Russia is the largest independent state in the world, occupying an area more than twice the size of the United States. During the Cold War, Russia has aggressively interjected itself in other nations, and has even been known to interfere in the U.S. and other western countries. While Russia may be one of the most repressive states in the world, it still seeks to influence global policy through its political, military, and economic interventions.
In the twentieth century, the Russian Empire became the Soviet Union. This empire included the areas of Central and Eastern Europe and the Caucasus Mountains. It was a totalitarian government. The Soviet government was led by Josef Stalin, who pushed for a rapid industrialization and a dramatic weakening of religion. Thousands of church officials were killed.
As part of the Soviet era, Russia’s population grew steadily. However, during wartime, it experienced periods of famine. Even with the economy improving, the average citizen faced a lot of unemployment. Many older people watched their life savings dwindle. Eventually, many families were unable to afford to buy their own homes.
Before the Soviet era, Russia was a diverse empire. People spoke many languages and worshiped different gods. Eventually, the country’s official religion was the Russian Orthodox Church. Although the Orthodox Church remains the most prominent, there are other religions practiced by about 15 percent of the population.
The first ruler of Russia was Ivan IV of Moscow. His older brother Peter the Great also worked to make Russia more modern. Following his death, the Russian Empire expanded southward into the Caucasus.
Eventually, the Empire expanded into Finland and Central Asia. This expansion set the stage for a confrontation with Japan. Since then, Russia has become more and more repressive. In fact, the authorities are keen on reining in the influence of global Internet giants. A new law gives the government control over internet traffic, and has enhanced censorship.
During the Cold War, the United States and other western nations were reluctant to support Russia. Many felt that the United States should have concentrated more on fostering geopolitical pluralism in the rest of the former Soviet Union. Rather than pursue a single goal, the US should have been working to create more democracy and a diversified geopolitical landscape throughout the country.
After the Soviet era, the United States and other western nations imposed severe economic costs on the nation. Russia’s value of the ruble fell rapidly. Its banking system was targeted by the U.S. and some European countries, which subsequently blacklisted Russia’s central bank. They restricted its access to foreign markets and banned some of its banks from the SWIFT network. These sanctions will affect Russia’s ability to access global markets, as well as its cutting edge technology.
Russia is a complex and asymmetrical federation. It extends over large portions of Siberia and the Russian Far East. But its main core is in the European portion of the country, where its capital city, Moscow, is located. Some of its bordering nations include Estonia, Latvia, and Norway.