In land area, Russia is the largest country in the world, covering an area of 17,125,200 square kilometers (6,612,100 sq mi), or approximately one-eighth of the inhabited land area on earth. By the 18th century, Russia had greatly expanded through conquest, annexation, and exploration to become the Russian Empire, the third-largest empire in history, stretching from Norway on the west to Canada on the east. After WWII, Russia constituted the largest part of the Soviet Union, the world’s first constitutionally socialist state and one of the two great powers during the Cold War.
Most of Russian territory consists of vast stretches of plains that are predominantly steppe to the south, with dense forests to the north, and tundra along the northern coast. It also has an extensive coastline along the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, as well as along the Baltic Sea, Sea of Azov, Black Sea and Caspian Sea. Russia has many rivers and lakes, which contain approximately one-quarter of the world’s liquid fresh water.
Russia is Europe’s most populous country, with the majority being ethnic Russians, who speak the Russian language, followed by Tatar and Ukrainian. Russian is the second-most used language on the Internet after English, one of two official languages aboard the International Space Station and is one of the six official languages of the UN.