Bound by treaty, Tsar Nicholas II and his subjects
entered World War I at the defense of Serbia. At the
opening of hostilities in August 1914, the Russians
took the offensive against both Germany and Austria-
Hungary in support of her French ally.
Later, military failures and bureaucratic ineptitude
soon turned large segments of the population against
the government. Control of the Baltic Sea by the
German fleet, and of the Black Sea by combined
German and Ottoman forces prevented Russia from
importing supplies and exporting goods.
On March 3, 1917, a strike occurred in a factory in the
capital Petrograd (formerly Saint Petersburg). On
February 23 (March 8) 1917, International Women's Day,
thousands of women textile workers in Petrograd walked
out of their factories protesting the lack of food and
calling on other workers to join them. Within days,
nearly all the workers in the city were idle, and street
fighting broke out. When the tsar ordered the Duma to
disband, ordered strikers to return to work, and ordered
troops to shoot at demonstrators in the streets, his
orders triggered the February Revolution, especially
when soldiers openly sided with the strikers. On March 2
(15), Nicholas II abdicated. To fill the vacuum of
authority, the Duma declared a Provisional Government,
headed by Prince Lvov.[ Meanwhile, the socialists in
Petrograd organized elections among workers and
soldiers to form a soviet (council) of workers' and
soldiers' deputies, as an organ of popular power that
could pressure the "bourgeois" Provisional Government.
There are over 160 different ethnic groups and indigenous peoples
Ethnic Russian clothes include kaftan, kosovorotka and ushanka for
men, sarafan and kokoshnik for women, with lapti and valenki as
Russian cuisine widely uses fish, poultry, mushrooms, berries, and
Russians have many traditions, most prominent being the washing
in banya, a hot steam bath somewhat similar to sauna.
Russia's large numbers of ethnic groups have distinctive traditions
of folk music. Typical ethnic Russian musical instruments are gusli,
balalaika, zhaleika and garmoshka.
Russian architecture began with the woodcraft buildings of ancient
Russians have been successful at a number of sports and
consistently finish in the top rankings at the Olympic
Games and in other international competitions.
There are seven public holidays in Russia.
Tourism in Russia has seen rapid growth since the late
Soviet times, first inner tourism and then international
tourism as well. Rich cultural heritage and great natural
variety place Russia among the most popular tourist
destinations in the world.
Orthodox Christianity is Russia's traditional and largest
religion, deemed part of Russia's "historical heritage" in a
law passed in 1997.
Major Exports Russia's major exports are
fuels, energy, metals, machinery &
equipment, chemicals, oil, Vodka, and clothes.
Major Imports Russia's major imports are machinery
& equipment, food and agricultural raw
materials, chemicals and metals.
Major Export Markets Main export markets are
Ukraine, Germany, Belarus, Netherlands and China.
Major Import Markets Russia's main import markets
are Germany, Ukraine, Belarus and the US.
Russia is a major producer of wheat, barley, oats, and rye. In
the early 1990s Russia annually produced 46 million metric tons
of wheat, 25.5 million metric tons of barley, 13.9 million metric
tons of rye, and 11.5 million metric tons of oats. Other
important crops in Russia include dry
peas, corn, millet, buckwheat, rice, and soybeans. Various types
of temperate-climate fruits, such as apples, pears, and
cherries, are also grown extensively in Russia. In the far
north, reindeer herding is a major occupation among the native
Russia's fishing industry is one of the largest in the world. In the
early 1990s the annual catch was about 9.2 million metric tons.
Marine fisheries accounted for the largest share of the catch. Of
the inland catch, the saltwater Azov, Black, and Caspian seas
accounted for about three-fifths of the total; freshwater
lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and ponds accounted for the remainder.
Mining is a major sector of the Russian economy and provides important
items for national export. Mineral resources are diverse, abundant, and
generally well developed. Russia has large reserves of energy-bearing
minerals, including petroleum, coal, and natural gas. For many years it
extracted enough of the minerals to meet domestic demands, provide
for nations in its economic sphere, and export to industrial nations of
the West in return for needed hard currency.
Russia is a major exporter of iron ore, with most production occurring in
the Kursk Magnetic Anomaly of south central Russia. Iron ore deposits
near Magnitogorsk in the Ural Mountains have been largely depleted.
Russia is also a notable exporter of copper (168,000 metric tons in 1990)
and nickel (127,000 metric tons in 1990). Copper and nickel ores are
mined primarily in the Urals, although sizable deposits of nickel are also
located in the Kola Peninsula near Murmansk.
The country is one of the world's leading producers of gold, which is
mined in the Urals, western Siberia, and eastern Siberia in the valley of
the Lena River. Russia is also a major diamond producer.
Economy (2008 est.)
GDP: $14.3 billion.
Growth rate: 4.0%.
Per capita GDP: $1,845 (official exchange rate), $3,130
Natural resources: Arable land, forests, minerals, and fisheries.
Agriculture (18.6% of GDP): Products--coffee, bananas, shrimp
and lobster, sugar, fruits, basic grains, and livestock.
Manufacturing (19.7% of GDP): Types--textiles and
apparel, cement, wood products, cigars, and foodstuffs.
Services (54.2% of GDP).
Trade: Exports (goods)--$6.95 billion: apparel, auto
parts, coffee, shrimp, bananas, palm oil, gold, zinc/lead
concentrates, soap/detergents, melons, lobster, pineapple, lum
ber, sugar, and tobacco. Major market--U.S. (70%). Imports
fabrics, yarn, machinery, chemicals, petroleum, vehicles, proces
sed foods, metals, agricultural products, plastic articles, and
paper articles. Major source--U.S. (52%).
The President has broad authority to issue decrees
and directives that have the force of law without
legislative review, although the constitution notes
that they must not contravene that document or
The Law on Presidential Elections requires that the
winner receive more than 50% of the votes cast. If no
candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the
top two candidates in term of votes must face each
other in a run-off election. Under the original 1993
constitution, the President was elected for a four-year
term but, in November 2008, the constitution was
amended to make this a six year term. The President
is eligible for a second term but constitutionally he is
barred for a third consecutive term.
The Prime Minister is appointed by the President
with the approval of the Duma and is first-in-line
to the presidency in the case of the President's
death or resignation.
Historically the role of Prime Minister has been
very much subservient to that of President.
THE STATE DUMA
The lower house in the Russian Federal Assembly is the
State Duma. It is the more powerful house, so all bills,
even those proposed by the Federation Council, must
first be considered by the Duma. However, the Duma's
power to force the resignation of the Government is
severely limited. It may express a vote of no confidence
in the Government by a majority vote of all members of
the Duma, but the President is allowed to disregard this
The Duma has 450 members who are known as deputies.
Formerly seats in the Duma were elected half by
proportional representation (with at least 5% of the vote
to qualify for seats) and half by single member districts.
However, President Putin passed a decree that all seats
are to be elected by proportional representation (with at
least 7% of the vote to qualify for seats) and this system
took effect in the election of November 2007.
THE FEDERATION COUNCIL
The upper house in the Russian Federal Assembly is
the Federation Council. The Council has 168 members
who are known as senators. Each of the 84 federal
subjects of Russia sends two members to the Council.
The federal subjects are the 21 republics, the 47
oblasts, the eight krais, the two federal cities, the five
autonomous okrugs and one autonomous oblast
(each category of which has different powers). One
senator is elected by the provincial legislature and the
other is nominated by the provincial governor and
confirmed by the legislature.
The main political party is called United Russia. It was founded
in April 2001 as a result of a merger between several political
parties. It describes itself as centrist. It is essentially a creation
of Vladimir Putin and supports him in the Duma and the
Federation Council. Indeed Putin agreed to be the top name on
the party's list for the recent Duma elections. In that highly
flawed election, United Russia won 38% of the votes which gave
them 68% of the seats (305 deputies).
The main opposition party is the Communist Party of the
Russian Federation led by Gennady Zyuganov. In the recent
election, it won 46 seats. The only other parties retaining seats
in the Duma are the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party
of Russia with 35 seats, the fake opposition party A Just Russia
with 31 seats, and the nationalist People's Union with 12 seats.
Western-orientated reform parties are Yabloko and the Union
of Right Forces. Other parties include the People for Democracy
and Justice Party.
The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation consists of
19 judges, one being the Chairman and another one being
Deputy Chairman. Judges are appointed by the President with
the consent of the Federation Council.
The Constitutional Court is a court of limited subject matter
jurisdiction. The 1993 constitution empowers the Constitutional
Court to arbitrate disputes between the executive and
legislative branches and between Moscow and the regional and
local governments. The court also is authorized to rule on
violations of constitutional rights, to examine appeals from
various bodies, and to participate in impeachment proceedings
against the President.
-There were over 300,000 non-governmental organizations.
-Patron-client networks between state officials and their patrons
and their clients remain a persistent feature of political life.
-Glasnost stimulated an explosion of political expression which in
turn prompted groups to form and to make political demands and
participate in elections.
-People joined with groups who had common interests and
therefore form an independent association and protest together.
-The pattern of interest group activity is more pluralist than
-90% of the strikes are from teachers.
-The RUIE is the most powerful organized interest group in Russia.