The world's largest country by area, Russia stretches from Eastern Europe across Northern Asia to the Pacific Ocean, spans 11 time zones and borders 14 countries, including China. It is tied with China for having the most international neighbors.
The first Russian state was established in the ninth century, centering in Novgorod and Kiev. Ivan the Terrible was the first to formally be declared tsar in 1547. Peter the Great founded the Russian empire in 1721.
Social unrest, economic hardship and utter disaster in World War I led to the downfall of the autocracy, culminating in the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and the establishment of a communist regime and - five years later - the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The Soviet Union officially splintered on December 26, 1991.
President Boris Yeltsin resigned on December 31, 1999 and Vladimir Putin became acting-president. He was officially elected president on March 26, 2000. In March 2008, Dmitry Medvedev was elected president.
Russia has competed as an independent nation at the last four Olympic Winter Games. In just four Olympics as an independent nation, it has won 76 medals (33 gold, 24 silver, 19 bronze). Russians won every gold medal from 1964 to 1998 in the pairs figure skating competition.
Russians are expected to medal in multiple figure skating events, and are gold medal favorites in men's hockey, thanks to a roster full of NHL superstars.