Today, Russia is a great power and is thought to be a superpower. It has been ranked very high in the economy and human development index.
It also has vast minerals and energy resources. Russia is one of the largest producers of natural gas and oil.
In terms of area, Russia is certainly the world’s largest country. It covers 171 million square kilometers.
When compared to Germany and France, it’s 47 and 25 times larger, respectively. Every nation got its history.
The reason behind Russia’s big territory can only be found in history. So let’s go back to the country’s rich history to get the answer to the commonly asked question.
Why is Russia So Big?
It’s all about conquests. Most of Russia’s land was acquired in 1553-1584 under the reign of Ivan the Terrible.
The land on the other side of the Ural Mountains conquered by the Russian Cossacks accounts for 77% of the Russian land. This means the conquest of Siberia made Russia the largest country.
The Russian expansion was not about suppressing the local tribes. It was solely about acquiring fur, a valuable trade commodity. Russia’s largest market for fur was the Europeans.
The local tribes enjoyed maximum freedom and were protected. However, this came at a price. Local tribes were expected to pay tribute in furs known as Yasak.
This was favorable to both parties, and it’s the reason why Siberia’s conquest was so peaceful. However, Russia’s expansion was quite slow.
It battled for lands with Turkey and Poland. Regardless, they continued with expansion and covered the large area.
Why Is Russia’s Population Small?
Despite the large geographical size, Russia has a population of 146 million people. It’s a very small number considering its size.
The Russian population is surpassing Japans by 10 million. Japan is 45 times smaller than the Russian state.
However, the larger part of Russia remains uninhabited because of harsh climatic conditions. They are extremely cold and cannot support human habitation.
Most people are concentrated at the European side of Russia, approximately 23% of the vast territory.
Northern Siberia, covered by a vast forest, has a very small population. The area is mostly inhabited by bears, taiga, and many more. However, it does possess lots of minerals.
Russia’s population was also affected by wars. World war two was very traumatic to the nation. It lost between 25 and 30 million people.
It’s the young population that was heavily lost, and this had extreme effects on Russia. Russia later became a low birth nation. This led to population decline over time.
Reasons Behind Russia’s Military Superiority
Russia’s economy is not that great. Some major European powers have higher GDPs compared to Russia. However, Russia has managed to build and maintain a strong military.
The United States economy is 13 times larger, and China’s is eight times bigger. Other nations like Germany, France, and the European nations have better GDPs than Russia.
So how did Russia manage to build such a great military force? Literally, a country’s economic strength is an important factor in military and political importance.
The economy provides funding for the military and other political activities. Maintaining such military strength means Russia spends much of its GDP compared to other nations.
This burdens their economy. Here is why Russia, which is an economic lightweight, has great military and political superiority.
Russia has had shrewd leaders. Vladimir Putin found a way of controlling the European countries. Russia is a blessed country and has vast minerals, including oil and gas.
These minerals give Russia an upper hand in Western Europe. Russia has been giving threats on the possibility of turning off the taps, in case.
This has exerted pressure on most European countries. However, Russia knows better that the effect can’t be overestimated.
If they push too hard European countries might opt for different suppliers of the product. Russia doesn’t have a monopoly over oil and gas.
The second reason is Russia did build a nuclear arsenal during the soviet empire. Then, Russia and the USA had several cold wars.
The two nations did manufacture extensive weapons to maintain military superiority. This put the two countries in a special position worldwide.
Russia has weapons that can wholly destroy an enemy country in the event of a nuclear attack. Russia and the USA are the two countries that have great nuclear capabilities.
Russia is known to have a large MAD capacity. Lastly, it’s believed that Russia has military superiority because the European Union gave it to them.
The European Union has invested in their defense and not the military. The European Union has a higher GDP, 12% higher than Russia’s.
Germany and France can build a better force without spending a lot. However, they don’t want to.
Regional Environmental Problem
The various regions of Russia have different environmental issues. They are caused by different economic activities carried out in the region.
Moscow hosts several industries. Industrial activities and immense urban expanses have affected the population in certain ways.
Sewage and factories waste are introduced to waterways in the country. This has led to increased rates of water pollution.
Other sets of industries are in the east of the Ural Mountains. As a result, the waterways in that region have been affected by excessive pollution.
Since 1991, Russian cities such as Moscow have experienced an increase in automobiles. This has led to air pollution. The vehicles do emit harmful gases when fuel burns.
Russia is a blessed country with lots of minerals. However, the massive exploitation of these minerals has had significant environmental damage.
Russia has experienced oil spills, more so in Taiga and Tundra. The lack of safety measures when mining and transporting oil has led to pollution.
Taiga is believed to be one of the biggest biomes in the world. Smelting and mining are major activities in Siberian cities.
The processes have increased air and water pollution in the region. The bad thing is these regions do have fragile ecosystems and may take time to recover from these effects.
Lastly, most waterways that carry pollutants deposit into the black sea, Caspian Sea, etc. Lake Baikal, which was once the largest freshwater lake, has been filled with pollutants.
They have destroyed life in the water. Lack of law enforcement and overfishing has resulted in the devastation of fish.
Russia’s Money Source
Russia is ranked 11th at GDP. Besides being the largest in the world, it has lots of minerals and also an undisputed superpower.
Who wouldn’t want to live in such a country? Its fierce competitor, the US, has the largest economy in the world. Its GDP is $21.44 trillion.
The government controls all sources of energy. For example, RAO is the primary supplier of electricity in Russia, and is owned by the state. In the USA the energy sector is diversified and involves the private sector.
In Russia, the energy system is solely controlled by the government. It’s the third-largest producer of oil; another major mined thing is gas.
2. Disassembling of Soviet Union
The removal of the Soviet Union ensured positive growth in the Russian economy. Russia has developed compared to the other 14 small republics of the former USSR.
Like Latvia, Estonia, and others, those who joined the European Union have had economic improvements.
3. Politics and the Economy
United Russia, the majority party in Russia, was formed by the famous Vladimir Putin. It has the most seats in the state and the national legislature.
United Russia’s ideology is to overcome economic backwardness. The backwardness has been explained as to stop the addiction of over-relying on money from exports.
The Russian government has the habit of invading weaker states which were its former territories. In 2008 it attacked Georgia. Later in 2014, it attacked Russia, which was at a higher price.
However, Ukraine’s invasion came at a price. Russia got sanctions from the United States and other countries.
It heightened tension and affected foreign investment rates. The sanctions and fall of oil prices affected Russia’s economy.
4. Russia Wildlife
If you are a wildlife lover, Russia can be your best destination. Given its size, Russia has a great ecosystem and wildlife.
Temperate forests cover seventy percent of the country. The other part of the country is covered by grasslands, tundra, and the arctic desert.
Extreme cold temperatures mean there is little wildlife here. However, reindeer are common wildlife because they have a high cold tolerance. Other kinds of wildlife found here are polar bears, walrus, and the Arctic fox.
Russia is the largest country in the world. The other three largest countries are Canada, the USA, and China, and they are less than 60% their size.
Russia started as a small kingdom with Kyiv as its capital. It stayed small for almost seven hundred years. It made the conquests slowly and eventually became the largest country in the world.
The country is quite rich in resources. Russia has vast amounts of minerals, from oil to gas. The minerals have boosted the country’s economy. They have been able to fund various sectors like security education etc.