A visit to Russia is not complete without exploring its diverse and fascinating natural resources. The country is home to the largest apatite deposits in the world, located in the Kola Peninsula. There are also several mineral and petroleum deposits, including salt, limestone, sand, and sulfur. The Kola Peninsula is also home to Russia’s largest island, Sakhalin, and the Korean Air Lines’ shootdown site, Moneron Island.
The Soviet Union collapse in 1991 had far-reaching effects on the Russian landscape. Even today, Soviet bureaucracy affects everything from road building costs to the forms required for dry cleaning. The Russian government was forced to move to a market economy in the aftermath of the collapse, but former officials still controlled state-owned industries, leading to what was often called Russian oligarchy. This was a disaster for Russia’s economy and people, and after the collapse, Russia underwent a gradual transition to a market economy.
Geographically, Russia is large, with a territory of 17,098,242 km2 (around 11% of Earth’s landmass). While the vast majority of the country is populated in the western core, most cities in the Eastern Frontier were established for mining and manufacturing. The Volga River has been a vital transportation route for centuries. While there are few people living in Siberia, the region is a natural resource hub.
Although the country is huge in size, its diverse landscape has varying conditions. The northernmost part of Russia is tundra, where temperatures can drop to -50°C. Most of the soil is below the freezing point of water, and it’s home to some of the world’s largest forests. However, logging has drastically reduced this resource. To the south, the taiga is bordered by temperate broadleaf forests. On the eastern border of the country are the New Siberian Islands.
While most of the country’s population is Russian, it contains a wide range of ethnic groups and over 100 different languages. Ukraine and Tatars are only two of the country’s minority groups, each representing one percent of the population. There are also a few dozen Votes, which live near Saint Petersburg. Russia has numerous ethnic minorities in former Soviet countries. Kazakhstan and Latvia are almost a quarter Russian. So, what makes this country so unique?
The multilateral cooperation between the United States and Russia has been extremely helpful in the past, and is one reason the COVID-19 pandemic may be a good opportunity to re-engage Russia in U.S. policymaking. However, Washington and Moscow have divergent world views, and the United States cannot afford to blindly agree with the Russian vision of a post-West world. The former is seeking recognition for its right to assert a sphere of influence, while Moscow wants to shape its own world.
In recent weeks, the United States has intensified its economic pressures on Russia. The stock market fell to its lowest level in four and a half years, and the ruble weakened to its weakest daily settlement price in history. The new measures will further isolate Russia from the global financial system, reducing its ability to attract investment and export products. The US has targeted all ten of Russia’s largest financial institutions with sanctions, affecting their ability to access international markets and the U.S. dollar.