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With 155 million native speakers throughout central and Eastern Europe and in Russia, it's the eighth most common language in the world and the second most used in website content, after English. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Russian is widely believed to be one of the most difficult languages among language experts to learn, BUT, you might be surprised to know that the Russian Cyrillic alphabet actually only takes 10 hours to learn. Learn Russian for free here!

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Background: Founded in the 12th century, the Principality of Muscovy, was able to emerge from over 200 years of Mongol domination (13th-15th centuries) and to gradually conquer and absorb surrounding principalities. In the early 17th century, a new Romanov Dynasty continued this policy of expansion across Siberia to the Pacific. Under PETER I (ruled 1682-1725), hegemony was extended to the Baltic Sea and the country was renamed the Russian Empire. During the 19thcentury, more territorial acquisitions were made in Europe and Asia. Defeat in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 contributed to the Revolution of 1905, which resulted in the formation of a parliament and other reforms. Repeated devastating defeats of the Russian army in World War I led to widespread rioting in the major cities of the Russian Empire and to the overthrow in 1917 of the imperial household. The communists under Vladimir LENIN seized power soon after and formed the USSR. The brutal rule of Iosif STALIN (1928-53) strengthened communist rule and Russian dominance of the Soviet Union at a cost of tens of millions of lives. The Soviet economy and society stagnated in the following decades until General Secretary Mikhail GORBACHEV(1985-91) introduced glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt to modernize communism, but his initiatives inadvertently released forces that by December 1991splintered the USSR into Russia and 14 other independent republics. Since then, Russia has shifted its post-Soviet democratic ambitions in favor of a centralized semi-authoritarian state in which the leadership seeks to legitimize its rule through managed national elections, populist appeals by President PUTIN, and continued economic growth. Russia has severely disabled a Chechen rebel movement, although violence still occurs throughout the North Caucasus.

Small Russian town center.

Telephones - fixed lines: total subscriptions: 32,276,615
Telephones - mobile cellular: total: 231,393,994
Internet users: total: 108,772,470 /percent of population: 76.4%

Broadcast media:
13 national TV stations with the federal government owning 1 and holding a controlling interest in a second; state-owned Gazprom maintains a controlling interest in 2 of the national channels; government-affiliated Bank Rossiya owns controlling interest in a fourth and fifth, while a sixth national channel is owned by the Moscow city administration; the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian military, respectively, own 2 additional national channels; roughly 3,300 national, regional, and local TV stations with over two-thirds completely or partially controlled by the federal or local governments; satellite TV services are available; 2 state-run national radio networks with a third majority-owned by Gazprom; roughly 2,400 public and commercial radio stations (2016)

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Airports: 1,218.
Airports - with paved runways: total: 594
Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 624
Heliports: 49
Railways: total: 87,157 km
Railways broad gauge: 86,200 km 1.520-m gauge (40,300 km electrified)
Railways narrow gauge: 957 km 1.067-m gauge (on Sakhalin Island)
Railways note: an additional 30,000 km of non-common carrier lines serve industries (2014)

Roadways: total: 1,283,387 km
Roadways paved: 927,721 km (includes 39,143 km of expressways)
Roadways unpaved: 355,666 km

Image of Russia's only aircraft carrier in dock.

Waterways: 102,000 km (including 48,000 km with guaranteed depth; the 72,000-km system in European Russia links Baltic Sea, White Sea, Caspian Sea, Sea of Azov, and Black Sea).

Merchant marine: total: 1,143
Merchant marine by type: bulk carrier 20, cargo 642, carrier 3, chemical tanker 57, combination ore/oil 42, container 13, passenger 15, passenger/cargo 7, petroleum tanker 244, refrigerated cargo 84, roll on/roll off 13, specialized tanker 3.
Merchant marine foreign-owned: 155 (Belgium 4, Cyprus 13, Estonia 1, Ireland 1, Italy 14, Latvia 2, Netherlands 2, Romania 1, South Korea 1, Switzerland 3, Turkey 101, Ukraine 12).
Merchant marine registered in other countries: 439 (Antigua and Barbuda 3, Belgium 1, Belize 30, Bulgaria 2, Cambodia 50, Comoros 12, Cook Islands 1, Cyprus 46, Dominica 3, Georgia 6, Hong Kong 1, Kiribati 1, Liberia 109, Malaysia 2, Malta 45, Marshall Islands 5, Moldova 5, Mongolia 2, Panama 49, Romania 1, Saint Kitts and Nevis 13, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 11, Sierra Leone 7, Singapore 2, Spain 6, Vanuatu 7, unknown 19).

Ports and terminals: major seaport(s): Kaliningrad, Nakhodka, Novorossiysk, Primorsk, Vostochnyy.
River port(s): Saint Petersburg (Neva River).
Oil terminal(s): Kavkaz oil terminal.
Container port(s) (TEUs): Saint Petersburg (2,365,174).
LNG terminal(s) (export): Sakhalin Island.

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Unemployment rate:
5.5% (2016 est.)
5.6% (2015 est.)

Labor force: 76.64 million
Labor force country comparison to the world: 7
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 9.4%
industry: 27.6%
services: 63% (2016 est.)

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Telephone system:

General assessment: the telephone system is experiencing significant changes; there are more than 1,000 companies licensed to offer communication services; access to digital lines has improved, particularly in urban centers; Internet and e-mail services are improving; Russia has made progress toward building the telecommunications infrastructure necessary for a market economy; the estimated number of mobile subscribers jumped from fewer than 1 million in 1998 to more than 235 million in 2011.


Russia has undergone significant changes since the collapse of the Soviet Union, moving from a globally-isolated, centrally-planned economy towards a more market-based and globally-integrated economy, but stalling as a partially reformed, statist economy with a high concentration of wealth in officials’ hands. Economic reforms in the 1990s privatized most industry, with notable exceptions in the energy and defense-related sectors. The protection of property rights is still weak and the private sector remains subject to heavy state interference. Russia is one of the world’s leading producers of oil and natural gas and is also a top exporter of metals such as steel and primary aluminum. Russia’s manufacturing sector is generally uncompetitive on world markets and is geared toward domestic consumption. Russia’s reliance on commodity exports makes it vulnerable to boom and bust cycles that follow the volatile swings in global prices. The economy, which had averaged 7% growth during 1998-2008 as oil prices rose rapidly, was one of the hardest hit by the 2008-09 global economic crisis as oil prices plummeted and the foreign credits that Russian banks and firms relied on dried up. Slowly declining oil prices over the past few years and difficulty attracting foreign direct investment have contributed to a noticeable slowdown in GDP growth rates. In late 2013, the Russian Economic Development Ministry reduced its growth forecast through 2030 to an average of only 2.5% per year, down from its previous forecast of 4.0 to 4.2%. In 2014, following Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine, prospects for economic growth declined further, with expections that GDP growth could drop as low as zero.
Budget: revenues: $200.7 billion
Budget:expenditures: $244.8 billion (2016 est.)

Moscow, Kreml.

Military service age and obligation: 18-27 years of age for compulsory or voluntary military service; males are registered for the draft at 17 years of age; service obligation is 1 year (conscripts can only be sent to combat zones after 6 months of training); reserve obligation for non-officers to age 50; enrollment in military schools from the age of 16, cadets classified as members of the armed forces note: the chief of the General Staff Mobilization Directorate announced in May 2013 that for health reasons, only 65% of draftees called up during the spring 2013 draft campaign were fit for military service, and over 12% of these were sent for an additional medical examination (by way of comparison, 69.9% in 2012 and 57.7% in 2011 were deemed fit for military service); approximately 50% of draft-age Russian males receive some type of legal deferment each draft cycle (2014).

Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 34,765,736 females age 16-49: 35,410,779 (2013 est.) Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 22,597,728 females age 16-49: 23,017,006 (2013 est.) Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 696,768 female: 664,847 (2013 est.).
Military expenditures: 4.13% of GDP (2011) 4.47% of GDP (2010) 4.47% of GDP (2012)
Country comparison to the world: 8
Military expenditures (now) : 5.6% of GDP

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Russia remains concerned about the smuggling of poppy derivatives from Afghanistan through Central Asian countries; China and Russia have demarcated the once disputed islands at the Amur and Ussuri confluence and in the Argun River in accordance with the 2004 Agreement, ending their centuries-long border disputes; the sovereignty dispute over the islands of Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan, and the Habomai group, known in Japan as the “Northern Territories” and in Russia as the “Southern Kurils,” occupied by the Soviet Union in 1945, now administered by Russia, and claimed by Japan, remains the primary sticking point to signing a peace treaty formally ending World War II hostilities; Russia’s military support and subsequent recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia independence in 2008 continue to sour relations with Georgia; Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Russia ratified Caspian seabed delimitation treaties based on equidistance, while Iran continues to insist on a one-fifth slice of the sea; Norway and Russia signed a comprehensive maritime boundary agreement in 2010; various groups in Finland advocate restoration of Karelia (Kareliya) and other areas ceded to the Soviet Union following World War II but the Finnish Government asserts no territorial demands; Russia and Estonia signed a technical border agreement in May 2005, but Russia recalled its signature in June 2005 after the Estonian parliament added to its domestic ratification act a historical preamble referencing the Soviet occupation and Estonia’s pre-war borders under the 1920 Treaty of Tartu; Russia contends that the preamble allows Estonia to make territorial claims on Russia in the future, while Estonian officials deny that the preamble has any legal impact on the treaty text; Russia demands better treatment of the Russian-speaking population in Estonia and Latvia; Lithuania and Russia committed to demarcating their boundary in 2006 in accordance with the land and maritime treaty ratified by Russia in May 2003 and by Lithuania in 1999; Lithuania operates a simplified transit regime for Russian nationals traveling from the Kaliningrad coastal exclave into Russia, while still conforming, as an EU member state with an EU external border, where strict Schengen border rules apply; preparations for the demarcation delimitation of land boundary with Ukraine have commenced; the dispute over the boundary between Russia and Ukraine through the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov remains unresolved despite a December 2003 framework agreement and on-going expertlevel discussions; Kazakhstan and Russia boundary delimitation was ratified on November 2005 and field demarcation should commence in 2007; Russian Duma has not yet ratified 1990 Bering Sea Maritime Boundary Agreement with the US; Denmark (Greenland) and Norway have made submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental shelf (CLCS) and Russia is collecting additional data to augment its 2001 CLCS submission Refugees and internally displaced persons: IDPs: 8,500-28,450 (displacement from Chechnya and North Ossetia-Alania) (2011)
Stateless persons: 178,000 (2012); note—Russia’s stateless population consists of Roma, Meskhetian Turks, and ex-Soviet citizens from the former republics; between 2003 and 2010 more than 600,000 stateless people were naturalized; most Meskhetian Turks, followers of Islam with origins in Georgia, fled or were evacuated from Uzbekistan after a 1989 pogrom and have lived in Russia for more than the required five-year residency period; they continue to be denied registration for citizenship and basic rights by local Krasnodar Krai authorities on the grounds that they are temporary illegal migrants.

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Trafficking in persons:

Current situation: Russia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, although labor trafficking is the predominant problem; people from Russia and other countries in Europe, Central Asia, and Asia, including Vietnam and North Korea, are subjected to conditions of forced labor in Russia’s construction, manufacturing, agriculture, repair shop, and domestic services industries, as well as forced begging and narcotics cultivation; North Koreans contracted under bilateral government arrangements to work in the timber industry in the Russian Far East reportedly are subjected to forced labor; Russian women and children were reported to be victims of sex trafficking in Russia, Northeast Asia, Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East, while women from European, African, and Central Asian countries were reportedly forced into prostitution in Russia.

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Tier rating:

Tier 3—Russia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and because it is not deemed to be making significant efforts to do so was downgraded to Tier 3 after the maximum of two consecutive annual waivers; the number of prosecutions remains low compared to estimates of Russia’s trafficking problem; the government did not develop or deploy a formal system for the identification of trafficking victims or their referral to protective services, although some victims were reportedly cared for through ad hoc efforts; the government has reported minimal efforts to identify or care for the large number of migrant workers vulnerable to labor exploitation and has not investigated allegations of slave-like conditions in North Korean-operated timber camps (2013)

Illicit drugs:

Limited cultivation of illicit cannabis and opium poppy and producer of methamphetamine, mostly for domestic consumption; government has active illicit crop eradication program; used as transshipment point for Asian opiates, cannabis, and Latin American cocaine bound for growing domestic markets, to a lesser extent Western and Central Europe, and occasionally to the US; major source of heroin precursor chemicals; corruption and organized crime are key concerns; major consumer of opiates.

(End of CIA FactBook about Russia text.)

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia.

The language is native to: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and other neighboring post-Soviet states.
Early form: Old East Slavic
Some people say that the Russian language can be hard to learn.
This is not really true, learning Russian is no harder than learning other languages.
The main difficulty for a lot of people is learning the new grammar structure.

How can I learn Russian fast and free?
Learn Russian Fast: 7 Tips for Complete Russian Speed Demons !

Take the time to learn Cyrillic. ...
Use authentic media.sources ... :-)
Learn all the common words first. ...
Learn words that are the same across languages for easy sentence building.
Practice your skills daily with a Russian newspaper.
Find a Russian speaker to interact with. ... online or at school.

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Can you learn Russian by yourself?
The Russian language are considered an “area of need” or “critical language” by the US government, so learning to speak it can open up job opportunities within U.S. Government.
It can be hard to find formal Russian courses in some regions of the world.
This means that, for some people, if you want to learn Russian, learning by yourself is your only REAL option.

What other languages are spoken in Russia?
Most speakers of a minority language are also bilingual speakers of Russian. They have Russian as a second language.
There are over 100 minority languages spoken in Russia today.
The most popular is Tartar, spoken by more than 3% of the country's population.
Other minority languages include Ukrainian, Chuvash, Bashir, Mordvin and Chechen.

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The current name of the country, Россия (Rossija), comes from the Byzantine Greek designation of the Rus', Ρωσσία Rossía—spelled Ρωσία (Rosía pronounced [roˈsia]) in Modern Greek.
The standard way to refer to citizens of Russia is "Russians" in English and rossiyane (Russian: россияне) in Russian.
The country of Russia is already the world's sixth largest global economy, and is projected to overtake Germany's global economic position by the year 2030.

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