(pronounced "vlad-EE-mir POO-teen")
"The building of a democratic state is far from complete. But a great deal has already been done. We must cherish what has been achieved and preserve and advance democracy. We must make sure that the government chosen by the people works in the interests of the people and protects the Russian citizen everywhere, both in our country and abroad, and serves the public."
Russia, officially called the Russian Federation, was by far the largest republic of the former USSR. Its estimated 2002 population of 145 million accounted for slightly more than half the Soviet total. Its 17 million square kilometers (6.6 million square miles) comprised 76% of the territory of the USSR, stretching across Eurasia to the Pacific across 11 time zones. Russia also inherited the lion's share of the natural resources, industrial base, and military assets of the former Soviet Union. Much of its territory in the north and Far East, however, is sparsely populated. Although Russia is nearly twice the size of the United States, its population is only a bit more than half the U.S. total.
Russia is a multinational, multiethnic state with over 65 nationalities and a complex federal structure inherited from the Soviet period. Within the Russian Federation there are 21 ethnic republics (including Chechnya) and 18 other administratively distinct ethnic enclaves. The principal political subdivision of the ethnically Russian parts of the federation is the oblast, of which there are 49. Russia's multinational federal structure resembles that of the former Soviet Union on which it was patterned. The demography, however, is different. Ethnic Russians, comprising 81.5% of the population, are dominant. The next largest nationality groups are Tartars (3.8%), Ukrainians (3%), and Chuvash (1.2%). Traditionally, Russians belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. Other major religious groupings in Russia include Islam, Buddhism, Catholicism, various Protestant faiths, Judaism, and animism.