Russia: 3 Stunning Buildings to See in Moscow

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

3 Stunning Buildings to See in Moscow

Moscow is an incredible place to visit. Russia’s capital city is full of buildings that are centuries old and that have designs that are completely unique from the rest of the world. Its historic center in particular is home to buildings that are not only spectacular to look at, but also important to the history of Russia and the rest of the world. Here is a look at three stunning buildings in Moscow that you have to check out if you visit.

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Credit: yulenochekk/iStock

The first building on our itinerary is the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Not only is this huge, white building with high-rising, gold-painted domes beautiful, but it is also the tallest Christian church on the planet. It reaches heights of around 338 feet, and its main sanctuary area can fit more than 10,000 visitors. Completed in 1883, the original version of this cathedral took over 40 years to build, only to be tragically destroyed on the orders of Joseph Stalin in 1931 in his attempt to enforce atheism on the entire country. His vision was to replace the cathedral with a skyscraper dedicated to Vladimir Lenin, but construction was stalled during World War II, when the property was turned into the world’s biggest swimming pool… in which many Russian citizens drowned. Finally, in the 1990s, plans to rebuild the cathedral to its original glory were put into motion, and the breathtaking building was restored.

State Historical Museum Moscow

Credit: Javen/Shutterstock

Moscow’s State Historical Museum holds more than 4.5 million pieces of art and other artifacts that date back hundreds of years. It holds all aspects of Russia’s history, including manuscripts from famous leaders, records describing Russia’s adoption of Christianity and an in-depth look at how it defended itself against invaders. What makes this building truly stunning, though, is its architecture. At first glance, this towering, red, castle-like building might look intimidating, but it is actually a work of art in and of itself. Built in 1872, the museum building has elements of the luxurious, baroque style of Imperial Russia, but these are united with elements of Neo-Russian architecture, making it both appealingly sophisticated and impressively modern at the same time.

St. Basil’s Cathedral

Credit: dimbar76/Shutterstock

Taking the number one spot on our list is St. Basil’s Cathedral, located right next to the famous Red Square. This stunningly ornate structure has become symbolic of Moscow as a whole, and perhaps even the entire country of Russia. Its colorful, spiraling domes reach high into the sky, making it look like something made of gingerbread and candy toppings and draws visitors from all over the world. St. Basil’s was built in the 16th century as per the orders of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, who wanted to memorialize the capture of the city of Kazan. Inside this one cathedral are 10 separate churches, as well as another smaller chapel on the side. The interior is just as awe-inducing as its exterior, leading to it being named one of the “Seven Wonders of Russia” in 2008.

Russia: Alexei Navalny: Jailed Russian opposition head develops ‘allergy’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

(TRUMP’S PUPPET MASTER PUTIN THE COWARD OF THE KREMLIN STRIKES AGAIN)oped: oldpoet56) 

Alexei Navalny: Jailed Russian opposition head develops ‘allergy’

Alexei Navalny at rally in Moscow, 20 JulyImage copyright EPA
Image caption Alexei Navalny was arrested on Wednesday

Russia’s most prominent opposition figure, Alexei Navalny, has been taken from jail to a hospital in Moscow.

Officials gave no details of his condition but Mr Navalny’s spokeswoman said he had had an allergic reaction with severe facial swelling – something she said he had not experienced before.

A hospital source told Russian media his condition was satisfactory,

Mr Navalny was jailed for 30 days last week after calling for unauthorised protests, which took place on Saturday.

More than 1,000 people were detained during demonstrations against the barring of opposition candidates in forthcoming local elections.

Media caption Police marched away detainees

The European Union criticised the “disproportionate” use of force against the protesters, saying it undermined the “fundamental freedoms of expression, association and assembly”.

How is Navalny being treated?

Mr Navalny’s spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, tweeted that the opposition leader had never experienced an allergic reaction before.

Presentational white space

He was being given the “necessary medical assistance” in a hospital ward under police protection, she said.

Mr Navalny made his name in Russia as a grassroots anti-corruption campaigner who led the country’s biggest street protests against President Vladimir Putin during the winter of 2011.

He has been repeatedly jailed, usually for his involvement in unauthorised demonstrations, but also (at a retrial in 2017) for embezzlement in a case he says was farcical.

His fraud conviction barred him from standing against Mr Putin in the 2018 presidential election.

Related Topics

10 Cities All Architecture Lovers Need to Visit Before They Die

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRAVEL TRIVIA)

 

Cities All Architecture Lovers Need to Visit Before They Die

From towering skyscrapers to the ancient Colosseum, the world is filled with architectural marvels. And since architecture is best enjoyed in person, here are 10 cities that architecture lovers simply must visit.

Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

Credit: Semmick Photo/Shutterstock

It’s called the “City of Big Shoulders” for a reason. Chicago is home to some of the oldest skyscrapers, such as the Manhattan Building, built in 1891; the Reliance Building, built in 1895; and Chicago Savings Bank Building, completed in 1905. Most of Downtown Chicago was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871, but the iconic Chicago Water Tower, built in 1869, was left standing. Built solely of yellow Lemont limestone, seeing the 182-foot tower firsthand should be on every architecture lovers bucket list.

Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy

Credit: S.Borisov/Shutterstock

Rome is home to some of the world’s most photographed structures, including the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Trajan’s Market. Had it not been for the Romans, designs like the arch and the dome would never have come to be. Rome’s classical structures are a must see. That’s a given. But the city’s Baroque style buildings, which were mostly constructed during the 17th century, are also well worth your time. The sheer grandness of structures like St. Peter’s Basilicaand the Trevi Fountain can’t be captured in a photograph. Few things in life will leave you as awestruck as taking a stroll inside St. Peter’s, with its massive dome, and looking up. You may never want to look down again.

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain

Credit: V_E/Shutterstock

Influenced by the legendary 19th century Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona’s architecture, much like the city itself, is imaginative and colorful. One sight that’s a must see is Gaudi’s Casa Batllo. The façade of the building is constructed of broken ceramic tiles, thus creating an eye-popping mosaic that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Other structures that are inspired by Gaudi’s vivid imagination include Jean Nouvel’s Tower, which is designed to resemble a geyser of water shooting through the air, and Frank Gehry’s Fish.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Credit: Rastislav Sedlak SK/Shutterstock

In addition to being home to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai skyline is filled with twisty-turny steel buildings. If you find yourself wandering in this desert city, be sure to check out the Burj al Arab, which is designed to look like an Arabian dhow ship, as well as the curving Cayan, with its seemingly impossible 90-degree twist. There’s also the famed underwater zoo located in the Dubai Mall, which features 300 different species of aquatic life, including all types of fish, sting rays and sharks.

Shanghai, China

Shanghai, China

Credit: Sven Hansche/Shutterstock

Fueled by government investment, Shanghai has grown rapidly in recent years. It’s almost as if a glossy new structure pops up each month. The architecture in Shanghai is modernistic, and best represented in buildings like the Hongkou Soho office building, with its pleated exterior. Shanghai is also home to the second tallest building in the world, the Shanghai Tower, which features a twisted, glass façade that stretches upward for 2,073 feet.

Paris, France

Paris, France

Credit: Catarina Belova/Shutterstock

The birthplace of Art Deco and Gothic architecture, Paris is a city whose rich architectural history stretches back centuries. Gothic style, which is marked by colorful stained glass windows and flying buttresses, can be seen in a number of Paris cathedrals, including the Sainte-Chapelle, the St-Gervais-et-St-Protais and, most famously, Notre-Dame, which was in the news earlier this year after sustaining serious damage during a 15-hour fire. Paris’s famed Art Deco buildings, with their notable exteriors that feature numerous horizontal lines, began popping up shortly before World War I and were dominant in the ’20s and ’30s. Théâtre des Champs-Élysées and the Grand Rex movie palace are two prominent structures that exhibit this style. This is a small sample of the numerous architectural wonders in the City of Light.

Moscow, Russia

Moscow, Russia

Credit: Reidl/Shutterstock

The Russian capital is home to some of the most recognizable architecture in the world with a style known simply as Russian architecture. Arguably the most renown structure in the Russian style is Moscow’s Saint Basil’s Cathedral. Constructed in the 16th century during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, the cathedral is known for its vibrant, onion-shaped domes. Moscow is also home to more recent architectural wonders like the Ostankino Tower, which was completed in 1967 and was for a period of time the tallest building in the world, and a group of Moscow skyscrapers known as the Seven Sisters. The seven buildings, which were built during the reign of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, are wide and blocky, and scattered throughout Moscow. They were constructed in the Stalinist style of Russian architecture, which borrows elements of the Russian baroque.

Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece

Credit: milosk50/Shutterstock

Several ancient monuments from Athens’s classical era are still standing, most notably the Parthenon, with its enormous stone columns. There is also the Theatre of Dionysus, which was the birthplace of Greek tragedy and the first theater ever constructed. And what would a historically rich city like Athens be without its ancient temples? During its heyday, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which was completed around the 2nd century, had an unthinkable 104 columns, although only a few remain standing today.

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul, Turkey

Credit: LALS STOCK/Shutterstock

The most populous city in Turkey is known for two distinct styles of architecture: Byzantine and Ottoman. The Hagia Sophia, which was constructed in the 6th century, is a church that is emblematic of the Byzantine style, with its massive dome and elegiac mosaics depicting Christ and other biblical figures. The Ottoman style of architecture also flourished in Istanbul. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries a number of imperial mosques were constructed throughout the city, including Faith Mosque, Yeni Mosque\ and Bayezid Mosque. The mosques all have the key features of the Ottoman style, with extensive use of domes and columns, and are an absolute marvel to experience in person.

New York City, New York, U.S.A.

New York City, New York, U.S.A.

Credit: GagliardiPhotography/Shutterstock

From the Art Deco masterpiece that is the Chrysler Building (1930), to the Gothic Revival design of the Woolworth Building (1913), to the more recent green design of the Conde Nast Building, New York City’s skyscrapers employ a wide range of stylistic elements. The character of the city can also be seen in the architectural designs used in its residential neighborhoods. From the brownstones in Brooklyn to the tenements on the Lower East Side, New York’s five boroughs are an architectural cornucopia whose styles are as diverse as the city itself.

Deadly Regime Raids Kill 14 Civilians in Northwest Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Monitor: Deadly Regime Raids Kill 14 Civilians in Northwest Syria

Saturday, 6 July, 2019 – 09:00
A government air raid on Deraa, southern Syria. AFP
Asharq Al-Awsat
Syrian regime bombardment has killed 14 civilians including seven children in northwestern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday.

Warplanes carried out air strikes, late Friday, on Mahambel village in Idlib province, killing 13 civilians including the seven children.

Also, another woman was killed early Saturday in regime rocket fire on the outskirts of the town of Khan Sheikhun in the south of the province, the war monitor said.

Idlib is the last major bastion of opposition to the Russia-backed Damascus government after eight years of civil war, AFP reported.

A September deal between Moscow and Ankara was supposed to shield the city from major regime attacks, however, Damascus and its Russian ally have ramped up their deadly bombardment of the region since late April.

More than 520 civilians have been killed since then, the Observatory noted.

According to AFP, Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.

7 European Train Routes You don’t Want To Miss

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TRIP TRIVIA)

 

7 European Train Routes You Can’t Miss

Europe is so much better by train. From capital city termini to remote village halts, almost every corner of Europe is reachable by rail. It’s even easier with the EuroRail, which offers incredible passes and deals on tickets to help you hop around Europe on the cheap. Here are 7 European destinations you must get to by train.

Jungfraujoch, Switzerland
The Swiss do rail travel better than anyone else in Europe, and they don’t let something as insignificant as a mountain stand in the way of connectivity. Jungfraujoch has the distinction of being the highest railway station in Europe. Travellers pass close to the Eiger, Jungfrau, and Mönch mountains before their train dives into a tunnel. At the summit, 3454 metres above sea level, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the Bernese Oberland and snow on the ground even in the height of summer.

Paris, France
The two busiest stations in Europe are both located in the French capital, making this city a must for every train enthusiast. Eurostar links Gare du Nord – top of the list – to London. This high speed service makes a twin centre city break a tempting possibility. Tick off the Eiffel Tower, cruise along the Seine, and take in the view from Sacre Coeur before emerging from the English Channel to tour St Paul’s Cathedral, ride the London Eye, and watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

Flåm, Norway
One of the most beautiful rail journeys in Europe – and probably the world – is the one that links Flåm and Myrdal in western Norway. Beginning beside the Aurlandsfjord, the train climbs past tumbling waterfalls and icy glaciers to the mountains, condensing the country’s most dramatic vistas into one incredible hour’s ride.

Venice, Italy
Nothing screams luxury train travel like the Venice-Simplon-Orient Express. Step back in time to a glamorous age of train travel which has captured the hearts and imaginations of all those fortunate to have boarded its exquisite Art Deco carriages. In Venice, alight to explore a magical city riddled with waterways leading to a plethora of churches, palaces and hidden squares.

Madrid, Spain
When it comes to greenery, Atocha Station in Madrid surpasses all others. This delightful station is likened by some to an indoor botanical garden, with verdant palms and lush planting interspersed by platforms and commuters. Catch the high speed AVE service to Sevilla and Cordoba for Moorish architecture, flower-adorned alleyways and sultry late night flamenco.

Lviv, Ukraine
For something off the beaten track, catch a train across Ukraine to the beautiful city of Lviv. Modern, high speed trains make easy work of the distance, taking five hours to link the two in contrast to the slow overnight sleepers that were the traditional method of travel. Cafe culture’s king, but first, climb to Lviv’s mountaintop High Castle for panoramic views across the city and beyond.

Moscow, Russia
For a truly epic European rail adventure, why not begin in Asia? The Trans-Siberian railway is a must for any bucket list, but travel east to west and you’ll be saving the best for last. Moscow is bold, brash and buzzing with energy. Get around by metro and you’ll see some of the most splendidly decorated stations in the world – with mosaics, stained glass and bronze sculptures, Moscow’s underground feels more like a museum than a transit network.

Have you taken a train ride in Europe? Share with us your favourite journeys – we’d love to compare notes.

This blog was originally published on The Discoverer

Source: World Atlas | Date Updated: January 7, 2019

Russia’s largest yeshiva attacked with arson and swastikas ahead of Passover

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Russia’s largest yeshiva attacked with arson and swastikas ahead of Passover

No one reported injured in fire at Torat Chaim in eastern Moscow, hours before 60 people gathered for traditional seder meal

A person inspects the damage from a fire set at the Torat Chaim Yeshiva on the eve of Passover, April 19, 2019 (Courtesy/Torat Chaim Yeshiva)

A person inspects the damage from a fire set at the Torat Chaim Yeshiva on the eve of Passover, April 19, 2019 (Courtesy/Torat Chaim Yeshiva)

MOSCOW, Russia — Jewish officials said Friday an arson fire was set at the largest yeshiva in Russia just ahead of the Passover meal celebration. Swastikas were also sprayed on the seminary.

No one was reported injured in the early Friday fire at the Torat Chaim school in an eastern Moscow suburb.

Olga Esaulova, a spokeswoman for Moscow’s chief rabbi, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying the fire was set in a storage area for kosher meat and that swastikas were drawn at the yeshiva’s entrance.

There were about 60 students, rabbis and guests in the building at the time, the state news agency RIA-Novosti reported.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Avital Chizhik Goldschmidt

@avitalrachel

Reports from Moscow that the Torat Chaim Yeshiva was attacked last night by what seems to be neo-Nazis. Swastikas painted on the doors and the storehouse entirely burned, the yeshiva community’s precious kosher meat/food for Passover gone.

305 people are talking about this

While Russia has a long history of anti-Semitism, it has noticeably declined under Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Putin has made considerable efforts to reach out to Russian Jewish communities, both within his state’s borders and in Israel. His country’s chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, is a close confidante.

He has encouraged the restoration of dozens of synagogues destroyed under communism and taken a hard-line on anti-Semitism.

READ MORE:
COMMENTS

Eastern Russian port Vladivostok prepares to host Kim

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Eastern Russian port Vladivostok prepares to host Kim

Russian President Vladimir Putin has long said he was ready to meet with Kim and is preparing to play a bigger role in nuclear negotiations with Moscow’s Cold War-era ally.

WORLD Updated: Apr 19, 2019 20:04 IST

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Vladivostok, Russia
Putin-Kim,North Korea,Russia
Russian media were quick to report preparations were underway for the summit to take place in Vladivostok, home to Moscow’s Pacific Fleet(AFP File)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected in Russia’s far-eastern port Vladivostok in the coming days, according to reports that have prompted excitement and concern among local residents.

After weeks of speculation, the Kremlin announced that Kim will visit Russia to hold his first talks with President Vladimir Putin in late April. It gave no details on a date or place, citing “security reasons.”

Russian media were quick to report preparations were underway for the summit to take place in Vladivostok, home to Moscow’s Pacific Fleet.

The port lies only about 130 kilometres (80 miles) from Russia’s short border with North Korea. This proximity is no doubt important for Kim, who is rumoured to travel aboard his armoured train.

The 35-year-old will be following in the footsteps of his father Kim Jong Il, who met the newly elected Putin in Vladivostok in 2002.

The far eastern city rarely sees major international events, and some locals are happy for the city to be in the spotlight.

– ‘If something happens, it will fall on us’ –

“Any visit is good, whether it’s an enemy or a friend,” said Danil, a student at Vladivostok’s Far Eastern Federal University, billed by the media as a possible venue for the summit.

He welcomed the talks, saying “you can only make decisions through dialogue and communication.”

Nadezhda, a native of the city, said it will be a global event and “will be a boost for development in our city.”

Authorities this week were busy cleaning garbage near railways leading to the city, Russian media reported.

“The depressing view from the train window does not give a positive impression to guests of Vladivostok arriving by train,” an official from the local branch of Russian Railways told the Interfax news agency.

Nadezhda said she was “absolutely not afraid of (North Korea’s) nuclear program” and would like to see the country.

North Korea said this week it was testing nuclear weapons after a round of talks with the US ended in failure.

But Anna Marinina was less enthusiastic about the summit, and said that if Pyongyang did use its weapons, Vladivostok would be in the firing line.

“The people that panic the most about North Korea are safe on the other side of the ocean,” she said.

“If something were to happen, it would fall on us.”

Putin has long said he was ready to meet with Kim and is preparing to play a bigger role in nuclear negotiations with Moscow’s Cold War-era ally.

The last meeting between Russian and North Korean heads of state was in 2011, when Kim’s father travelled by train to Siberia, where he took a boat ride on Lake Baikal and held tightly guarded talks with then president Dmitry Medvedev.

There is a chance however that fresh talks will not take place at all, as Kim pulled out of 2015 celebrations in Moscow for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II at the last minute.

video-oc/ma/wai

First Published: Apr 19, 2019 19:59 IST

Russia: Complete Iranian withdrawal from Syria is ‘absolutely unrealistic’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Russia: Complete Iranian withdrawal from Syria is ‘absolutely unrealistic’

Sergey Lavrov says Putin and Trump will discuss situation in southern Syria on July 16; US said seeking full Iranian pullout

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shows the way to his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi during a meeting in Moscow on July 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) shows the way to his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi during a meeting in Moscow on July 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that it would be “absolutely unrealistic” to expect Iran to completely withdraw from Syria.

Speaking after a meeting with his Jordanian counterpart in Moscow, Lavrov said a proposed ceasefire deal in the southern region brokered by Russia, Jordan and the US envisioned the withdrawal of non-Syrian forces and the deployment of Syrian troops along the border with Israel.

But Lavrov said Iran is one of the key powers in the region, and that it would be “absolutely unrealistic” to expect it to abandon its interests in the country. He said regional powers should discuss mutual complaints and negotiate a compromise.

Israel has repeatedly said it will not tolerate an Iranian military presence in Syria, and has recently acknowledged carrying out airstrikes on Iranian targets in the country. Israel has also struck Syrian air defense systems that fired at Israeli fighter jets during the raids.

Jerusalem has accused Tehran of seeking to gain a foothold in the border area as forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have made gains in clearing out rebel groups there. The US and Israel view Iran’s extensive military presence in Syria as a threat to Israel and have threatened action.

A photo released by Iranian media reportedly shows the T-4 air base in central Syria after a missile barrage attributed to Israel on April 9, 2018. (Iranian media)

Russia and Iran have provided crucial military support to Assad’s forces, helping them turn the tide in the civil war, but Israel has also coordinated its military strikes in the territory with Iran-allied Moscow.

Lavrov on Wednesday said Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump would discuss the situation in southern Syria at their upcoming summit on July 16.

Last week the Arabic-language Al-Hayat newspaper reported that Trump would make a full Iranian pullout from Syria territory a priority at that meeting.

US officials, the diplomat was quoted as saying, are convinced that Russia would be unwilling to “pay a heavy price” for Iran’s continued presence in Syria.

The diplomat, who was not identified in the report, also said Washington had given Israel a “green light” to strike Iranian military assets in Syria.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi arrived in Moscow Wednesday for talks as the Russian-backed regime offensive in the south of Syria was pushing tens of thousands of refugees toward the borders with Jordan and Israel.

Jordanian residents of Jabir village watch aid deliveries to Syrians fleeing government offensive in the south as smoke from unknown fire rises, July 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

Ahead of the trip, Safadi said he hoped there would be “more steps forward to contain this crisis and prevent more destruction.”

He added that Amman has open channels with Damascus and Moscow and the talks will focus on reaching a ceasefire and halting the displacement.

Meanwhile, Syrian rebels were facing a deadline Wednesday in negotiations with regime ally Russia to either agree to tough surrender terms in the south or come under a renewed military onslaught.

Moscow has been backing a two-week offensive by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces against rebels in the southern provinces of Daraa and Quneitra.

But it is simultaneously brokering talks with rebel towns for negotiated surrenders in a carrot-and-stick strategy that Russia and the regime have successfully used in the past.

More than 30 towns have already agreed to return to regime control and talks were focused on remaining rebel territory in Daraa’s western countryside and the southern half of the city.

Rebels were set to meet with a Russian delegation on Wednesday afternoon to deliver their decision on Moscow’s proposal for a regime takeover of the rest of the south, a spokesman for the opposition’s southern operations said.

READ MORE:

Russia: A Great Country With Great People Usually Ruled By Incompetent Murderers

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Russia

Introduction Founded in the 12th century, the Principality of Muscovy, was able to emerge from over 200 years of Mongol domination (13th-15th centuries) and to gradually conquer and absorb surrounding principalities. In the early 17th century, a new Romanov Dynasty continued this policy of expansion across Siberia to the Pacific. Under PETER I (ruled 1682-1725), hegemony was extended to the Baltic Sea and the country was renamed the Russian Empire. During the 19th century, more territorial acquisitions were made in Europe and Asia. Defeat in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 contributed to the Revolution of 1905, which resulted in the formation of a parliament and other reforms. Repeated devastating defeats of the Russian army in World War I led to widespread rioting in the major cities of the Russian Empire and to the overthrow in 1917 of the imperial household. The Communists under Vladimir LENIN seized power soon after and formed the USSR. The brutal rule of Iosif STALIN (1928-53) strengthened Communist rule and 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 Russia and 14 other independent republics. Since then, Russia has struggled in its efforts to build a democratic political system and market economy to replace the social, political, and economic controls of the Communist period. In tandem with its prudent management of Russia’s windfall energy wealth, which has helped the country rebound from the economic collapse of the 1990s, the Kremlin in recent years has overseen a recentralization of power that has undermined democratic institutions. Russia has severely disabled the Chechen rebel movement, although violence still occurs throughout the North Caucasus.
History Early periods

In prehistoric times, the vast steppes of Southern Russia were home to disunited tribes of nomadic pastoralists. In classical antiquity, the Pontic Steppe was known as Scythia. Remnants of these steppe civilizations were discovered in the course of the 20th century in such places as Ipatovo, Sintashta, Arkaim, and Pazyryk. In the latter part of the eighth century BC, Greek traders brought classical civilization to the trade emporiums in Tanais and Phanagoria. Between the third and sixth centuries BC, the Bosporan Kingdom, a Hellenistic polity which succeeded the Greek colonies, was overwhelmed by successive waves of nomadic invasions, led by warlike tribes, such as the Huns and Turkic Avars. A Turkic people, the Khazars, ruled the lower Volga basin steppes between the Caspian and Black Seas until the 8th century.

The ancestors of modern Russians are the Slavic tribes, whose original home is thought by some scholars to have been the wooded areas of the Pinsk Marshes. Moving into the lands vacated by the migrating Germanic tribes, the Early East Slavs gradually settled Western Russia in two waves: one moving from Kiev toward present-day Suzdal and Murom and another from Polotsk toward Novgorod and Rostov. From the 7th century onwards, the East Slavs constituted the bulk of the population in Western Russia and slowly but peacefully assimilated the native Finno-Ugric tribes, including the Merya, the Muromians, and the Meshchera.

Kievan Rus

Scandinavian Norsemen, called “Vikings” in Western Europe and “Varangians” in the East, combined piracy and trade in their roamings over much of Northern Europe. In the mid-9th century, they ventured along the waterways extending from the eastern Baltic to the Black and Caspian Seas. According to the earliest Russian chronicle, a Varangian named Rurik was elected ruler (konung or knyaz) of Novgorod around the year 860; his successors moved south and extended their authority to Kiev, which had been previously dominated by the Khazars.

In the 10th to 11th centuries this state of Kievan Rus’ became the largest and most prosperous in Europe.[45] The reigns of Vladimir the Great (980-1015) and his son Yaroslav I the Wise (1019-1054) constitute the Golden Age of Kiev, which saw the acceptance of Orthodox Christianity and the creation of the first East Slavic written legal code, the Russkaya Pravda.

In the 11th and 12th centuries, constant incursions by nomadic Turkic tribes, such as the Kipchaks and the Pechenegs, caused a massive migration of Slavic populations to the safer, heavily forested regions of the north, particularly to the area known as Zalesye.[46] Like many other parts of Eurasia, these territories were overrun by the Mongols. The invaders, later known as Tatars, formed the state of the Golden Horde, which pillaged the Russian principalities and ruled the southern and central expanses of Russia for over three centuries. Mongol rule retarded the country’s economic and social development. However, the Novgorod Republic together with Pskov retained some degree of autonomy during the time of the Mongol yoke and was largely spared the atrocities that affected the rest of the country. Led by Alexander Nevsky, Novgorodians repelled the Germanic crusaders who attempted to colonize the region. Kievan Rus’ ultimately disintegrated as a state because of in-fighting between members of the princely family that ruled it collectively. Kiev’s dominance waned, to the benefit of Vladimir-Suzdal in the north-east, Novgorod in the north-west, and Galicia-Volhynia in the south-west. Conquest by the Golden Horde in the 13th century was the final blow and resulted in the destruction of Kiev in 1240. Galicia-Volhynia was eventually absorbed into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, while the Mongol-dominated Vladimir-Suzdal and the independent Novgorod Republic, two regions on the periphery of Kiev, established the basis for the modern Russian nation.

Grand Duchy of Moscow and Tsardom of Russia

The most powerful successor state to Kievan Rus’ was Grand Duchy of Moscow. It would annex rivals such as Tver and Novgorod, and eventually become the basis of the modern Russian state. After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Moscow claimed succession to the legacy of the Eastern Roman Empire. While still under the domain of the Mongol-Tatars and with their connivance, the Duchy of Moscow (or “Muscovy”) began to assert its influence in Western Russia in the early 14th century. Assisted by the Russian Orthodox Church and Saint Sergius of Radonezh’s spiritual revival, Russia inflicted a defeat on the Mongol-Tatars in the Battle of Kulikovo (1380). Ivan III (Ivan the Great) eventually threw off the control of the invaders, consolidated surrounding areas under Moscow’s dominion and was the first to take the title “grand duke of all the Russias”.

In 1547, Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) was officially crowned the first Tsar of Russia. During his long reign, Ivan IV annexed the Tatar khanates (Kazan, Astrakhan) along the Volga River and transformed Russia into a multiethnic and multiconfessional state. Ivan IV promulgated a new code of laws (Sudebnik of 1550), established the first Russian feudal representative body (Zemsky Sobor) and introduced local self-management into the rural regions.[50][51] But Ivan IV’s rule was also marked by the long and unsuccessful Livonian War against the coalition of Poland, Lithuania, and Sweden for access to the Baltic coast and sea trade.[52] The military losses, epidemics and poor harvests[53] weakened the state, and the Crimean Tatars were able to burn down Moscow.[54] The death of Ivan’s sons, combined with the famine of 1601-1603, led to the civil war and foreign intervention of the Time of Troubles in the early 1600s.[56] By the mid-17th century there were Russian settlements in Eastern Siberia, on the Chukchi Peninsula, along the Amur River, and on the Pacific coast. The Bering Strait between North America and Asia was first sighted by a Russian explorer in 1648.

Imperial Russia

Under the Romanov dynasty and Peter I (Peter the Great), the Russian Empire became a world power. Ruling from 1682 to 1725, Peter defeated Sweden in the Great Northern War, forcing it to cede West Karelia and Ingria (two regions lost by Russia in the Time of Troubles),[57] Estland, and Livland, securing Russia’s access to the sea and sea trade.[58] It was in Ingria that Peter founded a new capital, Saint Petersburg. Peter’s reforms brought considerable Western European cultural influences to Russia. Catherine II (Catherine the Great), who ruled from 1762 to 1796, continued the efforts to establish Russia as one of the Great Powers of Europe. In alliance with Prussia and Austria, Russia stood against Napoleon’s France and eliminated its rival Poland-Lithuania in a series of partitions, gaining large areas of territory in the west. As a result of its victories in the Russo-Turkish War, by the early 19th century Russia had made significant territorial gains in Transcaucasia. Napoleon’s invasion of Russia at the height of his power failed miserably as obstinate Russian resistance combined with the bitterly cold Russian winter dealt him a disastrous defeat, in which more than 95% of his invading force perished.The officers in the Napoleonic Wars brought ideas of liberalism back to Russia with them and even attempted to curtail the tsar’s powers during the abortive Decembrist revolt of 1825, which was followed by several decades of political repression.

The prevalence of serfdom and the conservative policies of Nicolas I impeded the development of Russia in the mid-nineteenth century. Nicholas’s successor Alexander II (1855–1881) enacted significant reforms, including the abolition of serfdom in 1861; these “Great Reforms” spurred industrialization. However, many socio-economic conflicts were aggravated during Alexander III’s reign and under his son, Nicholas II. Harsh conditions in factories created mass support for the revolutionary socialist movement. In January 1905, striking workers peaceably demonstrated for reforms in Saint Petersburg but were fired upon by troops, killing and wounding hundreds. The abject failure of the Tsar’s military forces in the initially-popular Russo-Japanese War, and the event known as “Bloody Sunday”, ignited the Russian Revolution of 1905. Although the uprising was swiftly put down by the army and although Nicholas II retained much of his power, he was forced to concede major reforms, including granting the freedoms of speech and assembly, the legalization of political parties and the creation of an elected legislative assembly, the Duma; however, the hopes for basic improvements in the lives of industrial workers were unfulfilled.

Russia entered World War I in aid of its ally Serbia and fought a war across three fronts while isolated from its allies. Russia did not want war but felt that the only alternative was German domination of Europe. Although the army was far from defeated in 1916, the already-existing public distrust of the regime was deepened by the rising costs of war, casualties (Russia suffered the highest number of both military and civilian deaths of the Entente Powers), and tales of corruption and even treason in high places, leading to the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1917. A series of uprisings were organized by workers and peasants throughout the country, as well as by soldiers in the Russian army, who were mainly of peasant origin. Many of the uprisings were organized and led by democratically-elected councils called Soviets. The February Revolution overthrew the Russian monarchy, which was replaced by a shaky coalition of political parties that declared itself the Provisional Government. The abdication marked the end of imperial rule in Russia, and Nicholas and his family were imprisoned and later executed during the Civil War. While initially receiving the support of the Soviets, the Provisional Government proved unable to resolve many problems which had led to the February Revolution. The second revolution, the October Revolution, led by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Provisional Government and created the world’s first Communist state.

Soviet Russia

Following the October Revolution, a civil war broke out between the new regime and the Socialist Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, and the White movement. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk concluded hostilities with the Central Powers in World War I. Russia lost its Ukrainian, Polish and Baltic territories, and Finland by signing the treaty. The Allied powers launched a military intervention in support of anti-Communist forces and both the Bolsheviks and White movement carried out campaigns of deportations and executions against each other, known respectively as the Red Terror and White Terror. By the end of the Civil War, some 20 million had died and the Russian economy and infrastructure were completely devastated. Following victory in the Civil War, the Russian SFSR together with three other Soviet republics formed the Soviet Union on 30 December 1922. The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic dominated the Soviet Union for its entire 69-year history; the USSR was often referred to as “Russia” and its people as “Russians.” The largest of the republics, Russia contributed over half the population of the Soviet Union. After Lenin’s death in 1924, Joseph Stalin consolidated power and became dictator. Stalin launched a command economy, rapid industrialization of the largely rural country and collectivization of its agriculture and the Soviet Union was transformed from an agrarian economy to a major industrial powerhouse in a short span of time. This transformation came with a heavy price, however; millions of citizens died as a consequence of his harsh policies.

Stalingrad, 1942. The vast majority of the fighting in World War II took place on the Eastern Front.Nazi Germany suffered 80% to 93% of all casualties there

On 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union with the largest and most powerful invasion force in human history, opening the largest theater of the Second World War. Although the German army had considerable success early on, they suffered defeats after reaching the outskirts of Moscow and were dealt their first major defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad in the winter of 1942–1943. Soviet forces drove through Eastern Europe in 1944–45 and captured Berlin in May, 1945. In the conflict, Soviet military and civilian death toll were 10.6 million and 15.9 million respectively, accounting for half of all World War II casualties. The Soviet economy and infrastructure suffered massive devastation but the Soviet Union emerged as an acknowledged superpower. The Red Army occupied Eastern Europe after the war, including the eastern half of Germany; Stalin installed communist governments in these satellite states. Becoming the world’s second nuclear weapons power, the USSR established the Warsaw Pact alliance and entered into a struggle for global dominance with the United States, which became known as the Cold War.

After Stalin’s death, Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin and eased his repressive policies. He began the process of eliminating the Stalinist political system known as de-Stalinization and abolished the Gulag labor camps, releasing millions of prisoners.[67] The Soviet Union launched the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1 and the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to orbit the Earth aboard the first manned spacecraft, Vostok 1. Tensions with the United States heightened when the two rivals clashed over the deployment of the U.S. Jupiter missiles in Turkey and Soviet missiles in Cuba. Following the ousting of Khrushchev, another period of rule by collective leadership ensued until Leonid Brezhnev established himself in the early 1970s as the pre-eminent figure in Soviet politics. Brezhnev’s rule oversaw economic stagnation and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which dragged on without success and with continuing casualties inflicted by insurgents. Soviet citizens became increasingly discontented with the war, ultimately leading to the withdrawal of Soviet forces by 1989. From 1985 onwards, Mikhail Gorbachev introduced the policies of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt to modernize the country. The USSR economy was the second largest in the world prior to the Soviet collapse.[68] During its last years, the economy was afflicted by shortages of goods in grocery stores, huge budget deficits and explosive growth in money supply leading to inflation.[69] In August 1991, an unsuccessful military coup against Gorbachev aimed at preserving the Soviet Union instead led to its collapse. In Russia, Boris Yeltsin came to power and declared the end of Communist rule. The USSR splintered into fifteen independent republics and was officially dissolved in December 1991. Boris Yeltsin was elected the President of Russia in June 1991, in the first direct presidential election in Russian history.

Russian Federation

During and after the disintegration of the USSR when-wide ranging reforms including privatisation and market and trade liberalization were being undertaken, the Russian economy went through a major crisis. This period was characterized by deep contraction of output, with GDP declining by roughly 50 percent between 1990 and the end of 1995 and industrial output declining by over 50 percent. In October 1991, Yeltsin announced that Russia would proceed with radical, market-oriented reform along the lines of “shock therapy”, as recommended by the United States and International Monetary Fund. Price controls were abolished, privatization was started. Millions were plunged into poverty. According to the World Bank, whereas 1.5% of the population was living in poverty in the late Soviet era, by mid-1993 between 39% and 49% of the population was living in poverty. Delays in wage payment became a chronic problem with millions being paid months, even years late. Russia took up the responsibility for settling the USSR’s external debts, even though its population made up just half of the population of the USSR at the time of its dissolution. The privatization process largely shifted control of enterprises from state agencies to groups of individuals with inside connections in the Government and the mafia. Violent criminal groups often took over state enterprises, clearing the way through assassinations or extortion. Corruption of government officials became an everyday rule of life. Many of the newly rich mobsters and businesspeople took billions in cash and assets outside of the country in an enormous capital flight. The long and wrenching depression was coupled with social decay. Social services collapsed and the birth rate plummeted while the death rate skyrocketed. The early and mid-1990s was marked by extreme lawlessness. Criminal gangs and organized crime flourished and murders and other violent crime spiraled out of control.

In 1993 a constitutional crisis resulted in the worst civil strife in Moscow since the October Revolution. President Boris Yeltsin illegally dissolved the country’s legislature which opposed his moves to consolidate power and push forward with unpopular neo-liberal reforms; in response, legislators barricaded themselves inside the White House, impeached Yeltsin and elected a new President and major protests against Yeltsin’s government resulted in hundreds killed. With military support, Yeltsin sent the army to besiege the parliament building and disperse its defenders and used tanks and artillery to eject the legislators.

The 1990s were plagued by armed ethnic conflicts in the North Caucasus. Such conflicts took a form of separatist Islamist insurrections against federal power, or of ethnic/clan conflicts between local groups. Since the Chechen separatists declared independence in the early 1990s, an intermittent guerrilla war (First Chechen War, Second Chechen War) has been fought between disparate Chechen rebel groups and the Russian military. Terrorist attacks against civilians carried out by Chechen separatists, most notably the Moscow theater hostage crisis and Beslan school siege, caused hundreds of deaths and drew worldwide attention. High budget deficits and the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis caused the financial crisis of 1998 and resulted in further GDP decline. On 31 December 1999 Boris Yeltsin resigned from the presidency, handing the post to the recently appointed prime minister, Vladimir Putin, who then won the 2000 election. Putin won popularity for suppressing the Chechen insurgency, although sporadic violence still occurs throughout the North Caucasus. High oil prices and initially weak currency followed by increasing domestic demand, consumption and investments has helped the economy grow for nine straight years, alleviating the standard of living and increasing Russia’s clout on the world stage. While many reforms made during the Putin administration have been generally criticized by Western nations as un-democratic, Putin’s leadership over the return of order, stability and progress has won him widespread popularity in Russia, as well as recognition abroad.

Geography Location: Northern Asia (the area west of the Urals is considered part of Europe), bordering the Arctic Ocean, between Europe and the North Pacific Ocean
Geographic coordinates: 60 00 N, 100 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 17,075,200 sq km
land: 16,995,800 sq km
water: 79,400 sq km
Area – comparative: approximately 1.8 times the size of the US
Land boundaries: total: 20,241.5 km
border countries: Azerbaijan 284 km, Belarus 959 km, China (southeast) 3,605 km, China (south) 40 km, Estonia 290 km, Finland 1,313 km, Georgia 723 km, Kazakhstan 6,846 km, North Korea 17.5 km, Latvia 292 km, Lithuania (Kaliningrad Oblast) 227 km, Mongolia 3,441 km, Norway 196 km, Poland (Kaliningrad Oblast) 432 km, Ukraine 1,576 km
Coastline: 37,653 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 24 nm
exclusive economic zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation
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
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Caspian Sea -28 m
highest point: Gora El’brus 5,633 m
Natural resources: wide natural resource base including major deposits of oil, natural gas, coal, and many strategic minerals, timber
note: formidable obstacles of climate, terrain, and distance hinder exploitation of natural resources
Land use: arable land: 7.17%
permanent crops: 0.11%
other: 92.72% (2005)
Irrigated land: 46,000 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 4,498 cu km (1997)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 76.68 cu km/yr (19%/63%/18%)
per capita: 535 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: permafrost over much of Siberia is a major impediment to development; volcanic activity in the Kuril Islands; volcanoes and earthquakes on the Kamchatka Peninsula; spring floods and summer/autumn forest fires throughout Siberia and parts of European Russia
Environment – current issues: air pollution from heavy industry, emissions of coal-fired electric plants, and transportation in major cities; industrial, municipal, and agricultural pollution of inland waterways and seacoasts; deforestation; soil erosion; soil contamination from improper application of agricultural chemicals; scattered areas of sometimes intense radioactive contamination; groundwater contamination from toxic waste; urban solid waste management; abandoned stocks of obsolete pesticides
Environment – international agreements: party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Sulfur 94
Geography – note: largest country in the world in terms of area but unfavorably located in relation to major sea lanes of the world; despite its size, much of the country lacks proper soils and climates (either too cold or too dry) for agriculture; Mount El’brus is Europe’s tallest peak
Politics According to the Constitution, which was adopted by national referendum on 12 December 1993 following the 1993 Russian constitutional crisis, Russia is a federation and formally a semi-presidential republic, wherein the President is the head of state[85] and the Prime Minister is the head of government. The Russian Federation is fundamentally structured as a representative democracy. Executive power is exercised by the government.[86] Legislative power is vested in the two chambers of the Federal Assembly.[87] The government is regulated by a system of checks and balances defined by the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which serves as the country’s supreme legal document and as a social contract for the people of the Russian Federation.

The White House, the seat of the Russian Government

The federal government is composed of three branches:
Legislative: The bicameral Federal Assembly, made up of the State Duma and the Federation Council adopts federal law, declares war, approves treaties, has the power of the purse, and has power of impeachment, by which it can remove the President.
Executive: The president is the commander-in-chief of the military, can veto legislative bills before they become law, and appoints the Cabinet and other officers, who administer and enforce federal laws and policies.
Judiciary: The Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, Supreme Court of Arbitration and lower federal courts, whose judges are appointed by the Federation Council on the recommendation of the president, interpret laws and can overturn laws they deem unconstitutional.

According to the Constitution, constitutional justice in the court is based on the equality of all citizens, judges are independent and subject only to the law, trials are to be open and the accused is guaranteed a defense. Since 1996, Russia has instituted a moratorium on the death penalty in Russia, although capital punishment has not been abolished by law.

The president is elected by popular vote for a four-year term (eligible for a second term but constitutionally barred for a third consecutive term); election last held 2 March 2008. Ministries of the government are composed of the premier and his deputies, ministers, and selected other individuals; all are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the Prime Minister (whereas the appointment of the latter requires the consent of the State Duma). The national legislature is the Federal Assembly, which consists of two chambers; the 450-member State Duma and the 176-member Federation Council. Leading political parties in Russia include United Russia, the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and Fair Russia.

People Population: 140,702,096 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 14.6% (male 10,577,858/female 10,033,254)
15-64 years: 71.2% (male 48,187,807/female 52,045,102)
65 years and over: 14.1% (male 6,162,400/female 13,695,673) (2008 est.)
Median age: total: 38.3 years
male: 35.1 years
female: 41.4 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.474% (2008 est.)
Birth rate: 11.03 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate: 16.06 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.28 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.93 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.45 male(s)/female
total population: 0.86 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 10.81 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 12.34 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 9.18 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 65.94 years
male: 59.19 years
female: 73.1 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.4 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 1.1% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 860,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 9,000 (2001 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea and hepatitis A
vectorborne disease: Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever and tickborne encephalitis
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2008)
Nationality: noun: Russian(s)
adjective: Russian
Ethnic groups: Russian 79.8%, Tatar 3.8%, Ukrainian 2%, Bashkir 1.2%, Chuvash 1.1%, other or unspecified 12.1% (2002 census)
Religions: Russian Orthodox 15-20%, Muslim 10-15%, other Christian 2% (2006 est.)
note: estimates are of practicing worshipers; Russia has large populations of non-practicing believers and non-believers, a legacy of over seven decades of Soviet rule
Languages: Russian, many minority languages
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99.4%
male: 99.7%
female: 99.2% (2002 census)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): total: 14 years
male: 13 years
female: 14 years (2006)
Education expenditures: 3.8% of GDP (2005)

Russia OKs Israeli strikes on Iranian targets deep inside Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Russia OKs Israeli strikes on Iranian targets deep inside Syria — report

Arabic daily says deal between Moscow and Jerusalem includes removal of Tehran-backed forces from border area, protection for Syrian army

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu, in Moscow, Russia on May 31, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman meets with Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu, in Moscow, Russia on May 31, 2018. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Israel and Russia have reached an agreement green-lighting Israeli strikes on Iranian targets in Syria, as well as the withdrawal of Tehran-backed troops from Syria’s border with Israel, according to an Arabic media report Friday.

According to the Arabic-language daily Asharq al-Awsat, the agreement will see Iranian forces leave southwestern Syria, while allowing Israel to strike Iranian assets deep in the country. Israel agreed not to attack Syrian regime targets, the report said.

A Russian source told Asharq al-Awsat that Russia was tight-lipped about the agreement to maintain “balance” in its diplomatic ties with Israel and Iran.

Israel has repeatedly vowed to prevent Iran establishing a permanent presence in Syria and Lebanon and has carried out dozens of air strikes against Iran-backed forces and attempts to smuggle advanced weapons to Hezbollah.

“Russia is somehow embarrassed because the talks with the Israelis mainly focused on a plan to remove Iran and its forces from southern Syria,” the source told the paper. Russia is a main ally of Iran.

The reported agreement comes after Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman met his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in Moscow on Thursday for talks focused on Syria.

Liberman thanked Russia for “understanding” Israel’s security concerns. However, neither Jerusalem, nor Moscow, publicly acknowledged any agreement between the sides regarding Iran’s military presence in Syria.

A photo released by Iranian media reportedly shows the T-4 air base in central Syria after a missile barrage attributed to Israel on April 9, 2018. (Iranian media)

“It is important to continue the dialogue between us and to keep an open line between the IDF and Russian army,” Liberman told Shoigu.

Before leaving Israel for Russia, Liberman said Israel was committed to “preventing Iran and its offshoots from establishing themselves in Syria.”

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday evening to discuss the situation in Syria. Moscow said the conversation focused on “some aspects of the Syrian settlement,” which it didn’t specify, following up on the two leaders’ talks in Moscow earlier this month.

The Liberman-Shoigu meeting came on the heels of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov‘s demand Wednesday that all foreign forces — including those from Iran, Turkey and the US — leave southwestern Syria as soon as possible, as well as his remarks Monday at a press conference in Moscow that only the Syrian regime should field military forces in the country’s southern border areas.

“As regards the confrontation between Israel and Iran in Syria, we have agreements on the southwestern de-escalation zone. These agreements have been reached between Russia, the United States and Jordan. Israel was informed about them as we were working on them. They [the agreements] stipulate that this de-escalation zone should consolidate stability, while all non-Syrian forces must be withdrawn from this area,” Lavrov said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov attends a joint press conference with his German counterpart following their talks in Moscow on May 10, 2018. (AFP/Yuri Kadobnov)

Lavrov’s comment apparently referred to areas including the Syrian Golan Heights region abutting the Israeli Golan Heights and the border with Jordan, and indicated that Russia was open to Israeli demands that Iranian forces be kept far from Israel’s borders.

The return of the Syrian army to Israel’s northern border in return for the distancing of Iran and its Lebanon-based proxy Hezbollah from the area has been the subject of back channel discussions between Israel and Russia over recent weeks.

Liberman visited Russia with a defense establishment delegation, hoping to flesh out the understandings to give Syrian President Bashar Assad control over the Syria-Israel border region.

Netanyahu’s office continues to insist publicly that Israel demands the complete ouster of Iran and Hezbollah from the whole of Syria.

A source told the Ynet news site on Thursday that “Israel is uninterested in partial agreements, but rather in an exit of all Iranian forces from Syria.”

On Wednesday, Netanyahu told ministers that he had spoken with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo primarily to urge the US government to demand that an evolving agreement on troop deployment in Syria between the US, Russia and Jordan make clear that Iranian forces must leave the whole of the country.

Israeli soldiers seen beside tanks near the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights on May 10, 2018 (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

The agreement appears to be slated to demand that Iranian and Iran-backed forces stay 20 kilometers from the Israeli and Jordanian borders.

Amidst a flurry of activity relating to Iran, Meir Ben-Shabbat, Israel’s National Security Adviser, flew to Washington on Wednesday to coordinate positions with the Trump administration.

Next week, Netanyahu will leave for France and Germany to discuss Iran’s role in Syria and the nuclear deal which the Europeans are trying to salvage after the US withdrawal earlier this month. He is due to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. He may also call on Prime Minister Theresa May in the UK.

READ MORE:
COMMENTS