Russia is one of the world’s largest countries, with a population of over 142 million people. Part of the country is located in Eastern Europe, while the other half is in North Asia. The Arctic Ocean borders Russia to the north, while the Bering Sea borders the country to the east. The country also has maritime borders with China, Japan, Estonia, Latvia, and Belarus.
The vast majority of Russia consists of mountains and plateaus. The Ural Mountains rise up to more than 3,000 feet and contain several mineral-rich plateaus. The north and east portions of the country are mostly forest-covered. Russia has a rich cultural heritage, including many ancient cities and architecture. The landscape of Russia is diverse, with forests covering over half of the country.
After the end of World War II, the Soviet Union established hegemony in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans. In the early 1950s, after the death of Stalin, the Soviet Union began a rivalry with the West. However, Russia’s Communist Party retains its political dominance. In 1991, the Soviet Union dissolves and Russia becomes independent. It then forms the Commonwealth of Independent States, which eventually includes most of the former Soviet republics. In 2000, Vladimir Putin becomes President and reorients Russia away from democracy towards authoritarian politics.
The Russian government places many restrictions on freedom of movement. Most adults must carry internal passports when they travel, and some regional authorities impose registration rules that limit people’s right to choose where they live. Ethnic minorities and migrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia are particularly targeted. In spite of these restrictions, most Russians can travel freely throughout the country, although this is not the case for everyone. For example, more than four million employees tied to the military and security services were banned from traveling abroad in 2014.
Russia’s health care system is below Western standards, and many medical facilities are not staffed to the highest standard. There are shortages of supplies and differences in practice standards, and there is no comprehensive primary care system. In addition, hospitals and doctors may not accept all cases. Even higher quality facilities usually charge Western rates. As a result, the country’s health care system does not cover hospital or medical costs.
Russia’s authoritarian political system has consolidated power under President Vladimir Putin. It also has a subservient judiciary and controlled media. Its legislature is comprised of ruling party factions and pliable opposition groups. Corruption is widespread and facilitates shifting ties between state officials and criminal groups. In recent years, Russian society has faced its biggest demonstrations since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and authorities have responded by using excessive force against demonstrators.
There is little evidence that the Russian judiciary is truly independent. Many independent observers and media reports have reported widespread irregularities. As a result, the ruling party won a substantial supermajority in the Duma elections. The authorities have also strengthened the powers of the President to remove judges from the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court. However, the lack of independence of the judiciary has led to concerns over the election’s results.