Russia in Brief

Russian Geography

Russian geography - Regions of Russia

Russia is a country about 1.8 times the size of the US occupying the vast area between Europe and the North Pacific Ocean. It has an area of 10, 672,000 sq. miles(17,075,200 sq.km) and a population of almost 150 million people.Occupying a large territory in Europe and Asia Russia is spread over all climatic zones except

The country possesses a wide array of natural resources including major deposits of oil, coal, natural gas, many strategic minerals, diamonds and timber. The economic zone along the 23,533 mile (37,653 km) long coastline (Arctic and Pacific Oceans, Baltic, Black and Caspian Seas) holds significant reserves of fish and oil and natural gas on the sea shelf. Most of the country has a so called harsh continental climate characterized by a big difference between summer and winter temperatures (it gets indeed very cold in Siberia during winter, but it is also very hot in the summer). Russia's geographical location presents a significant obstacle to development - dry or cold climate, terrain, distance and remote location from major sea lanes,all these factors contribute to the situation when large parts of the country have almost no population and development. Russia has only 8% of arable land.

Russia is a multiethnic society. The largest ethnic groups include Russians (81.5%), Tatars (3.8%), Ukrainians (3%), Chuvash (1.2%), Bashkir (0.9%), Byelorussians (0.8%), Moldavians (0.7%), etc. Over 80% of the population name Russian - the official language of the country - as their native. Other languages are used in ethnic minority regions. Russia has equal religious diversity: with the main religions being Russian Orthodox Christianity and Muslim overall over 150 confessions could be found across the country.

Administratively, the Russian Federation is divided into 21 republic, 6 krays (federal territories), 2 federal cities, 49 regions, 1 autonomous region and 10 autonomous areas.

The capital of the Russian Federation is Moscow. With its 10 million population it is the largest city in the country, its principal economic and political center -the seat of the President, the government and the State Duma (Parliament).

The Russian Federation, which covers one-eighth of the earth's surface, spans eastern Europe and northern Asia, and ranks as the world's largest nation in terms of its territory. Russia is followed by Canada, China and the United States. Russia's northern regions are bordered by the Arctic Ocean, with the Baltic Sea bordering its western territories. The Russian Far East is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, with the Black Sea bordering southern Russia.

This country stretches 2,500-4,000 km from north to south and another 9,000 km from west to east. Russia's westernmost point is located on the Polish border; its easternmost point is situated on Ratmanov Island (Bering Straits). The southernmost point is located on the Russian-Azeri border, and the northernmost point is on Franz-Josef Land islands.

Russia's borders stretch for a total of 58,562 km (with 14,253 km bordering other states and 44,309 km bordering the sea).

Vast plains cover most of Russia's territory. The Eastern European (Russian) Plain, replete with low plateaus is found in western Russia. The Mid-Siberian plateau, which is gradually transformed into the Central Yakut plain,can be found between two rivers, the Yenisei and the Lena.

Mountain ranges are mostly located in Russia's eastern regions and in some of its southern areas, as well. The Ural mountain range, for one, constitutes a natural boundary separating European and Asian Russia. Various mountain ranges making up the northern slope of the Greater Caucasian mountain range are located in southern Russia. Another mountain chain,including the Altai range, is to be found in southern Siberia. The Kamchatka mountains (including some active volcanoes) stretch along the Pacific coast.

Russia abounds in mineral resources whose total potential value (in world prices) is estimated at an impressive $30 trillion. Russia produces 17 per cent of the world's crude oil, as well as 25-30 per cent of its natural gas, 6 per cent of all bituminous coal, 17 per cent of commercial iron ore and 10-20 per cent of all non-ferrous, rare and noble metals mined across the globe.

The largest oil-and-gas deposits are to be found in Western and Eastern Siberia and on Sakhalin Island.

The list of Russian mineral deposits includes gold, silver, platinum, cobalt,antimony, zinc, mercury, and many others. Russian mineral resources are distributed rather evenly along the nation's territory. For instance, copper-and-nickel ores are mined in the Northern Caucasus, the Urals, Siberia and the Kola Peninsula.

Most of Russia's territory is located in the temperate belt. The Arctic Ocean's islands, as well as this country's Arctic territories, are located in the Arctic and sub-Arctic belts. At the same time, a small section of the Caucasus' Black Sea coast is located in the sub-tropical belt. Russia boasts just about every conceivable natural climatic zone -- tundra, forest-tundra, forests, forest-steppes and semi-deserts. In addition, the permafrost zone covers big expanses in Siberia and the Far East.

The climate is mostly continental, with average January temperatures ranging from 0 to minus five degrees Centigrade in Western European Russia to minus 40-50 degrees Centigrade in east Yakutia (Sakha Republic). Average July temperatures range from plus one degree Centigrade on the northern Siberian coast to plus 24-25 degrees Centigrade in Russia's CisCaspian lowland. Some 150-2,000 mm of precipitation fall annually on Russian territory.

Russia boasts 120,000 rivers with a length of 10 km or greater each. The majority of all local rivers, major rivers included (Ob, Irtysh, Yenisei and Lena) are located in the Arctic Ocean basin. The Amur, Anadyr, Penzhina and some other rivers flow into the Pacific Ocean. The Don, Kuban and Neva rivers flow into the seas bordering the Atlantic Ocean. Russia's main river, the Volga, flows all the way to the Caspian Sea.

Generally, Russian rivers stretch for 3 million km, dumping nearly 4,000 cu. km. of water annually.

Around 2 million fresh- and salt-water lakes are scattered across Russia. The largest lakes are the Caspian, Baikal, Ladoga, Onega and Taimyr. Lake Baikal, which attracts scores of foreign environmentalists, is the largest fresh-water lake in the world, having an average depth of 730 m (and a maximum depth of 1,620 m).

Forests cover some 40 per cent of the entire Russian land mass, with total timber reserves of 79 billion cu. m. The largest forests can be found in the Siberian taiga, the Far East and the northern European territories. Coniferous trees (fir trees, pine trees, cedars, larches, firs, etc.) are the predominant tree varieties there. Mixed forests are typical of mid-Russian regions.

For the most part Russia has turf and podzol soils. Black-soil regions can also be found here, with the richest soils in this category located in the steppes of southeastern European Russia, and along the Western Siberian Plain. Chestnut-colored, greyish-brown soils, as well as saline lands, are also located here.

Russia has the world's fifth largest population (148.8 million people) after China, India, the United States and Indonesia. It is populated by approximately 130 nations and ethnic groups, including some 130 million Russians, over 5 million Tartars, nearly 4 million Ukrainians, 1.7 million Chuvashs, 1.7 million Jews, approximately 1.3 million Bashkirs, over 1 million Byelorussians and more than 1 million Mordovians.

All in all, 73 per cent of Russian citizens live in urban areas.

The Russian Federation has 1,067 major cities, with 13 of them inhabited by one million and more people each. The largest cities are Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk and Yekaterinburg.


Moscow, which is Russia's largest political, industrial, research and cultural center, is located on the banks of the Moskva River (between the Oka and Volga rivers) and has a population of around 9 million.

Moscow was first mentioned in medieval chronicles in 1147, becoming the seat of an appanage princedom in the thirteenth century. Moscow's prince Ivan Kalita who ruled between 1325 and 1340 became one of the first Russian rulers to start the reunification process. Under Kalita, Russian metropolitans transferred their residence from Vladimir to Moscow, which thus became a political and clerical center, serving as the main force in the Russian reunification process and independence struggle.

Peter the Great moved the Russian capital to St. Petersburg many centuries later, though the people continued to regard Moscow as Russia's heartland. Russian emperors were still being crowned here, with local authorities founding the first national university in 1755 on Mikhail Lomonosov's initiative. In fact, education was free for talented youths of all categories of the population.

The number of enterprises soared dramatically in Moscow after the abolition of serfdom, and was further facilitated by the construction of railroads. At the turn of the century ten railroads linked Moscow to roads continue to operate even today.

Moscow became the capital of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic on March 12, 1918 and on December 30, 1922, it became the capital of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The municipal subway network was commissioned in 1935. The city's seven famous sky-scrapers -- the Foreign Ministry and Railroads Ministry buildings, the Ukraina and Leningradskaya hotels, the Vosstaniya Square and Kotelnicheskaya Embankment highrise apartment buildings, and Moscow University -were completed in the 1950s and the 1960s. As a result, the Moscow skyline was changed completely. The Luzhniki stadium sprang up in the 1956. It hosted the 22nd Olympic Games. The Ostankino TV tower, as well as the "corridor" of high-rise buildings which constitute the Novy Arbat Avenue, were erected in the 1960s.

Moscow's ZIL and AZLK auto works produce cars and trucks. The city's Krasny Proletary factory manufactures a wide array of machine-tools, while the Dynamo and Manometer factories produce and instruments. Moscow also boasts the Serp i Molot Metallurgical Works and has a well-developed chemical industry, which is centered at its Kauchuk and Krasny Bogatyr factories, as well as impressive textile (the Trekhgornaya Manufaktura factory) and food industries, etc.

The Russian Academy of Sciences, nearly 77 colleges, 44 professional theaters, Russia's largest state library and 68 museums (roughly 20 per cent of all national state-run museums) are also located in Moscow.

The city is Russia's capital and the seat of its President, parliament and government.

St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg is the nation's second major industrial, research and cultural center after Moscow. In 1914 the city was renamed Petrograd, and from 1924 to 1991 it was named Leningrad. Its population stands at about 4,500 thousand.

St. Petersburg became Russia's capital in 1712, during which time all government organizations were relocated there. The population grew quickly, as the city continued to develop. St. Petersburg had a population of 95,000 by 1750. By 1853 over 500,000 people inhabited the city.

The first Russian railroad linking St. Petersburg with Tsarskoye Selo was opened in 1837. Another railroad connected the city with Moscow in 1851. St. Petersburg has now become a major Russian railroad junction, serving as the end port of the system of inland waterways which snake their way through European Russia's north-western region. It also serves as this country's most important Baltic Sea port.

The maritime academy was founded here back in 1715. The engineering school was established in 1719, while the miners' school sprang up in 1773. Road engineers' and forestry institutes were established in 1809 and 1811, respectively. As of today, the city has about 50 colleges and 15 professional theaters.

The city also boasts quite a few world famous architectural ensembles -- the Peter and Paul Fortress, the Alexander Nevsky Laura, the Palace Square and Winter Palace, the Decembrists' Square, where a monument to Peter the Great stands, St. Isaac's Cathedral, the Admiralty, the Academy of Arts, as well as numerous bridges.

The 1905-1907 revolution began here, followed by the February and October 1917 revolutions. During the Great Patriotic War Leningrad withstood a 900-day siege by Nazi forces.

Culture in Russia

Libraries & Museums Russia has over 50,000 state public libraries (39,000 of these rural) in total possession of over a billion books, and the stock is steadily growing. Every general-educational school and the majority of offices and large factories have libraries of their own.Close to 1,500 museums cover practically all fields of knowledge-historical , ethnographic, memorial, of folk crafts, fine and applied arts, theatre, music, natural sciences, technology, and many others. Museums-reserves have lately come into the foreground. Twenty open-air ethnographic museums present folk architecture, arts and everyday life. All museum collections, with a total exceeding fifty million items of historical, scientific and artistic value, comprise Russia's invaluable museum fund, its precious national treasure.Theater & Art The reforms removed all fetters from the stage. Despite all the problems of contemporary Russian life, the number of theatres is growing. Up to fifty new companies have appeared in 1993-1994. All told, Russia has 413 companies, with drama accounting for over half. Since 1989 local budgets have financed theatres to encourage provincial theatre. There are 31 languages of acting in our multi-ethnic country. Some ethnic companies are top-notch, and worthy rivals of Moscow theatres.In 1974, a team of Moscow artists opposing officially encouraged practices for the first time threw a public challenge to the powers-that-be with an impromptu shaw on a strip of waste land in Belyaevo, a distant suburb. The police literally razed it to the ground with orders to bulldoze the pictures. Later, some non-conformistworks found their way abroad.Things have now changed beyond recognition. The new Artists' Union Charter, adopted in 1993, proclaims freedom of creativity, high professionalism and humane goals among its basic principles. The union arranges exhibitions for its 13,000 members, and helps them with Picture sales in its many salons. Private galleries are also burgeoning throughout the country. Moscow alone has over a hundred.Folk ArtToday, folk art in Russia survives in two basic forms - handicrafts practiced on a broad scale and works of art created by gifted persons working at home. Articles fashioned from marble, glass, ceramics, metal, or ornamental textiles have really become part of our lives, adding a touch of beauty and hannony to our daily existence.The most popular handicrafts in present-day Russia are: wood carving and painting (Bogorodskoe, Khotkovo, Abramtsevo-Kudrino)- the Golden Khokhloma; artistic ceramics (Gzhel); clay toys (Dymkovo, Kargopol, Filimonovo, Abashevo); acquer painting (Fedoskino, Palekh, Mstera, Kholui); decorative tray painting (Zhostovo, Troitskoe); artistic metalworking (Veliky Ustiug silver, Rostov enamel, Kazakovo filigree)- bone carving (Kholmogoli, Tobolsk, Chukotka, Khotkovo); artistic stone working (Tyva carved sculpture)- lace making (Vologda, Vyatka, Yelets) - embroidery, golden thread needlework, pattern weaving and rug making. Whatever kind of folk art is looked at, it reflects the richness and diversity of the nation's soul and the splendor of the works crafted by its hands.

Russia Cuisine

Russian Cuisine

Original and varied, Russian cuisine is famous for exotic soups, cabbage schi and solyanka, which is made of assorted meats. Russians are great lovers of pelmeni, small Siberian meat pies boiled in broth.Every housewife of any experience has her own recipes for pies, pickles, and sauerkraut.

Even more varied is the choice of recipes for mushrooms, one of the most abundant and nourishing gifts of our woods. They are fried, pickled, salted, boiled and what not."No dinner without bread," goes the Russian saying. Wheat loaves have dozens of varieties. As to rye bread, Russians eat more of it than any nation in the world--a peculiarity of the Russian diet.As the Russian custom has it, a festive table isn't worth this name without a bottle of vodka. Russians are traditionally hearty drinkers:as good whiskey shall come from Scotland, and port from Portugal, so Russian wheat vodka is the world's best.

We have an amazing variety to offer, from the clear, colorless Moskovskaya and Stolichnaya to all kinds of bitters with herbs and spices.Of our folk soft drinks, kvass is the best-known. Made of brown bread or malted rye flour, it goes down best on a sultry summer day. If you add it to chopped-up meat and vegetables, you get okroshka, an exquisite cold soup.

Religion in Russia

Religion in Russia

Religion plays a prominent role in the public and spiritual life of today's Russia.The majority of believers belong to the Orthodox Christian denomination.Russia adopted Christianity under Prince Vladimir of Kiev in 988, in a ceremony patterned on Byzantine rites. Russia's baptism laid the foundations for the rise of the Russian Orthodox Church.In 1448, the Council of the Russian higher clergy elevated Bishop Iona of Ryazan to the cathedra of the Metropolitan of Moscow and All Russia, independently of Constantinople, making the Russian Orthodox Church autocephalous.A patriarchal throne in Moscow was instituted in 1589, with the first Russian patriarch, Tova, enthroned on January 26.Nikon, the Patriarch of Moscow and Russia (1652-1658), stands out among the hierarchs of the patriarchal period for his vigorous attempts to modify church rites and amend the church service books in line with the service practised in Greek churches. His reforms led to a religious split and emergence of the so-called Old Belief.The patriarchate survived in Russia until the early 18th century. In 1718, Peter the Great introduced collective control in the Russian Church. This innovation worked until 1721 only, when the Ecclesiastical College was transformed into a ruling Holy Synod, instituted as an administrative body of church power of the Russian Orthodox Church.In 1917, the Local Council of the Russian Orthodox Church adopted a resolution that restored patriarchal rule.After the 1917 upheavals, the Russian Orthodox Church has traversed a hard and tragic road. The early years of the Soviet regime were particularly trying for it.

The Land Decree of October 26, 1917, deprived the Church of the bulk of its lands. The worst hit were the monasteries. In its another decree, made public on January 26, 1918, the Council of People's Commissars (the government) separated the church from the state and school. As a result, all church organizations lost the powers of legal entity and the right to own property. To have the decree put into effect, a special liquidation committee was set up to evict the monks from their monasteries, many of which were destroyed, not without acts of vandalism, in which church utensils and bells were melted down and shrines containing relics were broken open.In the late 1980s, with attempts launched to restructure the country's economic and political system, major changes were made in the relationship between the state and the Church in the hope of revival. The millennium of Christianity in Russia in 1988 was celebrated on a grand scale. In that year, 1,610 new religious communities, most of them of the Orthodox belief, were registered in the country.In 1990, a series of laws were passed on the freedom of religion, under which many of the existing restrictions were removed from religious communities, allowing them to step up their activities.Religion in Russia TodayWith nearly 5,000 religious associations the Russian Orthodox Church accounts for over a half of the total number registered in Russia. Next in numbers come Moslem associations, about 3,000, Baptists, 450, Seventh Day Adventists, 120, Evangelicals, 120, Old Believers, over 200, Roman Catholics, 200, Krishnaites, 68, Buddhists, 80, Judaists, 50, and Unified Evangelical Lutherans, 39.Many churches and monasteries have been returned to the Church, including the St. Daniel Monastery, the current seat of the Moscow Patriarchate, the spiritual and administrative center of the Russian Orthodox Church.Some statisticians estimate the percentage of believers at 40 per cent of the entire Russian Federation. Close to 9,000 communities belonging to over forty confessions had been officially registered in the country.

The majority of religious Russians are Christians. The country has over 5,000 Russian Orthodox churches. Many are built anew or under repair on parish and local budgets money.Among the several more ambitious projects is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan, erected in Red Square to commemorate the liberation of Moscow by Minin and Pozharsky's militia, pulled down in 1936, and recently rebuilt from scratch. The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, demolished in 1931, is restored. Patriarch Aiexis II described its rebirth as "a sublime act of piety and penitence."Russia had 150 Roman Catholic parishes, two theological seminaries and an academy before the revolution of 1917. All were suppressed in the Soviet years, and the believers -- ethnic Lithuanians, Poles and Gennans -- were banished and seattered about Siberia and Central Asia. 83 communities have reappeared by now, and Apostolic Administrations linked to the Vatican have been established in Moscow for European Russia, and in Novosibirsk for Siberia. There are four bishops and 165 priests working among the approximately 1,300,000 Catholics in the country. The theological seminary, Mary Oueen of the Apostles, opened in Moscow in 1993 and was transferred to St. Petersburg in 1995.

The two million Protestants have 1,150 communities.The nineteen million Muslims, the second largest religious community in Russia, have over 800 parishes and mosques, mostly in Bashkortostan, Daghestan, Kabarda-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Tatarstan, Ingushetia, and Chechnya. The Muslim Board for Central European region has been re-established. The Moscow Muftiyat, an independent ecclesiastical body, is responsible for the Moscow, Vladimir, Ivanovo, Kostroma, Tula, Tver, Nizhny Novgorod, Kaluga, Yaroslavl and Kaliningrad regions, and Sochi, the renowned seaside resort in the Krasnodar Territory.Buddhism is widespread in Buryatia, Kalmykia, Tuva, and the Irkutsk and Chits regions. The Russian Federation currently has ten datsan monasteries, with the total monastic body approaching 200. Another ten monasteries are under construction.The Russian Federation has 42 Jewish communities. Moscow accounts for over 10 per cent of Russian Jews, and has three synagogues, one of which is Hasidic.

Mass Media in Russia

Mass Media in Russia

Russia has close to ninety officially registered television companies, 25,000 newspapers, over 1,500 radio programmes and 400 news agencies—over half of them independent, the rest entitled to full or partial government financing.The Mass Media Act, passed in December 1991, regulates their activities.Judging by opinion polls, 82 per cent of the Russian public see television as the principal information source, and prefer it to the press. Radio comes next with 24 per cent.The total number of subscriptions to publications exceeded 61~5 million in 1994, with newspapers accounting for 43.8 million. 78 per cent of Russians are regular readers of local periodicals whose total circulation accounts for 25.2 million copies, while that of national papers is 18.1 million copies.The weekly Argumenty i Fakty leads the national press, with 36 per cent of the polled readership, and is the most popular among people with college and university degrees and those in managerial occupations. Moskovsky Komsomolets, a Moscow daily, is second in popularity, with a huge number of subscribers and sells like hotcakes on the newsstands. The youth weekly AIDS-lnfo and the daily Trud (Labour), a favourite with trade union bosses and blue collar workers, come after these two.The respectable daily Izvestia (News) is a pronounced preference in cultural, research and business circles, 35 out of a hundred political activist pollees are also its regular readers. Of the Russian dailies, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Commersant Daily, Moskovsky Komsomolets, Rossiiskaya Gazeta and Pravda are also popular among political leaders, as are the weeklies Finansovaya Gazeta and Moscow News.

Opinion polls highlight the most popular TV programmes-"Wonderfield Quiz," "Topic," with its social and political charge, news programmes, and foreign serials.The Mir (World) interstate television and radio company, established in the middle of 1992, is jointly sponsored by Russia, Armenia, Tajikistan, BelaNs, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan and some other Commonwealth countries.Mayak (Beam), a round-the-clock radio station, which broadcasts news every thirty minutes, is most popular. Private radio stations—Europe Plus, Radio 101, M Radio, Moscow Echo, Radio Nadezhda (Hope), Nostalgie and others also have huge audience. They broadcast information, the analysis of the most important events and music. The new radio station Auto-Radio telling the audience about the situation in the Moscow traffic and about everything connected with cars has rapidly gained popularity.ITAR-TASS and RIA Novosti, the two national news agencies, are followed by private and joint-stock agencies: Interfax, Postfactum, and IMA-PRESS.Information Agency RIA NovostiThe Russian News & Information Agency RIA Novosti is one of the most authoritative and professional sources of prompt information in Russia and abroad.The Agency has a correspondent network in the Russian Federation, CIS and over 40 non-CIS countries.Every day, RIA Novosti publishes on the Internet and via e-mail social-political, economic, scientific and financial information in Russian, the main European languages and Arabic.RIA Novosti today is an open information site (press-club) for holding press-events and meetings with journalists. Over 90 highly qualified translators work in 12 languages for the Agency’s translation service.RIA Novosti has Russia’s largest photo service and one of the most extensive photo archives featuring over 600,000 photographs.RIA Novosti is constantly upgrading its technologies and ways to publish information. The Agency was one of the first professional information providers on the Russian market to start working on the Internet. The Agency’s site, www.rian.ru, publishes its main online information services. There is a subscription service for access to the full scope of information.The Agency can organize press-tours for foreign journalists of Russia, hold presentations on specific subjects, press-events abroad, conduct the monitoring of publications by foreign media and analyze them.

The Agency organizes TV linkups through ISDN communication channels, broadcasts press-conferences on the Internet and holds thematic round tables in the off the record format.RIA Novosti’s clients include the presidential administration, Russian government, Federation Council, State Duma, leading ministries and government departments, administrations of Federation subjects, representatives of Russian and foreign business communities, diplomatic missions and public organizations.A SHORT HISTORY OF RIA NOVOSTIRIA Novosti’s history dates back to June 24, 1941 when by a resolution of the USSR Council of People’s Commissars and the Communist Party Central Committee, “On the Establishment and Tasks of the Soviet Information Bureau”, the Soviet Information Bureau (Sovinformburo) was set up under the USSR Council of People’s Commissars and the Central Committee. Its main task was to oversee work to cover international, military events and the events of the country’s domestic life in periodicals and on the radio (from October 14, 1941 to March 3, 1942 was based in Kuibyshev – modern-day Samara). The bureau’s main task was to compile reports on the situation on the frontline of the war, work on the home front, and the partisan movement for the radio, newspapers and magazines. Sovinformburo directed the activity of the All-Slavonic Committee, Anti-Nazi Committee of Soviet Women, Anti-Nazi Committee of the Soviet Youth, Anti-Nazi Committee of Soviet Scientists, and the Jewish Anti-Nazi Committee. In 1944, a special bureau on propaganda for foreign countries was set up as part of Sovinformburo. Through 1,171 newspapers, 523 magazines and 18 radio stations in 23 countries, Soviet embassies abroad, friendship societies, trade unions, women’s, youth and scientific organizations, Sovinformburo informed readers and listeners about the struggle of the Soviet people against Nazism and in the post-war years about the main areas of Soviet domestic and foreign policies.Sovinformburo heads: A.S. Shcherbakov (from 1941 to 1945), S. A. Lozovsky (from 1945 to 1948), Y.S. Khavinson, D.A. Polikarpov.In 1961, the Novosti Press Agency (APN) succeeded Sovinformburo. It became the leading information and press body of Soviet public organizations. The constituent conference was held on February 21, 1961. The conference of representatives of Soviet public organizations adopted a decision to create a press agency of public organizations named Novosti. The agency’s guiding body was the Council of the Agency’s Founders. The APN founders were the USSR Journalists Union, USSR Writers Union, Union of Soviet Societies of Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, and the Znaniye Society. On April 3, 1961 the Agency charter was adopted. Under its charter, APN’s aim was “to contribute to mutual understanding, trust and friendship among peoples in every possible way by broadly publishing accurate information about the USSR abroad and familiarizing the Soviet public with the life of the peoples of foreign countries.” APN’s motto was “Information for Peace, for the Friendship of Nations.” APN had bureaus in over 120 countries.

The Agency published 60 illustrated newspapers and magazines in 45 languages with a one-time circulation of 4.3 million copies. With the Union of Soviet Friendship Societies, APN published the newspaper Moscow News, which in September 1990 became an independent publication. APN Publishing House put out over 200 books and booklets with a total annual circulation of 20 million copies. In 1989, a TV center opened in APN. Later, it was transformed into the TV-Novosti TV company.APN heads: Boris Burkov (1961-1970), Ivan Udaltsov (1970- 1975), Lev Tolkunov (1975-1983), Pavel Naumov (1983-1986), Valentin Falin (1986-1988), Albert Vlasov (1988-1990).By a decree of USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev, “On the Establishment of the Information Agency Novosti,” the Information Agency Novosti (IAN) succeeded APN on July 27, 1990. “To provide information support for the USSR’s state domestic and foreign policies and proceeding from the interests of the democratization of the mass media,” the Novosti Press Agency was renamed the Information Agency Novosti (IAN). IAN’s tasks remained the same - preparing and publishing printed, TV and radio materials in the USSR and abroad; studying public opinion on Soviet foreign and domestic policies in the USSR and abroad.” A computer databank was created in the Agency. Initially, it contained over 250,000 documents. In 1991, the Infonews hotline started operating in the Agency. IAN had bureaus in 120 countries. It published 13 illustrated magazines and newspapers.

The chairman of the IAN Board was Albert Ivanovich Vlasov.The Russian Information Agency Novosti was created in September 1991 on the basis of IAN and the Russian Information Agency. By a decree of the Russian president dated August 22, 1991, RIA Novosti was placed within the competence of the Press and Information Ministry. RIA Novosti had about 80 bureaus and news offices abroad, over 1,500 subscribers in CIS countries and about a hundred in non-CIS countries. In 1993, by a decree of the Russian president of September 15, 1993 “On the Russian Information Agency Novosti,” RIA Novosti became a state news-analytical agency. RIA Novosti’s radio channel - RIA-Radio worked in 1996. In August 1997, the TV channel Kultura was set up on the basis of the RIA TV channel under the sponsorship of the VGTRK TV and radio broadcasting company. By a decree of the Russian president, “On Improving the Work of the State Electronic Media,” the VGTRK information holding was created in May 1998, which RIA Novosti joined.In May 1998, the Agency was renamed the Russian Information Agency Vesti. As a mass media body, it retained the name of RIA Novosti. The main criteria of RIA Novosti’s information services were the combination of promptness, objectiveness, authenticity and its own opinion regardless of the political situation.In April 2004, the Federal State Unitary Enterprise Russian Information Agency Vesti was renamed the Federal State Unitary Enterprise Russian News & Information Agency RIA Novosti (Russian abbreviation - FGUP RAMI RIA Novosti).

Observed National Holidays

Observed National Holidays

Russian holidays present a motley picture — new and old, official and unofficial, professional and private, religious and secular. All occasions warrant a celebration. We describe here only a few principal holidays, in chronological order.The Official Holidays (Observed)January 1-5 New Year Holidays January 7 Christmas, Russian Orthodox February 23 Protector of Motherland Day March 8 International Women’s Day May 1 Spring and Labor Day May 9 Victory Day (Over German Nazism in the WW2) June 12 Day of Russia November 4 Day of the National Unity* The New Year is first on the calendar and in popularity. Many celebrate it twice, on January 1 and 14 (which conesponds to January 1 in the Julian calendar, used in Russia before 1918.* Next is February 23, Day, known until recently as Soviet Army Day, popularly viewed as holiday for all men and closely followed by its female counter-part, Women's Day, March 8, when women receive flowers, presents and are toasted by men.* Mayday, until recently officially termed International Workers' Solidarity Day, is now known as Spring and Labour Day. On some years, it occurs on or close to with Russian Orthodox Easter, so some people celebrate in church while some attend customary demonstrations.* Russia celebrates Victory Day on May 9 to commemorate the millions fallen in World War II.

Flowers and wreaths are laid on wartime graves on this day, and veterans come out into the streets wearing their military orders and medals. Alas, there are fewer of them with every passing year.* June 12 - Day of Russia.* November 4 - Day of the National Unity is the newest Russian holiday.* Church feasts have been reborn. Easter is celebrated nationwide, as of old, and Christmas became a day off. Muslims, Jews and Buddhists also celebrate their feasts without fear of secular authorities.

Russian State insignia

Russian State insignia

As a state symbol two-headed eagle first appeared in Russia, those times Moscovia, in the XV-th century. It came from Visantium with Sophia Paleolog, member of the last Visantium Emperor dynasty, who became the wife of Ivan III, the Great Duke of Moscow.Russian State insignia Two-headed eagle remained the symbol of Russian Monarchy and Russian State for more than four hundred years, till the October Revolution of 1917, and regained it's status in 1993 according to the order of President Boris Yeltsin of November 30, 1993.There are different interpretations of this symbol. The most common version says that two heads of the eagle symbolize that Russia consists of two part - European and Asian, and they are of equal importance for the country.The State insignia survived some changes during the pre-revolutionary history of Russia, though these changes were not too much significant. When the old Rurick dynasty ended in the XVII-th century and Romanovs came to power, the two-headed eagle remained as the symbol of Russia, though three crowns were added above the eagle. They were to embody the unity of three nations - Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian.The existing three-color Russian national flag was adopted by the Order of President Boris Yeltsin of December 11, 1993, replacing it's Soviet-time red-blue predecessor. According to the Constitution, 'The national flag of the Russian Federation consists of three equal horizontal stripes - white, blue and red'.
Russian FlagThis is the third time this three-color flag becomes the national symbol.

The first to use it was Peter the Great, who on January 20, 1705 ordered to hoist this flag as a trade one on all Russian ships on Moscow, Volga and Dvina rivers. In those times the lower red stripe symbolized the Earth, the blue stripe - the sky, and the upper white stripe meant the world of God. At the same time, according to the Russian tradition, white color meant nobility, blue - honesty, red - courage and love.But it still had to come through a tough competition with a black-yellow-white Emperor's banner, which was proclaimed the Russian national flag by the order of Alexander II, issued on June 11, 1858. For 25 years the red-blue-white flag was used, as in the XVIII-th century, only as a trade streamer. But after Alexander II was killed, the new Emperor, Alexander III, reconsidered the matter. Before the Coronation ceremony the Interior Minister, Count Tolstoy, produced to the Emperor both flags, and Alexander chose the red-blue-white one.

So, this banner regained the status of the national flag and preserved it till the October Revolution of 1917.After the Revolution it was replaced by the Soviet Red Banner. Russian Federation, as the part of the USSR, got it's own flag, which was, however, very much alike - red with a thin blue vertical stripe, and gold star, hammer and sickle in the upper left corner. Only 76 years later the old three color flag became again the national flag of the Russian Federation.Later, in the XIX-th century, the three stripes on the flag were thought to embody the commonwealth of three Slavonic nations - Russian, Ukranian and Belorussian. Beginning from the middle of the century the three-color flag gradually acquire functions of the national symbol. In 1856 during the Paris Congress, while the peace treaty about the end of the Crimea war was being negotiated, the red-blue-white banner was used as the national flag of the Russian Empire.

Russian Holidays

Observed National Holidays

Russian holidays present a motley picture — new and old, official and unofficial, professional and private, religious and secular. All occasions warrant a celebration. We describe here only a few principal holidays, in chronological order.The Official Holidays (Observed)January 1-5 New Year Holidays January 7 Christmas, Russian Orthodox February 23 Protector of Motherland Day March 8 International Women’s Day May 1 Spring and Labor Day May 9 Victory Day (Over German Nazism in the WW2)June 12 Day of Russia November 4 Day of the National Unity * The New Year is first on the calendar and in popularity.

Many celebrate it twice, on January 1 and 14 (which conesponds to January 1 in the Julian calendar, used in Russia before 1918.* Next is February 23, Day, known until recently as Soviet Army Day, popularly viewed as holiday for all men and closely followed by its female counter-part, Women's Day, March 8, when women receive flowers, presents and are toasted by men.* Mayday, until recently officially termed International Workers' Solidarity Day, is now known as Spring and Labour Day. On some years, it occurs on or close to with Russian Orthodox Easter, so some people celebrate in church while some attend customary demonstrations.* Russia celebrates Victory Day on May 9 to commemorate the millions fallen in World War II.

Flowers and wreaths are laid on wartime graves on this day, and veterans come out into the streets wearing their military orders and medals. Alas, there are fewer of them with every passing year.* June 12 - Day of Russia.* November 4 - Day of the National Unity is the newest Russian holiday.* Church feasts have been reborn. Easter is celebrated nationwide, as of old, and Christmas became a day off. Muslims, Jews and Buddhists also celebrate their feasts without fear of secular authorities.