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Tuesday 25th June
Russia Information - Page 2
Early settlers in Russia were Slavic tribes and Scythians. Varangians (Vikings) arrived in the eighth and ninth centuries. Novograd was founded in 862 by Rurik, a Viking, and the first of the House of Rurik.

In the thirteenth century Mongols invaded Russian lands establishing their empire in southern Russia. Mongol domination lasted for two hundred years.

The sixteenth century saw the reign of the first Tsar, Ivan the Terrible. Eighty years later the first Romanov Tsar took the throne (1613) founding a dynasty that continued until 1917.

An important time in Russian history was the reign of Peter the Great. Starting in 1682 his reign saw wide-reaching reforms in the Church and in the administration of the country. A regular army and navy was established and Russia prospered.

Another great era was that of Catherine the Great (the widow of Peter III) who became Empress in 1762. Under Catherine's rule the arts flourished and St Petersburg became a cultural centre.

The sparks of the Russian Revolution were ignited in St. Petersburg. The first general strikes started in 1749. Unrest continued and after Napoleon was defeated (1812) secret societies campaigning for the abolition of serfdom (landowners' control over peasants) grew throughout Russia.

Between 1853 and 1856 Russia fought against Turkey in the Crimean War. Defeat caused dissatisfaction amongst the Russian population, further compounded half a century later, when Russia lost the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). This unrest resulted in the slaughter of protesters in Palace Square, known as "Bloody Sunday". Mass strikes, mutinies and the murder of landowners followed. In 1905 a general strike brought the country to its knees.

The Russian participation in the First World War (1914-18) left two million dead and huge land losses. Dissatisfaction caused soldiers and police to mutiny, and the Tsar was forced to abdicate (1917). The Bolsheviks (Communists), led by Lenin, seized power and signed an armistice with Germany.

The civil war (1918-1920) between the Communists and anti-Communist forces cost many lives and many more died in the 1921 famine.

At the end of December 1922 the USSR was formed; the Declaration and Treaty on Formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was accepted. Members of the former USSR were Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Estonia (from WW2), Latvia (from WW2), Lithuania (from WW2) and Moldova (from WW2).

Lenin died in 1924 and was succeeded by Stalin. Stalin's dictatorship (1924-53) was severe and many people who opposed his regime were executed. Major initiatives of this period were farming collectives and large-scale industrialisation.

The Second World War broke out in 1939 and by its end in 1945 millions of Russians had died, totalling around a sixth of the population.

At the end of the fifties Nikita Khrushchev led the USSR. During his period of office the "Cold War" between the East and the West escalated with the Cuban Missile Crisis. In October 1962 the USA insisted that Russian missiles, stationed in Cuba, should be withdrawn. The Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world close to nuclear war.

Other leaders followed and the Cold War continued until Gorbachev came to power in 1985 introducing extensive political and economic reforms (Perestroika) and calling for a greater openness (Glasnost) between nations. Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990.

At the end of 1991 the USSR was dissolved. Boris Yeltsin became the President of the Russian Federation. He was succeeded by Vladimir Putin at the end of 1999.

Following the break-up of the USSR the Russian economy underwent much free-market reform (transferring business from public ownership to private ownership). However, in the early twentieth century the government began to reassert state control over the economy.

In October 2008 governments throughout the world acted quickly to recapitalize their banking systems hit by the global financial crisis. Russia stepped in to lend money to its biggest banks and called for urgent global action.

Gazprom has a large share of world gas production. Other resources include oil, chemicals, coal, iron ore and timber.

All types of construction equipment, communications equipment, machines and vehicles are produced. Russia also has a shipbuilding industry. Other industries include the production of medical and scientific instruments, consumer durables, textiles, handicrafts, food processing and beverages.

The agricultural sector accounts for a relatively small percentage of the Gross Domestic Product. Produce includes grain, sugar beets, sunflower seeds, vegetables and fruits. Livestock is reared. There is also a fishing industry.

The tourist industry caters for many millions of tourists a year.

Russia is famous for its outstanding achievements in the arts.

Well known writers include Aleksandr Pushkin, Turgenev, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekov, Leo Tolstoy and Maxim Gorky. Boris Pasternak, the author of Doctor Zhivago, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 "for his important achievement both in contemporary lyrical poetry and in the field of the great Russian epic tradition". The Prize for Literature also went to Solzhenitsyn in 1971.

Famous Russian composers are Borodin, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky and Rimsky Korsakov.

The Bolshoi Theatre and the Kirov Ballet are world famous ballet companies. Anna Pavlova, the ballerina, attended the St. Petersburg Imperial ballet school. In 1909 Serge Diaghilev took Russian ballet to Paris. Following its success, Diaghilev formed a permanent ballet company in France, Les Ballets Russes. Pavlova and the choreographer and dancer Nijinsky were among the Russian artists who worked with Les Ballets Russes.

Russian art is renowned for religious icons. Modern painters include the abstract painter, Kandinsky (1866-1944). The State Hermitage Museum has over three million works of art in its collections that date from the Stone Age to the present day.

Russia is a keen sporting country, successful at a number of sports and consistently finishing in the top rankings at the Olympic games.

Russians play a lot of football, but their chances of becoming a footballing superpower were reduced by the break-up of the USSR.

Ice hockey is one of Russia's most played sports. It has gained success in this sport at world and Olympic level.

Russia has also produced a number of famous tennis players such as Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Anna Kournikova, and Maria Sharapova, the winner of the 2004 Wimbledon women's title.

Russia celebrates Easter and Christmas (Orthodox) with midnight services and candlelit processions.

The Russian Winter Festival is popular in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Novograd. It begins in late December and continues until early January, with hundreds of folklore shows and vodka drinking.

Other holidays are Motherland Defenders' Day (23 February), International Women's Day (8 March), May Day (1 and 2 May), VE Day (9 May), Independence Day (12 June) and the Anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution (7 November).

News from the Russian Federation can be found in Newslink.

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