Russia is a vast country with a total area of more than six million square miles (17 million square kilometers). It is abundant in energy and mineral resources, and its land is characterized by a range of landscapes. Much of Russia’s land mass is made up of wide, flat plains west of the Urals. Its southern and northern regions are dominated by steppes and heavily forested areas. On its northern coast, tundra covers the vast areas of the country’s northern coast.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1998, Russia emerged as an economic power, leveraging income from its vast natural resources. This prosperity lasted until 2014, when the oil price slump triggered a severe economic downturn. Meanwhile, the country’s state-run gas monopoly, Gazprom, supplies a large portion of Europe’s energy needs. Today, the Russian government has tightened its grip on state institutions and the media, while highlighting a fierce nationalism and hostility to the West.
The security of the Russian homeland is the top priority for Moscow. The Black Sea region is a major trade artery and strategic asset for Russia. The port of Novorossiysk is vital to the country’s economic relationship with central Asia. Because of its strategic importance, Russia wants to protect its Black Sea trade corridor by investing in new infrastructure. Additionally, it wants to keep Ukraine and Georgia from joining NATO.
The Mongols left their mark on Russia, with their influence extending to military tactics and transportation. In the fourteenth century, the Mongols were defeated at Kulikovo on the Don River. Though the defeat of the Mongols did not end Tatar rule of Russia, it did bring fame to the Grand Prince and strengthened the position of Moscow in the Russian state. Furthermore, by the seventeenth century, Moscow had expanded its territory through marriage, purchase, and war.
During this time, Russia also faced a number of threats to its way of life. Western invaders posed a greater threat than the Mongols. In the thirteenth century, Alexander Nevsky, the prince of Novgorod, acquired heroic status in defeating Swedes and Teutonic Knights. In exchange, he was granted Mongol protection and help in the fight against Western invaders attempting to gain territory and convert Russia to Catholicism.