A Guide to Russia

Russia is a massive country with a wealth of natural resources, including huge reserves of oil and gas. This richness has not always translated into a good life for the Russian people, however, and Russia’s forbidding climate, with its long cold winters that have several times saved the country from foreign invaders, adds to the difficulties of daily life.

Northern Russia borders the Arctic Ocean, which swoops frigid air masses south across the continent each winter. These conditions, combined with Russia’s high latitude, make it difficult to grow crops and have historically resulted in a relatively short growing season. Mountains to the south block summer rains and warm air masses that would otherwise come from Central Asia, resulting in deserts and steppes.

The Russian economy has diversified since the fall of the Soviet Union, but its primary economic base remains heavy industry and energy production. The Russian government is focused on modernizing the economy, and the country has been investing heavily in its infrastructure. A large number of universities are being built to keep up with the demand for education.

A knowledge of Russian is helpful for visiting the country, and even a basic grasp of the language will help you communicate with the people. Many Russians can speak some English, and some even prefer to communicate in this language. The vast majority of Russians are Orthodox Christians.

Russian culture combines elements of Eastern Europe and Western civilization. Its history dates back to the early medieval state of Kievan Rus, whose religion was influenced by Byzantine Christianity. It was not considered part of mainstream Europe until the reign of Czar Peter the Great in the eighteenth century, when he set out to transform Russia into a major European power. His efforts included moving the capital from St. Petersburg (later renamed Leningrad) to Moscow.

Throughout its history, Russia has been wracked by political crises. The tsarist system of autocracy and rule by nobles was not conducive to the country’s needs, and the 1905 revolution led to the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and the formation of a provisional government. In 1917, two more revolutions swept away the provisional government and replaced it with the Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin.

Today’s Russia is a multiethnic and heterogeneous nation of more than 150 ethnic and indigenous languages. Its diverse cultures have helped to shape the country’s unique personality and make it an appealing destination for tourists. In addition to the many different regional and national cuisines, Russia is also known for its beautiful architecture and renowned classical music and ballet. The country’s many cultural centers attract visitors from around the world. The Russian population is very urban, with about 73.7 percent living in cities. The rest live in rural areas and in the far reaches of the country.