Even after the implosion of the USSR, Russia remains the largest country in the world – covering more square kilometers than any other. But the statistics are deceptive – huge tracts of the Russian North are forest or icy tundra, inhabited only by wolves, bears, elk & deer… and the few trappers who hunt them. Despite its enormous size, Russia’s population is only 2.5 times that of the British Isles. Even today, the majority of Russians live in small towns and villages – very often more than a day’s journey from the nearest large city, airport, or rail connection. Russia’s severe climate makes it unfeasible or impossible to provide road or rail connections to much of the North of the country, where winter low temperatures can regularly drop to –55ºC or even lower. Remote communities living in the North receive winter supplies and mail by helicopter drops when visibility conditions permit.
But the picture of never-ending winter in Russia is wrong too – even the Arctic coast enjoys a bright, warm summer, in the Land Of The Midnight Sun. Long before Christianity reached Russia, the northern tribes saw their calendar as an ongoing battle between two complementary gods – Svarog, the sun-god, and Chiornobog, the god of darkness. This becomes very believable if you visit a Russian northern city like Murmansk – where there is only 22 minutes of daylight in mid-winter, or half an hour of darkness in midsummer.
17 million sq km (the largest country in the world by area)
142m (the 9th-largest country by population)
Russian (+ 50 languages of indigenous peoples are spoken/written)
59 years (men), 73 years (women) (United Nations statistics)
1 rouble = 100 kopeks