Editor's note: At 3:42 pm ET, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka will ride a Russian Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station. Kornienko and Kelly will stay at the ISS for 342 days, twice as long as any U.S. astronaut has ever stayed on the space station, CNN reports. NASA is studying the impact of long-duration spaceflights on the human body and retired astronaut Mark Kelly, Scott's twin brother, has volunteers to see how they change over the year in different environments. During this trip, Padalka will be setting a record for the most total time in space for a human. - Stephanie
Russia /ˈrʌʃə/ or /ˈrʊʃə/ (Russian: Россия, tr. Rossiya; IPA: [rɐˈsʲijə] ( )), officially known as the Russian Federation (Russian: Российская Федерация, tr. Rossiyskaya Federatsiya; IPA: [rɐˈsʲijskəjə fʲɪdʲɪˈrat͡sɨjə] ( )), is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic. 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, the US state of Alaska across the Bering Strait and Canada's Arctic islands. At 17,075,400 square kilometres (6,592,800 sq mi), Russia is the largest country in the world, covering more than one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area. Russia is also the world's ninth most populous nation with 143 million people as of 2012. Extending across the entirety of northern Asia and much of Eastern Europe, Russia spans nine time zones and incorporates a wide range of environments and landforms.
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. 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, the world's first constitutionally socialist state and a recognized superpower, 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. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Russian SFSR reconstituted itself as the Russian Federation and is recognized as the continuing legal personality of the Union state.
The Russian economy ranks as the ninth largest by nominal GDP and sixth largest by purchasing power parity in 2014. 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 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, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Eurasian Economic Community, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the World Trade Organization (WTO), as well as being the leading member of the Commonwealth of Independent States.