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What Is Russia?
Russia is the most extensive country in the world, encompassing an area of 6,601,670 sq mi (excluding Crimea). The country makes up approximately one-eighth of the world's total landmass and is five times larger than India, 47 times larger than Germany, and 70 times the size of France. Additionally, Russia is more extensive than the surface of Pluto. It is also one of five nations located in both Europe and Asia, along with Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Georgia. The portion of Russia within Asia, called Asian Russia, is larger than any other country in Asia, and European Russia is more extensive than any other European country.
The larger portion of Russia's territory is located in Asia, while the majority of its population lives in Europe. Asian Russia, which is also known as Siberia, makes up 77% of the country's area but is inhabited by less than 25% of its population. European Russia occupies the western part of the country and constitutes much of Eastern Europe. Though most of Russia's population are European in ancestry, they neither identify as European nor Asian, but instead maintain a Russian identity. Before and following the World Wars, Russia was heavily involved in European issues and was critical in shaping the continent's current geographical and political map. However, Russia's relationship with other European countries fell apart during the Cold War, as most countries sided with the United States and joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Much of Russia's political and economic strengths fall within the European side of the country, while Siberia is primarily considered as wilderness. Russia participates as part of Europe in international affairs, including the World Cup, but politically refrains from being included as part of the "West." The country's two largest cities, Moscow and Saint Petersburg, are both located in European Russia.
What Is Siberia?
Siberia is part of contiguous Russia and occupies much of the eastern portion of the country in continental Asia. It is the larger of the two Russian divisions, covering more than 5.1 million sq mi, or roughly 77% of Russia's territory. However, it is inhabited by less than 25% of the population, and much of the land is wilderness. Even excluding European Russia, Siberia would still be the largest country in the world by area, but only the 35th most populated. Siberia also covers much of North Asia and is the part of Asia located closest to the United States. The eastern and western boundaries of Siberia are demarcated by the Pacific Ocean and the Ural Mountains, respectively. Big Diomede Island is the easternmost part of the Siberian territory. Siberia extends north to the Arctic Ocean and stretches south to the borders of China and Mongolia. A population of roughly 36 million people makes Siberia one of the most sparsely populated regions of the world, with a population density of about 7.8 people per square mile. The region is known for its long, harsh winters, during which temperatures drop to −13 °F (−25 °C). The Soviet Union and the Russian Federation frequently used Siberia as a place for internal exile, labor camps, and prisons.
Boundaries and Administration
Siberia was historically defined as the Russian territory east of the Ural Mountains and included the Russian Far East. It extends north to the Arctic Ocean, east to the watershed of the Pacific Ocean, and south to the international borders with Mongolia and China. By definition, Siberia encompasses the Siberian Federal District, part of the Ural Federal District, and the Sakha Republic. This definition excludes Chelyabinsk Oblast and Sverdlovsk Oblast, which are included in the broader definition of Siberia. Some definitions extend the boundaries of Siberia past the watershed to the Pacific Coast, while others narrow its geographic area to the Siberian Federal District.
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