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The Russian Federation stretches across much of the north of the supercontinent of Eurasia. Although it contains a large share of the world's Arctic and sub-Arctic areas, and therefore has less population, economic activity, and physical variety per unit area than most countries, the great area south of these still accommodates a great variety of landscapes and climates. Most of Russia is in zones of a continental and Arctic climate. Russia is the coldest country in the world. The mid-annual temperature is -5.5C (22F). For comparison, the mid-annual temperature in Iceland is 1.2C (34F) and in Sweden is 4C (39F).

Most of the land consists of vast plains, both in the European part and the Asian part that is largely known as Siberia. These plains are predominantly steppe to the south and heavily forested to the north, with tundra along the northern coast. The permafrost (areas of Siberia and the Far East) occupies more than half of territory of Russia. Mountain ranges are found along the southern borders, such as the Caucasus (containing Mount Elbrus, Russia's and Europe's highest point at 5,633 m / 17,605 ft) and the Altai, and in the eastern parts, such as the Verkhoyansk Range or the volcanoes on Kamchatka. The more central Ural Mountains, a north-south range that form the primary divide between Europe and Asia, are also notable.

Russia has an extensive coastline of over 37,000 kilometres (23,000 mi) along the Arctic and Pacific Oceans, as well as more or less inland seas such as the Baltic, Black and Caspian seas. Some smaller bodies of water are part of the open oceans; the Barents Sea, White Sea, Kara Sea, Laptev Sea and East Siberian Sea are part of the Arctic, whereas the Bering Sea, Sea of Okhotsk and the Sea of Japan belong to the Pacific Ocean.

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Largely because of the difficult transition from police state to democracy, Russia did experience a rise in criminal activity during the 1990's. The truth is that crime was greatly exaggerated in the media, and for the average tourist Moscow, Saint Petersburg and the rest of Russia remain as safe as any major Western city, and likewise common sense goes far in protecting oneself against problems.

A note about police: Although they do have a bad reputation, the majority of Russian police officers are respectful of position as public servants.

Note that everyone in Russia must carry state-issued identification papers, which means that foreigners should carry their passport and visa at all times and present it to police officers if asked, however a very wise policy is to carry a photocopy of each. This can seem intimidating to people who grew up in the West but it is the law in Russia. If a police officer stops you, they normally salute you and ask for your passport (listen for words that sound like 'paspart' for a passport request and/or 'veeza' if asked for a visa) and papers (generally in Russian). Hand these to them, they will look at it, hand it back and salute you. This can be an odd and frightening experience on the train into Russia in the middle of the night.

Juvenile delinquency, organized crime and corruption may occur in Russia. The murder rate per 100 000 is one of the world's highest, at 21. The Russian Mafia is infamous, and has a business of smuggling drugs from and in the country.

The police are widely regarded as corrupt, and (may) take bribes. They may hassle you for your travel documents (passport, immigrations card and residence registration), actively hunting for bribes. Stay friendly and act like everything is fine. If they're just fishing for bribes, it's a real hassle for them to take you to the station. In tight situations, a 500 ruble bribe is really the most you should give in metropolitan areas.

Many Russians are ranging from nationalist to xenophobe to racist to militant fascist. Isolated acts of random violence have been recorded against people with darker complexions, but also against people with a "leftist" look like punks.

The conflict in Chechnya is also a major problem.

When buying items, make sure money is folded backwards with small bills on the outside and larger on the inside. Try to get bills in 50-500 ruble amounts to keep the numbers on the bills small.

Also, don't take your money out to pay before the total is told to you. This is considered stupid or odd. It also helps to keep your money from being snatched from you.