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Spanning 11 timezones and two continents, Russia is the world's largest country.
Its geography includes tundra, forests, steppe and high mountain ranges. The Ural Mountains separates European and Asian Russia.
 
Early human inhabitants were Homo Erectus, Neanderthals and the elusive Denesovans.
Herodotus mentioned that the fierce Scythians roamed the steppes of south Russia.
Ancestors of today's Russians are the medieval Slavic tribes of the Kievan Rus who were originally ruled by Vikings.
 
In the 15th century Ivan the Great created the basis for a national Russian state.
 
In 1721 Peter the Great started the Russian Empire that would last till the Russian Revolution in 1917.
 
After a vicious civil war the communists won and created the communist Soviet Union (USSR).
WW II drew a heavy toll on Russia's economy and population. 
The annexation of  several East European countries started the Cold War, which ended with the soft implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The occupied countries left as quickly as possible and what remained became the new Russian Federation.
 
Under Putin the Federation is striving to become an important world player again. 
 
St Petersburg