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Q: What is the best song to sing when it's raining?
A: Singing In The Rain.
We were lost for words.
some seriously clever next level thing, a wry comment on the collapse of the textile industry, perhaps?
No? Oh okay.
Q. What did one fooballer say to the other footballer?
A. "Let's play football."
Somehow it got funnier each time he told it.
yet that's sort of funny because it's one of those jokes-without-a-punchline, in a way.
With the singing in the rain thing he's actually attempted to be funny.
you weigh whales at a whaleweigh station, where do you weigh pies?
over the rainbow, weigh a pie...
(It helps to sing it, slays them every time...)
the funniest joke I've ever heard! I can't stop sniggering!
I've heard this one before but my version had Superman in it
Q: Where does Batman live?
A: In the washing machine.
He found it hilarious. He was a bit Ralph Wiggum-y though. I wonder if it was some kind of family in-joke and it didn't occur to him no-one else'd have the same frame of reference...
"Two battered cod, two portions of chips, and a sausage bun please"
"Okay," replies the chipmonger "but unfortunately we've run out of sausage buns."
"It's okay," replies the man "I came on my bike."
This did the rounds at my school, the idea was to fool people by making them think it was a 'real joke'. People who were too ashamed to admit they hadn't got it would laugh. However I actually found it funny because it was 'deliciously surreal'. This explanation carried no weight with my peers.
i bet you got beaten up a lot at school saying things like that!
that's quite how I put it at the time.
i see what you mean though. you could be onto something there!
is funny on it's own! even without the surrealist bit that's really funny.
A man walks into a chip shop
"Two battered cod, two portions of chips, and a sausage bun please"
I love it
and will consider repeating them at a later stage OF MY LIFE.
Keep 'em coming.
right? there was a kid who always said that at my school. he was cleverer than me then, and he was probably cleverer then than I am now :-(
damn him for never letting on.
A: One leg is both the same.
for not getting this
You not getting it IS the joke for other people.
a fly without wings?
are knitting bikes. One turns to the other and says "which one is the zero-ist?"
Apparently a fantastically funny Bavarian joke
apart from me, you're the first person I've ever heard tell that joke.
the punchline is 'fish'?
of subverting expectations in comedy, one of my favourite limericks goes...
There was a young lady...tut, tut,
You think that you're in for some smut
A five line crescendo
Of lewd innuendo
I'm sorry, this is anything but.
What do you call a blind reindeer with no legs?
Still no idea!
Two buns were in an oven. One bun said 'it's hot in here' and the other said 'oh my god! a talking bun'.
is the best joke ever.
It makes me laugh my head off every time!
A. A carpark
this is hilarious.
1 to do the actual changing and 9 to stand around talking about how they preferred the lightbulb's early work, y'know, back before it sold out.
The one I was in went back and forwards. I thought 'This is unusual'. And the dentist said to me 'Mr Vine, get out of the filing cabinet.'"
Mr Tim Vine to be precise.
A: Put it in the microwave until its Bill Withers!!
HO HO HO
I made up the following one, with which to entertain my family.
Q - How do you start a fox and badger race?
A- ready, steady, jump over tree!
I think I was imagining the fox and badger jumping over the apple tree at the end of my Nan's garden, which I found an uproariously funny image. Everyone used to laugh when I told it, so I thought I'd made a really good joke for ages.
But I was wrong :(
So there are these two muffins baking in an oven. One of them yells, “Wow, it’s hot in here!”
And the other muffin replies: “Holy cow! A talking muffin!”
A - Apocalypse Moo!
I made this joke up on tour a few years ago. It made me laugh uncontrollably for about a week, although curiously, it doesn't seem to have the same effect on anyone else I've ever met.
this might be why.
i LOLed at that. I'm going to tell this one at work when the moment is right. when it's raining.
Because he's a fish. It's stupid but makes me laugh.
Because someone threw a fridge at him.
Mat just told me that. I LOL'd.
I was just about to post this!
A - John MacEnMoo!
I just made that up. It might actually be the best joke EVER.
Q) Why couldn't the cat drink any milk?
A) Because it didn't have a face.
Q) Why did the girl fall off the swing?
A) Because she had no arms.
Q) What's white and stands in the middle of a field?
A) A Fridge.
A - Rupert The Fridge!
A snooker table!
What's brown and runny?
Best jokes ever
Why did the burglar stop?
He had a massive heart attack!
What do you call a man who takes Christmas trees wherever he goes?
A nun is walking along the street on a dark, dark night when she is bundled to the floor and kicked repeatedly.
Her attacker leans over her, glowers, and says "Not so hard now are you, Batman?"
are you an orange>?
Because the pilot was a sandwich.
a dinosaur with one eye?
A. A do-you-think-he-saw-us.
Q. What do you call a gorrilla with a machine gun?
Took me so long to understand that one when I was little.
Q. What do you call a monkey with five heads?
A. Your majesty!
(it's an evolutionary/natural selection premise)
or just that just aren't funny but you find hilarious.
like my favourite one of all time:
what did the fish say when he swam into the wall?
No soap radio!
Q: What magazine do puffins subscribe to?
This chap walks into a pub and to his astonishment, notices that there's a chap stood at the bar who has a huge orange for a head. Despite his curiousity, the chap decides not to pry and sits down quietly.
After a few drinks, curiosity has overcome the chap and he decides to enquire.
"Excuse me, mate, but I couldn't help noticing you have a big orange for a head. What happened?"
"Well," says the man with the big orange for a head, "I moved into a large old house not so long ago. One afternoon, I decided to explore the attic and found an old brass lamp in the corner. I rubbed the lamp and a Genie popped out, explained he had been trapped in there for two hundred years, and would grant me three wishes for releasing him."
"So what did you ask for first?" asks the curious chap.
"I asked for ten million pounds. The Genie clapped his hands, there was a flash of lightning, and he asked me to phone the bank, who confirmed my balance was now ten million pounds!"
"What did you ask for with your second wish?"
"Well, I asked if I could make love to the ten most beautiful women in the world. Again, the Genie clapped his hands, there was a flash of lightning, and the doorbell rang. Ten supermodels ran in, picked me up, carried me to bed, and ravished me all night!"
"Wow," says the curious chap, "What did you ask for with your third wish?"
"Well, I asked for a big orange for a head."
I thought it may have peaked with Rupert the Frigde, but this awesome.
although in my version it is a head that it is half grapefruit and it is a barman talking about a man in the corner of the pub who has said grapefruit. I think these details improve it ever so slightly
a) Giles Grimandi
What's ET short for?
He's got no legs
Q. What's green and smells like yellow paint?
A: Green paint.
What do you call a fish with know eyes ?
What do you call a dear with no eyes ?
What do you call a dead dear with no eyes ?
Still no eyed-dear.
Somewhere over the rainbow.
I only actually got this after my mate then went onto serenade me with 'somewhere over the rainbow, weigh a pie...'
I almost lashed out.
Someone beat me to it.
What did Batman used to say to Robin before he got in the batmobile?
actually, it's still funny.
a load of these out to my boyfriend over the phone. He now thinks I'm mad.
A fridge with a denim jacket on.
Walks into a bar
"why the long face" enquires the barman?
"Because i have cancer"
q) what do you call a large country that spans europe and asia?
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Russia (disambiguation).
Flag Coat of arms
Anthem: Hymn of the Russian Federation
(and largest city) Moscow
Official languages Russian official throughout nation; thirty others co-official in various regions
Government Semi-presidential democracy
- President Vladimir Putin
- Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov
- Founded 862 AD
- Declared June 12, 1990
- Finalised December 25, 1991
- Total 17,075,400 km² (1st)
6,592,800 sq mi
- Water (%) 13
- 2006 estimate 142,754,000 (9th)
- 2002 census 145,274,019
- Density 8.3/km² (209th)
GDP (PPP) 2006 estimate
- Total $1.727 trillion (8th1)
- Per capita $12,096 (59th)
GDP (nominal) 2006 estimate
- Total $979 billion (11th)
- Per capita $6,856 (59th)
Gini? (2002) 39.9 (medium)
HDI (2005) 0.802 (high) (67th)
Currency Ruble (RUB)
Time zone (UTC+2 to +12)
- Summer (DST) (UTC+3 to +13)
Internet TLD .ru (.su reserved)
Calling code +7
1 Rank based on IMF April 2007 data.
Russia (Russian: ???????, Rossiya), also the Russian Federation (??????????? ??????????, Rossiyskaya Federatsiya; listen (help·info)), is a transcontinental country extending over much of northern Eurasia (Europe and Asia). With an area of 17,075,400 km², Russia is the largest country in the world, covering almost twice the total area of the next-largest country, Canada, and has unparalleled mineral and energy resources combined with the world's ninth-largest population. Russia shares land borders with the following countries (counter-clockwise from northwest to southeast): Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It is also close to the United States (the state of Alaska), Sweden, and Japan across relatively small stretches of water (the Bering Strait, the Baltic Sea, and La Pérouse Strait, respectively).
Formerly the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), a republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Russia became the Russian Federation following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991. After the Soviet era, more than half of the area, population, and industrial production of the Soviet Union (then one of the world's two Cold War superpowers, the other one being the United States) passed on to the Russian Federation.
Russia is considered to be an energy superpower. Russia is internationally recognized as continuing the legal personality of the Soviet Union and is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. It is also one of the five recognised nuclear weapons states and possesses the world's largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. Russia is the leading nation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and a member of the G8 as well as other international organizations.
2.1 Pre-Slavic inhabitants
2.2 Early East Slavs
2.3 Kievan Rus'
2.4 Grand Duchy of Moscow
2.5 Tsardom of Russia
2.6 Imperial Russia
2.7 Soviet Russia
2.8 Russian Federation
3 Government and politics
5 Foreign relations and military
9 See also
11 External links
Main article: Geography of Russia
Map of the Russian Federation
Topography of RussiaThe Russian Federation stretches across much of the north of the super-continent of Eurasia. Because of its size, Russia displays both monotony and diversity. As with its topography, its climates, vegetation, and soils span vast distances. From north to south the East European Plain is clad sequentially in tundra, coniferous forest (taiga), mixed and broad-leaf forests, grassland (steppe), and semi-desert (fringing the Caspian Sea) as the changes in vegetation reflect the changes in climate. Siberia supports a similar sequence but is taiga.
The two widest separated points in Russia are about 8,000 km (5,000 mi) apart along a geodesic (i.e. shortest line between two points on the Earth's surface). These points are: the boundary with Poland on a 60 km long (40-mi long) spit of land separating the Gulf of Gda?sk from the Vistula Lagoon; and the farthest southeast of the Kurile Islands, a few miles off Hokkaid? Island, Japan. The points which are furthest separated in longitude are 6,600 km (4,100 mi) apart along a geodesic. These points are: in the West, the same spit; in the East, the Big Diomede Island (Ostrov Ratmanova). The Russian Federation spans 11 time zones.
Russia has the world's largest forest reserves and is known as "the lungs of Europe," second only to the Amazon Rainforest in the amount of carbon dioxide it absorbs. It provides a huge amount of oxygen for not just Europe, but the world. With access to three of the world's oceans—the Atlantic, Arctic, and Pacific—Russian fishing fleets are a major contributor to the world's fish supply. The Caspian is the source of what is considered the finest caviar in the world.
Most of Russia consists of vast stretches of plains that are predominantly steppe to the south and heavily forested to the north, with tundra along the northern coast. Mountain ranges are found along the southern borders, such as the Caucasus (containing Mount Elbrus, Russia's and Europe's highest point at 5,642 m / 18,511 ft) and the Altai, and in the eastern parts, such as the Verkhoyansk Range or the volcanoes on Kamchatka. The Ural Mountains form a north-south range that divides Europe and Asia, rich in mineral resources. Russia possesses 8.9% of the world's arable land.
Moscow OblastRussia has an extensive coastline of over 37,000 kilometers (23,000 mi) along the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, as well as the Baltic, Black and Caspian seas. The Barents Sea, White Sea, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea, East Siberian Sea, Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan are linked to Russia.
Major islands and archipelagos include Novaya Zemlya, the Franz Josef Land, the New Siberian Islands, Wrangel Island, the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin. The Diomede Islands (one controlled by Russia, the other by the United States) are just three kilometers (1.9 mi) apart, and Kunashir Island (controlled by Russia but claimed by Japan) is about twenty kilometers (12 mi) from Hokkaid?.
Birch forestRussia has thousands of rivers and inland bodies of water, providing it with one of the world's largest surface water resources. The most prominent of Russia's bodies of fresh water is Lake Baikal, the world's deepest, purest and most capacious freshwater lake. Lake Baikal alone contains over one fifth of the world's fresh surface water.
Many rivers flow across Russia; see Rivers of Russia. Of its 100,000 rivers, Russia contains some of the world's longest. The Volga is the most famous—not only because it is the longest river in Europe but also because of its major role in Russian history. Major lakes include Lake Baikal, Lake Ladoga and Lake Onega; see List of lakes in Russia. Russia has a wide natural resource base including major deposits of petroleum, natural gas, coal, timber and mineral resources unmatched by any other country.
Owing to its size, Russia's climate also displays both monotony and diversity. The climate of the Russian Federation formed under the influence of several determining factors. One of the most important is the enormous size and remoteness of many areas from the sea, resulting in the dominance of the continental climate, which is prevalent in European and Asian Russia except for the tundra and the extreme southeast. Mountains in the south obstructing the flow of warm air masses from the Indian Ocean and the plain of the west and north makes the country open to Arctic and Atlantic influences.
Throughout much of the territory there are only two distinct seasons—winter and summer; Spring and autumn are usually brief periods of change between extremely low temperatures and extremely high. The coldest month is January (on the shores of the sea—February), the warmest usually is July. Great ranges of temperature are typical. In winter temperatures get colder both from south to north and from west to east. Summers can be quite hot and humid, even in Siberia. A small part of Black Sea coast around Sochi is considered in Russia to have subtropical climate. The continental interiors are the driest areas.
Main article: History of Russia
Main articles: Proto-Indo-Europeans, Scythians, Bosporan Kingdom, and Khazaria
Kurgan hypothesis: South Russia as the urheimat of Indo-European peoplesThe vast steppes of Southern Russia were home to disunited tribes, such as Proto-Indo-Europeans and Scythians. Remnants of these steppe civilizations were discovered in the course of the 20th century in such places as Ipatovo, Sintashta, Arkaim, and Pazyryk. In the latter part of the eighth century BC, Greek merchants brought classical civilization to the trade emporiums in Tanais and Phanagoria. Between the third and sixth centuries AD, the Bosporan Kingdom, a Hellenistic polity which succeeded the Greek colonies, was overwhelmed by successive waves of nomadic invasions, led by warlike tribes, such as the Huns and Turkic Avars. A Turkic people, the Khazars, ruled the lower Volga basin steppes between the Caspian and Black Seas through to the 8th century. Noted for their laws, tolerance, and cosmopolitanism, the Khazars were the main commercial link between the Baltic and the Muslim Abbasid empire centered in Baghdad. They were important allies of the Byzantine Empire, and waged a series of successful wars against the Arab Caliphates. In the 8th century, the Khazars embraced Judaism.
Early East Slavs
Main article: Early East Slavs
An approximate map of the cultures in European Russia at the arrival of the Varangians.The ancestors of modern Russians are the Slavic tribes, whose original home is thought by some scholars to have been the wooded areas of the Pripet Marshes. Moving into the lands vacated by the migrating Germanic tribes, the Early East Slavs gradually settled Western Russia in two waves: one moving from Kiev toward present-day Suzdal and Murom and another from Polotsk toward Novgorod and Rostov. From the 7th century onwards, the East Slavs constituted the bulk of the population in Western Russia and slowly but peacefully assimilated the native Finno-Ugric tribes, including the Merya, the Muromians, and the Meshchera.
Main article: Kievan Rus
Kievan Rus' in the 11th century.Scandinavian Norsemen, called "Vikings" in Western Europe and "Varangians" in the East, combined piracy and trade in their roamings over much of Northern Europe. In the mid-9th century, they ventured along the waterways extending from the eastern Baltic to the Black and Caspian Seas. According to the earliest Russian chronicle, a Varangian named Rurik was elected ruler (konung or knyaz) of Novgorod around the year 860; his successors moved south and extended their authority to Kiev, which had been previously dominated by the Khazars.
In the tenth to eleventh centuries this state of Kievan Rus became the largest and most prosperous in Europe. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, constant incursions by nomadic Turkic tribes, such as the Kipchaks and the Pechenegs, caused a massive migration of Slavic populations to the safer, heavily forested regions of the north, particularly to the area known as Zalesye.. Like many other parts of Eurasia, these territories were overrun by the Mongols. The invaders, later known as Tatars, formed the state of the Golden Horde, which pillaged the Russian principalities and ruled the southern and central expanses of Russia for over three centuries. Mongol rule retarded the country's economic and social development. However, the Novgorod Republic together with Pskov retained some degree of autonomy during the time of the Mongol yoke and was largely spared the atrocities that affected the rest of the country. Led by Alexander Nevsky, Novgorodians repelled the Germanic crusaders who attempted to colonize the region. Kievan Rus' ultimately disintegrated as a state because of in-fighting between members of the princely family that ruled it collectively. Kiev's dominance waned, to the benefit of Vladimir-Suzdal in the north-east, Novgorod in the north, and Halych-Volhynia in the south-west. Conquest by the Golden Horde in the 13th century was the final blow and resulted in the destruction of Kiev. Halych-Volhynia was eventually absorbed into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, while the Mongol-dominated Vladimir-Suzdal and the independent Novgorod Republic, two regions on the periphery of Kiev, established the basis for the modern Russian nation.
Grand Duchy of Moscow
Main article: Grand Duchy of Moscow
The growth of Russia, 1300—1796
A scene from medieval Russian historyThe most powerful successor state to Kievan Rus' was Grand Duchy of Moscow. It would annex rivals such as Tver and Novgorod, and eventually become the basis of the modern Russian state. After the downfall of Constantinople in 1453, Moscow claimed succession to the legacy of the Eastern Roman Empire. While still under the domain of the Mongol-Tatars and with their connivance, the Duchy of Moscow (or "Muscovy") began to assert its influence in Western Russia in the early fourteenth century. Assisted by the Russian Orthodox Church and Saint Sergius of Radonezh's spiritual revival, Russia inflicted a defeat on the Mongol-Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo (1380). Ivan III (Ivan the Great) eventually tossed off the control of the invaders, consolidated surrounding areas under Moscow's dominion and first took the title "grand duke of all the Russias".
By the beginning of the sixteenth century, Grand Duchy of Moscow was laying claim to all Russian territories lost as a result of the Tatar invasion and trying to protect the southern borderland against attacks by Crimean Tatars (Russo-Crimean Wars) and other Turkic peoples.. The noblemen, receiving a manor from the sovereign, were obliged to serve in the military. The manor system became a basis for the noble cavalry.
Tsardom of Russia
Main article: Tsardom of Russia
Kuzma Minin appeals to the people of Nizhny Novgorod to raise a volunteer army against the Poles during the Time of TroublesIn 1547, Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) was officially crowned the first Tsar of Russia. During his long reign, Ivan IV annexed the Tatar khanates (Kazan, Astrakhan) along the Volga River and transformed Russia into a multiethnic and multiconfessional state. Ivan IV promulgated a new code of laws (Sudebnik of 1550), established the first Russian feudal representative body (Zemsky Sobor) and introduced local self-management into the rural regions. By the end of the century, Russian Cossacks established the first Russian settlements in Western Siberia. But Ivan IV's rule was also marked by the long and unsuccessful Livonian War against the coalition of Poland, Lithuania, Sweden for the access to the Baltic coast and sea trade. Ivan carried out a series of purges of the feudal aristocracy (which he suspected of treachery after the betrayal of Prince Kurbsky). The military losses, epidemics, and poor harvests weakened the state, and the Crimean Tatars were able to burn down Moscow. The death of Ivan's sons, combined with the famine (1601–1603), led to the civil war and foreign intervention of the Time of Troubles in the early 1600s. By the middle of the seventeenth century there were Russian settlements in Eastern Siberia, on the Chukchi Peninsula, along the Amur River, and on the Pacific coast. The strait between North America and Asia was first sighted by a Russian explorer in 1648.
Main article: Russian Empire
Peter the Great officially proclaimed the existence of the Russian Empire in 1721.Under the Romanov dynasty and Peter I (Peter the Great), the Russian Empire was officially founded. Ruling from 1682 to 1725, Peter defeated Sweden in the Great Northern War, forcing it to cede West Karelia and Ingria (two regions lost by Russia in the Time of Troubles), Estland, and Livland, securing Russia's access to the sea and sea trade. It was in Ingria that Peter founded a new capital, Saint Petersburg. Peter's reforms brought considerable Western European cultural influences to Russia. Catherine II (Catherine the Great), who ruled from 1762 to 1796, continued the efforts at establishing Russia as one of the great powers of Europe. In the 18th century, Russia increased its influence on Europe by participating in the War of Polish Succession and the Seven Years' War.
In alliance with Prussia and Austria, Russia stood against Napoleon's France and eliminated its rival Poland-Lithuania in a series of partitions, gaining large areas of territory in the west. As a result of its victories in the Russian-Turkish wars, by the early 19th century Russia had made significant territorial gains in Transcaucasia.
Napoleon made a major misstep when he declared war on Russia after a dispute with Tsar Alexander I and launched an invasion of Russia in 1812 with 600,000 troops, twice the number of the standing Russian army. The campaign was a catastrophe. Obstinant Russian resistance combined with the bitterly cold Russian winter dealt Napoleon a disastrous defeat, from which more than 95% of his invading force perished. As Napoleon's forces retreated, the Russian troops pursued them into Central and Western Europe and to the gates of Paris. After Russia and its allies defeated Napoleon, Alexander became known as the savior of Europe, and he presided over the redrawing of the map of Europe at the Congress of Vienna (1815).
At the same time Russia continued its expansion. The Congress of Vienna created the Kingdom of Poland (Russian Poland). Alexander I became the constitutional monarch of Poland while remaining the tsar of Russia. He was also the limited monarch of Finland, which had been annexed in 1809 and awarded autonomous status. In 1813 Russia gained territory in the Baku area of the Caucasus at the expense of Persia. By the early nineteenth century, the empire also was firmly ensconced in Alaska.
The officers of the Napoleonic wars brought back to Russia the ideas of liberalism and even attempted to curtail the tsar's powers during the abortive Decembrist revolt of 1825, which was followed by several decades of political repression.
Napoleon's retreat from Moscow
The Russian Empire in 1866 and its spheres of influenceThe prevalence of serfdom and the conservative policies of Nicolas I impeded the development of Russia in the mid-nineteenth century. The country was defeated in the Crimean War (1853–1856) by an alliance of major European powers, including Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire, and Piedmont-Sardinia. Nicholas's successor Alexander II (1855–1881) enacted significant reforms, including the abolition of serfdom in 1861; these "Great Reforms" spurred rapid economic development and industrialization. The Slavophile mood was on the rise, bolstered by Russia's victory in the Russo-Turkish War, which forced the Ottoman Empire to recognize the independence of Romania, Serbia and Montenegro and the autonomy of Bulgaria. In 1867 Russia sold Alaska to the United States for $7,200,000 in gold bullion.
Many conflicts that boiled beneath the surface during Alexander III’s reign exploded under his son, Nicholas II, who ascended to the throne in 1894. Harsh conditions in industrial factories created mass support for the revolutionary socialist movement. Furthermore, from 1855 to 1914 the rural population more than doubled, increasing pressure on the land and peasant hostility to the landowners. Non-Russians were embittered by continued Russification. Most sectors of society were united by dislike of the imperial regime and by the demand for civil and political rights. In 1904 the government blundered into an unnecessary war with Japan over spheres of control in Korea and Manchuria. Russia’s defeat in the Russo-Japanese War the following year exposed its weakness, and the opposition to the regime seized its chance. In January 1905 striking workers peaceably demonstrated for reforms in Saint Petersburg. As they marched to the Winter Palace, government troops fired on them, killing and wounding hundreds. The event, known as "Bloody Sunday", ignited the Russian Revolution of 1905. Faced with a general strike, Nicholas II was forced to concede major constitutional reform including freedom of speech and the creation of a popularly elected assembly, or Duma. However, the unrest continued as revolutionaries demanded even greater freedoms. Terrified by the growing danger of social revolution, Russia’s property-owning elite rallied to the regime. The army remained loyal to the Tsar, and crushed a revolutionary insurrection in December and eventually restored order in the towns and countryside. Although Nicholas retained extensive power, the traditional autocracy was ended with the creation of the Duma, legalisation of political parties, and granting of civil rights such as freedom of speech and assembly. The imperial government soon found ways to undermine these reforms, however, while demands for a full legislative democracy, distribution of land to peasants, and basic improvements in the lives of industrial workers were unfulfilled.
Russia entered World War I in the aid of its ally Serbia, and fought a war across three fronts. Russia did not want war but felt that the only alternative was the acceptance of German domination of Europe. The upper and middle class rallied around the war effort, but the peasants were much less enthusiastic. Although the army was far from defeated in 1916, the already existing public distrust of the regime was deepened by tales of inefficiency, corruption, and even treason in high places, leading to the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1917. A series of uprisings were organized by workers and peasants throughout the country, as well as by soldiers in the Russian army, who were mainly of peasant origin. Many of the uprisings were organized and led by democratically elected councils called Soviets. The first revolution, the February Revolution, overthrew the Russian monarchy, which was replaced by a shaky coalition of conservative, liberal, and moderate socialist politicians that declared itself the Provisional Government, formed in Petrograd after the forced abdication of Tsar Nicholas II. The abdiction marked the end of imperial rule in Russia, and Nicholas and his family were later imprisoned and murdered. The Provisional Government initially received the support of the Soviets — the councils that insurgent workers and peasants set up and elected. However, the Provisional Government proved unable to resolve the problems that had led to the February Revolution. Chief among these was the problem of ending Russia’s involvement in World War I. The second revolution, the October Revolution, overthrew the Provisional Government and created the world’s first Communist state, with the goal of those who carried out the second revolution to create social equality and economic democracy in Russia.
Main articles: History of the Soviet Union and Russian SFSR
Vladimir Ilyich LeninFollowing the October Revolution, a civil war broke out between the new regime and its opponents, the moderate socialist parties—the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks— and a loose confederation of counter-revolutionary forces known as the White movement. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, a peace treaty signed by the Central Powers with Soviet Russia, concluded hostilities between those countries in World War I. Russia lost Ukraine, its Polish and Baltic territories, and Finland by signing the treaty. The Allied powers of World War I launched a military intervention in support of anti-Communist forces. Both the Bolsheviks and White movement carried out campaigns of mass arrests, deportations, and executions against each other, known respectively as the Red Terror and White Terror. The Bolsheviks instituted "War Communism" in order to requisition food for the army and cities, resulting in mass starvation and peasant resistance. But by 1921, Bolshevik forces brought most of the territories of the former Russian Empire under their control. However, Russia had been at war for 7 years, during which time some 16 million of its people had lost their lives, with the Civil War taking an estimated 7-10 million of them. At the end of the Civil War, Russia was near ruin. The economy and infrastructure were devastated; industrial production stood at less than one-fifth of the value of 1913 and agricultural output fell severely.
Following victory in the Civil War, the Russian SFSR together with three other Soviet republics formed the Soviet Union on December 30, 1922. The Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic dominated the Soviet Union for its entire 74-year history; the USSR was often referred to as "Russia" and its people as "Russians." The largest of the republics, Russia contributed over half the population of the Soviet Union. Lenin replaced War Communism with the New Economic Policy, a program that allowed limited capitalistic activity, and the economy began to improve. The Bolsheviks introduced free universal health care, education and social-security benefits, as well as the right to work and free housing. Women's rights were greatly increased through new laws aimed to wipe away centuries-old inequalities. The new government granted women the right to vote, fair compensation and working rights; Soviet Russia became the first country in the world with full divorce rights and legalized abortion. Adultery, incest and homosexuality were dropped from the criminal code and anti-semitism and racism were forbidden by law. After Lenin's death in 1924 a brief power struggle ensued, during which a top communist official, a Georgian named Joseph Stalin, gradually consolidated power and became a dictator, and proceeded to govern in an increasing tyrannical manner.
Soviet soldiers fighting in the ruins of Stalingrad, 1942, the bloodiest battle in human history and the turning point in World War II
The construction of the steel-producing city of Magnitogorsk in 1932Under Joseph Stalin, the Soviet economy was completely centralized, often through extremely ruthless means, such as his massive purges and executions of perceived resistors to collectivization. While this policy did industrialize the Soviet Union, it did not last when Stalin's successors did not use terror tactics to force people to work. Stalin forced rapid industrialization of the largely rural country, collectivization of its agriculture and introduced his First Five Year Plan for modernizing the Soviet economy. Most resources were immediately diverted to establishing heavy industry; civilian industry was modernized and many heavy weapon factories were established. While the Soviet Union successfully transformed from an agrarian economy to a major industrial powerhouse in a short span of time, hardships and famine ensued for many millions of people as a result of the severe economic upheaval and party policies. Almost all Old Bolsheviks from the time of the Revolution, including Leon Trotsky, were killed or exiled. At the end of 1930s, Stalin launched the Great Purges, a major campaign of repression against millions of people who were suspected of being a threat to the party were executed or exiled to Gulag labor camps in remote areas of Siberia or Central Asia. A number of ethnic groups in Russia were also forcibly resettled.
Soviet soldiers raising the Soviet flag over the Reichstag during the Battle of Berlin on April 30, 1945; Symbolic of the fall of Nazi GermanyOn June 22, 1941 Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. This was to become the defensive war of the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany, part of World War II, known in the Soviet Union as the Great Patriotic War. It was the largest theatre of war in history and was notorious for its unprecedented ferocity and destruction. The fighting involved millions of German and Soviet troops along a broad front, which became deadliest theater in World War II, with over 5.5 million deaths amongst the Axis Forces and 10.7 million Soviet military deaths (out of which 2.8–3.3 million Soviet prisoners of war (of 5.5 million) died in German captivity), and civilian deaths were about 15.9 million. The German army had considerable success in the early stages of the campaign, but they suffered defeats after reaching the outskirts of Moscow. The Red Army stopped the Nazi offensive at the Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942–1943, which became the turning point for Germany's fortunes. The Soviets drove through Eastern Europe and captured Berlin, forcing Germany's surrender in 1945. Although the Soviet Union was victorious, an estimated 27 million of its people were killed, accounting for half of all World War II casualties and the vast majority of Allied deaths. The Soviet economy and infrastructure suffered massive devastation.
However, the Soviet Union had emerged from the conflict as an acknowledged superpower. The Red Army occupied Eastern Europe after the war, including the eastern half of Germany. Stalin installed communist governments in these satellite states. During the immediate post-war period, the Soviet Union first rebuilt its economy, with control exerted exclusively from Moscow. The Soviets extracted heavy war reparations from the areas of Germany under their control, mostly in the form of industrial equipment. Becoming the world's second nuclear weapons power, the Soviet Union established the Warsaw Pact alliance and entered into a struggle for global dominance with the United States, which became known as the Cold War.
First human in space, Yuri Gagarin
Boris Yeltsin stands on a tank to defy the August Coup, delivering a speech condemning the coup and calling on people to resist the hardlinersStalin's successor Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin's use of repression in 1956 and eased repressive controls over party and society; a process known as de-Stalinization. Under Khrushchev, the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1 and the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to orbit the Earth aboard the first manned spacecraft, Vostok 1. Khrushchev's reforms in agriculture and administration, however, were generally unproductive. Foreign policy toward China and the United States suffered reverses when the two rivals clashed over the deployment of the U.S. Jupiter missiles in Turkey and Soviet missiles in Cuba. Following the ousting of Khrushchev, another period of rule by collective leadership ensued until Leonid Brezhnev established himself in the early 1970s as the pre-eminent figure in Soviet politics. Brezhnev's rule oversaw economic stagnation and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which dragged on without success and with continuing casualties inflicted by insurgents, and Soviet citizens became increasingly discontented with the war, ultimately leading to the withdrawal of Soviet forces by 1989.
From 1985 onwards, the reformist Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the landmark policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring), in an attempt to modernize the country. Glasnost meant that the harsh restrictions on free speech that had characterized most of the Soviet Union's existence were removed and open political discourse and criticism of the government became possible. Perestroika was a program of economic reforms designed to decentralize the Soviet planned economy. However, the reforms put in motion forces of change that threatened Communist Party hegemony while provoking strong resentment amongst conservatives. In August 1991, an unsuccessful military coup against Gorbachev instead led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. In Russia, Boris Yeltsin came to power and declared the end of exclusive Communist rule. The USSR soon splintered into fifteen independent republics and was officially dissolved in December 1991. Boris Yeltsin was elected the President of Russia in June 1991 in the first direct presidential election in Russian history.
Tanks bombard the White House on October 4, 1993Main article: History of post-Soviet Russia
The 1990s was a decade of economic and political turmoil in Russia. The optimism that democracy had been met with soon turned to apathy as democratic and free market principles became discredited in the eyes of many Russians as the country spiralled into chaos. After the disintegration of the USSR, the Russian economy went through a major crisis. In October 1991, Yeltsin announced that Russia would proceed with radical, market-oriented reform along the lines of "shock therapy", as recommended by the United States and IMF. However, this policy resulted in economic collapse, with millions being plunged into poverty and corruption and crime spreading rapidly. The removal of price controls caused hyperinflation and people's savings were wiped out. Russia took up the responsibility for settling the USSR's external debts, even though its population made up just half of the population of the USSR at the time of its dissolution. The privatization of state enterprises was extremely uneven. The largest state enterprises (petroleum, metallurgy, and the like) were controversially privatized by President Boris Yeltsin to insiders for far less than they were worth. When once all enterprises belonged to the state and were supposed to be equally owned amongst all citizens, they fell into the hands of a few. Because of this most Russians consider these infamous "oligarchs" thieves. Many of the newly rich mobsters and businesspeople took billions in cash and assets outside of the country in an enormous capital flight. In 1993 a constitutional crisis pushed Russia to the brink of civil war. President Boris Yeltsin illegally dissolved the country's legislature which opposed his moves to consolidate power and push forward with unpopular neo-liberal reforms; in response, legislators barricaded themselves inside the White House and major protests resulted in the most deadly street fighting seen in Moscow since the Russian Revolution of 1917. With military support, Yeltsin sent the army to besiege the parliament building and used tanks and artillery to eject the legislators.
Modern Moscow-City under construction. Moscow is the world's most expensive city.The 1990s were plagued by armed ethnic conflicts in the North Caucasus. Such conflicts took a form of separatist Islamist insurrections against federal power (most notably in Chechnya), or of ethnic/clan conflicts between local groups (e.g., in North Ossetia-Alania between Ossetians and Ingushs, or between different clans in Chechnya). Since the Chechen separatists declared independence in the early 1990s, an intermittent guerrilla war (First Chechen War, Second Chechen War) has been fought between disparate Chechen groups and the Russian military. Islamic terrorism led to attacks such as the 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis and 2004 Beslan school hostage crisis. Russia has severely disabled the Chechen rebel movement, although sporadic violence still occurs throughout the North Caucasus. On December 31, 1999 Boris Yeltsin resigned from the presidency, handing the post to the recently appointed prime minister, Vladimir Putin, who then won the 2000 election. In his resignation speech Yeltsin asked for the Russian people's forgiveness for not fulfilling their hopes, and stated that "what we thought would be easy turned out to be painfully difficult". Putin won popularity for suppressing the Chechen insurgency, while initially high oil prices and a cheap ruble followed by increasing domestic demand, consumption and investments has helped the economy grow for eight straight years, alleviating the standard of living and increasing Russia's clout on the world stage. While many reforms made under Putin’s rule have been generally criticized by Western nations as un-democratic, Putin's leadership over the return of stability and progress has won him widespread popularity in Russia.
Government and politics
Main article: Politics of Russia
According to the Constitution, which was adopted by national referendum on December 12, 1993 following the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis, Russia is a federation and a presidential republic, wherein the President of Russia is the head of state and the Prime Minister of Russia is the head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.
The president is elected by popular vote for a four-year term (eligible for a second term but constitutionally barred for a third consecutive term); election last held 14 March 2004 (next to be held in March 2008). Ministries of the government are composed of the premier and his deputies, ministers, and selected other individuals; all are appointed by the president. The national legislature is the Federal Assembly, which consists of two chambers; the 450-member State Duma and the 176-member Federation Council. According to the Constitution of Russia, constitutional justice in the court is based on the equality of all citizens, judges are independent and subject only to the law, and trials are to be open, and the accused is guaranteed a defense. Although Russia's regions enjoy a degree of autonomous self-government, the election of regional governors was substituted by direct appointment by the president in 2005.
Although Freedom House lists Russia as being "not free", Alvaro Gil-Robles (then head of the Council of Europe human rights division) states "The fledgling Russian democracy is still, of course, far from perfect, but its existence and its successes cannot be denied." The Economist rates Russia as a "hybrid regime", where they consider "some form of democratic government" is in place. Leading political parties in Russia include United Russia, the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and Fair Russia.
Main article: Subdivisions of Russia
Map of the federal subjects of the Russian FederationThe Russian Federation comprises 85 federal subjects. These subjects have equal representation—two delegates each—in the Federation Council. However, they differ in the degree of autonomy they enjoy.
47 oblasts (provinces): most common type of federal subjects, with federally appointed governor and locally elected legislature.
21 republics: nominally autonomous; each has its own constitution, president, and parliament. Republics are allowed to establish their own official language alongside Russian but are represented by the federal government in international affairs. Republics are meant to be home to specific ethnic minorities.
Eight krais (territories): essentially the same as oblasts. The "territory" designation is historic, originally given to frontier regions and later also to administrative divisions that comprised autonomous okrugs or autonomous oblasts.
Six autonomous okrugs (autonomous districts): originally autonomous entities within oblasts and krais created for ethnic minorities, their status was elevated to that of federal subjects in the 1990s. With the exception of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, all autonomous okrugs are still administratively subordinated to a krai or an oblast of which they are a part.
One autonomous oblast (the Jewish Autonomous Oblast): originally autonomous oblasts were administrative units subordinated to krais. In 1990, all of them except the Jewish AO were elevated in status to that of a republic.
Two federal cities (Moscow and St. Petersburg): major cities that function as separate regions.
Federal subjects are grouped into seven federal districts, each administered by an envoy appointed by the President of Russia. Unlike the federal subjects, the federal districts are not a subnational level of government, but are a level of administration of the federal government. Federal districts' envoys serve as liaisons between the federal subjects and the federal government and are primarily responsible for overseeing the compliance of the federal subjects with the federal laws.
For economic and statistical purposes the federal subjects are grouped into twelve economic regions. Economic regions and their parts sharing common economic trends are in turn grouped into economic zones and macrozones.
Foreign relations and military
Main articles: Foreign relations of Russia and Armed Forces of the Russian Federation
Vladimir Putin and George Bush signing SORTThe Russian Federation is recognized in international law as continuing the legal personality of the former Soviet Union. Russia continues to implement the international commitments of the USSR, and has assumed the USSR's permanent seat on the UN Security Council, membership in other international organizations, the rights and obligations under international treaties and property and debts. Russia has a multifaceted foreign policy. It maintains diplomatic relations with 178 countries and has 140 embassies. Russia's foreign policy is determined by the President and implemented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
As one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Russia plays a major role in maintaining international peace and security, and has played a major role in resolving international conflicts by participating in the Quartet on the Middle East, the Six-party talks with North Korea, and promoting the resolution of the Kosovo conflict and nuclear proliferation issues. Russia is a member of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations, the Council of Europe, OSCE and APEC. Russia usually takes a leading role in regional organizations such as the CIS, EurAsEC, CSTO, and the SCO. President Vladimir Putin has advocated a strategic partnership with close integration in various dimensions including establishment of four common spaces between Russia and the EU. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has developed a friendlier, albeit volatile relationship with NATO. The NATO-Russia Council was established in 2002 to allow the 26 Allies and Russia to work together as equal partners to pursue opportunities for joint collaboration; while the possibility of Russia joining NATO in the future has been discussed, Russia has not formally joined NATO as an ally, nor has Russia expressed any desire to join NATO.
Russian paratroopers at an exercise in KazakhstanRussia assumed control of Soviet assets abroad and most of the Soviet Union's production facilities and defense industries are located in the country. The Russian military is divided into the Ground Forces, Navy, and Air Force. There are also three independent arms of service: Strategic Rocket Forces, Military Space Forces, and the Airborne Troops. Russia ranks at or near the top of many metrics of military power including in numbers of tanks, fighter aircraft and naval vessels; it has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons. It has the second largest fleet of ballistic missile submarines and is the only country apart from the U.S. with a modern strategic bomber force. The country has a large and fully indigenous arms industry, producing all of its own military equipment. Russia is the world's top supplier of weapons, a spot it has held since 2001, accounting for around 30% of worldwide weapons sales and exporting weapons to about 80 countries. As of 2005, 330,000 men are brought into the army via conscription annually, though the armed forces are from 2008 reducing the conscription term from two years to one, and increasing volunteer servicemen to compose 70% of the armed forces by 2010.
Defense expenditure has quadrupled over the past six years and is likely to be sustained through 2010. Official government military spending for 2007 was $32.4 billion, though various sources, including US intelligence, and the US Department of Defence, have estimated Russia’s military expenditures to be considerably higher. Currently, the military is undergoing a major equipment upgrade with about $200 billion (what equals to about $400 billion in PPP dollars) on development of military equipment between 2006 and 2015.
Main article: Economy of Russia
A Rosneft petrol station. Russia is the world's leading natural gas exporter and the second leading oil exporter.
Soyuz TMA-2 moves to launch pad, carrying the first resident crew to the ISS.Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia is trying to develop a market economy and achieve consistent economic growth. Russia saw its centrally planned economy contract severely for five years, as the executive and the legislature dithered over the implementation of reforms and Russia's aging industrial base faced a serious decline. Since the turn of the century, high oil prices, foreign investment and political stability have bolstered economic growth. Russia ended 2006 with its eighth straight year of growth, averaging 6.7% annually since the financial crisis of 1998.
Russia's 2006 GDP was $1.723 trillion (est. PPP), the 8th highest in the world, with GDP growth of 6.8%. Growth was driven by non-traded services and goods for the domestic market, as opposed to oil or mineral extraction and exports. The Russian economy has often outperformed expectations, and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank forecast that Russia's GDP will grow by at least 7% in 2007. The Ministry of Economic Development and Trade revised its forecast and projects that GDP will grow 7.3% in 2007.
Oil, natural gas, metals, and timber account for more than 80% of exports. Oil and gas contribute to 5.7% of GDP and the government predicts this will drop to 3.7% of Russia's GDP by 2011. Russia has the world's largest natural gas reserves, the second largest coal reserves and the eighth largest oil reserves. It is the world's leading natural gas exporter and the second leading oil exporter. Russia is well ahead of most other resource-rich countries in its economic development, with a long tradition of education, science, and industry. The importance of oil and gas to the economy led to the creation the Stabilization Fund of the Russian Federation, which takes in revenues from oil and gas exports and helps offset market volatility. As of October 1, 2007, it stands at $147.6 billion.
In the first half of 2007, foreign investment in the Russian economy doubled year-on-year, reaching $60.3 billion. In 2000 total investment in fixed assets was $40 billion, giving growth of 300% by 2006 when it reached $120 billion. Since 2003, exports of natural resources started decreasing in economic importance as the internal market has strengthened considerably, largely stimulated by intense construction, as well as consumption of increasingly diverse goods and services. A simpler, more streamlined tax code adopted in 2001 reduced the tax burden on people, and dramatically increased state revenue. Russia has a flat income tax rate of 13 percent, ranked the second most attractive tax system in the world after the United Arab Emirates according to a 2007 survey by investment services firm Mercer, and its implementation has been so successful that it has been widely emulated by other countries. The federal budget has run surpluses since 2001 and ended 2006 with a surplus of 9% of GDP. Over the past several years, Russia has used its stabilization fund based on oil taxes to prepay all Soviet-era sovereign debt to Paris Club creditors and the IMF. Oil export earnings have allowed Russia to increase its foreign reserves from $12 billion in 1999 to some $315 billion at the end of 2006, the third largest reserves in the world (as of November 30, 2007, it stands at $463.5 billion). The country is also benefiting from rising oil prices and has been able to substantially reduce its formerly huge foreign debt.
Russia has more higher education graduates than any other country in EuropeThe economic development of the country has been uneven geographically: the Moscow region contributes one-third of the country's GDP while having only a tenth of its population. While the huge capital region of Moscow is an affluent metropolis, much of the country, especially indigenous and rural communities in Asian Russia, lags significantly behind. Nevertheless, the middle class has grown from just 8 million in 2000 to 55 million in 2006, estimates Expert, a market research firm in Moscow.
Over the last five years, fixed capital investments have averaged real gains greater than 10% per year and personal incomes have achieved real gains more than 12% per year. During this time, poverty has declined steadily and the middle class has continued to expand. Russia has also improved its international financial position since the 1998 financial crisis. The average salary has increased to $540 (about $920 PPP) per month in August 2007, from $65 per month in August 1999. Equal redistribution of capital gains from the natural resource industries to other sectors is still a problem. A principal factor in Russia's growth has been the combination of strong growth in productivity, real wages, and consumption. A skilled work-force, including women and minorities, secular attitudes and mobile class structure has set Russia far apart from the majority of developing nations.
Main article: Demography of Russia
Demography 1992–2007. Number of inhabitants in millionsIn July 2007, the population of Russia was estimated to be 141,377,752. The Russian Federation is home to as many as 160 different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples. As of the 2002 Russian census, 79.8% of the population is ethnically Russian, 3.8% Tatar, 2% Ukrainian, 1.2% Bashkir, 1.1% Chuvash, 0.9% Chechen, 0.8% Armenian, and 10.3% other or unspecified. Though Russia's population is comparatively large, its population density is low because of its enormous size; its population is densest in European Russia, near the Ural Mountains, and in the southwest Siberia.
About 75% of the population live in urban areas. As of the 2002 Census, the two largest cities in Russia are Moscow (10,342,151 inhabitants) and Saint Petersburg (4,661,219). Eleven other cities have between one and two million inhabitants: Chelyabinsk, Kazan, Novosibirsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Omsk, Perm, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Ufa, Volgograd, and Yekaterinburg. There are an estimated 10 million illegal immigrants from the ex-Soviet states in Russia.
Main article: Education in Russia
Moscow State UniversityRussia has a free education system guaranteed to all citizens by the Constitution, Russia has a literacy rate of 99.4%. Russia came first in the world in the 2006 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study conducted by Boston College. Entry to higher education is highly competitive. Universities have been transitioning to a new degree structure similar to that of Britain and the USA; a four year Bachelor's degree and two year Master's degree. As a result of great emphasis on science and technology in education, Russian medical, mathematical, scientific, and space and aviation research is generally of a high order.
The Russian Constitution grants a universal right to higher education free of charge and through competitive entry. The Government allocates funding to pay the tuition fees within an established quota, or number of students for each state institution. This is considered crucial because it provides access to higher education to all skilled students, as opposed to only those who can afford it. In addition, students are provided with a small stipend and free housing. However, the institutions have to be funded entirely from the federal and regional budgets; institutions have found themselves unable to provide adequate teachers' salaries, students' stipends, and to maintain their facilities. To address the issue, many state institutions started to open commercial positions, which have been growing steadily since. Many private higher education institutions have emerged to address the need for a skilled work-force for high-tech and emerging industries and economic sectors.
Russia's constitution guarantees free, universal health care for all citizens. While Russia has more physicians, hospitals, and health care workers than almost any other country in the world, since the collapse of the Soviet Union the health of the Russian population has declined considerably as a result of social, economic, and lifestyle changes. As of 2006, the average life expectancy in Russia is 59.12 years for males and 73.03 years for females. The biggest factor contributing to this relatively low life expectancy for males is a high mortality rate among working-age males from preventable causes (e.g., alcohol poisoning, stress, smoking, traffic accidents, violent crimes). As a result, there are 0.859 males to every female.
In 2006, the federal statistics agency reported that Russia's population shrunk by about 700,000 people, dipping to 142.8 million. The primary causes of Russia's population decrease are a high death rate and low birth rate. While Russia's birth-rate is comparable to that of other European countries (Russia's birth rate is 10.92 per 1000 people compared to the European Union average of 10.00 per 1000) its population declines at much greater rate due to a substantially higher death rate (Russia's death rate is 16.04 per 1000 people compared to the European Union average of 10.00 per 1000). Heart diseases account for 56.7% of total deaths, with about 30% involving people still of working age. About 16 million Russians suffer from cardiovascular diseases, placing Russia second in the world, after Ukraine, in this respect. Mortality among Russian men rose by 60% since 1991, four to five times higher than in Europe. Death rates from homicide, suicide and cancer are also especially high. According to a 2007 survey by Romir Monitoring, 52% of men and 15% of women smoke, and more than 260,000 lives are lost each year as a result of tobacco use.
In an effort to stem Russia’s demographic crisis, the government is implementing a number of programs designed to increase the birth rate and attract more migrants to alleviate the problem. The government has doubled monthly child support payments and offered a one-time payment of 250,000 Rubles (around US$10,000) to women who had a second child since 2007. In the first six months of 2007, Russia has seen the highest birth rate since the collapse of the USSR. The First Deputy Prime Minister indicated that the number of childbirths increased 6.5 percent in the first half of 2007, while the number of deaths fell the same 6.5 percent. The First Deputy PM also said about 20 billion rubles (about US$1 billion) will be invested in new prenatal centres in Russia in 2008–2009. Russia is the second country in the world by the number of immigrants from abroad, mostly from other CIS countries. They are mainly Russians or Russian speakers, and immigration is increasingly seen as necessary to sustain the country's population.
Main article: Russian language
Countries of the world where Russian is spokenThe Russian language is the only official state language, but the Constitution gives the individual republics the right to make their native language co-official next to Russian. Russian is the most geographically widespread language of Eurasia and the most widely spoken of the Slavic languages. Russian belongs to the family of Indo-European languages and is one of three (or, according to some authorities, four) living members of the East Slavic languages; the others being Belarusian and Ukrainian (and possibly Rusyn, often considered a dialect of Ukrainian). Written examples of Old East Slavonic are attested from the 10th century onwards. 
Over a quarter of the world's scientific literature is published in Russian. It is also applied as a means of coding and storage of universal knowledge—60–70% of all world information is published in English and Russian languages. Russian also is a necessary accessory of world communications systems (broadcasts, air- and space communication, etc). Because of the status of the Soviet Union as a superpower, Russian had great political importance in the 20th century. Hence, the language is still one of the official languages of the United Nations.
Main article: Religion in Russia
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, demolished during the Soviet period, was reconstructed from 1990–2000Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Judaism are Russia’s traditional religions, deemed part of Russia's "historical heritage" in a law passed in 1997. Estimates of believers widely fluctuate between sources, and some reports put the number of non-believers in Russia as high as 24–48% of the population. Russian Orthodoxy is the dominant religion in Russia. 95% of the registered Orthodox parishes belong to the Russian Orthodox Church while there is a number of smaller Orthodox Churches.
The ancestors of today’s Russians adopted Orthodox Christianity in the 10th century. According to a poll by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, 63% of respondents considered themselves Russian Orthodox, 6% of respondents considered themselves Muslim and less than 1% considered themselves either Buddhist, Catholic, Protestant or Jewish. Another 12% said they believe in God, but did not practice any religion, and 16% said they are non-believers. However, the vast majority of Orthodox believers do not attend church on a regular basis. Nonetheless, the church is widely respected by both believers and nonbelievers, who see it as a symbol of Russian heritage and culture. Smaller Christian denominations such as Roman Catholics, Armenian Gregorian and other Protestants exist.
It is estimated that Russia has some 15-20 million Muslims. Russia is also home to an estimated 3 million to 4 million Muslim migrants from the ex-Soviet states. Most Muslims live in the Volga-Ural region, as well as in the North Caucasus, Moscow, St. Petersburg and western Siberia. In Russia, there are more than 6,000 mosques (in 1991 it was about 150). Buddhism is traditional for three regions of the Russian Federation: Buryatia, Tuva and Kalmykia. Some residents of the Siberian and Far Eastern regions, Yakutia, Chukotka, etc., practice pantheistic and pagan rites, along with the major religions. Induction into religion takes place primarily along ethnic lines. Slavs are overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian. Turkic speakers are predominantly Muslim, although several Turkic groups in Russia are not.
Main article: Russian culture
Leo TolstoyRussian literature is considered to be among the most influential and developed in the world, contributing much of the world's most famous literary works. Russia's rich literary history began with Alexander Pushkin, considered to be the founder of modern Russian literature and often described as the "Russian Shakespeare". Amongst Russia's most famous poets and writers are Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Anton Chekhov. The leading writers of the Soviet era included Boris Pasternak, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Vladimir Mayakovski, Mikhail Sholokhov, and the poets Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Andrei Voznesensky.
Pyotr Ilyich TchaikovskyRussia's large number of ethnic groups have distinctive traditions of folk music. Music in 19th century Russia was defined by the tension between classical composer Mikhail Glinka and his followers, who embraced Russian national identity and added religious and folk elements to their compositions, and the Russian Musical Society led by composers Anton and Nikolay Rubinstein, which was musically conservative. The later Romantic tradition of Tchaikovsky was brought into the 20th century by Sergei Rachmaninoff, one of the last great champions of the Romantic style of European classical music.
World-renowned composers of the 20th century included Scriabin, Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich. During the Soviet Era, music was highly scrutinized and kept within a conservative, accessible idiom in conformity with Soviet expectations. Russian conservatories have turned out generations of world-renowned soloists. Among the best known are violinists David Oistrakh and Gidon Kremer, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, pianists Vladimir Horowitz, Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels, and vocalist Galina Vishnevskaya.
Maya Plisetskaya in Swan LakeRussian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky composed the most famous works of ballet—Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and Sleeping Beauty. During the early 20th century, Russian dancers Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nijinsky rose to fame, and Ballets Russes' travels abroad profoundly influenced the development of dance worldwide. Soviet ballet preserved the perfected 19th century traditions, and the Soviet Union's choreography schools produced one internationally famous star after another, including Maya Plisetskaya, Rudolf Nureyev, and Mikhail Baryshnikov. The Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow and the Kirov in St. Petersburg remain famous throughout the world.
Russian film-making came to prominence following the 1917 revolution when it emerged as the primary mode of cinematic expression. Russian and later Soviet cinema was a hotbed of invention in the period immediately following the 1917 revolution, resulting in world-renowned films such as Battleship Potemkin. Soviet-era filmmakers, most notably Sergei Eisenstein and Andrei Tarkovsky, would become some of the world's most innovative and influential directors. Eisenstein also was a student of filmmaker and theorist Lev Kuleshov, who formulated the groundbreaking editing process called montage at the world's first film school, the All-Union Institute of Cinematography in Moscow. Dziga Vertov, whose kino-glaz (“film-eye”) theory—that the camera, like the human eye, is best used to explore real life—had a huge impact on the development of documentary film making and cinema realism. In 1932, Stalin made Socialist Realism the state policy; this stifled creativity but many Soviet films in this style were artistically successful, including Chapaev, The Cranes Are Flying and Ballad of a Soldier. The 1980s and 1990s were a
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