Cruising in Russia
Founded in the 12th century, the Principality of Muscovy, was able to emerge from over 200 years of Mongol domination (13th-15th centuries) and to gradually conquer and absorb surrounding principalities. In the early 17th century, a new Romanov Dynasty continued this policy of expansion across Siberia to the Pacific. Under PETER I (ruled 1682-1725), hegemony was extended to the Baltic Sea and the country was renamed the Russian Empire. During the 19th century, more territorial acquisitions were made in Europe and Asia.
Repeated devastating defeats of the Russian army in World War I led to widespread rioting in the major cities of the Russian Empire and to the overthrow in 1917 of the imperial household. The Communists under Vladimir LENIN seized power soon after and formed the USSR. The brutal rule of Iosif STALIN (1928-53) strengthened communist rule and Russian dominance of the Soviet Union at a cost of tens of millions of lives. The Soviet economy and society stagnated in the following decades until General Secretary Mikhail GORBACHEV (1985-91) introduced glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt to modernize Communism, but his initiatives inadvertently released forces that by December 1991 splintered the USSR into Russia and 14 other independent republics.
Since then, Russia has struggled in its efforts to build a democratic political system and market economy to replace the strict social, political, and economic controls of the Communist period. While some progress has been made on the economic front, recent years have seen a recentralization of power under Vladimir PUTIN and the erosion of nascent democratic institutions. A determined guerrilla conflict still plagues Russia in Chechnya and threatens to destabilize the North Caucasus region.
Location: Northern Asia (the area west of the Urals is considered part
of Europe), bordering the Arctic Ocean, between Europe and the North Pacific
Territorial sea: 12 nm
Ranges from steppes in the south through humid continental in much of European Russia; subarctic in Siberia to tundra climate in the polar north; winters vary from cool along Black Sea coast to frigid in Siberia; summers vary from warm in the steppes to cool along Arctic coast
Broad plain with low hills west of Urals; vast coniferous forest and tundra in Siberia; uplands and mountains along southern border regions
Lowest point: Caspian Sea -28 m
Russia ended 2005 with its seventh straight year of growth, averaging 6.4% annually since the financial crisis of 1998. Although high oil prices and a relatively cheap ruble are important drivers of this economic rebound, since 2000 investment and consumer-driven demand have played a noticeably increasing role. Real fixed capital investments have averaged gains greater than 10% over the last five years, and real personal incomes have realized average increases over 12%. During this time, poverty has declined steadily and the middle class has continued to expand. Russia has also improved its international financial position since the 1998 financial crisis, with its foreign debt declining from 90% of GDP to around 31%.
Strong oil export earnings have allowed Russia to increase its foreign reserves from only $12 billion to some $180 billion at yearend 2005. These achievements, along with a renewed government effort to advance structural reforms, have raised business and investor confidence in Russia's economic prospects. Nevertheless, serious problems persist. Economic growth slowed to 5.9% for 2005 while inflation remains high. Oil, natural gas, metals, and timber account for more than 80% of exports, leaving the country vulnerable to swings in world prices.
Russia's manufacturing base is dilapidated and must be replaced or modernized if the country is to achieve broad-based economic growth. Other problems include a weak banking system, a poor business climate that discourages both domestic and foreign investors, corruption, and widespread lack of trust in institutions. In addition, a string of investigations launched against a major Russian oil company, culminating with the arrest of its CEO in the fall of 2003 and the acquisition of the company by a state owned firm, have raised concerns by some observers that President PUTIN is granting more influence to forces within his government that desire to reassert state control over the economy.
State control has increased in the past year with a number of large acquisitions. Most fundamentally, Russia has made little progress in building the rule of law, the bedrock of a modern market economy.
Airports: 1,730 (2005)
96,000 km; note: 72,000 km system in European Russia links Baltic Sea, White Sea, Caspian Sea, Sea of Azov, and Black Sea (2004)
Total: 1,199 ships (1000 GRT or over) 5,138,457 GRT/6,385,116 DWT
Sailing Specifics: Ports and terminals
Anapa, Kaliningrad, Murmansk, Nakhodka, Novorossiysk, Rostov-na-Donu, Saint Petersburg, Taganrog, Vanino, Vostochnyy
Other Sailing Destinations in the Region