Russia, or Russian Federation, a country of eastern Europe and northern and eastern Asia. The name in Russian is Rossiya. In 1917 the czarist empire of Russia collapsed. In 1918 the largest portion of the former Russian Empire became the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR). The name Russia, however, continued to be used as its conventional name. In 1922 Russia relinquished its independence and joined with other Soviet republics to form the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. From 1922 until 1991 Russia was a union republic of the USSR. Because Russia was the largest and most populous of the union republics, the USSR was often referred to simply as Russia. (This article, however, does not follow that convention.) In 1991, after the USSR collapsed, Russia once again became independent.

Russia is a land of great diversity. The population is made up of scores of different ethnic and national groups. Landforms range from towering snowcapped mountains of more than 18,500 feet (5,600 m) to salt marshes and semiarid lowlands below sea level. Natural wealth—minerals, forests, soils, and water resources—is of great variety and abundance.

Czarist Russia was often referred to as "the Sleeping Bear of Europe"—a country with the potential to be a great power but held in a lethargic state by poverty, illiteracy, and inefficiency. During the Soviet era (1918-91), however, much of this changed. The Soviet industrialization and modernization programs transformed the USSR into a major world power, and Russia accounted for the greatest share of the Soviet Union's economic and military might. Upon independence in 1991, Russia, despite suffering from numerous economic problems, became a world power in its own right.

Russia in brief
General information
Capital: Moscow.
Official language: Russian.
Official names: Rossiya (Russia) or Rossiyskaya Federatsiya (Russian Federation).
Largest cities: (2002 census) Moscow (10,126,424); St. Petersburg (4,661,219)
Land and climate
Land: Russia is the world's largest country in area. It covers a large part of both Europe and Asia. It has coastlines on the Arctic Ocean, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Caspian Sea, and Pacific Ocean. Russia borders eight European countries, three Asian countries, and three countries with lands in both Europe and Asia. Much of the west is a large plain. The Ural Mountains separate Europe and Asia. Siberia, east of the Urals, has low western plains, a central plateau, and a mountainous wilderness in the east. Major Russian rivers include the Lena in Asia and the Volga in Europe. Lake Baikal in Siberia is the world's deepest lake.
Area: 6,601,669 mi2 (17,098,242 km2). Greatest distances—east-west, 6,000 mi (9,650 km); north-south, 2,800 mi (4,500 km).
Elevation: Highest—Mount Elbrus, 18,510 ft (5,642 m). Lowest—Coast of Caspian Sea, 92 ft (28 m) below sea level.
Climate: Most of Russia has long, bitterly cold winters and mild to warm—but short—summers. In northeastern Siberia, the country's coldest area, January temperatures average below –50 °F (–46 °C). Rainfall is moderate in most of Russia. Snow covers more than half of the country during six months of the year.
Form of government: Republic.
Head of state: President.
Head of government: Prime minister.
Flag and state seal: Russia's flag, adopted in 1991, has three horizontal stripes of white, blue, and red (top to bottom). The Russian empire used the flag from 1699 to 1918. The double-headed eagle the state seal, adopted in 1993, includes symbols of the Russian empire.
Legislature: Russia's parliament is called the Federal Assembly. It consists of two houses—the 450-member State Duma and the 178-member Federation Council.
Executive: The president is the chief executive and most powerful official.
Judiciary: Highest court is the Constitutional Court.
Political subdivisions: Russia has dozens of federal administrative units. They include oblasts (regions), krais (territories), republics, autonomous areas, and autonomous regions. Moscow and St. Petersburg each have special region status. Many of the political subdivisions are divided into raions (districts).
Population: Current estimate—141,358,000; 2002 census—145,166,731.
Population density: 21 per mi2 (8 per km2).
Distribution: 73 percent urban, 27 percent rural.
Major ethnic/national groups: About 83 percent Russian. Smaller groups include Tatars (or Tartars), Ukrainians, Chuvash, Bashkirs, Belarusians, Mordvins, Chechen, Germans, Udmurts, Mari, Kazakhs, Avars, Jews, and Armenians.
Major religions: The Russian Orthodox Church is the largest religious group. Other religious groups include Muslims, Protestants, Roman Catholics, Buddhists, Hindus, and Jews.
Chief products: Agriculture—barley, cattle, fruits, hogs, oats, potatoes, rye, sheep, sugar beets, sunflowers, vegetables, wheat. Fishing—cod, haddock, herring, salmon. Manufacturing—chemicals, construction materials, electronics, machinery, paper, processed foods, textiles. Mining—coal, gold, iron ore, lead, natural gas, nickel, petroleum, platinum, salt, tin, tungsten.
Money: Basic unit—Russian ruble. One hundred kopecks equal one ruble.
International trade: Major exports—chemicals, machinery, metals, natural gas, paper products, petroleum, wood products. Major imports—consumer goods, foods and beverages, industrial equipment, machinery. Main trading partners—other former Soviet republics, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, United Kingdom, United States.