May 29, 2009
Two weeks ago we learned about Andorra, one of the smallest countries on the planet. Today, we will get to know a little about the biggest country in the world, mighty Russia. It measures over six and a half million square miles, and takes up an eighth of the Earth's land mass. Because it is so huge, its coastline boarders on fifteen seas, two of which are the Pacific and the Arctic oceans. It shares some of its boarders with thirteen other countries. There are about one hundred and forty two million people living there, mainly in European Russia, which is the part of the country that is closest to Europe. There you can find a concentration of cities such as the capital, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Stalingrad, and also those of southwestern Siberia. The climate in Russia is difficult to summarize. Because there are vast areas of land which are far from the sea, these areas have extremely cold winters and extremely hot summers, with spring and autumn being short. The coastal areas are more regulated by the sea breezes. Siberia, to the north, has an obvious arctic influence, and has only one month of summer in the far north. However, in its sunny southern area, there is a very large population, and successful farming.
It is difficult to sum up history of such an enormous and ancient country as Russia in a simple paragraph, so I will just hit upon some of the major historical points. Russia, up until the sixth century, was inhabited by nomadic tribes. Peoples from Iran and Turkey settled in the south, but were overrun by Vikings who established power. In the tenth century, the Russian leader Vladimir was converted to christianity. For two hundred years, the Russian Orthodox Church thrived, until the Mongols took over. They were expelled in the fifteenth century and the first Tsar, "Ivan the Terrible" declared himself supreme ruler. The last of the Tsars, Nicholas the second abdicated and was assassinated in 1917, giving way to the Communist Party under Lenin. Russia then endured a civil war, huge losses in the Second World War, and then the Cold War. The Soviet Union was officially dissolved in 1991, and formed a Commonwealth of Independent States. Russia has the largest reserves of natural gas in the world, and is very rich in many minerals. Wealth is bringing transforming power, and infrastructural and social changes are being experienced as a result. This vast and rapidly changing country is closely watched by the rest of the world because of its 'super' status, influence, and modernization.