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Geography, climate and population
With a total area of 17.1 million kmē, the Russian Federation is by far the largest country in the world. The area of the second largest country in the world, Canada, is less than 60 percent of the area of the Russian Federation. The country covers the eastern part of Europe and the northern part of Asia. It has access to the Arctic Ocean in the north, the Pacific Ocean in the east, the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in the southwest, and the Baltic Sea in the northwest. It borders 14 countries: The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Norway and, with the province (oblast) of Kaliningrad, Poland and Lithuania.
The Soviet Union came to an end in late 1991 and the Russian Federation emerged as one of the 15 newly independent former Soviet republics. Administratively, the Russian Federation is divided into 46 provinces (oblasts), 21 republics, 4 autonomous okrugs, 9 krays, 2 federal cities (Moscow and Saint Petersburg) and 1 autonomous oblast. The capital is Moscow.
The Russian Federation is formed of three vast, low plains: the east European plain and the west Siberian plain, divided by the Ural mountains, and the Caspian plain in the southwest. In the northern part of these plains young glacial formations and swamps exist, especially in the west Siberian plain. South of the plains is a belt of loess with fertile black soils. In the European part poor semi-desert and desert soils occur south of the loess belt. In central and southern Siberia and in the far east, mountains of medium height predominate, with a peak of 4 506 m above sea level (Belukha in Altay). The highest peak in the country with 5 642 m above sea level is Mount Elbrus situated in the Caucasus near the border with Georgia.
The agricultural area, which is the sum of arable land, permanent crops and permanent meadows and pasture, is estimated at 217 million ha, which is 13 percent of the total area of the country. In 2013, the total physical cultivated area was estimated at 123.8 million ha, of which 99 percent (122.2 million ha) consisted of temporary crops and 1 percent (1.6 million ha) of permanent crops (Table 1).
Seven climatic zones can be distinguished within the Russian Federation. Their main features are presented in Table 2. In large regions, temperature is a major constraint on cropping.
Average annual precipitation ranges from less than 200 mm at the mouth of the Volga river in the southwest, in the central part of the far east (Yakutsk), and on the Arctic Ocean coast east of the mouth of the Lena river, up to 1 000 mm in the mountains of the far east. It ranges from 400 to 500 mm in most areas of the European part and western Siberia, and from 300 to 400 mm in central and eastern Siberia. The average annual precipitation for the country as a whole is 460 mm.
In 2015, the total population was about 143 million, of which around 27 percent was rural (Table 1). Average population density in the country is 8 inhabitants/kmē. It varies from around 60 inhabitants/kmē in the central region, where the capital Moscow and the Kaliningrad oblast are located, to 2 inhabitants/kmē in eastern Siberia and 1 inhabitant/kmē in the far east. The average annual population growth rate in the 2005-2015 period has been estimated at -0.01 percent. The largest city is Moscow with 12 million inhabitants, followed by Saint Petersburg with 5 million inhabitants and 13 cities of 1-2 million inhabitants (FSSS, 2015).
In 2014, the Human Development Index (HDI) ranks the Russian Federation 50 among 188 countries, while the Gender Inequality Index (GII) ranks it 54 among 155 countries, for which information was available. Life expectancy is 71 years and the under-five mortality rate is 10 per 1000 births, both progressing from 64 years and 26 per 1000 in the 1990s. With no significant distinction between boys and girls, around 96 percent of the children in 2013 are enrolled in primary education (WB, 2015). Adult literacy is 99.7 percent in 2012 (UNDP, 2015). In 2015, 97 percent of the total population had access to improved water sources (99 and 91 percent in urban and rural areas respectively) and 72 percent of the total population had access to improved sanitation (77 and 59 percent in urban and rural areas respectively) (JMP, 2015).