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The eleventh century in Kiev was the golden age of the Eastern Slavs, with the emergence of a thriving culture. The adoption of religion led to the beautification of cities and growth of culture, with music and churches, like the Cathedral of Saint Sophia. The Eastern Slavs worshipped in the form of art, building ornate churches, and creating golden mosaics in the Byzantine style.
Moscow was founded in 1147 as a defense outpost. The Kremlin in Moscow was fortified in 1156, forming a complex of cathedrals and palaces, and was the residence of the tsars.
In the thirteenth century, the Mongol Golden Horde invaded Kiev, and Kievan Rus disintegrated as a state in 1240. Muscovite Prince Dmitry Donskoy successfully defeated the Mongols in Moscow in 1380, in an important victory. The Mongols ruled Russia for more than 200 years, in the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries. In 1480, Prince Ivan III (Ivan the Great) renounced Russia's allegiance to the Mongols.
Ivan IV, who became known as Ivan the Terrible, expanded Russia and increased the popularity of religion in Russia. Ivan the Terrible was the first ruler in Russia to call himself "Tsar," and increased his own powers accordingly. He led aggressive military conquests and with the death of his son, Fedor, marking the end of the hereditary dynastic line of Rurik, the Time of Troubles began in 1598. Boris Godunov was elected to rule, but during his reign, the people of Russia suffered from famine and the Poles invaded Russia.
The election of 1613 brought in a new line of rulers, the Romanovs, marking the end of the Time of Troubles. Sixteen-year-old Mikhail Romanov became the new tsar, and under the Romanov rule, Russia enjoyed stability and expansion.
The Old Believer's schism in 1667 was a dispute over styles of worship in the Orthodox church. This led to Russia becoming a secular state, which it continues to be today, with a minority of the population active in religious organizations.
The French army, led by Napoleon, invaded Russia in June 1812, in the Battle of Borodino. Napoleon entered the Kremlin, but the Russians continued to fight. Moscow was burnt to the ground, but finally the French were defeated and forced out of Russia.
In 1904 and 1905, Russia and Japan went to war over territorial disputes. Russia's defeat came as a shock to much of the world, including Russia, leading to political unrest. A demonstration on January 22, 1905, now known as Bloody Sunday, was part of a labor strike in protest of working conditions. The tsarist government responded to the peaceful protest by shooting down somewhere between a hundred and a few thousand protesters, killing many of them. Bloody Sunday was a major factor leading to the Russian Revolution. In 1917, a series of revolutions overthrew Nicholas II, who was the last Russian Emperor before the Soviet Union (USSR) was created as the world's first socialist state.
Soviet Russia was ruled by Vladimir Lenin, then Joseph Stalin, and became a major world power with a significant role in both World War II and the Cold War. Despite a treaty made between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia during World War II, Germany attacked Russia, and in order to defend its territory, Russia fought back, joining the war on the side of the Allies. Russia emerged from the war as a superpower. During the Cold War, Soviet Russia signed the Warsaw Pact, a defense treaty, on May 14, 1955 along with the communist countries of Eastern Europe.
Mikhail Gorbachev was the last Soviet leader, but with political unrest and a suffering economy, Gorbachev was overthrown, marking the end of communist rule, and the dissolution of the USSR into many nations in 1991. Boris Yeltsin was elected President of the Russian Federation that year, bringing many changes to the nation, but also poverty and corruption. Yeltsin resigned in 1999, and Vladimir Putin then took over, though his government was also said to be corrupt. Putin became Prime Minister in 2008 when Dmitry Medvedev was elected President, but the two swapped roles again after the 2012 elections.
The growth rate of the population has been 0.23% in the year 2012. Russia is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world with a population density of 8.4 people per sq km. The population consists of ethnic Russians (81%); Tatars (3.9%), Ukrainians (1.4%); Bakhshirs (1.1%), Chuvash (1%); Chechens (1%) and Armenians (0.9%). Rural population comprised about 26% of the entire population.
The main religion followed in Russia is Eastern Orthodox Christianity, with a major proportion of the people- about 73% being Orthodox. Muslims comprise 6% of the population.
The overall literacy rate of Russia is 99.4% (2002), with the literacy rate in the male and the female population being 99.7% and 99.2%, respectively..
Russian Muslims are concentrated in the Volga-Ural region as well as Caucasus, St Petersburg, Moscow and west Siberia. Buddhists in Russia are found around Buryatia, Tuva and Kalmykia.
Russian cuisine is seen to contain a lot of meat and fish. Among vegetables used are potato, cabbage and cold greens.
Russian classical painting was at its peak in the early 19th century with neoclassicism and romanticism flourishing under the guidance of the Russian Academy of Arts, which was founded in 1757. Notable artists from this academy Ivan Argunov and Vladimir Borovikovsky. The focus of this art form was on Biblical and mythological themes.
By the 19th century, realism had begun earning popularity among the artists of Russia. The themes commonly captured in Russian realist paintings were landscapes of forests and rivers, as well as social criticism which gave an honest portrait of the social conditions of the-then Russia. Some others shifted their focus to critical realism and also the important moments in Russian history. Notable artists from this period are Ivan Shishkin, Isaac Levitan, Arkhip Kuindzi among others.
Russian avant-garde is the term given to the wave of modernist art that took over Russia from the period of 1890-1930 approximately. This includes neo-primitivism, constructivism, suprematism, futurism and rayonism. Notable avant-garde artists include El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich and Vladimir Tatlin.
The 18th century saw the advent of rococo architecture and with it, the marvels of Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Neoclassicism also flourished during this period. By the 19th century, the dominant architectural forms were byzantine and Russian revival. Art Noveau, constructivism and the Stalin Empire Style took prominence.
The main industries in Russia include a lot of mining and extracting activities of resources of coal, gas, oil and metals as well as machine building such as high performance aircraft and space vehicles, rolling mills etc. Also, manufacturing of advanced electronic components, road and rail transportation equipment, agricultural machinery, construction equipment form a major part of the local industries of Russia.
The fishing industry of Russia is the world’s fourth largest, tailing Japan, United States, and China. Also, Russian forests make up for more than one-fifth of the world’s entire forests, making it the largest forest nation on the planet.
Russia also has high reserves of diamonds, being the largest diamond producing nation in the world, contributing to 25% of the global diamond production.
Russian import industry is worth $358.1 billion (2012 est), with the imported goods being machinery, vehicles, plastic, semi-finished metal products, pharmaceutical products, fruits and nuts, meat, iron, steel etc.
* For more see our Russian roadways map.
* For more see our Russian railways map.
Sergey Shoigu is the current Russian minister of Defense.
- Russia is often called Mother Russia or the Motherland.
- The Russian language uses the Cyrillic script as its alphabet.
- Around 160 ethnic groups are found around Russia.
- Vodka is considered Russia's national drink - the word vodka is derived from the word for water. More Russia Fact...