Some historians believe that "Rus" derives from an ancient name for the Volga River.
People ethnically identified as Russians have been politically and culturally dominant in a vast area for five hundred years of tsarist and Soviet imperial expansion.
Below that, the relatively arid steppe, with grasslands and semidesert and desert regions, runs along the northern edge of the Caucasus Mountains and north of the Caspian Sea beyond the Volga River basin into Central Asia.
The climate of much of European Russia is continental, with long, cold winters and short, hot summers.
Circulatory diseases, accidents, and suicides attributable to alcohol abuse are the leading causes of death among men.
Malnutrition, disease, industrial pollution, poor health care, and reliance on abortion for birth control have reduced fertility rates and increased maternal and infant mortality.
It is largely the result of the economic and social upheavals of the postsocialist period, which have impoverished the population and caused a decay of social services.
Until the advent of railways and roads, the rivers were the only efficient way to travel, and they remain a significant form of transport for people and materials.These factors limit agricultural production and account for the frequency of crop failures; what is produced requires substantial labor.The huge forests provide for foraging, hunting, and logging.There is a broad cultural continuity throughout the federation and among the millions of Russians in the newly independent republics of Central Asia, the Baltic region, and the Caucasus. In addition to being the largest, the Russian Federation is one of the world's northernmost countries.
It encompasses 6,592,658 square miles (17,075,000 square kilometers), from its borders with Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, and Ukraine on the west to the Bering Strait in the far northeast and from its borders with Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and China in the south to the Arctic Ocean in the north.
Equally important is the ability of rural and urban dwellers to survive challenging conditions of land, climate, and politics.