Stretching across two continentsEurope and AsiaRussia is the world's
largest country. The Ural Mountains are the dividing line between Europe and
Asia. Russia's gigantic size and harsh climates make transportation difficult
within the country. Siberia is the name of the large expanse of northern and
central Russia that crosses into Asia. In the north is tundra, and south of
the tundra is the world's largest forestthe taiga. Although Russia has many
resources, its economy continues to struggle. As Russia's government has changed,
its manufacturing has shifted from heavy industry to light industry. Its urban
areas are large and modern, and Moscow is the country's economic, political,
and cultural center.
Russia is one of the most populous countries in the world and has more than 150 different ethnic groups. It has a rich tradition of art, music, and literature. About three-fourths of Russians live in cities, and because it is very hard to find housing in Russia's cities, many generations may share the same home.
The republics of the Caucasus include Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. They became independent in 1991 for the first time in centuries, and since then have struggled to develop their industries and businesses. The Central Asian RepublicsKazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistanare Islamic countries. Kazakhstan has rich deposits of oil and other mineral resources. Cotton production in Uzbekistan has had disastrous effects on the environment. Most of Turkmenistan's land is part of a huge desert called the Garagum. Most of the Central Asian countries are poor, and most people are farmers.