Russia, is a country that stretches over a vast expanse of Europe and Asia. With an area of 17,075,200 square kilometres, it is the largest country in the world by land mass, covering almost twice the territory of the next-largest country, Canada. It ranks as the world's eighth largest population. Russia shares land borders with the following countries: Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and North Korea. It is also close to the United States, Canada, Armenia, Iran, Turkey and Japan across stretches of water: the Diomede Islands (one controlled by Russia, the other by the United States) are just 1.9 miles apart, and Kunashir Island (controlled by Russia but claimed by Japan) is about 12 miles from Hokkaido.
Formerly the dominant republic of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), Russia is now an independent country, and an influential member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, since the Union's dissolution in December 1991. During the Soviet era, Russia was officially called the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR). Russia is considered the Soviet Union's successor state in diplomatic matters.
Most of the area, population, and industrial production of the Soviet Union, then one of the world's two superpowers, lay in Russia. After the breakup of the USSR, Russia's global role was greatly diminished compared to that of the former Soviet Union. In October 2005, the federal statistics agency reported that Russia's population has shrunk by more than half a million people dipping to 143 million.