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Flag of RussiaThe 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.

Bordering countries are Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mongolia, North Korea, Norway, Poland and Ukraine.

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.

Russia’s landscape includes mountains, forests, tundra, grasslands (steppes) and desert.

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.

Air pollution and deforestation are issues of concern.

Novgorod, founded in the ninth century, was Russia’s first capital. It was also a religious centre and today many of its early religious buildings remain. (Byzantine architecture, along with Christianity, was introduced to Russia at the end of the tenth century).

St. Petersburg was built during the reign of Peter the Great. Two architectural splendours of St Petersburg are the Baroque style Winter Palace and the golden domed St. Isaac’s Cathedral.

Domes are an impressive feature of Russian architecture. Examples include the Archangel Cathedral (1501-1508), the Cathedral of the Annunciation (1484-1489) and Moscow’s Kremlin with the Ivan the Great Bell-Tower.

The Kremlin, built over many centuries, was both a royal palace and a religious centre. The Kremlin opens on to Red Square and the famous Saint Basil Basilica.

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