Editor's note: International aid charity Médecins Sans Frontières says 14 patients and staff were killed by a direct air strike on a hospital it supports in Aleppo, Syria. The charity did not specify whether the strike was carried out by the Syrian Air Force, or whether the Russian air group in Syria was involved. There have been no statements claiming or denying responsibility for the attack. - David
Russia (/ˈrʌʃə/; Russian: Росси́я, tr. Rossiya; IPA: [rɐˈsʲijə]), also officially known as the Russian Federation (Russian: Росси́йская Федера́ция, tr. Rossiyskaya Federatsiya; IPA: [rɐˈsʲijskəjə fʲɪdʲɪˈratsɨjə]), is a sovereign state in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic. At 17,125,200 square kilometres (6,612,100 sq mi), Russia is the largest country in the world, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area. Russia is the world's ninth most populous country with over 144 million people at the end of 2015.
Extending across the entirety of northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans eleven time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms. From northwest to southeast, Russia shares land borders with Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland (both with Kaliningrad Oblast), Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, and North Korea. It shares maritime borders with Japan by the Sea of Okhotsk and the U.S. state of Alaska across the Bering Strait.
The nation's history began with that of the East Slavs, who emerged as a recognizable group in Europe between the 3rd and 8th centuries AD. Founded and ruled by a Varangian warrior elite and their descendants, the medieval state of Rus arose in the 9th century. In 988 it adopted Orthodox Christianity from the Byzantine Empire, beginning the synthesis of Byzantine and Slavic cultures that defined Russian culture for the next millennium. Rus' ultimately disintegrated into a number of smaller states; most of the Rus' lands were overrun by the Mongol invasion and became tributaries of the nomadic Golden Horde in the 13th century.
The Grand Duchy of Moscow gradually reunified the surrounding Russian principalities, achieved independence from the Golden Horde, and came to dominate the cultural and political legacy of Kievan Rus'. By the 18th century, the nation had greatly expanded through conquest, annexation, and exploration to become the Russian Empire, which was the third largest empire in history, stretching from Poland in Europe to Alaska in North America.
Following the Russian Revolution, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic became the largest and leading constituent of the Soviet Union abbreviated to USSR, the world's first constitutionally socialist state and a recognized world superpower, and a rival to the United States which played a decisive role in the Allied victory in World War II. The Soviet era saw some of the most significant technological achievements of the 20th century, including the world's first human-made satellite, and the first man in space. By the end of 1990, the Soviet Union had the world's second largest economy, largest standing military in the world and the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction(nuclear threat obliged the state to detonate Tsar Bomba, which was mankind's most powerful nuclear bomb ever built. Following the partition of the Soviet Union in 1991, fourteen independent republics emerged from the USSR; as the largest, most populous, and most economically developed republic, the Russian SFSR reconstituted itself as the Russian Federation and is recognized as the continuing legal personality (the sole successor state) of the Soviet Union.
The Russian economy ranks as the tenth largest by nominal GDP and sixth largest by purchasing power parity in 2015. Russia's extensive mineral and energy resources, the largest reserves in the world, have made it one of the largest producers of oil and natural gas globally. The country is one of the five recognized nuclear weapons states and possesses the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. Russia was the world's second biggest exporter of major arms in 2010-14, according to SIPRI data.
Russia is a great power and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a member of the G20, the Council of Europe, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the World Trade Organization (WTO), as well as being the leading member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and one of the 5 members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), along with Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.