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Geography of Russia

Learn about the World's Largest Country by Area

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Russia

Russia, Moscow, St. Basil's Cathedral at moonrise

Grant Faint/Getty Images
Updated July 01, 2014

Population: 139,390,205 (July 2010 estimate)
Capital: Moscow
Land Area: 6,607,668 square miles (17,098,242 sq km)
Coastline: 23,397 miles (37,653 km)
Highest Point: Gora El'brus at 18,480 feet (5,633 m)
Lowest Point: Caspian Sea at -92 feet (-28 m)

Russia, also called the Russian Federation, is a country in northern Eurasia and is the largest in the world based on its area of 6,607,668 square miles (17,098,242 sq km). It encompasses all of northern Asia and 40% of Europe and occupies nine different time zones.

History of Russia

The first organized human settlement in what is present-day Russia dates back to 862 and Kievan Rus political organization was founded in Kiev one hundred years later in 962. In the 10th century, Christianity became the state's official religion and Greek Orthodox rituals became popular. It was during this time that much of Russia's famous historic buildings were constructed. Shortly after the 10th century though, there were various invasions on the Kievan Rus and most of the population centers were destroyed by Mongol invaders in 13th century.

Mongol control of the region ended in 1480 and the country was taken over by the Muscovy principality. In 1530, Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) became the ruler of Russia and was the first of many to call himself tsar of Russia. During his time in power, Ivan IV expanded Russia to the east. He was succeeded by Boris Godunov, whose rule began the Time of Troubles. Godunov was succeeded by Michael Romanov in 1613 and Russia became stable.

From 1689 to 1725, Peter the Great ruled Russia and he reformed the government, created a western-style educational system and worked to modernize the country with various European customs and technologies. He also founded St. Petersburg and moved the capital from Moscow to that city.

Catherine the Great succeeded Peter and reigned from 1762 to 1796, during which time she also worked to expand the country and make it a large power within Europe. Alexander I, then took control of Russia in 1801 and during the beginning of his reign, he attempted to reform Russia but in 1812, Napoleon attempted to conquer the country, which caused Alexander to become more conservative until his reign ended in 1825.

Throughout the 19th century, the Russian government struggled to control various attempts at reform and as a result, its economy began to suffer despite growth in its cities. In 1905, the first Russian Revolution took place and Tsar Nicholas II granted the country a constitution and democratic reforms.

In 1917, however, a second revolution occurred and Nicholas II abdicated his throne. On November 7th, Vladimir Lenin took control and established the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. Civil wars then broke out from 1918 to 1920 and in 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was founded. Lenin was then the head of the first Soviet government until his death in 1924.

In the late 1920s, Josef Stalin took control of the USSR and became the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). The Cold War also took place during his time in power. Stalin died in 1953 and was succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev who became the Communist Party leader until 1964.

In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the CPSU and instituted the perestroika (restructuring) and the glasnost (openness) policies to reform the Communist system. His efforts failed however and the USSR collapsed in December 1991 Boris Yeltsin was elected as the first president of the Russian Federation.

Continue to page two for references and to learn about Russia's government, economy, geography and climate today.

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