Russia is the largest state in the world, extending from Eastern Europe to the Far East.
● The name Russia designates the consolidated state starting from the 16th century. around the Principality of Muscovy and extended at the time of maximum expansion, in the mid-19th century, in Europe, Asia and North America, from the Baltic Sea to Alaska. Today, considered synonymous with the Russian Federation, it designates all the territory formerly belonging to the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, which became independent from the USSR at the end of 1991, bordered on the N by the Arctic Ocean ; to the West from Norway, Finland, the Baltic Sea, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus (the Kaliningrad exclave borders the Baltic Sea, Lithuania and Poland); SW from Ukraine and the Black Sea ; to the South from Georgia, Azerbaijan, Caspian Sea, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, again China, North Korea ; E from the Pacific Ocean. The geographical denominations of Russia europea are also in use, for the western section of the Urals and the Ural River(or, simplifying, to West of Kazakhstan), and of Russia asiatica, for Siberia.
With an area of 17,098,242 km 2, Russia is by far the largest state in the world; its population (140 million residents estimated in 2009) is decidedly disproportionate to the territorial dimension, so much so that the average density reaches just 8 residents / km 2, and in about half of the country it does not reach 1 residents/ km 2. The European section (4,238,500 km 2) hosts almost 80% of the total population, for an average density, albeit very low, of about 27 residents / km 2. The Russian territory, on the other hand, extends almost completely to the North of the parallel of 50 ° and up to almost 80 ° (except for the Arctic islands): a strip where physical conditions (especially climatic) make human settlement very problematic.
In addition to the latitude, a decisive factor in the climates of the Russia is the strong continentality: about four fifths of the territory is more than 400 km from the sea; the seas in question, moreover, very northern (Arctic Ocean and North Pacific) and closed (Baltic Sea), do not have a real positive thermal influence, except the Barents Sea and the White Sea, where the heat input of a branch of the Gulf Stream, whereby the waters of the port of Murmansk unlike what happens in almost all other Russian ports, they do not freeze; a further modest thermal influence on the European Russia comes from the Atlantic. Finally, the arrangement of the reliefs hinders the southern winds, and leaves the way completely free for the air masses coming from the north. The climates of the Russia are therefore characterized by strong annual temperature range and low winter temperatures. On almost two thirds of the territory the snow remains on the ground for about 200 days a year, and for at least 240 nights the thermometer drops below 0 ° C; north-eastern Siberia has the lowest temperatures in the northern hemisphere. In the summer season, westerly winds prevail in the European sector and up to western Siberia; along the Arctic coasts and in central Siberia, northern and eastern ones prevail; on the peaceful coasts those from the SE, of the monsoon type. The monthly winter averages are everywhere below 0 ° C, and decrease towards E more than towards N: about −7 ° C at St. Petersburg, −9 ° C in Moscow and, a little further E, −13 ° C both in Archangel, on the White Sea at 65 ° lat. N, both in Volgograd, on the lower Volga, almost 2000 km further to the South. Beyond the Urals, it drops below −20 ° C, and further and further to the East of the Lena. In the Verhoyansk area, the January average drops to −48 ° C, less than on the shores of the Arctic Ocean. Approaching the Pacific we ascend towards −12 ° C. The summer isotherms decrease from S to N: the values exceed 20 ° C on the Black Sea coasts, oscillate from 18 to 16 ° C between St. Petersburg, Moscow and Perm ′, and still remain above 10 ° C in Archangel. In Siberia, from around 18 ° C in the southern region of Baikal it goes to 12 ° C in Verhojansk and 5 ° C on the Arctic coasts, while in the Pacific the averages are around 10 ° C. The annual excursion exceeds 25 ° C everywhere, which is already very high, but on almost half of the territory it reaches 40 ° C, with maximums in the Verhojansk region, where the difference between the averages for January and July usually exceeds 60 ° C.
● A very thin coastal strip on the Black Sea receives rainfall of more than 800 mm; in all the remaining territory, only about a tenth exceeds 500 mm. The European sector, given the Atlantic influence, is more favored: St. Petersburg and Moscow still receive 550 mm, which decrease both towards E (about 450 in Kazan´) and towards N (still 450 in Archangel). Beyond the Urals, the values are higher than 400 mm only in the Siberian Lowland, where however in the coastal strip it already drops towards 300 mm, an average value in central and eastern Siberia; along the northern coasts, decidedly arid values are reached, less than 200 mm. The influence of the Pacific is limited to a hundred km from the coasts, where it exceeds 500 mm,
The northernmost regions, both W and E of the Urals, are dominated by the tundra: low shrubs, dwarf varieties of willows and birches, vast marshes, peat formations and acid soils. Towards the south, the tundra gives way to the taiga, an immense forest of conifers: pines, firs and larches, interspersed with birch trees (the only broad-leaved trees), on greyish soils of the podsol genus, definitely acidic. The taiga is mixed with peaty formations, in the valley bottoms, and with the mountain tundra, on the reliefs. More to S hornbeam, ash, alder, oak, lime, apple and walnut become more numerous and near the latitude of 55 ° the taiga is replaced by the temperate forest which, quite extended W of the Urals, thins in Siberia, and which has been damaged everywhere to make room for agriculture, also because the soils are gradually richer, up to the fertile black lands (černozëm) of the steppes.
● The fauna has characters similar to those of Central Europe. Among the Carnivores there are lynx, wild cat, fox, wolf, brown bear, wolverine, marten. Ungulates are mainly represented by reindeer. There are numerous species of birds, while those of reptiles and amphibians are scarce. In the rich freshwater ichthyofauna there are pike, carp, salmon, trout, sturgeon, lamprey. The entomofauna includes very interesting groups from the zoogeographical point of view, such as the Carabids among the Beetles and, among the Orthopterans, the small Acridids of the steppe.