Russia

Date:  2013-05-28  Author: admin    Source:Wikipedia

Russian Federation
 
Russia, also officially known as the Russian Federation, is a country in northern Eurasia. It is afederal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with NorwayFinlandEstoniaLatviaLithuania and PolandBelarusUkraineGeorgiaAzerbaijanKazakhstanChinaMongolia, and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk, and the U.S. state of Alaskaacross the Bering Strait. At 17,075,400 square kilometres (6,592,800 sq mi), Russia is the largest country in the world, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area. Russia is also the world's ninth most populous nation with 143 million people as of 2012. Extending across the whole of northern Asia, Russia spans nine time zones and incorporates a wide range ofenvironments and landforms. Russia has the world's largest reserves of mineral and energy resources and is the largest producer of oil and natural gas globally. Russia has the world's largest forest reservesIts lakes contain approximately one-quarter of the world's liquid fresh water, 20% in Lake Baikal alone.
The nation's history began with that of the East Slavs, who emerged as a recognizable group in Europe between the 3rd and 8th centuries AD. Founded and ruled by a Varangian warrior elite and their descendants, the medieval state of Rus arose in the 9th century. In 988 it adopted Orthodox Christianity from the Byzantine Empire, beginning the synthesis of Byzantine and Slavic cultures that defined Russian culture for the next millennium. Rus' ultimately disintegrated into a number of smaller states; most of the Rus' lands were overrun by the Mongol invasion and became tributaries of the nomadic Golden Horde. The Grand Duchy of Moscow gradually reunified the surrounding Russian principalities, achieved independence from the Golden Horde, and came to dominate the cultural and political legacy of Kievan Rus'. By the 18th century, the nation had greatly expanded through conquest, annexation, and exploration to become the Russian Empire, which was the third largest empire in history, stretching from Poland in Europe to Alaska in North America.
Following the Russian Revolution, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic became the largest and leading constituent of the Soviet Union, the world's first constitutionally socialist state and a recognized superpower, which played a decisive role in the Allied victory in World War II. The Soviet era saw some of the most significant technological achievements of the 20th century, including the world's first human spaceflight. The Russian Federation became the successor state of the Russian SFSR following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and is recognized as the continuing legal personality of the All-Union state.
The Russian economy is the world's ninth largest by nominal GDP and sixth largest by purchasing power parity, with the 3rd largest nominal military budget. Russia is one of the world's fastest growing major economies. It is one of the five recognized nuclear weapons states and possesses thelargest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. Russia is a great power and a permanent memberof the United Nations Security Council, a member of the G8G20, the Council of Europe, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Eurasian Economic Community, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and is the leading member of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Russia is the largest country in the world; its total area is 17,075,400 square kilometres (6,592,800 sq mi). There are 23 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Russia, 40 UNESCO biosphere reserves,[124]41 national parks and 101 nature reserves. It lies between latitudes 41° and 82° N, and longitudes19° E and 169° W.
Russia has a wide natural resource base, including major deposits of timber, petroleum, natural gas, coal, ores and other mineral resources.
The two widest separated points in Russia are about 8,000 km (4,971 mi) apart along a geodesic line. These points are: the boundary with Poland on a 60 km (37 mi) long Vistula Spit separating the Gdańsk Bay from the Vistula Lagoon; and the farthest southeast of the Kuril Islands. The points which are furthest separated in longitude are 6,600 km (4,101 mi) apart along a geodesic line. These points are: in the west, the same spit; in the east, the Big Diomede Island. The Russian Federation spans 9 time zones.
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. Russia possesses 10% of the world's arable land.[125] Mountain ranges are found along the southern borders, such as the Caucasus (containing Mount Elbrus, which at 5,642 m (18,510 ft) is the highest point in both Russia and Europe) and the Altai (containing Mount Belukha, which at the 4,506 m (14,783 ft) is the highest point of Siberia outside of the Russian Far East); and in the eastern parts, such as the Verkhoyansk Range or the volcanoes of Kamchatka Peninsula (containingKlyuchevskaya Sopka, which at the 4,750 m (15,584 ft) is the highest active volcano in Eurasia as well as the highest point of Asian Russia). The Ural Mountains, rich in mineral resources, form a north-south range that divides Europe and Asia.
Russia has an extensive coastline of over 37,000 km (22,991 mi) along the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, as well as along the Baltic SeaSea of AzovBlack Sea and Caspian Sea. The Barents SeaWhite SeaKara SeaLaptev SeaEast Siberian SeaChukchi SeaBering SeaSea of Okhotsk, and the Sea of Japan are linked to Russia via the Arctic and Pacific. Russia's major islands and archipelagos include Novaya Zemlya, the Franz Josef Land, the Severnaya Zemlya, the New Siberian IslandsWrangel Island, the Kuril Islands, and Sakhalin. The Diomede Islands (one controlled by Russia, the other by the U.S.) are just 3 km (1.9 mi) apart, and Kunashir Island is about 20 km (12.4 mi) from Hokkaido, Japan.
Russia has thousands of rivers and inland bodies of water, providing it with one of the world's largest surface water resources. The largest and most prominent of Russia's bodies of fresh water is Lake Baikal, the world's deepest, purest, oldest and most capacious fresh water lake. Baikal alone contains over one-fifth of the world's fresh surface water.[17] Other major lakes include Ladoga and Onega, two of the largest lakes in Europe. Russia is second only to Brazil in volume of the total renewable water resources. Of the country's 100,000 rivers, 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. The Siberian rivers ObYeniseyLena and Amur are among the longest rivers in the world.
 
The establishment of the first East Slavic states in the 9th century coincided with the arrival of Varangians, the traders, warriors and settlers from the Baltic Sea region. Primarily they were Vikings of Scandinavianorigin, who ventured along the waterways extending from the eastern Baltic to the Black and Caspian Seas. According to the Primary Chronicle, a Varangian from Rus' people, named Rurik, was elected ruler of Novgorod in 862. In 882 his successor Oleg ventured south and conquered Kiev,[42] which had been previously paying tribute to the Khazars, founding Kievan Rus'. Oleg, Rurik's son Igor and Igor's son Sviatoslav subsequently subdued all local East Slavic tribes to Kievan rule, destroyed the Khazar khaganate and launched several military expeditions to Byzantium and Persia.
In the 10th to 11th centuries Kievan Rus' became one of the largest and most prosperous states in Europe. The reigns of Vladimir the Great (980–1015) and his son Yaroslav the Wise (1019–1054) constitute the Golden Age of Kiev, which saw the acceptance of Orthodox Christianity from Byzantium and the creation of the first East Slavic written legal code, the Russkaya Pravda.
In the 11th and 12th centuries, constant incursions by nomadic Turkic tribes, such as the Kipchaks and thePechenegs, caused a massive migration of Slavic populations to the safer, heavily forested regions of the north, particularly to the area known as Zalesye.
The age of feudalism and decentralization was marked by constant in-fighting between members of the Rurik Dynasty that ruled Kievan Rus' collectively. Kiev's dominance waned, to the benefit of Vladimir-Suzdal in the north-east, Novgorod Republic in the north-west and Galicia-Volhynia in the south-west.
Ultimately Kievan Rus' disintegrated, with the final blow being the Mongol invasion of 1237–40, that resulted in the destruction of Kiev and the death of about half the population of Rus'.[47] The invading Mongol elite, together with their conquered Turkic subjects (Cumans, Kipchaks, Bulgars) became known as Tatars, formed the state of the Golden Horde, which pillaged the Russian principalities; the Mongols ruled the Cuman-Kipchak confederation and Volga Bulgaria (modern-day southern and central expanses of Russia) for over two centuries.
Galicia-Volhynia was eventually assimilated by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, while the Mongol-dominated Vladimir-Suzdal and Novgorod Republic, two regions on the periphery of Kiev, established the basis for the modern Russian nation. The Novgorod together with Pskov retained some degree of autonomy during the time of the Mongol yoke and were largely spared the atrocities that affected the rest of the country. Led by Prince Alexander Nevsky, Novgorodians repelled the invading Swedes in the Battle of the Neva in 1240, as well as the Germanic crusaders in the Battle of the Ice in 1242, breaking their attempts to colonize the Northern Rus'.
Sergius of Radonezh blessing Dmitry Donskoy in Trinity Sergius Lavra, before theBattle of Kulikovo, depicted in a painting by Ernst Lissner.
The most powerful successor state to Kievan Rus' was the Grand Duchy of Moscow ("Moscovy" in the Western chronicles), initially a part of Vladimir-Suzdal. While still under the domain of the Mongol-Tatars and with their connivance, Moscow began to assert its influence in the Central Rus' in the early 14th century, gradually becoming the main leading force in the process of the Rus' lands' reunification and expansion of Russia.
Those were hard times, with frequent Mongol-Tatar raids and agriculture suffering from the beginning of the Little Ice Age. As in the rest of Europe, plagues hit Russia somewhere once every five or six years from 1350 to 1490. However, because of the lower population density and better hygiene (widespread practicing of banya, the wet steam bath), the population loss caused by plagues was not so severe as in the Western Europe, and the pre-Plague populations were reached in Russia as early as 1500.
Led by Prince Dmitry Donskoy of Moscow and helped by the Russian Orthodox Church, the united army of Russian principalities inflicted a milestone defeat on the Mongol-Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380. Moscow gradually absorbed the surrounding principalities, including the formerly strong rivals, such as Tver and Novgorod.
Ivan III (the Great) finally threw off the control of the Golden Horde, consolidated the whole of Central and Northern Rus' under Moscow's dominion, and was the first to take the title "Grand Duke of all the Russias".[51] After the fall of Constantinoplein 1453, Moscow claimed succession to the legacy of the Eastern Roman Empire. Ivan III married Sophia Palaiologina, the niece of the last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI, and made the Byzantine double-headed eagle his own, and eventually Russian, coat-of-arms.
 
In development of the Third Rome ideas, the Grand Duke Ivan IV of Russia in 1547. The Tsar 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.
During his long reign, Ivan the Terrible nearly doubled the already large Russian territory by annexing the three Tatar khanates (parts of disintegrated Golden Horde): Kazan and Astrakhan along the Volga River, and Sibirean Khanate in South Western Siberia. Thus by the end of the 16th century Russia was transformed into a multiethnicmultidenominational andtranscontinental state.
However, the Tsardom was weakened by the long and unsuccessful Livonian War against the coalition of Poland, Lithuania, and Sweden for access to the Baltic coast and sea trade. At the same time the Tatars of the Crimean Khanate, the only remaining successor to the Golden Horde, continued to raid Southern Russia. In effort to restore the Volga khanates, Crimeans and their Ottoman allies invaded central Russia and were even able to burn down parts of Moscow in 1571. But next year the large invading army was thoroughly defeated by Russians in the Battle of Molodi, forever eliminating the threat of the Ottoman-Crimean expansion into Russia. The raids of Crimeans, however, didn't cease until the late 17th century, though the construction of new fortification lines across Southern Russia, such as the Great Abatis Line, constantly narrowed the area accessible to incursions.
The death of Ivan's sons marked the end of the ancient Rurik Dynasty in 1598, and in combination with the famine of 1601–03 led to the civil war, the rule of pretenders and foreign intervention during the Time of Troubles in the early 17th century. Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth occupied parts of Russia, including Moscow. In 1612 the Poles were forced to retreat by the Russian volunteer corps, led by two national heroes, merchant Kuzma Minin and PrinceDmitry Pozharsky. The Romanov Dynasty acceded the throne in 1613 by the decision of Zemsky Sobor, and the country started its gradual recovery from the crisis.
Russia continued its territorial growth through the 17th century, which was the age of Cossacks. Cossacks were warriors organized into military communities, resembling pirates and pioneers of the New World. In 1648, the peasants of Ukrainejoined the Zaporozhian Cossacks in rebellion against Poland-Lithuania during the Khmelnytsky Uprising, because of the social and religious oppression they suffered under Polish rule. In 1654 the Ukrainian leader, Bohdan Khmelnytsky, offered to place Ukraine under the protection of the Russian Tsar, Aleksey I. Aleksey's acceptance of this offer led to another Russo-Polish War (1654–1667). Finally, Ukraine was split along the Dnieper River, leaving the western part (orRight-bank Ukraine) under Polish rule and eastern part (Left-bank Ukraine and Kiev) under Russian. Later, in 1670–71 the Don Cossacks led by Stenka Razin initiated a major uprising in the Volga Region, but the Tsar's troops were successful in defeating the rebels.
In the east, the rapid Russian exploration and colonisation of the huge territories of Siberia was led mostly by Cossacks hunting for valuable furs and ivoryRussian explorers pushed eastward primarily along the Siberian River Routes, and by the mid-17th century there were Russian settlements in Eastern Siberia, on the Chukchi Peninsula, along the Amur River, and on the Pacific coast. In 1648 the Bering Strait between Asia and North America was passed for the first time by Fedot Popov andSemyon Dezhnyov.
 
Under Peter the Great, Russia was proclaimed an Empire in 1721 and became recognized as a world power. 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), as well as Estland and Livland, securing Russia's access to the sea and sea trade. On the Baltic Sea Peter founded a new capital called Saint Petersburg, later known as Russia's Window to EuropePeter the Great's reforms brought considerable Western European cultural influences to Russia.
The reign of Peter I's daughter Elizabeth in 1741–62 saw Russia's participation in the Seven Years' War (1756–63). During this conflict Russia annexed East Prussia for a while and even took Berlin. However, upon Elisabeth's death, all these conquests were returned to Kingdom of Prussia by pro-Prussian Peter III of Russia.
Catherine II (the Great), who ruled in 1762–96, presided over the Age of Russian Enlightenment. She extended Russian political control over the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and incorporated most of its territories into Russia during the Partitions of Poland, pushing the Russian frontier westward into Central Europe. In the south, after successfulRusso-Turkish Wars against the Ottoman Empire, Catherine advanced Russia's boundary to the Black Sea, defeating theCrimean Khanate. As a result of victories over the Ottomans, by the early 19th century Russia also made significant territorial gains in Transcaucasia. This continued with Alexander I's (1801–25) wresting of Finland from the weakened kingdom of Sweden in 1809 and of Bessarabia from the Ottomans in 1812. At the same time Russians colonized Alaska and even founded settlements in California, like Fort Ross.
In 1803–06, the first Russian circumnavigation was made, later followed by other notable Russian sea exploration voyages. In 1820 a Russian expedition discovered the continent of Antarctica.
In alliances with various European countries, Russia fought against Napoleon's France. The French invasion of Russia at the height of Napoleon's power in 1812 failed miserably as the obstinate resistance in combination with the bitterly cold Russian Winter led to a disastrous defeat of invaders, in which more than 95% of the pan-European Grande Armée perished. Led by Mikhail Kutuzov and Barclay de Tolly, the Russian army ousted Napoleon from the country and drove through Europe in the war of the Sixth Coalition, finally entering Paris. Alexander I headed Russia's delegation at the Congress of Vienna that defined the map of post-Napoleonic Europe.
The officers of the Napoleonic Wars brought ideas of liberalism back to Russia with them and attempted to curtail the tsar's powers during the abortive Decembrist revolt of 1825. At the end of the conservative reign ofNicolas I (1825–55), a zenith period of Russia's power and influence in Europe was disrupted by defeat in theCrimean War. Between 1847 and 1851, a massive wave of Asiatic cholera swept over Russia, claiming about one million lives.
Nicholas's successor Alexander II (1855–81) enacted significant changes in the country, including theemancipation reform of 1861. These Great Reforms spurred industrialization and modernized the Russian army, which had successfully liberated Bulgaria from Ottoman rule in 1877–78 Russo-Turkish War.
The late 19th century saw the rise of various socialist movements in Russia. Alexander II was killed in 1881 by revolutionary terrorists, and the reign of his son Alexander III (1881–94) was less liberal but more peaceful. The last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II (1894–1917), was unable to prevent the events of the Russian Revolution of 1905, triggered by the unsuccessful Russo-Japanese War and the demonstration incident known as Bloody Sunday. The uprising was put down, but the government was forced to concede major reforms, including granting the freedoms of speech and assembly, the legalization of political parties, and the creation of an elected legislative body, the State Duma of the Russian Empire. Migration to Siberia increased rapidly in the early 20th century, particularly during the Stolypin agrarian reform. Between 1906 and 1914 more than four million settlers arrived in that region.
In 1914 Russia entered World War I in response to Austria-Hungary's declaration of war on Russia's ally Serbia, and fought across multiple fronts while isolated from its Triple Entente allies. In 1916 the Brusilov Offensiveof the Russian Army almost completely destroyed the military of Austria-Hungary. However, the already-existing public distrust of the regime was deepened by the rising costs of war, high casualties, and rumors of corruption and treason. All this formed the climate for the Russian Revolution of 1917, carried out in two major acts.
The February Revolution forced Nicholas II to abdicate; he and his family were imprisoned and later executedduring the Russian Civil War. The monarchy was replaced by a shaky coalition of political parties that declared itself the Provisional Government. An alternative socialist establishment existed alongside, the Petrograd Soviet, wielding power through the democratically elected councils of workers and peasants, called Soviets. The rule of the new authorities only aggravated the crisis in the country, instead of resolving it. Eventually, the October Revolution, led by Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Provisional Government and gave full governing power to the Soviets, leading to the creation of the world's first socialist state.
 
Following the October Revolution, a civil war broke out between the anti-communist White movement and the newSoviet regime with its Red Army. Russia lost its Ukrainian, Polish, Baltic, and Finnish territories by signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk that concluded hostilities with the Central Powers in World War I. The Allied powerslaunched an unsuccessful military intervention in support of anti-Communist forces, while both the Bolsheviks and White movement carried out campaigns of deportations and executions against each other, known respectively as the Red Terror and White Terror. By the end of the civil war, the Russian economy and infrastructure were heavily damaged. Millions became White émigrés, and the Povolzhye famine of 1921 claimed up to 5 million victims.
The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (called Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic at the time) together with the UkrainianByelorussian, and Transcaucasion Soviet Socialist Republicsformed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), or Soviet Union, on 30 December 1922. Out of the 15 total republics that would make up the USSR, the Russian SFSR was the largest in terms of size, and making up over half of the total USSR population, dominated the union for its entire 69-year history.
Following Lenin's death in 1924, a troika had been designated to govern the Soviet Union. However, Joseph Stalin, an elected General Secretary of the Communist Party, managed to put down all opposition groups within the party and consolidate much power in his hands. Leon Trotsky, the main proponent of the world revolution, was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1929, and Stalin's idea of Socialism in One Country became the primary line. The continued internal struggle in the Bolshevik party culminated in the Great Purge, a period of mass repressions in 1937–38, in which hundreds of thousands of people were executed, including original party members and military leaders convicted in coup d'état plots.
Under Stalin's leadership, the government launched a planned economy, industrialisation of the largely rural country, and collectivization of its agriculture. During this period of rapid economical and social changes, millions of people were sent to penal labor camps, including many political convicts who opposed Stalin's rule, and millions were deported and exiled to remote areas of the Soviet Union. The transitional disorganisation of the country's agriculture, combined with the harsh state policies and a drought, led to theSoviet famine of 1932–1933. However, though with a heavy price, the Soviet Union was transformed from a largely agrarian economy to a major industrial powerhouse in a short span of time.
The Appeasement policy of Great Britain and France towards Adolf Hitler's annexation of Austria andCzechoslovakia enlarged the might of Nazi Germany and put a threat of war to the Soviet Union. Around the same time the Third Reich allied with the Empire of Japan, a rival of the USSR in the Far East and an open enemy in the Soviet–Japanese Border Wars in 1938–39.
In August 1939, after another failure of attempts to establish an anti-Nazi alliance with Britain and France, the Soviet government decided to improve relations with Germany by concluding the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, pledging non-aggression between the two countries and dividing their spheres of influence in Eastern Europe. While Hitler conquered Poland, France and other countries acting on single front at the start of World War II, the USSR was able to build up its military and claim some of the former territories of the Russian Empire as a result of the Soviet invasion of PolandWinter War and occupation of the Baltic states.
On 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany broke the non-aggression treaty and invaded the Soviet Union with the largest and most powerful invasion force in human history, opening the largest theater of World War II. Although the German army had considerable success early on, their onslaught was halted in the Battle of Moscow. Subsequently the Germans were dealt major defeats first at the Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942–43,[71]and then in the Battle of Kursk in the summer of 1943. Another German failure was the Siege of Leningrad, in which the city was fully blockaded on land between 1941–44 by German and Finnish forces, suffering starvation and more than a million deaths, but never surrendering. Under Stalin's administration and the leadership of such commanders as Georgy Zhukov and Konstantin Rokossovsky, Soviet forces drove through Eastern Europe in 1944–45 and captured Berlin in May 1945. In August 1945 the Soviet Army ousted Japanese from China's Manchukuo and North Korea, contributing to the allied victory over Japan.
The 1941–45 period of World War II is known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War. In this conflict, which included many of the most lethal battle operations in human history, Soviet military and civilian deaths were 10.6 million and 15.9 million respectively, accounting for about a third of all World War II casualties. The full demographic loss to the Soviet peoples was even greater. The Soviet economy and infrastructure suffered massive devastation but the Soviet Union emerged as an acknowledged superpower.
The Red Army occupied Eastern Europe after the war, including East Germany. Dependent socialist governments were installed in the Eastern Bloc satellite states. Becoming the world's second nuclear weapons power, the USSR established the Warsaw Pact alliance and entered into a struggle for global dominance, known as the Cold War, with the United States and NATO. The Soviet Union supported revolutionary movements across the world, including the newly formed People's Republic of China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and, later on, the Republic of Cuba. Significant amounts of the Soviet resources were allocated in aid to the other socialist states.
After Stalin's death and a short period of collective rule, new leader Nikita Khrushchev denounced the cult of personality of Stalin and launched the policy of de-Stalinization. Penal labor system was reformed and many prisoners were released and rehabilitated (many of them posthumously). The general easement of repressive policies became known later as the Khrushchev Thaw. At the same time, tensions with the United States heightened when the two rivals clashed over the deployment of the U.S. Jupiter missiles in Turkey and Soviet missiles in Cuba.
In 1957 the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satelliteSputnik 1, thus starting the Space Age. Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth aboard Vostok 1 manned spacecraft on 12 April 1961.
Following the ousting of Khrushchev in 1964, another period of collective rule ensued, until Leonid Brezhnevbecame the leader. The era of 1970s and the early 1980s was designated later as the Era of Stagnation, a period when the economic growth slowed and social policies became static. The 1965 Kosygin reform, aimed into partialdecentralization of the Soviet economy and shifting the emphasis from heavy industry and weapons to light industry and consumer goods, was stifled by the conservative Communist leadership.
In 1979, after a Communist-led revolution in AfghanistanSoviet forces entered the country by request of the new regime. The occupation drained economic resources and dragged on without achieving meaningful political results. Ultimately the Soviet Army was withdrawn from Afghanistan in 1989 because of international opposition, persistent anti-Soviet guerilla warfare (enhanced by the U.S.), and a lack of support from Soviet citizens.
From 1985 onwards, the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who sought to enact liberal reforms in the Soviet system, introduced the policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt to end theperiod of economic stagnation in the country and democratise the government. However, this led to the rise of strong nationalist and separatist movements. Prior to 1991, the Soviet economy was the second largest in the world, but during its last years it was afflicted by shortages of goods in grocery stores, huge budget deficits, and explosive growth in money supply leading to inflation.
By 1991, economic and political turmoil were beginning to boil over, as the Baltic republics chose to secede from the Union. On 17 March, areferendum was held, to which the vast majority of participating citizens voted in favour of preserving the Soviet Union as a renewed federation. In August 1991, a coup d'état attempt by members of Gorbachev's government, directed against Gorbachev and aimed at preserving the Soviet Union, instead led to the end of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Despite the will expressed by the people, on 25 December 1991, the USSR was dissolved into 15 post-Soviet states.
 
Boris Yeltsin was elected the President of Russia in June 1991, in the first direct presidential election in Russian history. During and after the Soviet disintegration, wide-ranging reforms including privatization andmarket and trade liberalization were being undertaken, including the radical changes along the lines of "shock therapy" as recommended by the United States and International Monetary Fund.[81] All this resulted in a major economic crisis, characterized by 50% decline of both GDP and industrial output between 1990–95.
The privatization largely shifted control of enterprises from state agencies to individuals with inside connections in the government system. Many of the newly rich businesspeople took billions in cash and assets outside of the country in an enormous capital flight. The depression of state and economy led to the collapse of social services; the birth rate plummeted while the death rate skyrocketed.[citation needed] Millions plunged into poverty, from 1.5% level of poverty in the late Soviet era, to 39–49% by mid-1993. The 1990s saw extreme corruption and lawlessness, rise of criminal gangs and violent crime.
The 1990s were plagued by armed conflicts in the North Caucasus, both local ethnic skirmishes and separatistIslamist insurrections. Since the Chechen separatists had declared independence in the early 1990s, anintermittent guerrilla war was fought between the rebel groups and the Russian military. Terrorist attacks against civilians carried out by separatists, most notably the Moscow theater hostage crisis and Beslan school siege, caused hundreds of deaths and drew worldwide attention.
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. High budget deficits caused the 1998 Russian financial crisis[87] and resulted in further GDP decline.
On 31 December 1999 President Yeltsin resigned, handing the post to the recently appointed Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, who then won the 2000 presidential election. Putin suppressed the Chechen insurgency, although sporadic violence still occurs throughout the Northern Caucasus. High oil prices and initially weak currency followed by increasing domestic demand, consumption and investments has helped the economy grow for nine straight years, improving the standard of living and increasing Russia's influence on the world stage. While many reforms made during the Putin presidency have been generally criticized by Western nations as un-democratic, Putin's leadership over the return of order, stability, and progress has won him widespread popularity in Russia.
On 2 March 2008, Dmitry Medvedev was elected President of Russia, whilst Putin became Prime Minister. Putin returned to the presidency following the2012 presidential elections, and Medvedev was appointed Prime Minister.
 
The Russian Federation is recognized in international law as a successor state of the former Soviet Union. Russia continues to implement the international commitments of the USSR, and has assumed the USSR's permanent seat in the UN Security Council, membership in other international organisations, the rights and obligations under international treaties, and property and debts. Russia has a multifaceted foreign policy. As of 2009, it maintains diplomatic relations with 191 countries and has 144 embassies. The foreign policy is determined by the President and implemented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia.
As the successor to a former superpower, Russia's geopolitical status has been often debated, particularly in relation to unipolar and multipolar views on the global political system. While Russia is commonly accepted to be a great power, in recent years it has been characterized by a number of world leaders, scholars, commentators and politicians as a currently reinstating or potential superpower.
An important aspect of Russia's relations with the West is the criticism of Russia's political system and human rights management by the Western governments, the mass media and the leading democracy and human rights watchdogs. In particular, such organisations as the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch consider Russia to have not enough democratic attributes and to allow few political rights and civil liberties to its citizens. Freedom House, an international organisation funded by the United States, ranks Russia as "not free", citing "carefully engineered elections" and "absence" of debate. Russian authorities dismiss these claims and especially criticise Freedom House. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has called the 2006 Freedom in the World report "prefabricated", stating that the human rights issues have been turned into a political weapon in particular by the United States. The ministry also claims that such organisations as Freedom House and Human Rights Watch use the same scheme of voluntary extrapolation of "isolated facts that of course can be found in any country" into "dominant tendencies".
As one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Russia plays a major role in maintaining international peace and security. The country participates in the Quartet on the Middle East and the Six-party talks with North Korea. Russia is a member of the G8 industrialized nations, the Council of EuropeOSCE andAPEC. Russia usually takes a leading role in regional organisations such as the CISEurAsECCSTO, and theSCO. Former President Vladimir Putin had advocated a strategic partnership with close integration in various dimensions including establishment of EU-Russia Common Spaces. Since the dissolution 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.
Russia maintains strong and positive relations with other BRIC countries. In recent years, the country has sought to strengthen ties especially with the People's Republic of China by signing the Treaty of Friendship as well as building the Trans-Siberian oil pipeline geared toward growing Chinese energy needs. 

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