The Russian Federation is the largest republic of the Commonwealth of Independent States, composed of 21 republics. In fact, it's the largest country in the world! Russia is almost twice the size of the United States and occupies most of eastern Europe and north Asia.
Russia is so large it spans 11 different time zones! In fact, if you take the Trans-Siberian railroad from Moscow in the West to Vladivostok, in the East on the Pacific Coast, the 10,000 km trip would take six days. At its easternmost point, Russia is only about 50 miles away from Alaska across the Bering Strait! Russia's main waterway, the Volga River, is the longest river in Europe at 3,700 km.
The landscape is mostly flat, with the moderate Ural mountains in the center, and some more substantial mountains in the Far East. The capital city is Moscow. St. Petersburg, in the west on the Gulf of Finland, is an important historic and cultural center. In the summer, these cities average a comfortable 24 degrees celsius, but winters are pretty long. Moscow often has snow until April.
Because of its location, Russia also experiences big swings in the length of daylight. In summer, St. Petersburg has hardly any darkness at all, but in winter, has just five hours of dim sunlight each day!
Russian cultural achievements in the fields of architecture, ballet, literature, and music are overwhelming. Several of its ballet companies are world famous, and well-known composers such as Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, and Stravinsky all have contributed to a very rich Russian culture. Russian folk culture also includes some beautiful artistic traditions, such as embroidery, woodcarving, and painted "matryoshkka" dolls.