Russia General information
Geography & Climate
Russia is the largest country in the world, covering 17.1 million square kilometers – it is 70 times the size of the UK and nearly twice the size of the USA. It spans 11 time zones. Russia stretches from the Black Sea to the Pacific Ocean, from the Arctic Sea to the Altai Mountains.
Russia generally has long cold winters and brief hot summers. In Moscow, January temperatures can easily drop to –20°C (-4°F) while in July and August temperatures of 30°C (86°F) and above are not uncommon.
Of a population of about 143.9 million, nearly 70 percent are concentrated in Western (European) Russia.
Moscow, the largest city in Europe, has a population of 8.5 million people, and St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) has 4.6 million inhabitants. Around two-thirds of the population now live in cities. Currently, the size of the population is shrinking. Pensioners constitute 23.5% of the population and the average family size is three people. The average life expectancy rate is much lower than that of other developed countries.
Russian (not surprisingly!) is the country’s official language. It uses the Cyrillic alphabet (rather than the Latin alphabet used in most Western countries), which contains 33 letters. However, the 120 or so nationalities of the Commonwealth of Independent States speak about 48 other languages. Those of Slavic origin (i.e. Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians) account for approximately 75% of the total population.
In Moscow or St. Petersburg, it is not uncommon to meet Russians who speak European languages, especially English.
The Soviet system provided the population with low-rent housing, free social services, subsidized vacations,workplace cafeterias, and shops and sports facilities. Few of these social benefits remain. Prior to price liberalization, food, drink, cigarettes, public transport and utilities were also very cheap.
The reforms of the past decade have pushed a significant share of the population (especially pensioners) below the poverty line, as inflation has outstripped increases in state benefits. There is a developing middle/commercial class involved in legitimate business.
Cultural & Social Life
Theatre, cinema, music and the arts are important parts of Russian life. But, as in other countries, state funding for the arts has fallen, while private sponsorship has begun to emerge. Russia’s hallmark cultural institutions, whose international renown attracts visitors from all over the world, include the Bolshoi Theater, Pushkin Art Gallery and Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and the Mariinsky (Kirov) Theater and the Hermitage Art Museum in St. Petersburg, not to mention the country’s countless other cultural treasures.
Russians also spend a considerable amount of their leisure time at the homes of friends and relatives, as they place great importance on friendship and family. Thus, anniversaries, birthdays and other occasions are celebrated with more gusto than expatriates may be used to at home.
Generally, newcomers to Russia find its people very warm and hospitable. On visiting any Russian home, you will be treated as an honored guest and entertained and fed very well indeed. The Western custom of serving guests only tea or coffee is considered woefully inadequate by the standards of Russian hospitality. It is polite to bring a small gift for your hosts when you visit someone’s home, such as flowers, chocolates or alcoholic beverages.
Traditionally, people entertain at home. Conversations tend to be general rather than personal. Some Russians greatly enjoy waxing philosophic about life and will spend hours doing so. They are eager to learn about other countries.
Russian Orthodoxy is the main religion in Russia, followed to a lesser extent by Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism. Religion has gained more popularity in Russia over the past few years as the Russian Orthodox Church has experienced a rebirth and the return of church property confiscated during the Soviet period. The rebuilding of Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral is symbolic of the restoration of the right to practice religion in Russia, and this development has evoked much emotion among Russian, and foreign, people alike.
Tips for the Business Visitor
All foreigners traveling to Russia are required to have visas. Depending on the duration of your stay, you may apply for a single entry visa, which allows you to enter and leave the country once and lasts a maximum period of three months, or a multiple entry visa, which allows unlimited travel and is valid for a maximum period of one year. PwC staff and family members who live in Russia are normally issued with multi-entry visas.
Unlimited amounts of foreign currency may be taken into Russia, but must be registered with the customs authorities upon entry. A customs declaration form must be completed and stamped by the customs authorities. Foreign currency taken out of Russia by visitors should not exceed the amount they brought into the country.
Moscow and St. Petersburg are three hours ahead of London time and eight hours ahead of New York time.
Vladivostok is six hours ahead of Moscow. Travel time to Moscow is about 3 hours and 35 minutes by air from London or Paris, 9 hours from New York, and 10 hours and 25 minutes from Tokyo.
Offices are generally open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Official public holidays in Russia are as follows.
*New Year’s Day January 1, 2
*Orthodox Christmas January 7
*Defenders of the Fatherland Day February 23
*International Women’s Day March 8
*Spring Holiday May 1, 2
*Victory Day May 9
*Declaration of Russian Sovereignty Day June 12
*Conciliation Day November 7
*Constitution Day December 12
By custom, if a holiday falls on a weekend, the following Monday is taken as a holiday.
Weights and Measures
Russia has used the metric system since 1927.
Dates and Numbers
Russia uses the Western (Gregorian) calendar. Dates are written in the day, month, year format, e.g., 30/6/99 (30 June 1999). In writing numbers, a comma generally represents a decimal fraction, but there is no fixed rule.
Constitution of Russian Federation was adopted at the December, 12, 1993 referendum.
Laws of RSFSR (Russian Federation), which were in force before the Constitution came into force, are applied to the extent that they do not conflict with the new Constitution. All USSR international treaties and several laws of the USSR that are registered at the Ministry of Justice are in force on the territory of RF.
President of the RF may issue normative decrees (=edicts=ukases) including decrees on the matters that should be regulated by laws - until the adoption of laws.
According to the new Constitution each region (=subject=member=constituent entity) of Russian Federation (not only republics as before) has its own laws and Fundamental law: Constitution - for republics, Ustav (Charter) - for other regions.
FEDERAL POWER BODIES
HEAD OF STATE
President of the Russian Federation - Vladimir Putin: acting President since December, 31, 1999; elected the President on March, 26, 2000; assumed office on May, 7, 2000. Former President Boris Yeltsin was elected by universal suffrage for 5-years term on June, 12, 1991, assumed office on July, 10, 1991. Re-elected for the 4-years term on July, 3, 1996, assumed office on August, 10, 1996. Whether the powers of the President are ceased before the end of his term, the duties of President are temporarily delegated to the Chairman of the Government. Elections of new president should me held within 3 months since the early termination of presidential office.
Administration of the President acts as his apparatus (machinery). Head of Administration - Alexandr Voloshin (appointed on March, 19, 1999, re-appointed on December, 31, 1999).
The Security Council is formed and headed by President. Till 1993 it was a coordination body including leaders of executive and legislative power. After adoption of the 1993 Constitution exists as the President's consultative body until the adoption of the new law about its status. The secretary of the Security Council - Sergey Ivanov (appointed on November, 15, 1999).
Location: Northern Asia (that part west of the Urals is sometimes included with Europe), bordering the Arctic Ocean, between Europe and the North Pacific Ocean
Geographic coordinates: 60 00 N, 100 00 E
Map references: Asia
total: 17,075,200 sq km
land: 16,995,800 sq km
water: 79,400 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly less than 1.8 times the size of the US
total : 19,917 km
border countries: Azerbaijan 284 km, Belarus 959 km, China (southeast) 3,605 km, China (south) 40 km, Estonia 294 km, Finland 1,313 km, Georgia 723 km, Kazakstan 6,846 km, North Korea 19 km, Latvia 217 km, Lithuania (Kaliningrad Oblast) 227 km, Mongolia 3,441 km, Norway 167 km, Poland (Kaliningrad Oblast) 206 km, Ukraine 1,576 km
Coastline: 37,653 km
continental shelf : 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm
Climate: ranges from steppes in the south through humid continental in much of European Russia; subarctic in Siberia to tundra climate in the polar north; winters vary from cool along Black Sea coast to frigid in Siberia; summers vary from warm in the steppes to cool along Arctic coast
Terrain: broad plain with low hills west of Urals; vast coniferous forest and tundra in Siberia; uplands and mountains along southern border regions
lowest point: Caspian Sea -28 m
highest point: Mount El'brus 5,633 m
Natural resources: wide natural resource base including major deposits of oil, natural gas, coal, and many strategic minerals, timber
note: formidable obstacles of climate, terrain, and distance hinder exploitation of natural resources
arable land : 8%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 4%
forests and woodland: 46%
other: 42% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 40,000 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: permafrost over much of Siberia is a major impediment to development; volcanic activity in the Kuril Islands; volcanoes and earthquakes on the Kamchatka Peninsula
Environment - current issues: air pollution from heavy industry, emissions of coal-fired electric plants, and transportation in major cities; industrial and agricultural pollution of inland waterways and sea coasts; deforestation; soil erosion; soil contamination from improper application of agricultural chemicals; scattered areas of sometimes intense radioactive contamination
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Law of the Sea
Geography - note: largest country in the world in terms of area but unfavorably located in relation to major sea lanes of the world; despite its size, much of the country lacks proper soils and climates (either too cold or too dry) for agriculture
Population: 147,305,569 (July 1997 est.)
Religions: Russian Orthodox, Muslim, other
Languages: Russian, other
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 98%
male : 100%
female: 97% (1989 est.)
conventional long form : Russian Federation
conventional short form: Russia
local long form: Rossiyskaya Federatsiya
local short form: Rossiya
former: Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic
Data code: RS
Government type: federation
National capital: Moscow
Economy - overview: Russia, a vast country with a wealth of natural resources, a well-educated population, and a diverse, but declining, industrial base, continues to experience formidable difficulties in moving from its old centrally planned economy to a modern market economy. Most of 1996 was a lost year for economic reforms, with government officials focused in the first half of the year on President YEL'TSIN's reelection and then on his medical problems. The only major success was in the fight against inflation, which fell from 131% in 1995 to 22% in 1996. Russia failed to make any progress in restructuring its social welfare programs to target the most needy - among whom are many of the old pensioners - or to pass needed tax reform. While approximately 75% of industry has now been privatized, the agricultural sector has undergone little reform since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Stockholder rights remain weak while crime and corruption are rampant in much of the economy. Many enterprises continue to operate without hard budget constraints, resulting in barter trade and increased inter-enterprise debts. According to official statistics, the Russian economy declined for the fifth straight year since the beginning of reforms, with GDP in 1996 falling by 6% and industrial output by 5%. The true size of the Russian economy remains controversial, however, with estimates of unreported economic activity ranging from 20%-50% of GDP. Indeed, according to Russian statistics, the Russian consumer has seen a small improvement in the last several years, with real average incomes growing by about 8% from early 1993 to late 1996. The share of the Russian population living below the poverty line is said to have dropped from one-third in early 1993 to one-fifth in late 1996. Few Russians lack basic necessities, and ownership of consumer goods such as VCRs and automobiles has increased markedly. The growth of wage and pension arrears slowed in the second half of 1996, and the government pledged to clear all budget-funded wage and pension arrears by the end of 1997. The government continued to be plagued with tax collection problems during 1996, forcing it to cut its planned spending by 18%. A crackdown on major tax debtors at the end of the year had only limited success. Spending by all levels of government remains high, between 40%-45% of GDP. The economy is continuing its integration into world markets. Russia's trade surplus, after adjustment for unreported "shuttle" trade, grew to a record $28.5 billion in 1996, according to official Russian statistics. Export growth, which slowed from 18% to 9%, was due mostly to increased raw material prices. After increasing by 15% in 1995, imports dipped by 2% in 1996 as Russian demand for Western consumer goods slackened. Russia is continuing to make progress in its WTrO negotiations; the government has made quick accession one of its major policy goals. The continued unsettled economic and political situation has discouraged foreign investment, which totaled only $6.5 billion in 1996, including $2.1 billion in direct investment; furthermore, capital flight continues to exceed in volume the inflow of foreign capital. The central bank estimates that $30 billion in US currency circulates in the Russian economy. In March 1997, YEL'TSIN signaled his intention to restart stalled economic reforms by reorganizing the cabinet, bringing in a new team of ministers with strong reform credentials.
Russia is often associated with two main cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg. This is the heartland of former Imperial Russia, and these great and ancient cities often become the focus for most tourists visiting Russia. Moscow, with its traditional ancient Russian churches and the beautiful Kremlin, and Saint Petersburg, which is the most European of all Russian cities, are the highlights of the great country. However there is much more to Russia, a country that spans eleven time zones and two continents, ending less than 50 miles from North America. It covers the major part of Eastern Europe and Northern Asia, bordering the Arctic Ocean, between Europe and the North Pacific Ocean. Within this vast expanse lies the largest freshwater lake in the world, the Baikal, rivers and forests, teeming with fish and wildlife, Europe's tallest peak (Mount Elbrus), awe inspiring volcanoes, and towering mountains. Featuring broad plain terrain with low hills west of Urals; vast coniferous forest and tundra in Siberia; uplands and mountains along southern border regions, Russia is the largest country on earth in terms of area, with enormous tracts of land that have been opened to travelers only in the last few years. Its climate ranges from humid continental in much of European Russia through steppes in the south; subarctic in Siberia to tundra climate in the polar north. Winters vary from cool along the Black Sea coast to frigid in Siberia; summers vary from warm in the steppes to cool along the Arctic coast.
Russia has a federative type of government. As of an administrative division, it consists of 49 oblasts, 21 republics, 10 autonomous okrugs, 6 krais, 2 federal cities, and 1 autonomous oblast. After the implosion of the Soviet Union in December 1991, post-Soviet Russia is still struggling to establish a modern market economy, modernize its industrial base, and maintain strong economic growth. The period 1992-1998 was marked by a poor business climate, deterioration in already shabby living standards, and failure to institute modern market reforms. Conditions improved markedly in 1999-2002, with annual output growing by an average 6% and with progress in structural reforms. Russia has a wide natural resource base, including major deposits of oil, natural gas, coal, many strategic minerals and timber.
Throwing off the traditions of communist uniformity, Russia today becomes a nation of diversity and tremendous vitality. Cultural traditions of a great country have re-awakened with a newfound strength. Ancient architectural monuments and cathedrals neglected and ruined in Soviet times are being rebuilt and restored. Colorful markets hum with activity once again, and literature and the arts are quickly regaining their creative power. A new Russia is in full bloom now. And international visitors are attracted more and more by this great country with honest and hospitable people, magnificent culture, ethnical and nature diversity, unbounded open lands, beautiful forests, mountains, lakes, beating pulses of bright and lively cities and calm rhythms of quite and measure living in remote country towns and villages.