20 maps that explain Russia

What do you know about the largest country in the world? Below is a comprehensive atlas of various maps explaining Russia’s geography, history, politics, and economics that will break many stereotypes about this country.

Map of Europe seen from Russia (1950s)
Europe seen from Russia (1950s)
Global position and boundaries

Russia is the largest transcontinental country located in Eastern Europe and Asia. It covers more than 1/8 of the Earth’s inhabited land area (17.1 million sq km or 6.6 million sq mi), extending 11 time zones, and bordering 16 sovereign countries.

A straight line connecting the Westernmost and Easternmost points of Russia passes through no Russian soil whatsoever!

Map of Russia from west to east

Russia is only one country separating Norway from North Korea! The map below shows the nearest country for different parts of Russia.

Russia has one of the longest international land borders. The Russian-Kazakh border stretches for more than 7.6 thousand kilometers (The U.S. and Canada have the longest border – 8.9 thousand km).

Due to the low population density and insignificant anthropogenic transformation of landscapes, Russia’s border with some countries can be seen even from space.

Border between Russia China
Border between Russia and Finland
Climate

Most of Northern European Russia, Northern Siberia, and North of the Far East has a subarctic climate, with overly harsh winters.
Northern Pole of Cold is located on the North Siberian Sakha Republic with a record low temperature of −71.2°C (−96.2°F).

Throughout much of Russia’s territory, there are four distinguished seasons: autumn, winter, spring, and summer. The coldest month is January (February on the coastland); the warmest month usually is July.

Few people know, but in Russia, there are territories with a subtropical climate. Subtropics are mainly located in the vicinity of Sochi, on the Black Sea coast of the Krasnodar Region.

Köppen climate map of Russia

You can compare the climate of most Russian cities with the climate of other cities in the world here.

Population geography

Although Russia is the 9th-most populous nation and the most populous country in Europe, the Russian Federation is one of the world’s most sparsely populated and urbanized. About 50% of the nation’s total area is forested, concentrating about 4/5 of its whole population of about 145 million on its smaller and dense western part than its larger and sparse eastern portion.

Map of population of Russia
Source: geonames.org

The map below shows Russia divided by population into 3 equal areas.

Map Russia divided by population


Russian forests, along with the Amazon rainforests, are the lungs of the planet. About 66% of Russia’s territory is covered with forests, 22% of the land is occupied by agricultural crops. Almost 20% of Russian territory is deer pastures. That’s mainly the land of native Siberian deer hunters inside the Arctic circle.

Many Russians leave villages as well as small towns and move to big cities. Therefore, in the vicinity of cities, you can see many abandoned villages.

The three maps below illustrate the urban population, the average population of rural settlements, and the abandoned villages in Russia.

Moscow is the capital of Russia and the largest urban area in Europe, and among the largest in the world, with about 20 million inhabitants. Other major most populous cities include St. Petersburg (5.4 mln), Novosibirsk (1.6 mln), Yekaterinburg (1.5 mln), Kazan (1.3 mln), Nizhny Novgorod (1.3 mln), Chelyabinsk (1.2 mln), Samara (1.2 mln), Omsk (1.2 mln), and Rostov-on-Don (1.1 mln).

The most ancient cities in Russia are Suzdal (1024), Vladimir (1108), Bryansk (985), Uglich (937), Pskov (903), Smolensk (863), Rostov Veliky (862), Belozersk (862), Murom (862), Veliky Novgorod (859), Derbent (438). It should be noted that the city of Derbent was previously part of the Persian Empire.

The animated map below shows foundation of 875 Russian cities.

Map of foundation of Russian cities
Reddit user: GrzegorzusLudi

Russia ranks fifth by total road network size (1.5 mln km), behind the U.S. (6.9 mln km), India (5.9 mln km), China (5.0 mln km), and Brazil (1.8 mln km). But due to the enormous size of the country, the density of the road network even in the European part of Russia is considerably inferior to the density of the road network in other countries. The map below shows roads on either side of the Finland-Russian border.

Border between Russia and Finland
Ethnic groups

Russia is a multinational country with almost 200 ethnic groups named as nationalities. These ethnic groups’ populations differ enormously, from millions (Russians, Tatars, Ukrainians) to under 100 (e.g., Kereks, Krymchaks, Ruthenians).

The map below shows percentage of ethnic Russians in Russia.

Map of Ethnic Russians in Russia
Reddit user: gorgich

In most parts of Russia, Tatar and Ukrainians are the second-largest ethnic groups in Russia. Before the collapse of the USSR, Ukrainians were the second largest ethnic group.

Map of second-largest ethnic groups in Russia
Reddit user: gorgich
Religion

Christianity was the religious self-identification of about 47% of the Russian population. Most of them are Orthodox Cristian. Orthodox Christian believers constituted 42.6% of the total population of Russia.

Islam is the second-largest religion in Russia after Orthodox Christianity. Nowadays, about 15 million Muslims live in Russia, or 10.3% of the total population.

Map of largest religions of Russia by region
Reddit user: gorgich
Economy

Russia’s economy is the 5h-largest national economy in Europe, the 11th-largest on the planet in terms of nominal GDP, and the 6th-largest by purchasing power parity.

Russia’s enormous geography is a crucial determinant of its economic activity, with some experts predicting that Russia holds over 30% of the world’s natural resources (oil, natural gas, precious metals, etc.). In 2012, gas and oil exports accounted for 16% of the country’s GDP.

Russia’s economic development uneven geographically, with the Moscow region providing a substantial GDP share.

The map below shows regions of Russia by GDP per capita.

Map of regions of Russia by GDP per capita
Reddit user: gorgich
Crime

Many people think that Russia is a dangerous country, but this is not entirely true. In many American states, the murder rate is higher than in Russia. The map below shows U.S. states with higher (in red) and lower (in blue) murder rate than Russia.

Map of murder rate in Russia and the U.S.

The murder rate in Russia is about 6 per 100 thousand people, and it depicts a notable drop over the past 15 years (in 2001, the homicide rate was about 30). The map below shows regions of Russia by murder rate.

Map of Russian regions by murder rate

But Russia has the highest suicide rates in Europe (26.5 suicides per 100,000 people) followed by Lithuania (25.7 suicides per 1000,000 people) and exceeds the world average suicide rates by 2.5 times. If we consider only male suicides, then Russia will turn out to be the absolute world leader. The suicide rate among Russian men is 48.3 per 100 thousand of the population. Half of all suicides are related to alcohol consumption.

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