branches.
Besides the ministries, in 1996 the executive branch included eleven state committees and 46 state services and agencies, ranging from the State Space Agency (Glavkosmos) to the State Committee for Statistics (Goskomstat). There were also myriad agencies, boards, centers, councils, commissions, and committees.
The 628-member parliament, termed the Federal Assembly, consists of two chambers, the 450-member State Duma (the lower house) and the 178-member Federation Council (the upper house). Russia's legislative body was established by the constitution approved in the December 1993 referendum. The first elections to the Federal Assembly were held at the same time - a procedure criticized by some Russians as indicative of Yeltsin's lack of respect for constitutional niceties. Under the constitution, the deputies elected in December 1993 were termed "transitional" because they were to serve only a two-year term. In April 1994, legislators, Government officials, and many prominent businesspeople and religious leaders signed a "Civic Accord" proposed by Yeltsin, pledging during the two-year "transition period" to refrain from violence, calls for early presidential or legislative elections, and attempts to amend the constitution. This accord, and memories of the violent confrontation of the previous parliament with Government forces, had some effect in softening political rhetoric during the next two years.