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Geography & Tourism

Russia has an area of 10, 672,000 sq. miles (17,075,200 and a population of almost 150 million people.

Occupying a large territory in Europe and Asia Russia is spread over all climatic zones except tropical. It takes over 8 hours by plane to reach from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Pacific coast. West of the Ural mountains from the Black Sea in the South to the Arctic Ocean lies a broad plain with low hills where the historical core of the Russian nation is located. East of the Urals from the border with Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia to the Arctic coast lies Siberia - a scarcely populated area covered by coniferous forest, swamps and tundra in the north and mountainous terrain in the south.

Russia is a multiethnic society. The largest ethnic groups include Russians (81.5%), Tatars (3.8%), Ukrainians (3%), Chuvash (1.2%), Bashkir (0.9%), Byelorussians (0.8%), Moldavians (0.7%), etc. Over 80% of the population name Russian - the official language of the country - as their native. Other languages are used in ethnic minority regions. Russia has equal religious diversity: with the main religions being Russian Orthodox Christianity and Muslim overall over 150 confessions could be found across the country.

Administratively, the Russian Federation is divided into 21 republic, 6 krays (federal territories), 2 federal cities, 49 regions, 1 autonomous region and 10 autonomous areas.

This country stretches 2,500-4,000 km from north to south and another 9,000 km from west to east. Russia's westernmost point is located on the Polish border; its easternmost point is situated on Ratmanov Island (Bering Straits). The southernmost point is located on the Russian-Azeri border, and the northernmost point is on Franz-Josef Land islands. Russia's borders stretch for a total of 58,562 km (with 14,253 km bordering other states and 44,309 km bordering the sea).

Mountain ranges are mostly located in Russia's eastern regions and in some of its southern areas, as well. The Ural mountain range, for one, constitutes a natural boundary separating European and Asian Russia. Various mountain ranges making up the northern slope of the Greater Caucasian mountain range are located in southern Russia. Another mountain chain, including the Altai range, is to be found in southern Siberia. The Kamchatka mountains (including some active volcanoes) stretch along the Pacific coast.

The climate is mostly continental, with average January temperatures ranging from 0 to minus five degrees Centigrade in Western European Russia to minus 40-50 degrees Centigrade in east Yakutia (Sakha Republic). Average July temperatures range from plus one degree Centigrade on the northern Siberian coast to plus 24-25 degrees Centigrade in Russia's Caspian lowland. Some 150-2,000 mm of precipitation fall annually on Russian territory.

Russia boasts 120,000 rivers with a length of 10 km or greater each. The majority of all local rivers, major rivers included (Ob, Irtysh, Yenisei and Lena) are located in the Arctic Ocean basin. The Amur, Anadyr, Penzhina and some other rivers flow into the Pacific Ocean. The Don, Kuban and Neva rivers flow into the seas bordering the Atlantic Ocean. Russia's main river, the Volga, flows all the way to the Caspian Sea.

Around 2 million fresh- and salt-water lakes are scattered across Russia. The largest lakes are the Caspian, Baikal, Ladoga, Onega and Taimyr. Lake Baikal, which attracts scores of foreign environmentalists, is the largest fresh-water lake in the world, having an average depth of 730 m (and a maximum depth of 1,620 m).

Forests cover some 40 per cent of the entire Russian land mass, with total timber reserves of 79 billion cu. m. The largest forests can be found in the Siberian taiga, the Far East and the northern European territories. Coniferous trees (fir trees, pine trees, cedars, larches, firs, etc.) are the predominant tree varieties there. Mixed forests are typical of mid-Russian regions.

Russia has the world's fifth largest population (148.8 million people) after China, India, the United States and Indonesia. It is populated by approximately 130 nations and ethnic groups, including some 130 million Russians, over 5 million Tartars, nearly 4 million Ukrainians, 1.7 million Chuvashs, 1.7 million Jews, approximately 1.3 million Bashkirs, over 1 million Byelorussians and more than 1 million Mordovians. All in all, 73 per cent of Russian citizens live in urban areas.

The Russian Federation has 1,067 major cities, with 13 of them inhabited by one million and more people each. The largest cities are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk and Yekaterinburg.

Places to visit

Capital city of Russian Federation, which celebrated 850th anniversary of its foundation with various ceremonies and events in 1997. The centre of politics, economy and culture in Russia.

The principle sightseeing spot in Moscow, the building served as the seat of power in Imperial Russia era until 1703. The name used to stand for Soviet Government since the palace was turned to be the Union Congress of Soviets the site after the Revolution.

The Armory:
Built as a repository to manufacture and store arms and armors in 16 century, the building turned to be a museum in 1702 by the order of Peter I. Now the museum exhibits treasures gold, silver and jewels as well as medieval arms including armors and helmets.

Red Square:
Surrounded by Northeastern wall of Kremlin, National Museum of Art and History, and GUM shopping centre, this 73000 sq. m. place was the main stage of magnificent parades on May Day and Revolution Day in Soviet era.

Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed:
Known for its nine multicoloured onion-domes, the visitor's favourite sightseeing spot is an example of cultural heritage that represents Russian architecture.

Bolshoy Theatre:
The sanctuary of performing arts in terms of ballet and opera with more than 200 years of history.

Tretyakov Gallery:
Opened in 1856, the historical museum displays the Russian artworks of 11th century and later that were collected by Pavel and Sergei Tretyakov brothers.

St. Danilov's Monastery:
The oldest monastery in Moscow and the seat of Russian Orthodox Church.

The Golden Ring:
Moving from Moscow to the Volga River of Northeast, you will encounter a land of many historical towns and areas: the Golden Ring. The land is punctuated with elegant cities where the beauty of medieval Russia still remains, and is called "the Golden Ring" is these ancient towns are connected by a road that almost looks like a circle.

Sergiev Posad:
70 km North-Northeast from Moscow, Sergiev Posad stands on a hill of Central Russia Plains. The town spreads around the Trinity-Saint Sergiev Lavra, which is surrounded by the walls that dates back to 16th century. Centered by the Church of Assumption, interior of the walls are sprinkled by many historical monuments including Cathedral of the Trinity, Dukhokhzkaya Church, Bell Tower, Tzar's Palace, the Church of Smolenskaya. The town is also known for Matrushka Dolls, one of favourite Russian souvenirs for the travellers.

220 km Northeast from Moscow, there is a wonderful ancient town of Suzdal. As the town features nearly 50 churches and monasteries from 12- 15th century, the sight of Suzdal gives an impression that the whole town is composed by the religious monuments. Visitors will find sophisticated examples of Russian Orthodox Church all over the town, including the Church of the Nativity that occupies South-western side of town centre, Torgovaya Square, the Monastery of the Deposition of the Robe and Savior-Epiphany Covenant.

With population of some 320,000, city of Vladimir is situated 190 km Northeast from Moscow. The origin of the town dates back to 1108, when Prince Vladimir Monomakh of Kiev Russ built wooden fortress. Later, the town developed as the capitol city of Vladimir-Suzdal Principality. The streets of glorious capitol days still remain unchanged through the centuries, which make the town unrivalled.

St. Petersburg:
Also known as "Venice of the North", St. Petersburg is lined by numerous waterways that highlight magnificent views of the city, particularly during White Nights. The elegant city served as the capitol of Imperial Russia. While changing the name to Petrograd, Leningrad and again to St. Petersburg as along with the course of time, the city has survived through current upheaval which engraved its footsteps.

St. Isaac's Cathedral:
Currently opened as a museum, the Cathedral points the sky in the South side of Decembrist Square.

State Hermitage Museum:
Most important sightseeing spot in St. Petersburg. As well as British Museum and the Louvre, State Hermitage is known as one of the Big Three museum of the world. Its 1050 chambers contain 2.5 million pieces of collection.

Peter and Paul Fortress:
The roots of St. Petersburg. The glorious history of the city started with the construction of the fortress on May 16, 1703, the city's birthday.

Mariinsky Theater of Opera and Ballet (former Kirov Theatre):
Prominent theatre of opera and ballet in St. Petersburg, well known to the world in tandem with Bolshoy Theatre in Moscow.

Peter's Palace:
Prestigious Summer palace of Peter the Great, its majestic splendour and large scale can be compared with Versailles Palace. The whole site resembles an outdoor museum with a number of beautiful gardens, connected by promenades with marble sculptures, and sprinkled by different types of fountains.

Pushkin City:
The city was named after great Russian poet Pushkin, who studied at a noblemen's school here. Tzar's Summer Palace, Catherine Palace ant many other monuments are located in the city.

Populated with 700,000 citizens, Vladivostok faces the Sea of Japan as the largest city in Far East Russia. Elegant style of Pre-Revolution architectures decorates the city that is called "San Francisco of the East". Developed as naval station, though, dissolution of the Soviet Union resulted in opening the city and has prompted current transformation. Yuzhno-Skhalinsk: The central city of Skhalin that has more than 100 years of history. The streets still maintain the shadow of the days when the island was Japanese territory.

One of the old cities in Siberia, from where early Russian caravans started their journeys for China or Mongolia. The city also sent many explorers to Siberian backwoods. Irkutsk has developed into highly industrialized city of more than 500,000 population, supplying many products to fur auctions in the world. City overview reflects its 300 years of history. The streets are filled with stone-built architectures in distinctive styles of the old days and wooden mansions decorated by carvings that were tinted by the ages.

Far-East city on the bank of Amur River, Khabarovsk was named after famous Russian explorer Jerofei Khabarov. The city looks surprisingly energetic; like streams that flow into a big river, many streets join the broad avenue that runs along Amur River. Regional Lore Museum depicts the historical development of Far East territory and unique customs of indigenous peoples in Amur River regions. Art Museum exhibits Russian icons, handicrafts of local minorities, and Russian drawings from 18th to 20th century.

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