Is Russia In Europe Or Asia?

Russia map.
  • Russia spans territory in both Europe and Asia.
  • More than three quarters of Russia's population lives in the European part of the country.
  • The Ural Mountains and Ural River mark Europe's eastern continental border with Asia.
  • The northern slopes of the Caucuses Mountains and the Turkish Straits mark Europe's southern continental border with Asia.
  • The region of Asia that is controlled by Russia is known as Siberia.

Russia spans territory in both Europe and Asia. Most of Russia’s territory belongs to the Asian continent, but most of the country’s people reside in Europe. The historical heartland of Russia also lies in Europe. The country expanded its territory into Asia due to imperial conquests. But since Russian territory now covers parts of Europe and Asia, the country includes people and cultures from both continents.

Why Is Russia Part Of Both Europe And Asia?

Russia in Asia
Map of Asia showing the Russian territory that is considered to be part of the continent.

The territory of the Russian Federation straddles the continental borders between Europe and Asia. By geographical convention, Europe’s eastern border is the Ural Mountains and the Ural River, which flows from those mountains into the far west corner of Kazakhstan. Thus, Russian territory from its western borders with Norway, Finland, the Baltic countries, Belarus, and Ukraine to the Ural Mountains is considered part of Europe.

Map of Europe showing the Russian territory that is considered to be part of the continent.

But of course, Russia has territory that lies well to the east of the Ural Mountains, all of which is part of Asia. The Russian territory east of the Urals is known as Siberia, and stretches eastward all the way to the Bering Sea, which is located to the north of the North Pacific Ocean. In fact, Russia and the US State of Alaska are separated by only 2.4 miles at their closest points to each other. Russian territory also stretches north to south in parts of Central and East Asia. The country shares a maritime border with Japan in the North Pacific Ocean. It also shares land borders with the countries of Central Asia, which were once part of the Russian-dominated Soviet Union, and the East Asian countries of Mongolia, China, and North Korea. Indeed, Russia’s vast territory makes it the largest country in the world by land area.

Russia’s People Mostly Inhabitants Of Europe

A Russian girl in traditional costume.

Although most of Russia’s landmass is considered part of Asia, most of the Russian population lives in the European part of the country. In fact, about 77% of Russia’s approximately 146 million people live in the territory that is considered part of Europe. This includes Russia’s most populous city, Moscow, which is also the country’s capital. It has more than 12 million residents, making it the second-most populous city in all of Europe. Other large cities in the European part of Russia include St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Kazan, and Rostov-on-Don.

Populated cities in Russia
Russia's most populated cities are concentrated along the western and southern borders of the country.

Two of Russia’s ten biggest cities, Yekaterinburg and Chelyabinsk, lie roughly on the border between Europe and Asia in the Ural Mountains. Just three of Russia’s largest cities, Novosibirsk, Omsk, and Samara, are located in Asian territory. Interestingly, the bulk of Russia’s population that resides in Asia lives close to the border with the country’s southern neighbors. Thus, it is as if there is a somewhat narrow, populous strip stretching from the Ural Mountains to the country’s east coast.

Russia’s European Origins

View of 17th-century Moscow (1922 drawing by Apollinary Vasnetsov)

Although Russian territory now encompasses parts of both Europe and Asia, the origins of Russia as a nation are in Europe, beginning with the establishment of the first Slavic state, Kievan Rus, in the 9th century CE, which was centered around the city of Kiev, now the capital of present-day Ukraine. What became a vast Russian empire, however, began with the tiny principality of Moscow. Between the 13th and 15th centuries, this principality gradually expanded its territory in what is now the European part of present-day Russia. It was not until the 16th century that Russia began expanding into Asia. Between 1581 and 1649, Russia conquered what is now known as the region of Siberia, which encompasses all of Russia’s territory in Asia today.

The Peoples Of The Russian Federation: Both European And Asian

Russian women in national Tuvan clothes and headdresses in the ethnocultural complex on the territory of the Republic of Tuva Aldyn-Bulak.

Today, Russia is a diverse country in which the customs and traditions of both Europe and Asia thrive. More than three-quarters of the country’s population is Russian by ethnicity. But ethnic Russians are just one of 190 ethnic groups in the Russian Federation. Many of these groups, such as the Karelians, Mordovians, and Udmurts are, like the ethnic Russians, European in origin, but there are also many ethnic groups that are Asian in origin, including the Buryats and the Yakuts, who live in the eastern portion of Siberia. The largest minority group in Russia today are the Tatars (or Tartars), a group of Turkic-speaking people, whose origins lie in present-day Mongolia.

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