State that extends into Eastern Europe and Northern Asia. The Russia, or Russian Federation, as defined by the Federal Treaty of 1992, is the largest country in the world in terms of surface area (over 17 million km 2) and one of the most significant in terms of population (over 145 million residents at the census of 2002). It continues to be part, playing an informal leading role, of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which brings together 12 of the 15 republics already federated (until 1991) in the former Soviet Union (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan), whose secretariat is based in Minsk, capital of Belarus (which is State more politically and culturally linked to Russia).
Within the Russian Federation, the territorial-political-administrative structure is very complex. We distinguish a Russian Republic in the strict sense, made up of 49 provinces (oblasts), an autonomous province of the Jews, two autonomous cities (Moscow and St. Petersburg) and 8 districts ; and finally another 21 republics, distinct from the Russian Republic in the strict sense, but full members of the Russian Federation. In May of 2000 V. Putin implemented an administrative reform that led to the introduction of seven federal districts (see below: History). The political-administrative terminology insists, as we can see, in applying the adjective ‘autonomous’ to numerous territorial divisions; however, the most diverse territorial units often continue to require more pronounced autonomies, true forms of self-government motivated by ethnic reasons, by great distances and by the aspiration of local communities to control their own resources. The extreme case is that of the Chechen Republic, where the autonomist propensities, based on ethnic motivations but also on specific economic interests regarding the oil sector,
In the last years of the second millennium and the beginning of the third, the Russian population (which for nearly 3 / 4 ¾ is classified as urban) is slightly decreased in number, registering an average annual decrease of 0.3 %, which is expected to could accentuate in the following years: this despite a slight increase in the average duration of life (which however maintains its characteristic, typical of Russia, of being much longer for females than for males, the latter subject more to deadly diseases caused alcoholism). The birth rate remains very low (just under 10 ‰ in 2006) against a high death rate (over 14‰). As for migratory movements, they are very limited, albeit with a slight numerical prevalence of immigrants (especially ‘repatriated’ from former Soviet republics which have become independent) over emigrants (+ 1 ‰ in 2006). The ethnic-linguistic structure of the population sees on the one hand an obvious and notable preponderance of Russians (80 % of the total), on the other a variegated set of small minorities, from Tatars to Ukrainians, from Bashkirs to Chuvashians (to mention only the peoples that exceed 1 % of the total population within the Federation).
Agriculture (who in 2006 occupied 1 / 10 of the active population of Russia contributing only 1 / 20 GDP), much further contraction sees the figure of the cultivated area (7.4 % of the total surface of R, with peaks of greater diffusion in the ‘black lands’, located for the most part between the taiga to the north and the steppes to the south), as well as that of the irrigated area (just 3.7 % of that cultivated). While the system of state and collective farms continues to resist, in 2002 a decisive turning point seems to have started thanks to the agrarian ‘counter-reform’ which has favored and regularized a consistent process of sale and therefore of privatization of agricultural land. According to 2005 data, Russia occupies fourth place in the world ranking of cereal producers and in particular of wheat, even climbing to first place for barley; it is the second largest producer of potatoes after China, the fourth among producers of sugar beet, but not of sugar, as it is mainly destined for export. Conversely, Russia imports tobacco to produce cigars and cigarettes. A good producer of beverages and especially of beer, Russia also occupies strong positions in the international market of textile fibers and fabrics (60.2005, 101 million m 2 of linen fabrics and 2173 million m 2 of cotton fabrics in 2002). Its participation in the production of timber and wood pulp is also significant (182 million m 3 and 6.9 million t respectively in 2004), obviously obtained from the taiga – which occupies exactly half of the country’s land area – and used in a whole range of factories, from furniture factories to paper mills (as well as exported).
As for the productions of animal origin, Russia excels for milk, eggs and, more moderately, for butter. The importance of Russian sheep farming (15.5 million head in 2005) is demonstrated by the good position that Russia holds in the world production of both yarns and woolen fabrics, and by the contribution it offers to the world production of meat and milk. The breeding of reindeer and fur animals in Siberia is also significant. In spite of the very unfavorable conditions offered by its seas, Russia has managed to maintain (2003) the 7th place in the sea fishing ranking, and 9° place in that of the overall catch (thanks above all to herring and cod from the Arctic seas, but also resorting to river fishing, in particular of sturgeon, on the lower Volga).
The wealth of mineral resources contained in the Russian subsoil continues to keep the Federation among the giants of the world mining industry. This applies in particular to energy minerals: coal (210 million tonnes in 2004), still obtained from traditional mining areas, from the Donbass to the Urals to Siberia and up to Kamchatka and the island of Sahalin; oil (452.1 million tons, 24 million less than Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest producer) extracted from the ‘second Baku’ and ‘third Baku’ fields and from those scattered from the Volga to Sahalin; natural gas (613.1 billion m 3 in 2005), extracted in the Caucasus, in the Republic of Comi, in the Volga basin, in the Urals and especially in western Siberia. And in addition, oil is now also obtained from the oil shales of the St. Petersburg region. Finally, the Russian pipeline network has now exceeded 62,000 km in length. As for other energy sources, with 3200 t (2004) Russia is the sixth world producer of uranium that it obtains from the Sljudjanka field at the southwestern end of Lake Baikal.
In 2004, electricity equal to 881.6 billion kWh was produced, over two thirds of which of thermal origin and 15 % nuclear. There are about forty nuclear power plants alone, but many of them must be considered technologically obsolete. The water plants on the Volga, Angara and Enisej are suggestive – as well as productive.
Among the metallic minerals, first of all iron (95 million tons in 2005), which is obtained from the Urals and the Central Russian Rialto and which feeds a mighty steel industry, the third in the world in terms of pig iron produced, the fourth in terms of of steel; the steel plants (however, often old and inefficient) are mainly distributed between the Moscow region, the Uralic belt and a large Siberian area. As for the specialized metallurgies, we can distinguish areas of aluminum, copper, lead-zinc, magnesium, nickel; some of these metallurgies are based on minerals produced in the same Russia, especially copper (675,000 t in 2005).
The most traditional manufacturing industries are mainly located in the two Russian metropolises, Moscow and St. Petersburg: thus the production of artificial fibers, pharmaceuticals, mechanics, aircraft and ship manufacturing, electronics, precision mechanics and industry war (in the process of downsizing and reconversion, even if the Russian industry in general remains mainly ‘heavy’). More peripheral and relatively well distributed, in general, the textile, cement and food products industries.
Foreign trade is represented by an intense export activity, which is matched by a much more limited import. Russia exported US $ 317.6 billion in 2006 (predominant commodities: oil and derivatives), importing only US $ 171.5 billion. Main customers Western countries (in particular the Netherlands, Italy, Germany), China and the major partners of the CIS (Belarus, Ukraine); the main suppliers are the latter and again – and above all – Germany and then China, Japan, the United States and also Italy. However, these are figures that have roughly doubled, in terms of value, in the period 2001-2004, testifying to a growing insertion of the Russia in the system of international exchanges.
There are few news regarding communications: the Trans-Siberian railway remains the main railway line, which ensures over 15 % of total rail traffic; the entire railway network, approximately 50 % electrified, extends over 86,000 km. The traffic of wholesale goods is however ensured above all by an organic network of inland waterways, which is perfectly capable of connecting the ‘European’ seas of the Russia (Black Sea and Azov Sea, Baltic Sea, White Sea) and the Caspian Sea, for a length of 102,000 km. The road network is not negligible (894,000 km in 2004), limited to approximately 29,000 km the motorway: but, given the growth in the number of motor vehicles (28.8 million in 2003), a plan was launched in 2004 for the construction of almost one million km of roads and motorways by 2025 ; this also in order to increase the development and territorial diffusion of tourist flows from abroad, which remain modest for now (9 million admissions in 2004) and above all substantially limited to the metropolises of Moscow and St. Petersburg. It should be noted, incidentally, that these two metropolises are not the only Russian cities to be equipped with efficient ‘metropolitan’ railways: we also find them in Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Samara and Yekaterinburg. Relatively well developed, and in view of the distances, air navigation is indispensable. Finally, the spread of cell phones is dizzying: there was only 1 for every 100 residents still in 1999, but already in 2005 it had reached 0.8 for each resident.