Russia (the Russian Federation) is the largest state in the world. The capital is the city of Moscow. The official language is Russian.
The square of Russia is 17,1 million square kilometers which is 1/9 of the total square of the land. Russia is situated in three hemispheres (Northern, Eastern and Western) and occupies the north-eastern part of the largest mainland Eurasia. The territory of Russia is situated in 11 time zones (from the 2nd to the 12th), but the 11th and the 12th time zones are united in one that’s why the zone time in Russia varies for 10 and not for 11 hours. The usual time reference for Russians is the Moscow time which is three hours later than GMT (Greenwich Mean Time), i.e. when in London and Lisbon it is midnight, in Russia it is 3 a. m.
Russia is washed by three Oceans: the Arctic Ocean in the north, the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the Pacific Ocean in the east. It has the most extensive borders of 62,3 thousand square kilometers, 24,6 thousand square kilometers of them are by land and 37,7 thousand square kilometers are by sea. Such vast territories and extensive borders determine many peculiarities of the geopolitical situation of the country.
Russia borders on 16 countries: by land with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, North Korea, by sea with Japan and the United States of America that permits it to play a significant part in Europe as well as in Asia. Continuing the political and legal personality of the Russian Empire and the USSR, Russia is one of the crucial participants in the international relations.
Administration and political structure
The Russian Federation is a parliamentary republic. The head of the state is the president elected for a four-year term. At the same time he is the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Since March, 2000 the president of Russia is V. V. Putin. The representative and legislative body of the Russian Federation is the Federal Assembly consisted of two chambers (the Council of Federation and the State Duma). The executive power is exercised by the Government of Russia.
Russia is a federal state. According to the constitution of 1993, the Russian Federation consists of 89 federal subjects equal in rights, including 49 regions (oblasts) and 6 territories (mainly in Russian regions), 21 national republics (Karelia, Komi, Mordovia, Mari El, Chuvashia, Udmurtia, Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Kalmykia, Adygea, Karachay-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Chechnya, North Ossetia-Alania, Altai, Khakassia, Buryatia, Tuva, Sakha (Yakutia)), 10 autonomous districts (Nenetsia, Khantia-Mansia, Yamalo-Nenetsia, Ust-Orda Buryatia, Aga Buryatia, Komi-Permyatskiy, Taimyrsky, Evenkiysky, Koryaksky, Chukotka), 1 autonomous oblast (the Jewish Autonomous Oblast) and 2 federal cities: Moscow and St.Petersburg. All the subjects of the Federation have an equal political status, equal representatives in the Council of Federation but they are certainly different in their economic and social potential. They are very different in territory.
In the lower level all the political subdivisions are divided in districts which in their turn consist of rural and urban settlements.
The population of Russia
142,1 million people (that is 2,15% of the total population of the Earth according to the information of Rosstat on May, 1 2007), 4/5 of population inhabits the European part of Russia. At present time Russia takes the 8th place in the world by this index. Most part of the population lives in cities that is 72,9%. The population of Russia is multinational. Besides Russians (79,83%), in the country live more than 180 other nationalities.
Religion of Russia
There is Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and other religions in Russia. According to statistics the number of believers varies from 85% - 90% (not atheists) to 7-15% (all people that go to church at least once a month).
According to some sources, more than a half of the population introduces itself as Orthodox believers. The number of Catholics amounts to 300-500 thousand people, Armenian-Gregorians – about 400 thousand people, Protestants – 400-1000 thousand people. There are about 12 million Moslems which is approximately 10% of the total population. Buddhism is traditional in three regions of Russia: Buryatia, Tuva and Kalmykia. According to the information of the Buddhist Association of Russia, the number of people practicing Buddhism amounts to 1,5-2 million people. The number of Jews according to the information of Jewish organizations is about 1 million people. Some inhabitants of the regions of Siberia and the Far East such as Yakutia, Chukotka etc. practice pantheistic and pagan rites along with the main religions.
Russian rouble. There is no limitation of the import of foreign currency in Russia, however all the money should be mentioned in the customs declaration. It’s possible to buy Russian roubles in numerous banks, cash machines and special currency exchange sections in airports, supermarkets and hotels. In Russia all the main credit cards are accepted, but more frequently VISA or MASTER CARD are used to pay accounts. You can look the rate of exchange of the principal currencies at the home page.
Airplane – there are long distances between Russian cities, that is why in most cases it is more comfortable to go by an airplane of Aeroflot or other local airlines. The service in Russian airlines approaches to the international level, and the cost of air tickets sometimes can be lower than those of a train. That is why always try to find out the price of the air flight to compare it with that of a train. The air ticket from Moscow to St.Petersburg costs $80 - $140.
Train – if the travel doesn’t take more than 20 hours it makes sense to go by train. More often it’s cheaper than to go by air. The ticket from Moscow to St.Petersburg costs $40 - $80 (700 km). It’s better to buy a ticket in a compartment for four persons (called "kupe" in Russian, similar to the 2nd class), but in summer there is no air-conditioner there and it can be hot. There is a compartment with a higher level of comfort for four or two persons that is called SV (SV kupe - 1st class) – both types of compartments have air-conditioner and dinner included, but the price of such tickets can be 2 times higher. If you prefer to travel in an open compartment you can buy a berth in a carriage with numbered reserved seats (platzcart - 3rd class).
Bus – comfortable buses of the international standard are not always used in a long-distance service, so try to avoid them. But sometimes this is the only way to get to the place if there is no train. The bus tickets are approximately 2 times cheaper than for a train.
Car – is not the most pleasant way of traveling about Russia because of long distances, the roads are not as good as in your own country and State Inspectorate for Road Safety will stop you constantly. But if your car have Russian registration numbers and you do not break rules of the road (especially speed limits), you won’t have any problems.
You can rent a car in most big Russian cities.
Hitch-hiking – is popular enough in Russia, but not as popular as in Europe or the USA. Most drivers will agree to give you a lift for money, that’s why if you prefer a free way of traveling, always make sure that the driver has understood that you are not going to pay him.
Holidays and memorable days of Russia
January, 1 — New Year's Day (days off — from the 1st to the 5th of January)
January, 7 — Christmas
February, 23 — Defender of the Motherland Day
March, 8 — International Women’s Day
May,1 — Spring and Labor Day
May, 9 — Victory Day
June, 12 — Russia Day
November, 4 — National Unity Day
The voltage in Russia is 220V. The European type standard socket.