“”I’d like to go to Russia very much – although the bastards murdered half my family.
Russia, officially the Russian Federation (Russian: Российская Федерация tr: Rossiyskaya federatsiya), is where invasions go to die (unless you're the Mongols). It's the largest country in the world, situated between Europe and Asia, or making up most of Europe, or taking up all of Northern Asia. Take your pick; Siberia makes this all way too complicated.
As the successor to the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation includes 83 oblasts, republics, autonomous republics, territories, districts and federal cities. This is even more complicated than it sounds. Imagine if the US had 83 states that occasionally had shooting wars with each other.
Despite Russia housing hundreds of ethnic groups, those are mainly concentrated in semi-autonomous republics. Russia is overwhelmingly Slavic, and a shared Russian identity is a core part of their fabric. Is all Slav, is brothers: have in common borscht, pickles, black bread, vodka, cigarette, Adidas tracksuit, and sense of existential despair.
The Soviet Union was hit particularly hard by World War II. Something like 26 million people died between 1941-45. They still have an imbalance in gender as a result.
41 of the over one hundred ethnic groups in Russia are legally recognized as “Indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North, Siberia, and the Far East.” To receive legal protection, these peoples must number less than 50,000 people, maintain a traditional way of life, and inhabit separate territories. There are also 24 larger ethnic groups that are identified as national identities but which do not qualify for assistance. Unemployment in Indigenous populations is 1½-2 times higher and incomes are 2-3 times lower than other Russians with over a decade's difference in life expectancy for men and women. 
- Fyodor Dostoevsky — probably the best known Russian writer among Westerners.
- Yuri Gagarin — the first man in space.
- Lev Landau — 1962 Nobel Prize laureate in physics.
- Dmitri Mendeleev — Developer of the modern periodic table.
- Vladimir Nabokov — the Russian-American writer best known for his novel Lolita.
- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky — one of the world's most popular classical composers.
- Leo Tolstoy — rivals Dostoevsky in popularity, best known for his monumental work "War and Peace".
- Nikolai Vavilov — a geneticist who was persecuted by Stalin's regime.
and so many more of them…
The Eastern Front
“”Anything up to five degrees below zero I don't even notice. Quite a number of young people of today already wear shorts all the year round; it is just a question of habit. In the future, I shall have an SS Highland Brigade in lederhosen.
|—Adolf Hitler, meteorologist|
As the Mongols discovered, you have to raze Russia to the ground to get a surrender out of them. The Khans at least paid attention to their supply lines and exploited advantages in the weather (which turned the rivers into Mongol highways). They also got lucky in the fact that Russia was a disunited mess at that point; it didn't expand past the Urals until the 1400-1500's.
Napoleon found his grip on Europe weakening thanks to Spain, and was in search of a big symbolic victory over Russia. His first objective was taking Vilnius. When he took Vilnius without having fought the Russian army, he decided to move straight into Russian territory in the direction of Moscow, hoping that this would cause Alexander to bend the knee. Napoleon's subordinates were urging him to halt and dig in for the winter, but Napoleon saw this as admitting defeat, so he marched on. ("Avant deux mois, la Russie me demandera la paix.") The massive size of terrain to conquer using trench warfare and the oncoming Rasputitsa made Napoleon's defeat almost inevitable, as the Russians only needed to stall. He lost most of his 600,000 men to the arduous pursuit, starvation, exhaustion, and garrison duty.
Hitler had similar delusions, and on the anniversary of Napoleon's statement, he began the "European crusade against Bolshevism." (Ole Dolfy thought that all Slavs were inferior.) Beyond Nazi propaganda, the view of the Soviet army as a ramshackle mob wasn't helped by the first year of the German invasion, when the Soviets had few officers because of Stalin's purges, and their under-equipped rookies were swept aside. The Soviets lost about 8-10 million versus 5.5 million Germans, which led to the whole "USSR won through bodies" myth−or for that matter, Robert E. Lee fighting the Union and Grant. (Grant only won by "throwing bodies" at the rebels, whilst Lee was a tactical genius and a good man fighting for a bad cause, etc.) This, however, only accounts for about the first 1/3rd of the war. The Soviet army for the other 2/3rds of the war was a very different beast. All those elite Wehrmacht pilots and officers lay dead or dying, Zhukov was recalled from the Far East and brought his command staff with him, the Red Army was re-equipped with enormous quantities of extremely modern armor and artillery, and the Red Guard were veterans all but in name. The Germans ran out of fuel (inevitably) halfway through, and lost what was left of their motorized divisions. Russians were literally throwing live Nazis on the ground, spraying water on them until they froze, and then driving over them like roads. Old joke: What's the only thing the Nazis didn't slap a swastika on? Answer: Moscow.
Exporters of democracy
“”The sucking-up to the master is completely genuine, but as we’re all liberated 21st-century people who enjoy Coen brothers films, we’ll do our sucking up with an ironic grin while acknowledging that if we were ever to cross you we would quite quickly be dead.
After experimenting with
anarchy democracy in the 1990s under Yeltsin, Russia is, thanks to Vladimir Putin, an enlightened "sovereign democracy",[note 1] which has cut assassinations of journalists down to only two or three a year, and doesn't cut off the gas supply every time a foreign country criticizes it. Their "democracy" is now so successful that the United Russia party scored 238 out of 450 Duma seats in the 2011 elections with only minimal widespread electoral fraud.
One of their many favorite pastimes is insisting that NATO is out to get them. Every time the situation gets a bit dicey at home the solution is easy. "Take back more of Russia!" They have enough of Russia already. That whole area of Siberia? Just develop the land slowly and you could have a country which rivals China in resources. Seems like Russia is thinking, "Tired of being cold. Maybe take back land which is warm."
Russia's most prominent religion is Russian Orthodox, a branch of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, where 41% of people observe it. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the observance of Orthodox Christianity has risen, but not church attendance, and the amount of people who do not identify with any religion has dropped, according to the Pew Research Center analysis in 2008. More women are shown to be religious than men, and the age positively correlates with the percentage of people who observe it. In 2008, the education level does not correlate with the amount of religious identification among Russians.
Apparently, the country is also adding the spectator sport of public creationist silliness, as demonstrated by a protest by Russian Orthodox Young Earth creationists, specifically the Bozhaya Volya (Божья воля), or "God's Will", activist group outside of Moscow's Charles Darwin museum. There, they unfurled a banner that read, "God created the world" on the building. The stunt there is tied to Dmitriy Enteo, who was also known as the perpetrator against the Pussy Riot facade. In addition, the newer competitive events of passing laws against free speech in order to combat teh evul gay and
beating up detaining human rights activists and Pastafarians seem to be crowd favorites as well.
European or Asian?
Maybe even Eurasian
“”Russia is not between Europe and Asia. Europe and Asia are to the left and right of Russia. We are not a bridge between them but a separate civilizational space, where Russia unites the civilizational communities of East and West.
|—Vladimir Yakunin, Russian oligarch|
“”Russia's only real geostrategic option - the option that would give Russia a realistic international role and also maximize the opportunity of transforming and socially modernizing itself - is Europe.
Given Russia's territorial belongings and peculiar history (starting off as an Eastern European country, and spending about 200 years under the Tatar yoke), there's a lot of debate about whether it actually belongs to Europe or to Asia. Nowadays most evidence, including genetics, points to the former: haplogroups in Russian genetic pool form a cluster with Northern and Eastern Europeans, especially Ukrainians and Poles, but are very far from Turkish and Mongol groups. This is also evident in the country's traditions and customs, which originate from Slavic paganism, Eastern Byzantine Orthodoxy, and Western European culture.
Nevertheless, it was a common propaganda tactic in the 19th century to portray Russians as "asiatic" (which, due to the epoch's racialist trends, was just a euphemism for "barbaric"/"inferior"). This view was promoted by France after the 1812 defeat (most notably by Henri Martin), by Poland after the suppression of the November Uprising, and by Britain during the Great Game; about a century later, it was also exploited by Nazis during WW2 in order to justify the Russians' "racial inferiority" and the conquest of USSR. After 1945, when racialism quickly declined in popularity, the association between Russia and Mongols/nomads also went out of fashion since it lost its propaganda value; nowadays it remains popular only among hardcore Ukrainian nationalists who seek to establish their country as the true heir to Kievan Rus. Some Russians argue that the country has a unique "Eurasian" path between East and West; history disagrees, however: Russia's closest cultural ties have always been with the West, and the relations with Asian countries were of the same type that Britain had with India: either conquest or trade.
Russian-American writer Nabokov provides an interesting take on this question in his novel "Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle". It takes place in an alternate reality called Antiterra (Demonia), in which Russia and the US are comprised into one country called Estotia, and the Russo-Anglo-American Atlantic world is fighting the Golden Horde in this world's analogue of the Cold War.
“”We live in a modern European country, yet we have a law that divides people up into types and categories and says that the basis of the declaration on human rights is a crime.
|—Anton Krasovsky on gay rights, who was fired from the government-run KontrTV for publicly coming out gay.|
Russia does not have a very proud record when concerning LGBT rights. While same-sex activity in of itself is considered legal since 1993, there are no anti-discrimination laws that protect gay people from having hate crime committed against them in any services, nor is same-sex marriage of any sort formally recognized. Additionally, while gay people are legally allowed to openly serve in military, there is an unofficial don't ask, don't tell policy in place. In fact, at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, athletes were told that it's okay to be gay as long as they don't say it in front of the children's faces. The laws against gay "propaganda" use this exact rationale, with a bit of offending religious fee-fees mixed in on top of it. Due to these overly draconian and the nakedly discriminatory nature of these laws, protests surrounding the 2014 Sochi Olympics were widespread, including asking the International Olympic Committee to move the games to another country and encouraging athletes to boycott the event and Russian products, most notably Russian vodka. Since 2013, Vladimir Putin has signed a law forbidding gay couples from countries that recognize same-sex marriage to adopt Russian children, claiming to "protect" them from "complexes, emotional suffering and stress." Gay pride parades were never officially granted and were usually met with vast amounts of homophobia; most notably, the biggest of the gay pride parades in Russia, the annual Moscow Pride parade was described as "satanic" by former Moscow mayor Yuri Luzkhov and believes that a ban on gay pride parades would reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS. Since then, gay parades have been banned in Moscow for 100 years. Due to this tomfoolery, the European Court of Human Rights has fined Russia for the gay parade ban.
Public opinion doesn't fare better than official policy. A majority 85% of polled Russians by the All-Russian Public Opinion Center are strongly opposed to same-sex marriage and 88% support the gay propoganda ban. Additionally, a poll conducted by the Levada Center has a 35% of Russians thinking that homosexuality is a disease and 43% believe to be a bad habit.
The Chechen Republic has entirely its own story to tell how it feels about gay rights.
Transgender people fare slightly better in Russia, though some more work needs to be done. They are legally allowed to change their gender, but doing so requires sterilization. Though recently, in order to reduce driving-related fatalities, a ridiculous Russian amendment has classified transgenderism, along with other sexual preferences as a "mental disease" and thus, it impairs the person the ability to drive a vehicle properly. There's not even a convenient correlation does not imply causation fallacy to back that ridiculous reasoning up, since Russia has one of the worst road accident fatalities in the world, much worse than countries that are more accepting of transgender (and the other of the classified "mentally ill" sexual preferences) people as drivers such as the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, etc. The only reason traffic fatalities will go down after introduction of the bill is generally less drivers on the road to begin with, assuming that there will be any impact on the driver-base of Russia at all since it targets only a small minority of people. Enforcing this amendment to root out the crazy transgendered drivers is another story altogether.
Siberia is the Asian portion of Russia (a "portion" comprising two-thirds of the country's landmass, though home to only one-quarter of the population). It became notorious as the destination of prisoners of conscience exiled during the times of the Russian Empire and of the Soviet Union. So notorious is the association of the words Siberia and prison that the place is routinely described as the destination of all Russian prisoners, even when they are sent to Mordovia, as far west of Siberia itself as London is from Warsaw. Apart from its penological functions, Siberia is a major source of oil and gas. Siberia has almost every known natural resource to offer, from timber to diamonds to abandoned barrels of nuclear waste.
Today, Siberia is a mostly-settled region with several large cities connected by a network of highways and railroads; indeed, Novosibirsk, the unofficial capital of Siberia, is the third-largest city in Russia, with a population of 1.47 million people. Settlement far away from established urban centers can still be impractical due to the harsh climate and long travel distances, but at least the era of the phrase "send them to Siberia" in the sense of imprisonment or exile is almost over. However, the imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky in a Siberian penal colony shows that this assumption is a bit premature.
The written Russian language uses Cyrillic characters, traditionally invented by St. Cyril and St. Methodius (missionaries from the Byzantine Empire) to spread Christianity. Contemporary Russian uses 33 characters, with two silent characters, one indicating palatalization (Ь) and a hard character (Ъ) that is rarely used. (Other languages that use Cyrillic include Ukrainian, Belorussian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Mongol, and Macedonian.) While Cyrillic appears significantly different from Latin, it uses quite a few characters that look and sound like their Latin counterparts, for example: А, К, М, О, and Т. However, other characters can look like their Latin counterparts but represent drastically different sounds, such as В sounding like v as in "van" and Р sounding like r as in "rat".
Due to the prestige and widespread influence of the English language, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the term "Runglish" is used to describe the adaptation of English words and phrases into a Russian sound-alike, such as calling "ice cream" by its English name with Russian inflections rather than "мороженое" (morozhenoye). The term "Runglish", first coined by Sergei Krikalyov, was initially used to describe the hybrid language used by Americans and Russians in the International Space Station, since crew members must learn to use both languages in order to fully operate as cosmonauts/astronauts. Russian nationalists are not a huge fan of Runglish, to say the least, moaning that Westerners are subverting the "purity" of their language. Because of this, the Russian government dubbed 2007 the "Year of the Russian Language", in an attempt to preserve it.
Twitter, much to the major annoyance of not only Russians, but virtually any group of people who use the Cyrillic alphabet, especially Bulgarians, has banned people who frequently tweeted or who have a name with Cyrillic characters in it. Twitter imposed these measures to tackle the issue of Russian trolls and bots taking advantage of the service to spread discord and misinformation with, unsurprisingly, little result of actually curbing activity outside of profiling large groups of people who are not related to the incidents.
Vodka is — not surprisingly — the national beverage. Thirty percent of all deaths in 2012 were attributable to alcohol according to the OECD. Researchers found that Russian men who drink large amounts of vodka have a 35% risk of death before age 55.
The Chechen Republic (more commonly known as Chechnya) is a constituent republic, known for separatism, terrorism, and being an enormous pain for Moscow. There have been no fewer than 2 civil wars between the Chechen separatists and the Federal Russian Government following the dissolution of the USSR. Currently, the score stands as 1 win for the separatists, and a more recent win for the Russian Federal Government.
For modern-day Russia, the Chechen wars drastically reshaped both countries, their leaders, and their peoples for decades to come. President Boris Yeltsin, planning a blitzkrieg against the separatists, quickly collapsed under his own weight and the war descended into a quagmire, humiliating the Kremlin and forcing them to essentially sue for peace. In comes Prime Minister Putin who orchestrated a far more organized and brutal campaign against the separatists, beating them down and flattening the country before installing the Kadyrov clan into power. The Chechen wars helped destroy Yeltsin's approval ratings while turning Putin into an eternally popular strongman, whose tough talk, uncompromising rhetoric, and insistence that "There is no border with Chechnya" won over many disaffected Russians who resented the separatists' terrorism. 
The President of the Chechen Republic is Ramzan Kadyrov, a barely 40-year-old man who passes time by joking about killing members of the opposition.  He acts like a warlord, crushing any and all opposition, presiding over abuses of human rights by his unaffiliated supporter militias, and more recently, putting gay men in concentration camps while insisting there are no gay men in his country; he went on record to brag about how he wants to eliminate the gay population before the end of 2017.  Putin has agreed with the Chechen leader that these camps do not exist, and that gay people aren't being systematically persecuted for being gay
since gays don't actually exist. In effect, the Kremlin has fed a dragon that's gotten too big for even them to control. Putin has little choice but to back Kadyrov and not truly investigate the allegations, lest he risk pissing off the real-life Ramsay Bolton. 
- Joseph Stalin
- Pussy Riot
- Tunguska event
- Trump-Russia connection
- 2014 Ukrainian crisis
- И теперь на русском языке!
- Russia Explained (And more!)
- The Dying Russians, The New York Review of Books
- Louis Potgieter would be proud.
- Dash cam videos are Russia's largest export, after vodka, oil, weapons and suicidal novelists
- Prince Philip quotes: Relive his classic gaffes on his 94th birthday By Paul Cockerton (07:30, 10 Jun 2015 Updated 07:37, 10 Jun 2015) Daily Mirror.
- Fedorova, Anastasiia, "Adidas: A Love Story", Calvert Journal.
- Gao, George, "Why the former USSR has far fewer men than women", Pew Research 14 August 2015.
- "Who are the Indigenous People of Russia?" Cultural Survival, February 19, 2014
- Hoffman, William, "Diary of a German Solider".
- Pomerantsev, Peter, "Putin's Rasputin", London Review of Books Vol. 33 No. 20, 20 October 2011 pg. 3-6.
- See Russian Journalist Assassination Comes After U.S. Congressional Resolutions Urging Protection for Media and Wikipedia's list of journalists killed in Russia
- Because that is how many it takes to intimidate the surviving journalists.
- Russians protest against election fraud, Australian Broadcasting Corporation
- (February 10, 2014) Russians Return to Religion, But Not to Church. Pew Research Center. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
- Bartholomew, Richard (March 23, 2013) Russian Creationists Protest at Charles Darwin Museum. Bartholomew's Notes. Retrieved March 23, 2018.
- Russia: Investigate Violent Raid on Rights Group, Human Rights Watch
- Humor failure in Russia: Crackdown on 'Pastafarians' shows Kremlin-church ties, NBC
- Vladimir Putin: The rebuilding of ‘Soviet’ Russia, BBC
- Mitochondrial DNA sequence diversity in Russians
- Two Sources of the Russian Patrilineal Heritage in Their Eurasian Context
- Neatly explained by the fact that Mongols rarely had direct contact with Russians.
- The geography of Antiterra
- Krasovsky, Anton (May 14, 2013) I came out because gay people in Russia are suffering – it's time for courage The Guardian. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
- Russia: Update to RUS13194 of 16 February 1993 on the treatment of homosexuals. (February, 29, 2000). Refworld. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
- Tolkueva, Irina (Dececember 1, 2003) Gays are not Willingly Accepted in the Russian Army PravadaReport. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
- Brydum, Sunnivie (August 12 2013) Russia Proposes 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Olympics. Advocate. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
- Elder, Miriam (June 11, 2013) Russia passes law banning gay 'propaganda' The Guardian. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
- Gevisser, Mark (December 27, 2013) Life Under Russia’s ‘Gay Propaganda’ Ban. The New York Times. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
- Russia's Putin signs law limiting adoption by gays. (July 3, 2013). USA Today. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
- Moscow bans 'satanic' gay parade. (January 29, 2007). BBC News. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
- Gay parades banned in Moscow for 100 years. (August 12, 2012). BBC News. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
- "Not The Onion", indeed.
- European court fines Russia for banning gay parades. (March 6,2012) . BBC News. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
- Herszenhorhn, David M. Gays in Russia Find No Haven, Despite Support From the West The New York Times. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
- (May 21, 2013) Map shows how Europe forces trans people to be sterilized Gay Star News. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
- Walker, Shaun Transgender people in Russia banned from driving, says legal amendment. The Guardian. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
- WHO Road Safety charts from 2015. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
- "Mordovia, while Maria Alyokhina was shipped to a similar institution in Perm. The two cities, located in the freezing central region of Siberia..." So the Republic of Mordovia is a city now? And Perm, although a city, lies on the other side of the Urals from Siberia...
- Yakutsk, the saddest city in the world.
- Welcome to penal colony YaG 14/10. Now the home of one of Russia's richest men, The Guardian (He's since been freed and giving Rosneft a run for its money.)
- Feur, Alan (June 14, 2005) For the Thirsty Runglish Speaker: Try an Ized Cyawfeh. The New York Times. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
- Hamer, Ashley. (March 24, 2017) ISS Astronauts Speak In A "Space Creole" Called Runglish. Curiosity. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
- Blomfield, Adrian. (September 12, 2003) English invades Russian language. The Telegraph. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
- Savov, Vlad. (May 22, 2018). Twitter is treating Bulgarians tweeting in Cyrillic like Russian bots. The Verge. Retrieved May 24, 2018.
- Russian official urges action on workplace alcohol abuse (Wednesday, September 16, 2015) Irish Examiner.
- Russian men losing years to vodka: Spirit linked to 35% of cases where a man dies before age 55, with study citing national sport of spectacular drunkenness (Friday 31 January 2014 11.55 EST) The Guardian.
- Dearden, Lizzie (April 20, 2017) Russia backs Chechnya government's denials over killing and torture of gay men. The Independent. Retrieved January 10, 2018.