Geography in Russia
At around 17 million square kilometers, Russia is by far the largest country in the world and comprises around eleven percent of the total land area. From west to east, Russia stretches over two continents for a total length of 9,000 kilometers. Europe accounts for 23 percent of the land area and Asia for 77 percent. From south to north it extends up to 4,000 kilometers.
The Russian heartland borders Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Belarus in the west, Ukraine in the south-west and Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China and Mongolia in the south and North Korea in the south-east. In the north of Russia, in the Arctic Ocean, there are various islands belonging to Russia, the northernmost of which is Franz Josef Land. Russia also considers other areas of the Arctic Ocean and the ice sheet to be part of its territory. In addition to the heartland, Russia owns the northern part of the former East Prussia, today’s Kaliningrad Oblast, as an exclave.
Russia encompasses a large number of different natural areas and, geographically speaking, is divided into eight major landscapes in a west-east direction.
The Eastern European level occupies most of European Russia. It consists of wide valleys, which are interrupted by poorly structured ridges. Only a few elevations reach heights of more than 300 meters. In Karelia and on the Kola Peninsula, the relief is more differentiated in the north. There, in the Chibinen of the central Kola Peninsula, a maximum height of 1191 meters is reached. In the south, the Eastern European lowlands merge into the Caspian Depression, which is below sea level. During the last Ice Age, a chain of terminal moraines was formed, which runs from the border area with Belarus to the east and north of Moscow to the Arctic coast west of the Pechora River. The region north of it consists of many lakes and swamps.
To the east of the Ural Mountains, the wide-span plain in the West Siberian lowlands continues as far as the Yenisei. This extremely flat area is taken up by extensive marshland.
The North Siberian Lowland joins the Central Siberian Mountains to the north, which rises north to the Taimyr Peninsula to the south of the Arctic Ocean.
To the east of the Yenisei, the undulating Central Siberian mountainous region stretches to the Lena, with average heights between 500 and 700 meters. In the northwest of this region rises the Putorana Mountains, which reach a maximum height of 1701 meters. In the landscape, which is shaped by rivers, deep canyons have cut in some places.
In the south of Central and Eastern Siberia, further mountain ranges continue eastwards to the Pacific Ocean (South Siberian Mountains). These include Altai, Sayan Mountains, Jablonowy Mountains, Stanovoi Mountains and Dschugdschur.
The Central Yakut lowlands mainly include the lower valleys of Lena and Wiljui, but also the lower Aldan valley. The approximately 1 million km² extensive lowland is bounded in the west by the Central Siberian highlands and in the east by the East Siberian highlands.
To the east of Lena and Aldan is the East Siberian mountainous region, which consists of branched mountain ranges. The higher mountains in this region, such as the Verkhoyansk Mountains, the Tscherski Mountains and the Kolyma Mountains, reach heights between about 2300 and 3200 meters. There are around 160 volcanoes on the Kamchatka Peninsula. The volcanic mountain range of Kamchatka continues in the south on the Kuril Islands. There are around 100 volcanoes there.
South of the East Siberian Sea opens up the extensive East Siberian lowland, which is located exclusively north of the Arctic Circle . The landscape includes the lower reaches of the Jana, Indigirka and Kolyma rivers. The western part is the Jana Indigirka Lowland, the eastern part the Kolyma Lowland. In the west, south and east, the East Siberian lowlands border on the East Siberian highlands.
In the European part of Russia, the most important river is the Volga. It is the longest river in Europe and runs exclusively in Russia. Together with its two tributaries, the Kama and Oka, it drains a large part of the Eastern European Plain after 3534 kilometers to the Caspian Sea in the southeast.
The longest rivers in Russia are in Siberia and Far Eastern Russia. The Ob rises in the Altai in southern Siberia and flows into the Arctic Ocean. The river Katun, with its headwaters, is over 4,300 kilometers long and forms – together with the Irtysh – one of the longest river systems in Asia with a total length of over 5,400 kilometers.
There are many natural lakes in Russia, especially in the formerly glaciated northwestern part of the country. With 386,400 km², the Caspian Sea is the world’s largest inland lake. As the oldest freshwater lake, Lake Baikal has a depth of 1642 meters, making it not only the deepest lake, but also the largest reservoir of liquid freshwater in the world.
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Flora and fauna in Russia
Due to the incredible size of the country and the resulting climatic differences, there are various vegetation zones. In the north there are arctic archipelagos while in other areas there are meadows and various steppes. You can also encounter semi-deserts and deserts while traveling through the country.
A wide variety of animals can of course also be found in the different zones. Beluga whales, polar bears, walruses, seals and various sea birds can be found on the north coast of the polar sea, while reindeer live in the tundra region. Arctic foxes, beavers, lemmings and snow owls can also be found there. The extensive forests are home to smaller fur animals such as squirrels, sables, martens, foxes and wolverines, but also moose, bears, wolves, deer and minks live here. Hamsters, ground squirrels and marmots live in the steppe regions. In yet another region, a rare and endangered species of mole, the Desmane, can be found. Of course, falcons, eagles and cranes can be found all over the country. In contrast, a wide variety of fish species can be found in the waters.