Russia's history begins with the East Slavs, one of the various peoples who inhabited the region located between the Dniester and Volga rivers. From the 8th Century BC to the 6th century AD, this area now known as Russia was overrun by nomadic peoples, like the Goths, Huns, and Avars. During the Tenth Century, Kievan Rus, a confederation of principalities, ruled the region and became the first East Slavic state. It adopted Christianity in 988 from the Bizantine Empire. But in the 11th and 12th centuries, Kievan Rus disintegrated as a state and independent principalities took control of the Russian region, with Novgorod being the only power that escaped the Mongol Golden Horde that invaded Russia around the 1230s. During the 14th and 15th century, the princes of Moscow managed to overthrow the Mongols. Russia began its expansion under Ivan IV. By the 18th century, the Grand Duchy of Moscow had become the great Russian Empire.
With an area of 6,592,800 square miles, spanning eleven Time Zones and two continents, Russia is the largest country on Earth. Russia has a population of 142,394,000 people and enjoys an enormous diversity, with cultural traditions of a century ago being re-awakened, and the creativity of the Russian past once again gaining vitality. Westerners associate Russia with cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, both of which are the center of Imperial Russia. Moscow has always made a big impression on tourists; after all it is in Moscow where you can visit Red Square, the Kremlin, Bolshoy Theatre, and the largest Orthodox Church dome in the world. St. Petersburg is also a wonderful city in Russia, one that enjoys splendid palaces, museums, and awe-inspiring river canals. But now that many of Russia's enormous tracks of land have been re-opened to travellers, Russia has a lot more to offer, and that includes forests teeming with wildlife as well as enormous volcanoes and mountains.
Geography The Russian Federation is the largest country on earth, spanning over seventeen million square kilometres. It is situated in Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. The Ural mountain range forms a natural border between Europe and Asia. Its vast expanses stretch from the Arctic Ocean, to Eastern Europe and to the North Pacific Ocean.
Moscow is the capital city of the Russian Federation. Other major cities are St Petersburg, Novosibirsk and Nizhniy Novgorod.
Russia's terrain consists of plains, low hills west of the Ural Mountains, uplands and mountains (Caucasus) along the southern borders and coniferous forest and tundra in Siberia. The Volga is the country's major river.
Russia's climate is very diverse. The summers can be warm and humid, whilst the winters can be harsh and bitterly cold.
Environment The Russian Federation has over one hundred nature reserves, or Zapovedniks, and a number of national parks.
World Heritage sites for natural properties are the Volcanoes of Kamchatka, the Altai Mountains, the Western Caucasus, the Central Sikhote-Alin mountain range and temperate forests, Virgin Komi Forests and Lake Baikal.
Over thirty-five sites regions are UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserves and almost the same number are Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance.
Animals range from hamsters, sabels, gazelles, bears, cheetahs and lynx to Siberian tigers. The tundra is the habitat of polar foxes, snow leopards and polar bears. Birds include nightingales, owls, woodpeckers, falcons and eagles.