Russia profile

Map of Russia

Russia - the largest country on earth in terms of surface area - emerged from a decade of post-Soviet economic and political turmoil to reassert itself as a world power.

Income from vast natural resources, above all oil and gas, have helped Russia overcome the economic collapse of 1998. The state-run gas monopoly Gazprom is the world's largest producer and exporter, and supplies a large share of Europe's needs.

Economic strength has allowed Vladimir Putin - Russia's dominant political figure since 2000 - to enhance state control over political institutions and the media - a process supplemented more recently by an emphasis on fierce nationalism and hostility to the West.



President: Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin has been Russia's dominant political figure since his election as president in 2000, serving two terms and then a four-year stint as prime minister, before resuming the presidency in 2012.

Since his re-election against only token opposition, Russia's authorities have further tightened control over the media, muffled an embryonic opposition movement, and adopted a stridently nationalist and anti-Western course at home and abroad to shore up domestic support, in contrast to a previous emphasis on stability and prosperity.

The president presents himself as a strong leader who took Russia out of the economic, social and political crisis of the 1990s and defends Russia's national interests, particularly against what he portrays as Western to corner Russia and foist its cultural values on it.


TV screen in a Russian cafe

Russian TV is dominated by channels that are either run directly by the state or owned by companies with close links to the Kremlin.

The government controls Channel One and Russia One - two of the three main federal channels - while state-controlled energy giant Gazprom owns NTV.

TV is the main news source for most Russians. There is a fast-growing pay-TV market, led by satellite broadcaster Tricolor. The government is undertaking a project to bring digital TV to every Russian home.


Some key dates in Russia's history:

1552-56 - Grand Prince Ivan the Terrible of Moscow conquers the Tatar khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan and establishes the Tsardom of Russia.

1689-1725 - Peter the Great introduces far-reaching reforms.

Soldiers line up for a parade on Moscow's Red Square Soldiers line up for a parade on Moscow's Red Square

1798-1815 - Russia takes part in the European coalitions against Revolutionary and Napoleonic France, defeating Napoleon's invasion in 1812 and contributing to his overthrow.

1853-57 - Russia suffers setback in attempt to seize territory from declining Ottoman Empire through its defeat in Crimean War.

1904-05 - Russian expansion in Manchuria leads to war with Japan - and the 1905 revolution, which forced Tsar Nicholas II to grant a constitution and establish a parliament, the Duma.

1914 - Russian-Austrian rivalry in Balkans contributes to outbreak of First World War, in which Russia fought alongside Britain and France.

Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood in St Petersburg Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood in St Petersburg

1917 - Nicholas II abdicates. Bolshevik revolutionaries led by Lenin topple the provisional government and take power.

1918-22 - Civil war between Red Army and anti-communist White Russians.

1922 - Bolsheviks reorganise remnants of Russian Empire as Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

1945 - Allied victory over Nazi Germany followed by swift establishment of Soviet hegemony in Central and Eastern Europe, and Balkans. The end of the war sees the start of decades of Cold War rivalry between USSR and the West.

Lenin and Stalin share a banner at a pro-Communist party rally in Moscow Lenin and Stalin share a banner at a pro-Communist party rally in Moscow

1953 - Death of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin ushers in less repressive rule at home, although Communist Party political dominance is firmly upheld.

1991 - Russia becomes independent as the Soviet Union collapses and, together with Ukraine and Belarus, forms the Commonwealth of Independent States, which is eventually joined by all former Soviet republics except the Baltic states.

2014 - Russia seizes Ukrainian region of Crimea, prompting the biggest East-West showdown since the Cold War.

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