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Spanning 11 timezones and two continents, Russia is the world's largest country in terms of area.
The country's geography includes tundra, forests, steppe and high mountain ranges. The Ural Mountains. separate European and Asian Russia.
Early humans here were Homo Erectus, Neanderthals and the elusive Denesovans.
Most central and northern Europeans descend from male Yamnayas that originated on the wide steppes north of the Black Sea. The fierce Scythians mentioned by Herodotus were possibly still following the Yamnaya lifestyle.
Today's European Russians descend from medieval Slavic tribes of the Kievan Rus who were ruled by Vikings.
In the 15th century Ivan the Great created the basis for a national Russian state.
Peter the Great founded 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 population with an estimated 27 million casualties.
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 Russia is striving to become an important world player again, sometimes via covert operations. 
St Petersburg
Sergiev Posad