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Introduction Top of Page Background The defeat of the Russian Empire in World War I led to the seizure of power by the communists and the formation of the USSR The brutal rule of Josef STALIN 1924-53 strengthened Russian dominance of the Soviet Union at a cost of tens of millions of lives The Soviet economy and society stagnated in the following decades until General Secretary Mikhail GORBACHEV 1985-91 introduced glasnost openness and perestroika restructuring in an attempt to modernize communism but his initiatives inadvertently released forces that by December 1991 splintered the USSR into 15 independent republics Since then Russia has struggled in its efforts to build a democratic political system and market economy to replace the strict social political and economic controls of the communist period Russia Geography Top of Page 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 Area total 17075200 sq km land 16995800 sq km water 79400 sq km Area - comparative slightly less than 18 times the size of the US Land boundaries total 19961 km border countries Azerbaijan 284 km Belarus 959 km China southeast 3605 km China south 40 km Estonia 294 km Finland 1313 km Georgia 723 km Kazakhstan 6846 km North Korea 19 km Latvia 217 km Lithuania Kaliningrad Oblast 227 km Mongolia 3485 km Norway 167 km Poland Kaliningrad Oblast 206 km Ukraine 1576 km Coastline 37653 km Maritime claims 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
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