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Russia, Land and Resources

Big Diomede Island, Wrangel Island, Severnaya Zemlya, New Siberian Islands, Ural River

In both total area and geographic extent Russia is the largest country in the world. With an area of 17,075,200 sq km (6,592,800 sq mi), Russia constitutes more than one-ninth of the world’s land area and nearly twice the area of the United States or China. From north to south Russia extends more than 4,000 km (2,400 mi) from Arctic islands in the Barents Sea to the southern border along the Caucasus Mountains. From the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea to Big Diomede Island (Ratmanov Island) in the Bering Strait, Russia’s maximum east-west extent is almost 10,000 km (6,200 mi), a distance encompassing 11 time zones and spanning nearly half the circumference of the Earth. Russia stretches across parts of two continents, Europe and Asia, with the Ural Mountains and Ural River marking the boundary between them.

Russia’s principal islands lie in the Arctic and Pacific oceans and their extensions. Farthest north, in the Arctic Ocean, is Franz Josef Land, an archipelago consisting of about 100 small islands. The other main Arctic islands, from west to east, include the two islands of Novaya Zemlya, Vaygach Island, the group of islands called Severnaya Zemlya, the New Siberian Islands, and Wrangel Island. Between these major islands lie numerous small islands and island chains. In the Pacific Ocean are the Kuril Islands, which extend southwest in an arc from the Kamchatka Peninsula to the main islands of Japan. Russia occupies and administers all the Kuril Islands, although ownership of the southernmost islands is disputed with Japan. The Pacific also includes the large island of Sakhalin, which separates the Seas of Okhotsk and Japan.

Russia contains complex geologic structures and surface formations. Very simply, however, the landmass consists of vast plains in the west and north, and a discontinuous belt of mountains and plateaus in the south and east. The upland and mountainous regions include most of Siberia and extend to the Pacific.

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