World Travelling Guide
World Travelling Guide



Accommodation in Southern Africa and South Africa including accommodation in Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo Province, North West Province, Free State, Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga

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Russia Travelling Guide
Russia Travelling Guide

General 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. A determined guerrilla conflict still plagues Russia in Chechnya.

Area comparative: Slightly less than 1.8 times the size of the US.

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 Arctic coast.

Terrain: Broad plain with low hills west of Urals; vast coniferous forest and tundra in Siberia; uplands and mountains along southern border regions.

Population: 144,978,573 (July 2002 est.)

Ethnic groups: Russian 81.5%, Tatar 3.8%, Ukrainian 3%, Chuvash 1.2%, Bashkir 0.9%, Belarusian 0.8%, Moldavian 0.7%, other 8.1%

Religions: Russian Orthodox, Muslim, other

Language: Russian, other

Government type: Federation

Capital: Moscow

Legal system: Based on civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts.

Economic overview: A decade after the implosion of the Soviet Union in December 1991, Russia is still struggling to establish a modern market economy and achieve strong economic growth. In contrast to its trading partners in Central Europe - which were able to overcome the initial production declines that accompanied the launch of market reforms within three to five years - Russia saw its economy contract for five years, as the executive and legislature dithered over the implementation of many of the basic foundations of a market economy. Russia achieved a slight recovery in 1997, but the government's stubborn budget deficits and the country's poor business climate made it vulnerable when the global financial crisis swept through in 1998. The crisis culminated in the August depreciation of the ruble, a debt default by the government, and a sharp deterioration in living standards for most of the population. The economy subsequently has rebounded, growing by an average of more than 6% annually in 1999-2001 on the back of higher oil prices and a weak ruble. This recovery, along with a renewed government effort in 2000 and 2001 to advance lagging structural reforms, have raised business and investor confidence over Russia's prospects in its second decade of transition. Yet serious problems persist. Russia remains heavily dependent on exports of commodities, particularly oil, natural gas, metals, and timber, which account for over 80% of exports, leaving the country vulnerable to swings in world prices. Russia's industrial base is increasingly dilapidated and must be replaced or modernized if the country is to achieve sustainable economic growth. Other problems include widespread corruption, lack of a strong legal system, capital flight, and brain drain.

Communication/Telephone system: The telephone system has undergone significant upgrades.

Places of interest: With countless cultural treasures having withstood the tribulations of history and economics, and an artistic legacy dating back hundreds of years.

Travel tips: Travelers are strongly advised against travel in Chechnya and Dagestan. The situations in these regions are particularly volatile.