Russia, country that stretches over a vast expanse of eastern Europe and northern Asia. Once the preeminent republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.; commonly known as the Soviet Union), Russia became an independent country after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

Russia’s climate is extreme, with forbidding winters that have several times famously saved the country from foreign invaders. Although the climate adds a layer of difficulty to daily life, the land is a generous source of crops and materials, including vast reserves of oil, gas, and precious metals.

That richness of resources has not translated into an easy life for most of the country’s people, however; indeed, much of Russia’s history has been a grim tale of the very wealthy and powerful few ruling over a great mass of their poor and powerless compatriots

Russia has the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world, the second largest fleet of ballistic missile submarines, and the only modern strategic bomber force outside the United States. More than 90% of world’s 14,000 nuclear weapons are owned by Russia and the United States. Russia’s tank force is the largest in the world, while its surface navy and air force are among the largest.

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