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Russia, also called the Russian Federation, is the largest country in the world spanning across two continents, Europe and Asia, and crossing eleven time zones. Russia shares land borders with the following countries (counter-clockwise from northwest to southeast): Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, and North Korea. It is also close to the United States (the state of Alaska), Sweden, and Japan across relatively small stretches of water. Because of its size, Russia displays both monotony and diversity. As with its topography, its climates, vegetation, and soils span vast distances. From north to south the East European Plain is clad sequentially in tundra, coniferous forest, mixed forest, broad leaf forest, grassland, and semi desert as the changes in vegetation reflect the changes in climate. Siberia supports a similar sequence but lacks the mixed forest. Most of Siberia is taiga.

Russia has the world\'s largest forest reserves. It is often called \"the lungs of Europe\". Russia was previously considered a superpower of the world when it was under soviet control as the USSR. Since the fall of the USSR it has regressed to simply a great power. Russia is part of the United Nations Security Council, is one of five nations to have nuclear capabilities, and holds the worlds\' largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. Russia is run by a federal presidential republic where the president is the head of state and head of the government. Since the fall of the USSR, Russia has been fighting to gain headway in economic terms. It is trying to create a market economy and after many years of fighting it finally reached a GDP of $1.5 trillion in 2004 making it the ninth largest economy in the world.

The population of Russia is only 142 million due in part to its landscape that covers much of the arctic areas. Russian is the official language of Russia. While Russian Orthodoxy is the prominent religion, there is a strong Islamic presence. Russia is a large and culturally diverse country with dozens of ethnic groups; each with their own forms of folk music. Russian literature is considered to be among the most influential literature in the world. Russia has a rich literary history, beginning with the poet Alexander Pushkin, considered the greatest Russian poet and often described as the \"Russian Shakespeare\". Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed the most famous works of ballet-Swan Lake, the Nutcracker, and Sleeping Beauty. Traditional Russian cuisine is an important part of Russian national culture. Russian cuisine is one of the most popular and widely spread in the world and derives its rich and varied character from the vast and multicultural expanse of Russia. Its foundations were laid by the peasant food of the rural population in an often harsh climate, with a combination of plentiful fish, poultry, game, mushrooms, berries, and honey. Moscow is one of the places most visited by tourists. It is a city rich with its old, traditional culture and yet it has a great influence from the West. It is a must on any travel list.

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Quick Facts

Population: 138,082,178
Capital: Moscow
Per-capita GDP: $ 17000
Size: 17,098,242 km2
Time Zone: (GMT + 03:00 hours) Baghdad

US State Department

Travel Warning: YES
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Country Specific Info.

Country information is adapted from public domain resources including the CIA World Fact Book and
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