Official Name:  Russian FederationThe Russian Federation was originally part of the USSR, which broke up into 15 republics in 1991. These changes saw Russia move from communism to a free market system. During this time many Russians immigrated to New Zealand. Member countries in Europe that were part of the former USSR, including Russia: Belarus, Estonia (from WW2), Latvia (from WW2), Lithuania (from WW2), Moldova (from WW2) and Ukraine. Member countries from Asia were: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. On December 8 1991, heads of three of the Soviet Union's 15 republics, led by Russia's Boris Yeltsin,met to sign documents abolishing the 74-year-old state.

Population: 142.9 million (2006 est.)

Capital: Moscow.

Ethnic Groups: Russian 79.8%,Tatar 3.8%, Ukrainian 2%, other 14.4%.

Religion: 75%of Christians belong to the Russian Orthodox Church; others,Roman Catholic,Muslim, Jewish, Protestant, Buddhist.

Languages: Russian (official);more than 140 other languages and dialects.

Climate: Russia's large geographical territory gives it a diverse climate. Its northern coastline borders on the Arctic Ocean, which gives it severe winters. In the south, Russia has hot desert areas.

Terrain: broad plain with low hills west of Urals; vast coniferous forest and tundra in Siberia; uplands and mountains along southern border regions.

Government: Federal.

Natural Resources: Petroleum, natural gas, timber, furs, precious and nonferrous metals.

Numbers of Russian-speakers in New Zealand: 11,000 – 12,000 (estimate). Many have come from the former Soviet Republics.The biggest communities are in Christchurch and Auckland.Wellington has a lively Russian Club.

In 2005, the Russian Embassy installed a memorial plaque on Wellington’s waterfront to commemorate New Zealanders who ran Arctic convoys delivering goods to the former Soviet Union inWorldWar 2.

Cuisine: Russia has a long cold winter so food needs to supply energy and warmth. The essential components of Russian cuisine are those that provide more carbohydrates and fat rather than proteins. Fresh fruits and vegetables are rarely used in food. The top five components of a Russian

meal are: 

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