A visit to Russia today is an encounter with an undiscovered land. With the dissolution of the Soviet Union visitors have a fresh opportunity to explore a vast array of exciting and ancient cultures, from the glittering imperial Russia of St. Petersburg to the timeless village life of Siberia and Irkutsk. One of the most notable features of present day Russia is a renewed celebration of the wealth of its past and its potential for the future. For most westerners, Russia is associated with its European cities-- Moscow, St. Petersburg and Murmansk. This is the heartland of Imperial Russia, and these great and ancient cities often become the focus for most tourists. However there is much more to Russia, a country that spans eleven time zones and two continents, ending less than 50 miles from North America. Within this vast expanse lie the largest freshwater lake in the world, rivers and forests teeming with fish and wildlife, awe inspiring volcanos, and towering mountains. Russia is the largest country on earth, with enormous tracts of land that have been opened to travellers only in the last few years.

Russia is a country about 1.8 times the size of the US occupying the vast area between Europe and the North Pacific Ocean. It has an area of 10, 672,000 sq. miles (17,075,200 and a population of almost 150 million people.

The Russian Federation, which covers one-eighth of the earth's surface, spans eastern Europe and northern Asia, and ranks as the world's largest nation in terms of its territory. Russia is followed by Canada, China and the United States. Russia's northern regions are bordered by the Arctic Ocean, with the Baltic Sea bordering its western territories. The Russian Far East is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, with the Black Sea bordering southern Russia.

This country stretches 2,500-4,000 km from north to south and another 9,000 km from west to east. Russia's westernmost point is located on the Polish border; its easternmost point is situated on Ratmanov Island (Bering Straits). The southernmost point is located on the Russian-Azeri border, and the northernmost point is on Franz-Josef Land islands.

Russia 's borders stretch for a total of 58,562 km (with 14,253 km bordering other states and 44,309 km bordering the sea).

The capital of the Russian Federation is Moscow. With its 10 million population it is the largest city in the country, its principal economic and political center - the seat of the President, the government and the State Duma (Parlament).


Founded in the 12th century, the Principality of Muscovy, was able to emerge from over 200 years of Mongol domination (13th-15th centuries) and to gradually conquer and absorb surrounding principalities. In the early 17th century, a new Romanov Dynasty continued this policy of expansion across Siberia to the Pacific. Under PETER I (ruled 1682-1725), hegemony was extended to the Baltic Sea and the country was renamed the Russian Empire. During the 19th century, more territorial acquisitions were made in Europe and Asia. Repeated devastating defeats of the Russian army in World War I led to widespread rioting in the major cities of the Russian Empire and to the overthrow in 1917 of the imperial household. The Communists under Vladimir LENIN seized power soon after and formed the USSR. The brutal rule of Josef STALIN (1928-53) strengthened Russian dominance of the Soviet Union at a cost of tens of millions of lives. The Soviet economy and society stagnated in the following decades until General Secretary Mikhail GORBACHEV (1985-91) introduced glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt to modernize Communism, but his initiatives inadvertently released forces that by December 1991 splintered the USSR into 15 independent republics. Since then, Russia has struggled in its efforts to build a democratic political system and market economy to replace the strict social, political, and economic controls of the Communist period. While some progress has been made on the economic front, recent years have seen a recentralization of power under Vladimir PUTIN and an erosion in nascent democratic institutions.

Climate and nature:
Most of Russia's territory is located in the temperate belt. The Arctic Ocean's islands, as well as this country's Arctic territories, are located in the Arctic and sub-Arctic belts. At the same time, a small section of the Caucasus' Black Sea coast is located in the sub-tropical belt. Russia boasts just about every conceivable natural climatic zone -- tundra, forest-tundra, forests, forest-steppes and semi-deserts. In addition, the permafrost zone covers big expanses in Siberia and the Far East.

The climate is mostly continental, with average January temperatures ranging from 0 to minus five degrees Centigrade in Western European Russia to minus 40-50 degrees Centigrade in east Yakutia ( Sakha Republic). Average July temperatures range from plus one degree Centigrade on the northern Siberian coast to plus 24-25 degrees Centigrade in Russia's CisCaspian lowland. Some 150-2,000 mm of precipitation fall annually on Russian territory.

Russia boasts 120,000 rivers with a length of 10 km or greater each. The majority of all local rivers, major rivers included (Ob, Irtysh, Yenisei and Lena) are located in the Arctic Ocean basin. The Amur, Anadyr, Penzhina and some other rivers flow into the Pacific Ocean. The Don, Kuban and Neva rivers flow into the seas bordering the Atlantic Ocean. Russia's main river, the Volga, flows all the way to the Caspian Sea.

Generally, Russian rivers stretch for 3 million km, dumping nearly 4,000 cu. km. of water annually.

Around 2 million fresh- and salt-water lakes are scattered across Russia. The largest lakes are the Caspian, Baikal, Ladoga, Onega and Taimyr. Lake Baikal, which attracts scores of foreign environmentalists, is the largest fresh-water lake in the world, having an average depth of 730 m (and a maximum depth of 1,620 m).

Forests cover some 40 per cent of the entire Russian land mass, with total timber reserves of 79 billion cu. m. The largest forests can be found in the Siberian taiga, the Far East and the northern European territories. Coniferous trees (fir trees, pine trees, cedars, larches, firs, etc.) are the predominant tree varieties there. Mixed forests are typical of mid-Russian regions.

Mountain ranges are mostly located in Russia's eastern regions and in some of its southern areas, as well. The Ural mountain range, for one, constitutes a natural boundary separating European and Asian Russia. Various mountain ranges making up the northern slope of the Greater Caucasian mountain range are located in southern Russia. Another mountain chain, including the Altai range, is to be found in southern Siberia. The Kamchatka mountains (including some active volcanoes) stretch along the Pacific coast.

January 1-5: New Year Holidays
January 7: Christmas, Russian Orthodox
February 23: Protector of Motherland Day
March 8: International Women's Day
May 1 Spring and Labor Day
May 9 Victory Day (Over German Nazism in the WW2)
June 12 Independence Day
November 4 Day of the National Unity

All prices are generally quoted in rubles. 1 Rouble = 100 Copeicas. Currency can be freely converted at banks, hotels or kiosks specifically for tourists.

Places of interest:
1. Moscow
2. Saint Petersburg
3. Novgorod
4. Pskov
5. Pechory
6. Tsarskoye Selo
7. Pavlovsk
8. Peterhoff
9. Vitoslavitsy
10. Sergijev Posad