Study Abroad in Russia
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also the Russian Federation, is a country that stretches over a vast expanse of Eurasia. With an area of 17,075,400 square kilometres, Russia is the largest country in the world by land mass, and covers almost twice the territory of the next-largest country, Canada. It has the world's eighth largest population. Russia shares land borders with the following countries (counter-clockwise from NW to SE): Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, and North Korea. It is also close to the United States and Japan across relatively small stretches of water.
Formerly the dominant republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Russia is now an independent country and an influential member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, since the Union's dissolution in December 1991. During the Soviet era, Russia was officially called the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR). Russia is considered the Soviet Union's successor state in diplomatic matters.
Despite its comparatively high population, Russia has a low average population density due to its enormous size. Population is densest in the European part of Russia, in the Ural Mountains area, and in the south-western parts of Siberia; the south-eastern part of Siberia that meets the Pacific Ocean, known as the Russian Far East, is sparsely populated, with its southern part being densest. The Russian Federation is home to as many as 160 different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples. As of the Russian census (2002), 79.8% of the population is ethnically Russian, 3.8% Tatar, 2% Ukrainian, 1.2% Bashkir, 1.1% Chuvash, 0.9% Chechen, 0.8% Armenian. The remaining 10.3% includes those who did not specify their ethnicity as well as (in alphabetical order) Assyrians, Avars, Azeris, Belarusians, Bulgarians, Buryats, Chinese, Cossacks, Estonians, Evenks, Finns, Georgians, Germans, Greeks, Ingushes, Inuit, Jews, Kalmyks, Karelians, Kazakhs, Koreans, Kyrgyz, Lithuanians, Latvians, Maris, Mongolians, Mordvins, Nenetses, Ossetians, Poles, Romanians, Tajiks, Tuvans, Turkmen, Udmurts, Uzbeks, Yakuts, and others. Nearly all of these groups live compactly in their respective regions; Russians are the only people significantly represented in every region of the country.
The Russian language is the only official state language, but the individual republics have often made their native language co-official next to Russian. The Cyrillic alphabet is the only official script, which means that these languages must be written in Cyrillic in official texts.
Russia is the coldest country in the world. Because only small parts of Russia are south of 50° north latitude and more than half of the country is north of 60° north latitude, extensive regions experience six months of snow cover over subsoil that is permanently frozen to depths as far as several hundred meters. The average yearly temperature of nearly all of European Russia is below freezing, and the average for most of Siberia is freezing or below. Most of Russia has only two seasons, summer and winter, with very short intervals of moderation between them.
Because Russia has little exposure to ocean influences, most of the country receives low to moderate amounts of precipitation. Highest precipitation falls in the northwest, with amounts decreasing from northwest to southeast across European Russia. The wettest areas are the small, lush subtropical region adjacent to the Caucasus and along the Pacific coast. Along the Baltic coast, average annual precipitation is 600 millimeters, and in Moscow it is 525 millimeters. An average of only twenty millimeters falls along the Russian-Kazakh border, and as little as fifteen millimeters may fall along Siberia's Arctic coastline. Average annual days of snow cover, a critical factor for agriculture, depends on both latitude and altitude. Cover varies from forty to 200 days in European Russia, and from 120 to 250 days in Siberia.
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