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Capital :  
Moscow (Russian Federation)
Population :  
142.8 million (UN, 2011)
Area :  
17 million sq km (6.6 million sq miles)
Language :  
Currency :  
GNI per capita :  
US $9,900 (World Bank, 2010)
Main exports:  
Oil and oil products, natural gas, wood and wood products, metals, chemicals, weapons and military equipment
Time Zone :  
The Moscow Standard Time Zone is now (since 27 March 2011) 4 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time: GMT+4
Russia emerged from a decade of post-Soviet economic and political turmoil to reassert itself as a world power. Income from vast natural resources, above all oil and gas, have helped Russia overcome the economic collapse of 1998. The state-run gas monopoly Gazprom is the world's largest producer and exporter, and supplies a growing share of Europe's needs. Economic strength has allowed Vladimir Putin to enhance state control over political institutions and the media, buoyed by extensive public support for his policies as prime minister, president and now prime minister again. Spanning nine time zones, Russia is the largest country on earth in terms of surface area, although large tracts in the north and east are inhospitable and sparsely populated.
This vast Eurasian land mass covers more than 17m sq km, with a climate ranging from the Arctic north to the generally temperate south. In the period of rapid privatisation in the early 1990s, the government of President Boris Yeltsin created a small but powerful group of magnates, often referred to as "oligarchs", who acquired vast interests in the energy and media sectors. President Yeltsin's successor, Vladimir Putin, moved to reduce the political influence of oligarchs soon after taking office, forcing some into exile and prosecuting others.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of the Yukos oil company and a supporter of the liberal opposition, is serving eight years in a Siberian penal colony on tax and fraud charges. Yukos assets were later acquired by the state oil giant Rosneft.
Russia is the largest country in the world, spanning nine time zones. The landscape varies widely, from vast open tracts in the European heartlands and the taiga and tundra of Siberia, to mountainous terrain. Agriculture is largely confined to the European regions and the southern belt of Siberia. Further north, the main industries are forestry and extraction of energy and minerals.
The main communications across the country are by air, and the Trans-Siberian railway. The road system is not well developed countrywide. Russia's great rivers also play an important part in transportation as well as in hydroelectric power generation.
Russia's population is small relative to its size, and unevenly distributed, with the vast bulk in the European areas and the Ural regions. In inhospitable regions, e.g. the far north and much of Siberia, population density is often less than one person per square kilometer.
The Russian Federation is currently divided into some 80 administrative units officially known as subjects of the Federation.
World Trade Organization Accession
Russia applied to join the WTO in 1993 and is closer to accession than at any time in the past 18 years. In the meantime it is continuing dialogue with the OECD over possible membership.
The value of the Russian rouble is closely aligned to the oil price. Surging oil prices fuelled strong appreciation at the start of 2011, but since May the rouble has fluctuated in line with the oil price, depreciating by 12% against the US dollar in the third quarter. Significant net capital outflows - $50bn in the year to October - have been driven by a number of factors including a general flight to safety from emerging markets and investor concerns about falling oil prices and political risk.
The Russian Federation is recognised in international law as continuing the legal personality of the Soviet Union which was dissolved on 31 December 1991.
Russia is a member of international institutions such as the UN (where it is a permanent member of the UN Security Council), G8, G20, Council of Europe and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Russia has applied to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Russia maintains close relations with many of other former Soviet republics through the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Collective Security Treaty Organisation, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, and others.
Russia maintains a dialogue with NATO through the NATO-Russia Council, including on Afghanistan, combating piracy, counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism. Meanwhile, negotiations continue between the EU and Russia on a successor to their Partnership and Co-operation Agreement, covering a wide-range of areas including trade and investment, global and regional security and stability, and climate and energy security. The EU and Russia cooperate in a number of areas including justice and home affairs and foreign policy. The overall direction of the relationship is guided by twice yearly summits.
Differences with the international community arose following the conflict in Georgia in 2008 and Russia’s recognition of the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.
Education in Belarus is free at all levels including higher education. The government ministry that oversees the running of the school systems is the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Belarus. Belarus has a well-regarded education system, including universities and further education institutions that attract numerous foreign students. Pre-School Education Pre-school education is not compulsory in Belarus but around 70% of children do attend nursery or kindergarten before they start school. School Education in Belarus. Most children in Belarus start school at the age of 6. All pupils must follow the basic education curriculum up to the age of 15, and the vast majority of pupils stay at school until they finish their high school education at 18. At the age of 15, pupils that have successfully completed basic education can attend college or professional technical institutions where they can focus on completing their high school education and work toward a professional certificate.
Completion of a high school or professional certificate allows students to apply to continue their education at the university level. There are two official languages within the education system in Belarus, Russian and Belarusian.Belarus has one of the highest student-to-population ratios in Europe. The higher education system in Belarus is seen as prestigious due to its high quality and affordability.
There are four main types of higher education establishments to choose from, which can be either private or state operated:
Classical university
Profile university or academy
Higher college
Most courses run for 5 years and students can choose to study full time, at evening classes or by correspondence. Grants are available for full-time students and scholarships are awarded to very gifted students. All higher education establishments are governed by the Ministry of Education in Belarus.

More than 6000 foreign students study at higher education institutions and universities in Belarus every year.