Russia is a large country spanning 11 time zones in northern Europe and Asia, having been the main part of the former Soviet Union. Russia is now a democratic federation with various ethnic groups in their own republics.  The country is rich in natural resources, especially gas and oil and is one of the world's largest oil exporters. 
Russia working on its image
"It's no secret that Moscow has an image problem. When Russian President Vladimir Putin makes headlines, it's usually for jailing a businessman or cracking down on dissent," wrote Julian Evans in December 2005. Convinced that its image problem is due to anti-Russian "Western media bias," the Kremlin attempted to curry favor with foreign correspondents and has built its own English-language TV channel, Russia Today. 
"With a staff of 300 journalists, including around 70 imported from abroad, the channel will offer 'global news from a Russian perspective,'" Evans wrote. "The Kremlin has spent $30 million setting it up and has attracted foreign journalists to Moscow with salaries starting at $60,000 a year. But the imported journalists are, in many cases, fresh out of journalism school, know not a word of Russian, and lack basic knowledge of Russian politics or history. For many of them, the experience is a bit of a laugh, a gap year at the Kremlin's expense. There is already some tension between them and the Russian employees, who know 10 times as much about Russia, and are paid salaries half as big." 
Moscow stepped up its public diplomacy offensive in early 2008. In January, the Kremlin approved the creation of the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, which will "study democracy and human rights in Europe and the United States," reported the New York Times. The Institute, whose funding comes from "private businesses," opened offices in New York and Paris. "No country can monopolize the definition of standards of democracy and human rights," said Institute founder Anatoly Kucherena. The Institute was seen as Moscow's reaction to at criticism from such foreign-funded organizations as the U.S. think tank Freedom House. 
In February 2008, the National Information Center was slated to open in Moscow, "in a 1,000-square-meter space at Staraya Ploshchad 10, near the Kitai-Gorod metro station," reported the Moscow Times. "The center's aims include improving Russia's image abroad, promoting national projects and providing [Russian and foreign] journalists with first-hand contacts in the presidential administration." The Center's funders were also reported to be business leaders such as "billionaire Roman Abramovich, Evraz Group shareholder Alexander Abramov and Boris Hait." Vasily Shestakov, "a friend and judo partner of President Vladimir Putin," was invited to head its supervisory board. The Center was reported to be "the brainchild of the presidential administration and City Hall." 
The BBC says of the country's media:
- In recent years the Kremlin has secured greater control over Russia's big national TV networks - Channel One, RTR and NTV - and critics say independent reporting has suffered as a result.
- Media rights organisation Reporters Without Borders has expressed concern at "mounting press freedom violations" in Vladimir Putin's Russia, including "the absence of pluralism in news and information, an intensifying crackdown against journalists... and the drastic state of press freedom in Chechnya".
- BRIC Alliance
- China-Iran-Russia axis
- Open Russia Foundation
- Russia "Cleaned Up" Saddam's WMD
- Russia's oil industry
- Russia-China-India "strategic triangle"
- Russian constitutional crisis of 1993
- Trans-Baltic North European Pipeline
- U.S.-Russia Business Council
- Anton Siluanov - Finance Minister since 2011
- Jeremy Kinsman - Candadian ambassador (post 1992)
- Andrei Konchalovsky - film maker
- ↑ Russia, National Geographic, accessed January 2008.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Country profile: Russia, BBC, accessed January 2008.
- ↑ "Russia Center to Study Western Democracy," Associated Press, January 28, 2008.
- ↑ Natalya Krainova, "Putin Friend Tapped for Image Post," Moscow Times, January 22, 2008.
- Julian Evans, "Spinning Russia", Foreign Policy, December 2005. (registration req'd).
- Peter Finn, "Russia's Signal to Stations Is Clear: Cut U.S. Radio", Washington Post, July 7, 2006; A01.
- Clifford J. Levy, "It Isn't Magic: Putin Opponents Are Made to Vanish From TV," New York Times, June 3, 2008.
- Timeline: Russia BBC, accessed January 2008.