The largest country in the world
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A few words about Russia ...

Russia is the largest country in the world in terms of geography, spanning both Europe and Asia with 11 time zones.  The Russian language is spoken in the country itself, in many of its neighbours, and by the sizeable Russian diaspora worldwide – an estimated 250m speakers in all, ranking 8th among world languages.  Russian is one of the official languages of the United Nations and Russia is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The population of Russia is smaller than its size suggests - 146 million people in 2020, only about 1.87% of the total world population.  In such a large geographic area as Russia you will not be surprised to find that there are over 150 different ethnic groups and a number of different languages are spoken.  The vast majority of people (around 80%) are European Russians.  The next largest group, 5%, are Tatars.  Next in size are Ukrainians, Bashkirs, Chuvashes, Chechens and Armenians (around 1% each).  The Russian economy has grown this century but is still heavily dependent on oil and gas, and now ranks around 11th in the world (gross GDP).

We will introduce you to a country that has aspects both familiar and exotic – like its alphabet which has some letters easily understood by an English speaker, some that English speakers might think they can read, but can’t, and some very different, and often rather beautiful, but which make a strange language surprisingly easy to read once you take the trouble to find out what they stand for.   At first glance Russia might seem similar to other countries, especially now that Moscow’s streets are full of international brands, but sometimes this is a false familiarity.  Look a bit deeper though and what is at first sight exotic, once understood turns out to be straightforward and more familiar than you might expect.

An important country too.  Russia’s impact on world politics is larger than might be expected from its population size or economic strength and that is an important reason why an understanding of its culture and history is not only fascinating but essential.

 
10 interesting facts to start you off

Hover over the picture to see the fact (click if you are viewing this on a mobile device) . 

Can you remember what it was when you go back to the picture? 

A really huge country
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The total length of Russia from West to East is about 6000 miles.  This means that

… when we are waking up in the UK

… it is mid-morning in Moscow

… and nearly bedtime in the far east.

The capital of Russia is MOSCOW.  It is in the centre of European Russia and has a population of over 12 million.  In the centre of Moscow is Red Square - a huge paved area with the Kremlin on one side and St Basil's Cathedral at the end.  The photo shows St Basil's.  

 

Russia is mostly quite flat – but there is a range of mountains called the Urals which form the border between Europe and Asia.  Russia is the largest European country (by area, not population) and its Asian region is also the largest Asian country!

A lot of Asian Russia is covered in forest and VERY cold in winter.  This area is called Siberia.  In winter it can be MINUS 40 degrees Centigrade which is very cold (but in summer it averages +35 degrees).