To manage the challenges of maintaining economic stability, Russia's leaders historically have cloistered off their massive country from most international trade.
Russia's most abundant resource, land, has proved more a bane than a boon throughout history. Though Russia is the world's largest country by area, 75 percent of its territory is frozen most of the year, and marshlands make up most of the remainder. Some 160 ethnic groups populate its vast terrain, adding to the various regional affiliations that Moscow has to balance to govern the country. Furthermore, stretching from Europe to the Pacific, with borderlands abutting the Middle East and South Asia, Russia is surrounded by rival powers. The country's sheer size and complexity mean that its governing system historically has been highly centralized or else susceptible to geographic and weather barriers, competition and ethnic divisions. And because Russia's economy is not very competitive and depends on commodity exports, the hypercentralized government has taken a highly protectionist stance toward trade over the centuries....
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