A country in northern Asia and eastern Europe. Its borders touch Norway and Finland in the north, Poland in the north-west, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine in the west, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China, and Korea in the south; its maritime borders meet the Baltic Sea, Black Sea, the inland Caspian Sea, the Arctic, and the Pacific. It is separated from Alaska in the north-east by the Bering Strait.
The largest country in the world, Russia extends from the Gulf of Finland in the west to the peaks of Kamchatka in the east, from the frozen islands of Novaya Zemlya in the north to the warm Black Sea, the Caucasus Mountains, and the Pamirs and other ranges bordering China and Mongolia in the south. The north–south Ural Mountains divide European from Asian Russia. The plateaus and plains of Siberia make up most of the area to the east. To the west of the Urals extends the North European Plain. Great rivers include the Volga flowing south to the Caspian Sea, the Ob, Yenisei, and Lena draining north into the Arctic Ocean, and the Amur entering the Pacific Ocean to the east. East of the Lena is an area of mountains stretching from the Verkhoyanska to the Anadyr Range. Lake Baikal is Eurasia's largest, and the world's deepest, lake. Across the country extend belts of tundra (in the far north), forest, steppe, and fertile areas.
Following the collapse of communism and the end of the Soviet Union, Russia embarked on a difficult transition to a free-market economy by freeing prices and introducing measures for privatization and land reform. The 1990s saw chronic food shortages, hyperinflation, and a financial crisis, but more recent years have seen economic growth. Potentially of enormous wealth, Russia has rich mineral resources, with huge deposits of coal, iron ore, gold, platinum, copper, diamonds, and other metals, and, in Siberia, the world's largest reserves of petroleum and natual gas. Heavy industry, such as machinery, automobile production, paper and wood industries, and chemicals, dominates the economy, with mining and oil refineries also of importance. There is also light industry such as textiles and food-processing. The principal crops are grain, sunflower seeds, sugar beet, and flax.
In the 9th century the house of Rurik began to dominate the eastern Slavs, establishing the first all-Russian state with its capital at Kiev. This powerful state accepted Christianity in about 985. However, decline had set in long before the Mongols established their control over most of European Russia in the 13th century.
Following the collapse of Mongol rule in the late 14th century, the principality of Muscovy emerged as the pre-eminent state. Gradually it absorbed formerly independent principalities, such as Novgorod (1478), forming in the process an autocratic, centralized Russian state. Ivan IV (the Terrible) was the first Muscovite ruler to assume the title of Tsar (Emperor) of all Russia (1547). During his reign the state continued its expansion to the south and into Siberia. After his death a period of confusion followed as boyar families challenged the power of Theodore I (ruled 1584–98) and Boris Godunov. During the upheavals of the Time of Troubles (1604–13), there were several rival candidates to the throne which ended with the restoration of firm rule by Michael Romanov. The Romanov dynasty resumed the process of territorial expansion, and in 1649 established peasant serfdom. In the early 18th century Peter I transformed the old Muscovite state into a partially Westernized empire, stretching from the Baltic to the Pacific.