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Russia is one of the most sparsely populated and urbanised countries in the world; it had a population of 142.8 million according to the 2010 census which rose to 146.2 million as of 2021. It is the most populous country in Europe and the ninth-most populous country in the world; with a population density of 9 inhabitants per square kilometre (23 per square mile). The overall life expectancy in Russia at birth is 73.2 years (68.2 years for males and 78.0 years for females).

Since the 1990s Russia's death rate has exceeded its birth rate. In 2018 the total fertility rate across Russia was estimated to be 1.6 children born per woman which is below the replacement rate of 2.1 and one of the lowest fertility rates in the world. Subsequently the country has one of the oldest populations in the world with an average age of 40.3 years. In 2009 it recorded annual population growth for the first time in fifteen years; since the 2010s Russia has seen increased population growth due to declining death rates increased birth rates and increased immigration.

Russia is a multinational state home to over 193 ethnic groups. In the 2010 Census roughly 81% of the population were ethnic Russians while rest of the 19% of the population were minorities; while around 84.93% of the Russia's population was of European descent of which the vast majority were Slavs with minorities of Germanic Baltic-Finns and other peoples. There are 22 republics in Russia designated to have their own ethnicities cultures and languages. In 13 of them ethnic Russians consist a minority. According to the United Nations Russia's immigrant population is the third-largest in the world numbering over 11.6 million; most of which are from post-Soviet states mainly Ukrainians.


Russia's official language is Russian. However Russia's 193 minority ethnic groups speak over 100 languages. According to the 2002 Census 142.6 million people speak Russian followed by Tatar with 5.3 million and Ukrainian with 1.8 million speakers. The constitution gives the individual republics of the country the right to establish their own state languages in addition to Russian.

Russian is the most spoken native language in Europe the most geographically widespread language of Eurasia as well as the most widely spoken Slavic language in the world. It belongs to the Indo-European language family is one of the living members of the East Slavic languages and is among the larger Balto-Slavic languages. It is the second-most used language on the Internet after English one of two official languages aboard the International Space Station and is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.


Russia is a secular state by constitution and its largest religion is Christianity. It has the world's largest Orthodox population. As of a different sociological surveys on religious adherence; between 41% to over 80% of the total population of Russia adhere to the Russian Orthodox Church.

In 2017 a survey made by the Pew Research Center showed that 73% of Russians declared themselves Christians—including 71% Orthodox 1% Catholic and 2% Other Christians while 15% were unaffiliated 10% were Muslims and 1% were from other religions. According to various reports the proportion of Atheists in Russia is between 16% and 48% of the population.

Islam is the second-largest religion in Russia. It is the traditional or predominant religion amongst the Caucasian ethnicities of the North Caucasus and amongst some Turkic peoples of the Volga Region. Buddhism is traditional in three republics of Russia: Buryatia Tuva and Kalmykia the latter being the only region in Europe where Buddhism is the most practiced religion.


Russia has the highest college-level or higher graduates in terms of percentage of population in the world at 54%. It has a free education system which is guaranteed for all citizens by the constitution. Since 1990 the 11-year school education has been introduced. Education in state-owned secondary schools is free. University level education is free with exceptions. A substantial share of students are enrolled for full pay (many state institutions started to open commercial positions in the last years).

The oldest and largest universities in Russia are Moscow State University and Saint Petersburg State University. In the 2000s in order to create higher education and research institutions of comparable scale in Russian regions the government launched a program of establishing federal universities mostly by merging existing large regional universities and research institutes and providing them with a special funding. These new institutions include the Southern Federal University Siberian Federal University Kazan Volga Federal University North-Eastern Federal University and Far Eastern Federal University.


The constitution of Russia guarantees free universal health care for every single Russian citizen through a compulsory state health insurance program. The Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation oversees the Russian public healthcare system and the sector employs more than two million people. Federal regions also have their own departments of health that oversee local administration. Russia has the highest number of physicians hospitals and health care workers in the world on a per capita basis.

According the World Bank Russia spent 5.32% of its GDP on healthcare in 2018. It has one of the world's most female-biased sex ratios with 0.859 males to every female. In 2019 the overall life expectancy in Russia at birth was 73.2 years (68.2 years for males and 78.0 years for females) and it had a very low infant mortality rate (5 per 1 000 live births). Obesity is a major health issue in Russia. In 2016 61.1% of Russian adults were overweight or obese while 23.1% were obese. In 2017 roughly 16% of Russia's deaths were attributed to obesity while per 100 000 Russians 123.27 died due to being obese.


The name Russia is derived from Rus' a medieval state populated primarily by the East Slavs. However this proper name became more prominent in later history and the country typically was called by its inhabitants "Русская земля" (Russkaya zemlya) which can be translated as "Russian land" or "land of Rus". In order to distinguish this state from other states derived from it it is denoted as Kievan Rus' by modern historiography. The name Rus' itself comes from the early medieval Rus' people and Swedish merchants and warriors who relocated from across the Baltic Sea and founded a state centred on Novgorod that later became Kievan Rus'.

An old Latin version of the name Rus' was Ruthenia mostly applied to the western and southern regions of Rus' that were adjacent to Catholic Europe. The current name of the country Россия (Rossiya) comes from the Byzantine Greek designation of the Rus' Ρωσσία Rossía—spelled Ρωσία (Rosía pronounced [roˈsia]) in Modern Greek.

The standard way to refer to the citizens of Russia is "Russians" in English. There are two words in Russian which are commonly translated into English as "Russians"—one is "русские" (russkiye) which most often refers to ethnic Russians—and the other is "россияне" (rossiyane) which refers to the citizens of Russia regardless of ethnicity.


Vladimir Putin
Mikhail Mishustin

Prime Minister

According to the Constitution of Russia the country is an asymmetric federation and semi-presidential republic wherein the President is the head of state and the Prime Minister is the head of government. The Russian Federation is fundamentally structured as a multi-party representative democracy with the federal government composed of three branches:

Legislative: The bicameral Federal Assembly of Russia made up of the 450-member State Duma and the 170-member Federation Council adopts federal law declares war approves treaties has the power of the purse and the power of impeachment of the President.
Executive: The President is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces can veto legislative bills before they become law and appoints the Government of Russia (Cabinet) and other officers who administer and enforce federal laws and policies.
Judiciary: The Constitutional Court Supreme Court and lower federal courts whose judges are appointed by the Federation Council on the recommendation of the President interpret laws and can overturn laws they deem unconstitutional.
The president is elected by popular vote for a six-year term (eligible for a second term but not for a third consecutive term). Ministries of the government are composed of the Premier and his deputies ministers and selected other individuals; all are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Prime Minister (whereas the appointment of the latter requires the consent of the State Duma).

Political divisions

According to the constitution Russia comprises 85 federal subjects.[e] In 1993 when the new constitution was adopted there were 89 federal subjects listed but later some of them were merged. These subjects have equal representation—two delegates each—in the Federation Council. However they differ in the degree of autonomy they enjoy.

46 oblasts (provinces): most common type of federal subjects with locally elected governor and legislature.
22 republics: nominally autonomous; each is tasked with drafting its own constitution direct-elected head of republic or a similar post and parliament. Republics are allowed to establish their own official language alongside Russian but are represented by the federal government in international affairs. Republics are meant to be home to specific ethnic minorities.
9 krais (territories): essentially the same as oblasts. The "territory" designation is historic originally given to frontier regions and later also to the administrative divisions that comprised autonomous okrugs or autonomous oblasts.
4 autonomous okrugs (autonomous districts): originally autonomous entities within oblasts and krais created for ethnic minorities their status was elevated to that of federal subjects in the 1990s. With the exception of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug all autonomous okrugs are still administratively subordinated to a krai or an oblast of which they are a part.
1 autonomous oblast (the Jewish Autonomous Oblast): historically autonomous oblasts were administrative units subordinated to krais. In 1990 all of them except for the Jewish Autonomous Oblast were elevated in status to that of a republic.
3 federal cities (Moscow Saint Petersburg and Sevastopol): major cities that function as separate regions.
Federal districts
Federal subjects are grouped into eight federal districts each administered by an envoy appointed by the President of Russia. Unlike the federal subjects the federal districts are not a subnational level of government but are a level of administration of the federal government.

Foreign relations

As of 2019[update] Russia has the fifth-largest diplomatic network in the world; maintaining diplomatic relations with 190 United Nations member states two partially-recognized states and three United Nations observer states; with 144 embassies. It is considered a potential superpower; and is one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Russia is a member of the G20 the Council of Europe the OSCE and the APEC and takes a leading role in organisations such as the CIS the EAEU the CSTO the SCO and BRICS.

Russia maintains positive relations with other SCO and BRICS countries. In the 21st century Sino-Russian relations have significantly strengthened bilaterally and economically—the Treaty of Friendship and the construction of the ESPO oil pipeline and the Power of Siberia gas pipeline formed a special relationship between the two great powers. India is the largest customer of Russian military equipment and the two countries share a historically strong strategic and diplomatic relationship.


The Russian Armed Forces are divided into the Ground Forces Navy and Aerospace Forces. There are also two independent arms of service: Strategic Missile Troops and the Airborne Troops. As of 2019[update] the military had almost one million active duty personnel the fourth-largest in the world. Additionally there are over 2.5 million reservists with the total number of reserve troops possibly being as high as 20 million. It is mandatory for all male citizens aged 18–27 to be drafted for a year of service in Armed Forces.

Russia boasts the world's second-most powerful military and is among the five recognised nuclear-weapons states with the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world. More than half of the world's 14 000 nuclear weapons are owned by Russia. The country possesses the second-largest fleet of ballistic missile submarines and is one of the only three states operating strategic bombers with the world's most powerful ground force the second-most powerful air force and the third-most powerful navy fleet. Russia has the fourth-highest military expenditure in the world spending $65.1 billion in 2019. It has a large and fully indigenous arms industry producing most of its own military equipment. In 2019 Russia was the world's third-biggest exporter of arms behind only the United States and China.

Human rights and corruption

Russia's human rights management has been increasingly criticised by leading democracy and human rights watchdogs. In particular such organisations as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch consider Russia to have not enough democratic attributes and to allow few political rights and civil liberties to its citizens. Since 2004 Freedom House has ranked Russia as "not free" in its Freedom in the World survey. Since 2011 the Economist Intelligence Unit has ranked Russia as an "authoritarian regime" in its Democracy Index ranking it 124th out of 167 countries for 2020. Russia was ranked 149th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders' Press Freedom Index for 2020.

Russia was the lowest rated European country in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index for 2020; ranking 129th out of 180 countries. Corruption is perceived as a significant problem in Russia impacting various aspects of life including the economy business public administration law enforcement healthcare and education. The phenomenon of corruption is strongly established in the historical model of public governance in Russia and attributed to general weakness of rule of law in Russia.


Early history

Nomadic pastoralism developed in the Pontic-Caspian steppe beginning in the Chalcolithic. In classical antiquity the Pontic Steppe was known as Scythia.

Beginning in the 8th century BC Ancient Greek traders brought their civilization to the trade emporiums located in the Russian cities of Tanais and Phanagoria.

In the 3rd to 4th centuries AD the Gothic kingdom of Oium existed in Southern Russia which was later overrun by Huns. Between the 3rd and 6th centuries AD the Bosporan Kingdom which was a Hellenistic polity that succeeded the Greek colonies was also overwhelmed by nomadic invasions led by warlike tribes such as the Huns and Eurasian Avars. A Turkic people the Khazars ruled the lower Volga basin steppes between the Caspian and Black Seas until the 10th century.

The ancestors of modern Russians are the Slavic tribes whose original home is thought by some scholars to have been the wooded areas of the Pinsk Marshes one of the largest wetlands in Europe. The East Slavs gradually settled Western Russia in two waves: one moving from Kiev toward present-day Suzdal and Murom and another from Polotsk toward Novgorod and Rostov. From the 7th century onwards the East Slavs constituted the bulk of the population in Western Russia and assimilated the native Finno-Ugric peoples including the Merya the Muromians and the Meshchera.

Kievan Rus'

The establishment of the first East Slavic states in the 9th century coincided with the arrival of Varangians the Vikings who ventured along the waterways extending from the eastern Baltic to the Black and Caspian Seas. According to the Primary Chronicle a Varangian from the Rus' people named Rurik was elected ruler of Novgorod in 862. In 882 his successor Oleg ventured south and conquered Kiev which had been previously paying tribute to the Khazars. Oleg Rurik's son Igor and Igor's son Sviatoslav subsequently subdued all local East Slavic tribes to Kievan rule destroyed the Khazar Khaganate and launched several military expeditions to Byzantium and Persia.

In the 10th to 11th centuries Kievan Rus' became one of the largest and most prosperous states in Europe. The reigns of Vladimir the Great (980–1015) and his son Yaroslav the Wise (1019–1054) constitute the Golden Age of Kiev which saw the acceptance of Orthodox Christianity from Byzantium and the creation of the first East Slavic written legal code the Russkaya Pravda.

In the 11th and 12th centuries constant incursions by nomadic Turkic tribes such as the Kipchaks and the Pechenegs caused a massive migration of the East Slavic populations to the safer heavily forested regions of the north particularly to the area known as Zalesye; which led to intermingling with the native Volga Finnic tribes.

The age of feudalism and decentralization had come marked by constant in-fighting between members of the Rurikid Dynasty that ruled Kievan Rus' collectively. Kiev's dominance waned to the benefit of Vladimir-Suzdal in the north-east Novgorod Republic in the north-west and Galicia-Volhynia in the south-west.

Ultimately Kievan Rus' disintegrated with the final blow being the Mongol invasion of 1237–40 that resulted in the destruction of Kiev and the death of about half the population of Rus'. The invaders later known as Tatars formed the state of the Golden Horde which pillaged the Russian principalities and ruled the southern and central expanses of Russia for over two centuries.

Galicia-Volhynia was eventually assimilated by the Kingdom of Poland while the Novgorod Republic and Mongol-dominated Vladimir-Suzdal two regions on the periphery of Kiev established the basis for the modern Russian nation. The Novgorod Republic escaped Mongol occupation and together with Pskov retained some degree of autonomy during the time of the Mongol yoke; they were largely spared the atrocities that affected the rest of the country. Led by Prince Alexander Nevsky Novgorodians repelled the invading Swedes in the Battle of the Neva in 1240 as well as the Germanic crusaders in the Battle of the Ice in 1242.

Grand Duchy of Moscow

The most powerful state to eventually arise after the destruction of Kievan Rus' was the Grand Duchy of Moscow initially a part of Vladimir-Suzdal. While still under the domain of the Mongol-Tatars and with their connivance Moscow began to assert its influence in the Central Rus' in the early 14th century gradually becoming the leading force in the process of the Rus' lands' reunification and expansion of Russia. Moscow's last rival the Novgorod Republic prospered as the chief fur trade centre and the easternmost port of the Hanseatic League.

Times remained difficult with frequent Mongol-Tatar raids. Agriculture suffered from the beginning of the Little Ice Age. As in the rest of Europe plague was a frequent occurrence between 1350 and 1490. However because of the lower population density and better hygiene—widespread practicing of banya a wet steam bath—the death rate from plague was not as severe as in Western Europe and population numbers recovered by 1500.

Led by Prince Dmitry Donskoy of Moscow and helped by the Russian Orthodox Church the united army of Russian principalities inflicted a milestone defeat on the Mongol-Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380. Moscow gradually absorbed the surrounding principalities including formerly strong rivals such as Tver and Novgorod.

Ivan III ("the Great") finally threw off the control of the Golden Horde and consolidated the whole of Central and Northern Rus' under Moscow's dominion. He was also the first to take the title "Grand Duke of all the Russias". After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 Moscow claimed succession to the legacy of the Eastern Roman Empire. Ivan III married Sophia Palaiologina the niece of the last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI and made the Byzantine double-headed eagle his own and eventually Russia's coat-of-arms.

Tsardom of Russia

In development of the Third Rome ideas the Grand Duke Ivan IV (the "Terrible") was officially crowned first Tsar of Russia in 1547. The Tsar promulgated a new code of laws (Sudebnik of 1550) established the first Russian feudal representative body (Zemsky Sobor) and introduced local self-management into the rural regions.

During his long reign Ivan the Terrible nearly doubled the already large Russian territory by annexing the three Tatar khanates (parts of the disintegrated Golden Horde): Kazan and Astrakhan along the Volga River and the Siberian Khanate in southwestern Siberia. Thus by the end of the 16th century Russia was transformed into a transcontinental state.

However the Tsardom was weakened by the long and unsuccessful Livonian War against the coalition of Poland Lithuania and Sweden for access to the Baltic coast and sea trade. At the same time the Tatars of the Crimean Khanate the only remaining successor to the Golden Horde continued to raid Southern Russia. In an effort to restore the Volga khanates Crimeans and their Ottoman allies invaded central Russia and were even able to burn down parts of Moscow in 1571. But in the next year the large invading army was thoroughly defeated by Russians in the Battle of Molodi forever eliminating the threat of an Ottoman–Crimean expansion into Russia. The slave raids of Crimeans however did not cease until the late 17th century though the construction of new fortification lines across Southern Russia such as the Great Abatis Line constantly narrowed the area accessible to incursions.

The death of Ivan's sons marked the end of the ancient Rurik Dynasty in 1598 and in combination with the famine of 1601–03 led to a civil war the rule of pretenders and foreign intervention during the Time of Troubles in the early 17th century. The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth occupied parts of Russia including Moscow. In 1612 the Poles were forced to retreat by the Russian volunteer corps led by two national heroes merchant Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitry Pozharsky. The Romanov Dynasty acceded to the throne in 1613 by the decision of Zemsky Sobor and the country started its gradual recovery from the crisis.

Russia continued its territorial growth through the 17th century which was the age of Cossacks. In 1648 the peasants of Ukraine joined the Zaporozhian Cossacks in rebellion against Poland-Lithuania during the Khmelnytsky Uprising in reaction to the social and religious oppression they had been suffering under Polish rule. In 1654 the Ukrainian leader Bohdan Khmelnytsky offered to place Ukraine under the protection of the Russian Tsar Aleksey I. Aleksey's acceptance of this offer led to another Russo-Polish War. Finally Ukraine was split along the Dnieper River leaving the western part right-bank Ukraine under Polish rule and the eastern part (Left-bank Ukraine and Kiev) under Russian rule. Later in 1670–71 the Don Cossacks led by Stenka Razin initiated a major uprising in the Volga Region but the Tsar's troops were successful in defeating the rebels.

In the east the rapid Russian exploration and colonisation of the huge territories of Siberia was led mostly by Cossacks hunting for valuable furs and ivory. Russian explorers pushed eastward primarily along the Siberian River Routes and by the mid-17th century there were Russian settlements in Eastern Siberia on the Chukchi Peninsula along the Amur River and on the Pacific coast. In 1648 Fedot Popov and Semyon Dezhnyov two Russian explorers discovered the Bering Strait; which led to the Russians becoming the first Europeans to sail to North America.

Imperial Russia

Under Peter the Great Russia was proclaimed an Empire in 1721 and became recognised as a global power. Ruling from 1682 to 1725 Peter defeated Sweden in the Great Northern War forcing it to cede West Karelia and Ingria (two regions lost by Russia in the Time of Troubles) as well as Estland and Livland securing Russia's access to the sea and sea trade. On the Baltic Sea Peter founded a new capital named Saint Petersburg. Later his reforms brought considerable Western European cultural influences to Russia.

The reign of Peter I's daughter Elizabeth in 1741–62 saw Russia's participation in the Seven Years' War (1756–63). During this conflict Russia annexed East Prussia for a while and even took Berlin. However upon Elizabeth's death all these conquests were returned to the Kingdom of Prussia by pro-Prussian Peter III of Russia.

Catherine II ("the Great") who ruled in 1762–96 presided over the Age of Russian Enlightenment. She extended Russian political control over the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and incorporated most of its territories into Russia during the Partitions of Poland pushing the Russian frontier westward into Central Europe. In the south after successful Russo-Turkish Wars against Ottoman Turkey Catherine advanced Russia's boundary to the Black Sea defeating the Crimean Khanate. As a result of victories over Qajar Iran through the Russo-Persian Wars by the first half of the 19th century Russia also made significant territorial gains in Transcaucasia and the North Caucasus. Catherine's successor her son Paul was unstable and focused predominantly on domestic issues. Following his short reign Catherine's strategy was continued with Alexander I's (1801–25) wresting of Finland from the weakened kingdom of Sweden in 1809 and of Bessarabia from the Ottomans in 1812. At the same time Russians became the first Europeans to colonise Alaska and founded settlements in California such as Fort Ross.

In 1803–1806 the first Russian circumnavigation was made later followed by other notable Russian sea exploration voyages. In 1820 a Russian expedition discovered the continent of Antarctica.

In alliances with various other European countries Russia fought against Napoleon's France. The French invasion of Russia at the height of Napoleon's power in 1812 reached Moscow but eventually failed miserably as the obstinate resistance in combination with the bitterly cold Russian winter led to a disastrous defeat of invaders in which more than 95% of the pan-European Grande Armée perished. Led by Mikhail Kutuzov and Barclay de Tolly the Russian army ousted Napoleon from the country and drove throughout Europe in the war of the Sixth Coalition finally entering Paris. Alexander I headed Russia's delegation at the Congress of Vienna that defined the map of post-Napoleonic Europe.

The officers of the Napoleonic Wars brought ideas of liberalism back to Russia with them and attempted to curtail the tsar's powers during the abortive Decembrist revolt of 1825. At the end of the conservative reign of Nicolas I (1825–55) a zenith period of Russia's power and influence in Europe was disrupted by defeat in the Crimean War. Between 1847 and 1851 about one million people died of Asiatic cholera.

Nicholas's successor Alexander II (1855–81) enacted significant changes in the country including the emancipation reform of 1861. These Great Reforms spurred industrialisation and modernised the Russian army which had successfully liberated Bulgaria from Ottoman rule in the 1877–78 Russo-Turkish War.

The late 19th century saw the rise of various socialist movements in Russia. Alexander II was killed in 1881 by revolutionary terrorists and the reign of his son
Alexander III (1881–94) was less liberal but more peaceful. The last Russian Emperor Nicholas II (1894–1917) was unable to prevent the events of the Russian Revolution of 1905 triggered by the unsuccessful Russo-Japanese War and the demonstration incident known as Bloody Sunday. The uprising was put down but the government was forced to concede major reforms (Russian Constitution of 1906) including granting the freedoms of speech and assembly the legalisation of political parties and the creation of an elected legislative body the State Duma of the Russian Empire. The Stolypin agrarian reform led to a massive peasant migration and settlement into Siberia. More than four million settlers arrived in that region between 1906 and 1914.

February Revolution and Russian Republic

In 1914 Russia entered World War I in response to Austria-Hungary's declaration of war on Russia's ally Serbia and fought across multiple fronts while isolated from its Triple Entente allies. In 1916 the Brusilov Offensive of the Russian Army almost completely destroyed the military of Austria-Hungary. However the already-existing public distrust of the regime was deepened by the rising costs of war high casualties and rumors of corruption and treason. All this formed the climate for the Russian Revolution of 1917 carried out in two major acts.

The February Revolution forced Nicholas II to abdicate; he and his family were imprisoned and later executed in Yekaterinburg during the Russian Civil War. The monarchy was replaced by a shaky coalition of political parties that declared itself the Provisional Government. On 1 September (14) 1917 upon a decree of the Provisional Government the Russian Republic was proclaimed. On 6 January (19) 1918 the Russian Constituent Assembly declared Russia a democratic federal republic (thus ratifying the Provisional Government's decision). The next day the Constituent Assembly was dissolved by the All-Russian Central Executive Committee.

Russian Civil War

An alternative socialist establishment co-existed the Petrograd Soviet wielding power through the democratically elected councils of workers and peasants called Soviets. The rule of the new authorities only aggravated the crisis in the country instead of resolving it. Eventually the October Revolution led by Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin overthrew the Provisional Government and gave full governing power to the Soviets leading to the creation of the world's first socialist state.

Following the October Revolution the Russian Civil War broke out between the anti-Communist White movement and the new Soviet regime with its Red Army. Bolshevist Russia lost its Ukrainian Polish Baltic and Finnish territories by signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk that concluded hostilities with the Central Powers of World War I. The Allied powers launched an unsuccessful military intervention in support of anti-Communist forces. In the meantime both the Bolsheviks and White movement carried out campaigns of deportations and executions against each other known respectively as the Red Terror and White Terror. By the end of the civil war Russia's economy and infrastructure were heavily damaged. There were an estimated 7–12 million casualties during the war mostly civilians. Millions became White émigrés and the Russian famine of 1921–22 claimed up to five million victims.

Soviet Union

On 30 December 1922 Lenin and his aides formed the Soviet Union by merging the Russian SFSR with the Ukrainian Byelorussian and the Transcaucasian SFSR. Out of the 15 republics of the Soviet Union the largest in size and population was the Russian SFSR which dominated the union for its entire history politically culturally and economically.

Following Lenin's death in 1924 a troika was designated to take charge. Eventually Joseph Stalin the General Secretary of the Communist Party managed to suppress all opposition factions and consolidate power in his hands to become the country's dictator by the 1930s. Leon Trotsky the main proponent of world revolution was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1929 and Stalin's idea of Socialism in One Country became the official line. The continued internal struggle in the Bolshevik party culminated in the Great Purge a period of mass repressions in 1937–38 during which hundreds of thousands of people were executed including original party members and military leaders forced to confess to nonexistent plots.

Under Stalin's leadership the government launched a command economy industrialisation of the largely rural country and collectivisation of its agriculture. During this period of rapid economic and social change millions of people were sent to penal labor camps including many political convicts for their suspected or real opposition to Stalin's rule; millions were deported and exiled to remote areas of the Soviet Union. The transitional disorganisation of the country's agriculture combined with the harsh state policies and a drought led to the Soviet famine of 1932–1933 which killed between 2 and 3 million people in the Russian SFSR. The Soviet Union made the costly transformation from a largely agrarian economy to a major industrial powerhouse in a short span of time.

World War II

On 22 June 1941 Nazi Germany broke their non-aggression treaty; and invaded the ill-prepared Soviet Union with the largest and most powerful invasion force in human history opening the largest theater of World War II. The Nazi Hunger Plan foresaw the "extinction of industry as well as a great part of the population". Nearly 3 million Soviet POWs in German captivity were murdered in just eight months of 1941–42. Although the Wehrmacht had considerable early success their attack was halted in the Battle of Moscow. Subsequently the Germans were dealt major defeats first at the Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942–43 and then in the Battle of Kursk in the summer of 1943. Another German failure was the Siege of Leningrad in which the city was fully blockaded on land between 1941 and 1944 by German and Finnish forces and suffered starvation and more than a million deaths but never surrendered. Under Stalin's administration and the leadership of such commanders as Georgy Zhukov and Konstantin Rokossovsky Soviet forces steamrolled through Eastern Europe in 1944–45 and captured Berlin in May 1945. In August 1945 the Soviet Army ousted the Japanese from China's Manchukuo and North Korea contributing to the allied victory over Japan.

The 1941–45 period of World War II is known in Russia as the "Great Patriotic War". The Soviet Union together with the United States the United Kingdom and China were considered as the Big Four of Allied powers in World War II and later became the Four Policemen which was the foundation of the United Nations Security Council. During this war which included many of the most lethal battle operations in human history Soviet civilian and military death were about 27 million accounting for about a third of all World War II casualties. The full demographic loss to the Soviet peoples was even greater. The Soviet economy and infrastructure suffered massive devastation which caused the Soviet famine of 1946–47 but the Soviet Union emerged as an acknowledged superpower.

Cold War

After the war Eastern and Central Europe including East Germany and parts of Austria were occupied by Red Army according to the Potsdam Conference. Dependent socialist governments were installed in the Eastern Bloc satellite states. Becoming the world's second nuclear power the USSR established the Warsaw Pact alliance and entered into a struggle for global dominance known as the Cold War with the United States and NATO.

After Stalin's death and a short period of collective rule the new leader Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin and launched the policy of de-Stalinisation. The penal labor system was reformed and many prisoners were released and rehabilitated (many of them posthumously). The general easement of repressive policies became known later as the Khrushchev Thaw. At the same time tensions with the United States heightened when the two rivals clashed over the deployment of the United States Jupiter missiles in Turkey and Soviet missiles in Cuba.

In 1957 the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite Sputnik 1 thus starting the Space Age. Russia's cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth aboard the Vostok 1 manned spacecraft on 12 April 1961. Following the ousting of Khrushchev in 1964 another period of collective rule ensued until Leonid Brezhnev became the leader. The era of the 1970s and the early 1980s was later designated as the Era of Stagnation a period when economic growth slowed and social policies became static. The 1965 Kosygin reform aimed for partial decentralisation of the Soviet economy and shifted the emphasis from heavy industry and weapons to light industry and consumer goods but was stifled by the conservative Communist leadership. In 1979 after a Communist-led revolution in Afghanistan Soviet forces entered that country. The occupation drained economic resources and dragged on without achieving meaningful political results. Ultimately the Soviet Army was withdrawn from Afghanistan in 1989 due to international opposition persistent anti-Soviet guerrilla warfare and a lack of support by Soviet citizens.

From 1985 onwards the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev who sought to enact liberal reforms in the Soviet system introduced the policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt to end the period of economic stagnation and to democratise the government. This however led to the rise of strong nationalist and separatist movements. Prior to 1991 the Soviet economy was the second largest in the world but during its last years it was afflicted by shortages of goods in grocery stores huge budget deficits and explosive growth in the money supply leading to inflation.

By 1991 economic and political turmoil began to boil over as the Baltic states chose to secede from the Soviet Union. On 17 March a referendum was held in which the vast majority of participating citizens voted in favour of changing the Soviet Union into a renewed federation. In August 1991 a coup d'état attempt by members of Gorbachev's government directed against Gorbachev and aimed at preserving the Soviet Union instead led to the end of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. On 25 December 1991 the USSR was dissolved into 15 post-Soviet states.

Post-Soviet Russia (1991–present)

In June 1991 Boris Yeltsin became the first directly elected president in Russian history when he was elected President of the Russian SFSR which became the independent Russian Federation in December of that year. The economic and political collapse of the Soviet Union led to a deep and prolonged depression characterised by a 50% decline in both GDP and industrial output between 1990 and 1995 although some of the recorded declines may have been a result of an upward bias in Soviet-era economic data. During and after the disintegration of the Soviet Union wide-ranging reforms including privatisation and market and trade liberalisation were undertaken including radical changes along the lines of "shock therapy" as recommended by the United States and the International Monetary Fund.

The privatisation largely shifted control of enterprises from state agencies to individuals with inside connections in the government. Many of the newly rich moved billions in cash and assets outside of the country in an enormous capital flight. The depression of the economy led to the collapse of social services; the birth rate plummeted while the death rate skyrocketed. Millions plunged into poverty from a level of 1.5% in the late Soviet era to 39–49% by mid-1993. The 1990s saw extreme corruption and lawlessness the rise of criminal gangs and violent crime.

In late 1993 tensions between Yeltsin and the Russian parliament culminated in a constitutional crisis which ended after military force. During the crisis Yeltsin was backed by Western governments and over 100 people were killed. In December a referendum was held and approved which introduced a new constitution giving the president enormous powers.

The 1990s were plagued by armed conflicts in the North Caucasus both local ethnic skirmishes and separatist Islamist insurrections. From the time Chechen separatists declared independence in the early 1990s an intermittent guerrilla war has been fought between the rebel groups and the Russian Armed Forces. Terrorist attacks against civilians carried out by separatists most notably the Moscow theater hostage crisis and Beslan school siege caused hundreds of deaths.

Russia took up the responsibility for settling the Soviet Union's external debts even though its population made up just half of it at the time of its dissolution. In 1992 most consumer price controls were eliminated causing extreme inflation and significantly devaluing the Ruble. With a devalued Ruble the Russian government struggled to pay back its debts to internal debtors as well as international institutions like the International Monetary Fund. Despite significant attempts at economic restructuring Russia's debt outpaced GDP growth. High budget deficits coupled with increasing capital flight and inability to pay back debts caused the 1998 Russian financial crisis and resulted in a further GDP decline.

Putin era

On 31 December 1999 President Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned handing the post to the recently appointed Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Yeltsin left office widely unpopular with an approval rating as low as 2% by some estimates. Putin then won the 2000 presidential election and suppressed the Chechen insurgency. As a result of high oil prices a rise in foreign investment and prudent economic and fiscal policies the Russian economy grew for eight straight years; improving the standard of living and increasing Russia's influence on the world stage. Putin went on to win a second presidential term in 2004. Following the global economic crisis of 2008 and a subsequent drop in oil prices Russia's economy stagnated in 2009. And from 2010 to 2013 Russia enjoyed high economic growth; until falling oil prices coupled with international sanctions after the annexation of Crimea and the Russo-Ukrainian War led to the economy shrinking in 2015 though it rebounded in 2016 and the recession officially ended. Many reforms made during the Putin presidency have been criticised as authoritarian while Putin's leadership over the return of order stability and prosperity has won him widespread admiration in Russia.

On 2 March 2008 Dmitry Medvedev was elected President of Russia while Putin became Prime Minister. The Constitution of Russia prohibited Putin from serving a third consecutive presidential term. Putin returned to the presidency following the 2012 presidential elections and Medvedev was appointed Prime Minister. This quick succession in leadership change was coined "tandemocracy" by outside media. Some critics claimed that the leadership change was superficial and that Putin remained as the decision making force in the Russian government while other political analysts viewed it as truly tandem. Alleged fraud in the 2011 parliamentary elections and Putin's return to the presidency in 2012 sparked mass protests.

In 2014 after President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine fled as a result of a revolution Putin requested and received authorisation from the Russian parliament to deploy Russian troops to Ukraine leading to the takeover of Crimea. Following a Crimean referendum in which separation was favoured by a large majority of voters the Russian leadership announced the accession of Crimea into the Russian Federation though this and the referendum that preceded it were not accepted internationally. The annexation of Crimea led to sanctions by Western countries in which the Russian government responded with its own against a number of countries.

In September 2015 Russia started military intervention in the Syrian Civil War in support of the Syrian government consisting of air strikes against militant groups of the Islamic State al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda in the Levant) the Army of Conquest and other rebel groups.

In 2018 Putin was elected for a fourth presidential term overall. In January 2020 substantial amendments to the Constitution of Russia were proposed and took effect in July following a national vote allowing Putin to run for two more six-year presidential terms after his current term ends. The vote was originally scheduled for April but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Russia.

See also


Russia has an upper-middle income mixed and transition economy with enormous natural resources particularly oil and natural gas. It has the world's eleventh-largest economy by nominal GDP and the sixth-largest by PPP. According to the IMF Russia's GDP per capita by PPP is $29 485 as of 2021. The average nominal salary in Russia was ₽51 083 per month in 2020 and approximately 12.9% of Russians lived below the national poverty line in 2018. Unemployment in Russia was 4.5% in 2019 and officially more than 70% of the Russian population is categorised as middle class; though this is disputed. By the end of December 2019 Russian foreign trade turnover reached $666.6 billion. Russia's exports totalled over $422.8 billion while its imported goods were worth over $243.8 billion. As of December 2020[update] foreign reserves in Russia are worth $444 billion.

Oil natural gas metals and timber account for more than 80% of Russian exports abroad. In 2016 the oil-and-gas sector accounted for 36% of federal budget revenues. In 2019 the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry estimated the value of natural resources to 60% of the country's GDP. Russia has one of the lowest foreign debts among major economies. It ranked 28th of 190 countries in the 2019 Ease of Doing Business Index. Russia has a flat tax rate of 13%; with the world's second most attractive personal tax system for single managers after the United Arab Emirates. Inequality of household income and wealth has also been noted with Credit Suisse finding Russian wealth distribution so much more extreme than other countries studied it "deserves to be placed in a separate category."


Railway transport in Russia is mostly under the control of the state-run Russian Railways. The total length of common-used railway tracks exceeds 85 500 km (53 127 mi) second only to the United States. The most renowned railway in Russia is the Trans-Siberian Railway the longest railway-line in the world. As of 2016[update] Russia had 1 452.2 km of roads; and its road density is the lowest among the BRICS. Much of Russia's inland waterways which total 102 000 km (63 380 mi) are made up of natural rivers or lakes. Among Russia's 1 216 airports the busiest are Sheremetyevo Domodedovo and Vnukovo in Moscow and Pulkovo in Saint Petersburg.

Major sea ports of Russia include Rostov-on-Don on the Sea of Azov Novorossiysk on the Black Sea Astrakhan and Makhachkala on the Caspian Sea Kaliningrad and Saint Petersburg on the Baltic Sea Arkhangelsk on the White Sea Murmansk on the Barents Sea Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean. The world's only fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers advances the economic exploitation of the Arctic continental shelf of Russia and the development of sea trade through the Northern Sea Route.

Russia is considered an energy superpower; with the world's largest natural gas reserves the second-largest coal reserves the eighth-largest oil reserves and the largest oil shale reserves in Europe. The country is the world's leading natural gas exporter the second-largest natural gas producer the second-largest oil exporter and the third-largest oil producer. Fossil fuels cause most of the greenhouse gas emissions by Russia. It is the fourth-largest electricity producer in the world and the ninth-largest renewable energy producer in 2019. It was the first country to develop civilian nuclear power and to construct the world's first nuclear power plant. In 2019 the country was the fourth-largest nuclear energy producer in the world; nuclear generated 20% of the country's electricity.

Agriculture and fishery