Why are Russians so big
Land of superlatives
When you travel through Russia from west to east, you cross eleven time zones and three climatic zones. A state that borders China in the east, is only a few kilometers away from Alaska in the polar region and has its gold mine in the vastness of Siberia, which gives the former great power international weight again: the huge energy reserves.
With more than 17 million square kilometers, Russia is the largest country in the world, but it is far from having the highest population: with almost 145 million people (as of 2018), not even twice as many people live there as in Germany. But the Federal Republic fits 48 times into the area of Russia.
As far as the Urals, Russia is European. Up to this point, the country is also the most developed: the large metropolises Moscow and St. Petersburg are located in the European part, the road and rail network is well developed here. In the western part of Russia, the longest river in Europe also flows in the south: the Volga has been an important lifeline for people and the economy for centuries.
Siberia begins behind the Urals and this is where the world's largest natural gas reserves are stored, which the state treasury and the energy monopoly Gazprom have paid for.
The emergence of the gigantic empire
A system of Slavic and Scandinavian rule, the "Kievan Rus", developed along the trade routes between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea in the 9th century. In the 13th century, the empire was broken up by the Mongol storms, and the partial principalities came under the rule of the so-called "Golden Horde".
It was only after 200 years that the Grand Duchy of Moscow was able to free itself from Mongolian rule and Grand Duke Ivan IV was crowned the first "Tsar of all Russia" in 1547. The conquest of Siberia began under his rule.
In the 16th century, Ivan the Terrible ruled with an iron hand and pursued an imperial power politics to the east and south. Under Catherine the Great, too, the empire was enlarged again: it penetrated as far as the Black Sea and the Ottoman Empire.
The crisis of the common people in the age of industrialization had led to many uprisings in the 19th century. This finally culminated in the October Revolution of 1917.
In the civil war that followed between communist and non-communist forces, the communists prevailed first in the heartland and later also in the provinces. In 1922 they founded the USSR, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Industry and agriculture were nationalized, the owners expropriated.
Targeted terror was used against opponents of the current political line. Thousands upon thousands of people died in the gulags, the penal camps that Joseph Stalin had set up in Siberia, among other places.
The "dictatorship of the proletariat" only collapsed with the politics of glasnost and perestroika, which Mikhail Gorbachev had pursued since the mid-1980s. The result was not only the collapse of the Soviet Union, but also the fall of the Berlin Wall and the democratization of Eastern Europe.
The Yeltsin Years
In the course of the democratization process, Gorbachev lost his position after a coup in August 1991. As early as November 1991, the Russian Congress of People's Deputies granted his successor Boris Yeltsin extraordinary powers to implement economic reforms.
The dissolution of the USSR on December 31, 1991 finally cleared the way for the restructuring of the economic system. Under Boris Yeltsin, parts of the economy in Russia were privatized and democratic reforms were carried out.
Both failed, however, and the economy collapsed. The high inflation and unemployment, but also the fact that many people had no salaries for months, destabilized the country and sank into chaos.
The Yeltsin years have brought the term "democracy" into disrepute among many Russians. During the last years of his tenure, Yeltsin was in principle incapable of governing. The office of the seriously ill president was taken over by members of the family. Among other things, Yeltsin's daughter played an important role in this power structure.
The Putin system
Even the new constitution, which was passed in the early 1990s, gave the president a powerful position that could hardly be controlled by parliament. This strong concentration of power was reinforced by Vladimir Putin in his office as president, which he took up in March 2000. Putin dismantled a trademark of the Yeltsin years, the strong federation.
While under Yeltsin the governors of the individual federal states were elected by the people in regional elections, they are now appointed by the Kremlin. In other ways too, Putin relied heavily on control during his years in office - probably a quality that was developed through his many years with the KGB secret service.
Today people from the Russian secret services sit in many central positions of power. Nevertheless, Putin is held in high regard by the Russian people. Thanks to his reforms, not only does the business elite benefit from economic success, it also reaches the common people below. The salaries are also paid again.
Just because of his popularity in comparison to the sick Yeltsin, Putin was able to make himself more or less irreplaceable. The moves that are intended to ensure the continuation of his power after the elections prove this. According to the constitution at the time, Putin could not run again in the presidential elections in March 2008. It would have been his third term in a row. He had to wait four years before he could be re-elected.
Dimitrij Medvedev (President from 2008 to 2012) proposed Vladimir Putin as his successor towards the end of his term in office. In 2012, Putin won the election and became President of Russia for the third time. Putin also emerged victorious in the 2018 elections and was sworn in for his fourth term after his term of office had previously been extended to six years.
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