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Nationality: Noun and adjective--Russian(s).
Population (2002 est.): 145 million.
Annual growth rate (2001 est.): -0.35%.
Ethnic groups: Russian 81%, Tatar 4%, Ukrainian 3%, other 12%.
Religion: Russian Orthodox, Islam, Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Protestant, Buddhist, other.
Language: Russian (official); more than 140 other languages and dialects.
Education (total pop.): Literacy--98%.
Health: Life expectancy (2001 est.)--62 yrs. men, 73 yrs. women.
Work force (85 million): Production and economic services--84%; government--16%.
People of Russia
Russia's area is about 17 million square kilometers (6.5 million sq. mi.). It remains the largest country in the world by more than 2.5 million square miles. Its population density is about 22 persons per square mile (9 per sq. km.), making it one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Its population is predominantly urban.
Most of the roughly 150 million Russians derive from the Eastern Slavic family of peoples, whose original homeland was probably present-day Poland. Russian is the official language of Russia and an official language in the United Nations. As the language of writers such as Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekov, and Solzhenitsyn, it has great importance in world literature.
Russia's educational system has produced nearly 100% literacy. About 3 million students attend Russia's 519 institutions of higher education and 48 universities. As a result of great emphasis on science and technology in education, Russian medical, mathematical, scientific, and space and aviation research is generally of a high order. The number of doctors in relation to the population is high by American standards, although medical care in Russia, even in major cities, is far below Western standards.
The Russian labor force is undergoing tremendous changes. Although well-educated and skilled, it is largely mismatched to the rapidly changing needs of the Russian economy. Millions of Russian workers are underemployed. Unemployment is highest among women and young people. Many Russian workers compensate by working other part-time jobs. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic dislocation it engendered, the standard of living fell dramatically. The standard of living has been on the rise since 1999, but almost one-third of the population still does not meet the minimum subsistence level for money income. The Russian Ministry of Economic Development and Trade estimates that the percentage of people under the subsistence level will gradually decrease by 23%-25% in the period up to 2005.
Moscow is the largest city (population 8.3 million) and is the capital of the Federation. Moscow continues to be the center of Russian Government and is increasingly important as an economic and business center. Its cultural tradition is rich, and there are many museums devoted to art, literature, music, dance, history, and science. It has hundreds of churches and dozens of notable cathedrals; it has become Russia's principal magnet for foreign investment and business presence.
St. Petersburg, established in 1703 by Peter the Great as the capital of the Russian Empire, was called Petrograd during World War I and Leningrad after 1924. In 1991, as the result of a city referendum, it was renamed St. Petersburg. Under the Tsars, the city was Russia's cultural, intellectual, commercial, financial, and industrial center. After the capital was moved back to Moscow in 1918, the city's political significance declined, but it remained a cultural, scientific, and military-industrial center. The Hermitage is one of the world's great fine arts museums. Finally, Vladivostok, located in the Russian Far East, is becoming an important center for trade with the Pacific Rim countries.