Russia

Spanning almost 10,000 kilometres from its western border in Europe to the Pacific Ocean in the east, Russia is the largest country in the world in area, with vast stretches of wilderness and diverse habitats.
Extensive plains cover most of Russia’s territory in the south, with the northern part covered in tundra. Mountain ranges are found along the southern borders, such as the Caucasus. The Ural Mountains form a north-south range that divides Europe and Asia. The country also has an extensive coastline of over 37,000 kilometres, and thousands of rivers and inland bodies of water, including Lake Baikal, which contains over one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water.

Despite such a vast territory, air and water pollution, deforestation, climate change, habitat loss and the unsustainable use of natural resources are endangering the country’s rich wildlife, which includes such species as Siberian tigers, Far East leopards, polar bears, brown bears, wolves and others.
 / ©: WWF / V. Solkin
Amur Leopard, located in the Russian Far East. As of mid-2008, only 35 remain in existence.
© WWF / V. Solkin

Country Eco-tips

Energy and Water
  • Russia holds the world’s largest natural gas reserves, the second largest coal reserves, and the eighth largest oil reserves. Relying mostly of fossil fuels for energy, Russia is one of the world’s leading emitters of CO2.
  • Drinking tap water in Moscow is okay, but many prefer to buy bottled water (most of the bottled water sold in Russia is regular tap water that has been purified).
  • Many hotels in Moscow, St Petersburg and other big cities have their own water filtration systems.
  • Russia has extremely cold winters; temperatures in parts of Siberia can drop as low as -50°C. Anyone intending to visit the country between late October and April should check weather conditions.
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Recycling
  • There are an estimated 3,000 recycling bins around Moscow to recycle glass, paper and plastic categories. Unfortunately, these bins rarely work the way they were intended since many use them as extra trash cans for dumping unsorted household waste.
  • There are around 2,000 machines in Moscow to exchange empty aluminum cans for cash.
 
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Transport
  • Trains are the preferred means of transport for the vast majority of Russians.
    Trains are also popular with foreigners going between Moscow and St Petersburg (train timetables can be found at: www.poezda.net/en). Tourists can also take the Trans-Siberian railway more than 9,000km from Moscow to Vladivostok.
  • Buses are not the most comfortable way to get from city to city, but in some places they are the only public transportation available.
  • In Moscow, the metro is one of the best ways to get around, but there are no signs in English.
  • Buses, trolleys and trams run almost everywhere the metro doesn’t go, and are good for getting outside the city.
  • St Petersburg also has a very good metro as well as bus, trolley and tram services. The best way to see the city, however, is by foot, as long as the weather is good.
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Food
  • Organic products remain one of the only underdeveloped sectors of the Russian retail market.
  • Vegetarian restaurants are rare in Russia, but there are a handful to be found in Moscow, St Petersburg and Vladivostok (http://www.happycow.net/europe/russia/index.html).
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Souvenirs
  • If you want to buy caviar during your trip to Russia, you are allowed to bring back (for personal consumption) a maximum of 250 grams per person. For quantities more than 250 grams you will need to obtain an export permit and an import permit. You should only buy caviar when the container carries a CITES label.
  • While not always illegal, it is wise to avoid products made from furs, claws, teeth, butterflies, insects, birds’ eggs or stuffed animals. Many of these products are often from endangered species and misleadingly sold.
  • Fur farming, such as for mink, is still widely practiced in Russia; animal welfare groups have raised concerns about the inhumane treatment of animals and farming standards and practices.
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Green Spots
  • Zov Tigra (Roar of the Tiger) National Park: Located in the forested Sikhote-Alin mountain range in the far eastern Primorye region, the park is home to abundant wildlife, including the endangered Siberian (or Amur) tiger.
  • Paanajärvi National Park: Situated in the northwestern Republic of Karelia, not far from the Russian-Finnish border and Polar Circle, this park is noted for its untouched forests and wildlife that includes brown bear, reindeer, elk, wolf, lynx and many bird species.
  • Vodlozero National Park: Also located in the Karelia Republic, this park is one of the largest parks in Europe with large tracts of undisturbed wetlands and taiga forests. It is home to over 50 mammals, including brown bear, fox, wolverine and badger, and contains the most southern European population of reindeer.
  • Sochi National Park: Located near the city of Sochi on the southwestern edge of the Great Caucasus Mountain Range and bordered to the west by the Black Sea, this national park is home to roe deer, wolves, brown bear and chamois. Environmental groups, including WWF, have criticized Olympic organizers for the planned construction of several sporting venues within the park.
  • Losiny Ostrov National Park: Once serving as the hunting grounds of the tsars, this park is a green oasis within the city limits of Moscow. Only 10 kilometres from the Kremlin, here one finds beavers, wild boars, elks and many birds of prey.
  • St Petersburg's Botanical Garden: Founded in 1714 by Peter the Great, this is Russia’s oldest botanical gardens, home to more than 12,000 plant species.
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Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the above information. However, WWF makes no warranties, expressed or implied, regarding errors or omissions and assumes no legal liability or responsibility for loss or damage resulting from its use.
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