Russia is country that stretches over a vast expanse of eastern Europe and northern Asia. By far the world’s largest country, it covers nearly twice the territory of Canada, the second largest. It extends across the whole of northern Asia and the eastern third of Europe, spanning 11 time zones and incorporating a great range of environments and landforms, from deserts to semiarid steppes to deep forests and Arctic tundra. Russia contains Europe’s longest river, the Volga, and its largest lake, Ladoga. Russia also is home to the world’s deepest lake, Baikal, and the country recorded the world’s lowest temperature outside the North and South poles.
With the dissolution of the Soviet Union visitors have a fresh opportunity to explore a vast array of exciting and ancient cultures, from the glittering imperial Russia of St. Petersburg to the timeless village life of Siberia and Irkutsk.Throwing off the blanket of communist uniformity, Russia today is a nation of enormous diversity and tremendous vitality. It is as if the cultural traditions of a century ago have re-awakened with a newfound strength - ancient cathedrals are being rebuilt and restored, colorful markets hum with activity once again and literature and the arts are quickly regaining the creative renown they enjoyed decades ago. A new Russia is now in full bloom.
Saint Petersburg is a very young city compared to old European capitals and, probably, the only city in the world that has acquired so much historic significance in such a short time. It was founded in 1703 as an outlet to the sea, which was very important for Russia's future development from both strategic and economical points of view. Saint Petersburg was considered to be «a key for paradise» for the Russian Empire, so the city's name is very symbolic: it was called in honor of Saint Peter, who, as we know from the Holy Bible, was a keeper of the keys from the paradise. Saint Petersburg today is one of the most important cultural, scientific and industrial cities in Russia, housing several hundred of museums and exhibition halls. Great Russian and foreign artists, poets, writers and composers admired the beauty of Saint Petersburg and commemorated it in their works.
Modern Kaliningrad is a dynamically developing commercial and industrial center of the westernmost Russian region. Centuries-old historical heritage, interest in which has extremely increased in recent years, successfully intertwines with the signs of the third millennium, creating a unique combination that attracts visitors from all over the world. Everyone who comes to Kaliningrad immediately catches the eye of its cultural and historical uniqueness, which is especially clearly manifested in the architectural appearance of the city. And despite the fact that the architecture of Koenigsberg was seriously damaged during the Second World War, the city still has enough objects that are of undoubted interest for history lovers.
The history of Russia begins with the histories of the East Slavs. The traditional start-date of specifically Russian history is the establishment of the Rus' state in the north in 862 ruled by Vikings.Staraya Ladoga and Novgorod became the first major cities of the new union of immigrants from Scandinavia with the Slavs and Finno-Ugrians.
After the 13th century, Moscow became a cultural center. The territories of the Grand Duchy of Moscow became the Tsardom of Russia in 1547. In 1721 Tsar Peter the Great renamed his state as the Russian Empire, hoping to associate it with historical and cultural achievements of ancient Rus' – in contrast to his policies oriented towards Western Europe. The state now extended from the eastern borders of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to the Pacific Ocean.
By the mid-1980s, with the weaknesses of Soviet economic and political structures becoming acute, Mikhail Gorbachev embarked on major reforms, which eventually led to the overthrow of the communist party and the breakup of the USSR, leaving Russia again on its own and marking the start of the history of post-Soviet Russia. The Russian Federation came into being in January 1992 as the legal successor to the USSR.