The arrangement of the reliefs favored the movements in the sense of parallels, putting in contact the European and Mongolian ethnic groups and the Indo-European and Ural-Altaic language families. Until the end of the Middle Ages the movements of peoples proceeded from E to West, but after the consolidation of the Russian Empire, that is of the Slavic ethnic group, only the movement towards the East was active; currently only one totally Mongolian population is settled in European territory, the Kalmyks of the lower Volga. Unlike the European colonial empires, Russian expansion took place in territorial continuity and therefore cannot be properly defined colonial; moreover, after the revolution of 1917, the construction of the new state in some way involved all ethnic groups. The revolution must be credited with having saved many ethnic groups and languages in danger of extinction, by establishing equal rights, by literating groups without writing and by establishing the particular ‘federative’ regime, defined precisely on an ethnic basis. The Constitution, however, was in many ways ambiguous: it guaranteed all nationalities autonomy within their respective regions, but with indisputable subjection to central authority, both in administrative terms and, and above all, in political terms, that is, through the decisions taken within the CPSU and automatically made their own by the parties, and therefore by the administrations, of the single federated parts.
● Federated entities are very dissimilar in extent;2 each, of the 24,000 Coriacchi, whose autonomous district is exactly as vast as Italy, or the Evenki (17,000), whose territory is two and a half times that of Italy. The Slav component is largely in the majority (80% of the total) and above all the dozens of individual minority groups are much less consistent: the Tatars, second group by size, do not reach 4% of the total, the others are all much less numerous.
● The dissolution of the USSR has made the ethnic composition more homogeneous, since many Russians settled in the former Soviet republics which became independent have returned to Russia and, vice versa, many belonging to other ethnic groups have left the Russia to return in their respective regions of origin. These circumstances do not appear without importance in the geopolitical action carried out by the Russia from the beginning of the 21st century, aimed at recovering, or at least not decreasing further, the pre-eminence of Moscow over the regions formerly belonging to the USSR (and, before, the Russian Empire), with the sole exception of the three Baltic countries, now members of the European Union and outside Russian influence. In this action, in fact, the Russian leadership was able to count on the substantial cohesion of a large part of the population, on the sharing of the language, on the growing reaction to the breakdowns induced by the abrupt transition from the socialist system to the free market, as well as on the need for it the same external competitors of Russia have a coherent and stable actor, both in the Caucasian-Caspian area and in the Central Asian one.
● The ethnic reshuffling that took place with the end of the USSR, largely spontaneous although induced by even serious tensions during the 1990s, also affected the Russian demographic dynamics. The demographic behavior of the Russians has for decades been much less lively than that of the Caucasian or Central Asian populations; indeed, for some time the birth rate (down from the 1970s, in 2009 it is estimated at 11 ‰) has largely exceeded the mortality rate (18 ‰) so that, even in the presence of a weakly positive migratory balance, the population Russia is declining at the rate of about half a percentage point per year (2001-06). Mortality is high due to the combined effect of the previous aging of the population and the deterioration of living conditions, which was sudden and dramatic in the 1990s, as a consequence of economic liberalization, the rise of unemployment, the progressive reduction of public benefits, the privatization of services; only slowly, in the following years, conditions have started to improve again, but the drop in life expectancy (about 60 years for males, 73 for females in 2009) compared to the late 1980s has not yet been bridged. Other indicators (such as school attendance rates) are, on the other hand, comparable with Western values.
The population density is extremely uneven and reaches values comparable with those of Central Europe only in the section of the European Russia to the South of the 60 °, and really high only in the vicinity of the main agglomerations: Moscow (about 10.5 million residents in the 2008) and St. Petersburg (4.6) above all the others, with their respective metropolitan areas, and then Novosibirsk (1.4) on the Ob´ river in western Siberia, Nizhny Novgorod (1.3) E of the capital, Ekaterinburg (1,3) just beyond the Urals, and then Samara, Kazan ‘, Chelyabinsk, which slightly exceed one million residents, and Omsk, Perm’, Rostov-on-Don, Volgograd, Ufa, which are around one million residents. The European section is marked by a fairly dense urban network, except to the North, while in the Asian section the main centers, even quite populous, are arranged along the Trans-Siberian Railway or in correspondence with the large mining basins, and are often very distant from each other. Despite their smaller size, the Siberian or in any case peripheral centers stand out, where the contrast between the densification in the city and the depopulation of the surrounding areas is more violent: the extreme example of the city of Tomsk applies.(490,000 residents), Which hosts about half the population of its province (a little more extensive than Italy).
● The territorial and urban planning, very pushed during the Soviet period, has led to the birth of new urban centers (over 1600 built during the twentieth century have been registered) even in the most disadvantaged regions, both to exploit mineral resources and to other purposes, including military ones. After the desovietisation, many of these new cities were almost abandoned and, in general, there was an ebb of population towards the west. However, even though all major Russian cities have experienced a serious demographic decline since the mid-1990s, overall the Russian population is 73% urban, given that the scattered or small-town population is underdeveloped. Bajkalo amurskaja magistral ´), for Siberia; and the road and rail network, but above all the river network, for the European section.
Religions, opposed after the revolution, have rediscovered freedom of expression with the end of the Soviet regime. 72% of the population, however, declare themselves non-believers ; the Orthodox are about 16%, the Muslims 10%.