Reunion is an island in the Indian Ocean, about 400 miles (640 kilometres) east of Madagascar. Of volcanic origin, it covers 970 square miles (2,512 square kilometres). Saint-Denis (pop. 109,072) is the capital.
Reunion's important products are vanilla, tobacco, tea, sugar cane, perfumes, and corn. The population of 515,814 consists largely of French Creoles, with some Indians and Chinese. Discovered by the Portuguese in the early 1500's, it was not settled until the French took possession in 1642. They named it Bourbon. The island received its present name in 1848. Since 1946, it has been an overseas department of France. Reunion is governed by a 36-member council that is elected by the people.
Romania, also spelled Rumania, is a country in eastern Europe. The country was part of the Roman Empire during ancient times, and its name means land of the Romans. The Romanian people are the only Eastern Europeans who trace their ancestry and language back to the ancient Romans. Bucharest is Romania's largest city.
Romania is located west of the Black Sea and north of the Balkan Peninsula, Europe's southeastern tip. A long string of mountains curves through the northern and central parts of Romania. Breathtaking scenery, hiking trails, and ski and vacation resorts make the mountains a favourite recreation area. Picturesque farm villages dot fertile flatlands around the mountains. In addition, Romania's warm, sunny east coast - which borders the Black Sea - has dozens of sandy beaches and a huge wildlife preserve.
The colourful folk culture of Romania's rural people adds to the beauty and charm of the country. Each year, these people hold festivals at which they dance to the lively sounds of Romanian folk music. This music was influenced by the melodies of music played by Gypsies, nomads who once wandered through Romania by the thousands.
Romania has a wealth of natural resources, including fertile soil, mineral deposits, and vast forests. Even so, it has always been one of Europe's least developed nations. Foreign nations controlled the country through much of its history and did little to develop its economy. Romania also suffered from an overdependence on one economic activity, agriculture.
Communists took over Romania's government in the 1940's. At first, they ran the country according to the wishes of the Soviet Union, which was Europe's strongest Communist nation. However, beginning in the 1960's, Romania's Communists succeeded in reducing Soviet control of the country. In addition, they adopted their own domestic policies. Chief among these policies was a program to expand industry. As industry grew, many people left rural areas to find jobs in cities. The industrial program changed Romania from an agricultural country to an industrial country. However, Romania still remains poor by European standards.
In the late 1980's, the Soviet Union made reforms toward giving its people more freedom. As a result, reform movements increased in Romania and other European Communist countries. In late 1989, Romanians revolted against the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu, Romania's president and Communist Party leader. Ceausescu was executed, and a temporary government was set up. Free multiparty elections have been held since 1990.
Republica Romania (Republic of Romania).
91,699 sq. mi. (237,500 sq. km).
east-west, about 450 mi. (724 km);
north-south, about 320 mi. (515 km).
Coastline - 130 mi. (209 km).
Highest - Mount Moldoveanu, 8,343 ft. (2,543 m) above sea level.
Lowest - sea level.
Estimated 1996 population - 23,611,000; density, 257 persons per sq. mi. (99 per sq. km); distribution, 56 percent urban, 44 percent rural. 1992 census - 22,760,449. Estimated 2001 population - 24,152,000.
Agriculture - corn, potatoes, wheat, milk, sugar beets, grapes, wool.
Manufacturing - machinery, cement, iron and steel, petroleum products, processed foods, clothing and shoes, wood products.
Mining - petroleum, natural gas, coal.
"Desteapta-te, Romane" ("Romanian, Arise").
901 miles from London
GMT +2 hours
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
Romanian Leu (ROL)
Romanian, Hungarian and German
Vehicle nationality plates
1 December - National Day
24 Strada Jules Michelet
Telephone (00 40) (1) 3120303
Opening hours 0730 to 1600 Monday to Thursday, 0730 to 1230 Friday (local time)
3 equal vertical bands of blue, yellow and red
Russia is the world's largest country in area. It is almost twice as big as Canada, the second largest country. From 1922 until 1991, Russia was the biggest republic in the Soviet Union, the most powerful Communist country in the world. The Soviet Union broke apart in 1991. After the breakup, Russia began to set up a new political, legal, and economic system.
Russia extends from the Arctic Ocean south to the Black Sea and from the Baltic Sea east to the Pacific Ocean. It covers much of the continents of Europe and Asia. Moscow is the largest city of Russia. St. Petersburg, on the coast of the Baltic Sea, is Russia's chief seaport.
Most of Russia's people are ethnic Russians - that is, descendants of an early Slavic people called the Russians. More than 100 minority nationalities also live in Russia. Approximately three-fourths of the people make their homes in urban areas. Russian cities have better schools and health-care facilities than the rural areas do. However, the cities suffer from such urban problems as overcrowding, a housing shortage, crime, and environmental pollution.
Russia has abundant natural resources, including vast deposits of petroleum, natural gas, coal, and iron ore. However, many of these reserves lie far from settled areas. Russia's harsh, cold climate makes it difficult to take advantage of many of the country's valuable resources.
Russia traces its history back to a state that emerged in Europe among the East Slavs during the 800's. Over time, large amounts of territory and many different peoples came under Russian rule. For hundreds of years, czars (emperors) and empresses ruled Russia. They had almost complete control over most aspects of Russian life. Under these rulers, the country's economic development lagged behind the rapid industrial progress that began in Western Europe in the 1700's. Most of the people were poor, uneducated peasants.
Russia made many great contributions to the arts during the 1800's. Such authors as Anton Chekhov, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Leo Tolstoy wrote masterpieces of literature. Russian composers, including Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, created music of lasting greatness. Russians also made valuable artistic contributions in the fields of architecture, ballet, and painting.
Opposition to the czars' absolute power increased during the late 1800's and the early 1900's. Revolutionaries overthrew the Russian government in 1917. The next year, Russia became the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (R.S.F.S.R.). In 1922, the R.S.F.S.R. and three other republics established a new nation called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), also known as the Soviet Union. The R.S.F.S.R. became the largest and most influential republic of the Soviet Union, which included 15 republics by 1956. In 1991, Communist rule in the Soviet Union collapsed, and the country broke apart. Russia and most of the other republics formed a new, loose federation called the Commonwealth of Independent States.
After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia entered a transitional period. The Communist leaders of the Soviet Union had controlled all aspects of the country's economy and government. Russia's new national government worked to move the country from a state-controlled economy to one based on private enterprise. The government also began to establish new political and legal systems in Russia.
Rossiya (Russia) or Rossiyskaya Federatsiya (Russian Federation).
Largest cities: (1990 official estimates)
St. Petersburg (4,468,000).
Russia is the world's largest country in area. It covers a large part of both Europe and Asia. It has coastlines on the Arctic Ocean, Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Caspian Sea, and Pacific Ocean. Russia borders eight European countries, three Asian countries, and three countries with lands in both Europe and Asia. Much of the west is a large plain. The Ural Mountains separate Europe and Asia. Siberia, east of the Urals, has low western plains, a central plateau, and a mountainous wilderness in the east. Major Russian rivers include the Lena in Asia and the Volga in Europe. Lake Baikal in Siberia is the world's deepest lake.Area: 6,592,850 sq. mi. (17,075,400 sq. km).
east-west, 6,000 mi. (9,650 km);
north-south, 2,800 mi. (4,500 km).
Highest - Mount Elbrus, 18,510 ft. (5,642 m).
Lowest - Coast of Caspian Sea, 92 ft. (28 m) below sea level.
Most of Russia has long, bitterly cold winters and mild to warm--but short--summers. In northeastern Siberia, the country's coldest area, January temperatures average below -50 degrees F (-46 degrees C). Rainfall is moderate in most of Russia. Snow covers more than half of the country during six months of the year.
Form of government
Head of state
Head of government
Russia's parliament is called the Federal Assembly. It consists of two houses - the 450-member State Duma and the 178-member Federation Council.
The president is the chief executive and most powerful official.
Highest court is the Constitutional Court.
49 oblasts (regions), 6 krais (territories), 21 autonomous (self-governing) republics, 10 autonomous areas, 1 autonomous region. Moscow and St. Petersburg each have special region status. All of the political subdivisions are divided into raions (districts).
1998 estimate - 146,120,000. 1989 census - 147,021,869. 2003 estimate - 144,811,000. Population density: 22 persons per sq. mi. (9 per sq. km). Distribution: 73 percent urban, 27 percent rural.
Major ethnic/national groups
About 83 percent Russian. Smaller groups include Tatars (or Tartars), Ukrainians, Chuvash, Bashkirs, Belarusians, Mordvins, Chechen, Germans, Udmurts, Mari, Kazakhs, Avars, Jews, and Armenians.
The Russian Orthodox Church is the largest religious group. Other religious groups include Muslims, Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Jews.
Agriculture - barley, cattle, flax, fruits, hogs, oats, potatoes, rye, sheep, sugar beets, sunflowers, wheat.
Fishing - cod, haddock, herring, salmon.
Manufacturing - chemicals, construction materials, electrical equipment, iron and steel, lumber, machinery, paper.
Mining - coal, iron ore, manganese, natural gas, nickel, petroleum, platinum-group metals.
Major exports - chemicals, machinery, minerals, natural gas, paper products, petroleum, wood products.
Major imports - consumer goods, food and beverages, industrial equipment, machinery.
Major trading partners - Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakstan, Germany, Uzbekistan, Lithuania, Georgia, Italy.
1550 miles from London
GMT +3 hours
International aircraft prefix
International dialling code
12 June - Independence Day
Smolenskaya Naberezhnaya 10
Telephone (00 7) (095) 9567200
Opening hours 0900 to 1300/1400 to 1700 (local time)
3 equal horizontal bands of white, blue and red
Rwanda is a small country in east-central Africa, just south of the equator. It is one of the most crowded African countries and one of the continent's poorest countries. It has little industry and more people than the land can support. Kigali is Rwanda's largest city.
Although Rwanda is near the equator, it has a cool, pleasant climate. This is because it lies on a series of high plateaus. Rwanda's landscape ranges from volcanic mountains to winding river valleys, and from beautiful lakes to grassy plains. Volcanoes National Park in the Virunga Mountains of northwestern Rwanda is a refuge for mountain gorillas, an endangered species.
Rwanda once formed the Ruanda, or northern half, of Ruanda-Urundi, a United Nations (UN) trust territory administered by Belgium. What is now Burundi formed the Urundi, or southern half. In 1962, the two parts became the independent nations of Rwanda and Burundi.
A large majority of Rwanda's people belong to the Hutu (also called Bahutu) ethnic group. The Tutsi (also called the Batutsi or Watusi) form a minority of the population. The Tutsi dominated the Hutu politically and economically for hundreds of years. In 1959, the Hutu rebelled against the Tutsi. After a period of bloody fighting, the Hutu gained control of the government and the economy. Another major bloody conflict between the two groups took place in 1994, and the Tutsi gained control of the government. See the History section of this article for details.
English, French, and Kinyarwanda.
Republic of Rwanda.
10,169 sq. mi. (26,338 sq. km).
east-west, 145 mi. (233 km);
north-south, 110 mi. (177 km).
Estimated 1996 population - 8,000,000; density, 787 persons per sq. mi. (304 persons per sq. km); distribution, 94 percent rural, 6 percent urban. 1991 census - 7,164,994. Estimated 2001 population - 9,300,000.
Basic unit - franc.
Agriculture - bananas, beans, cassava, cattle, coffee, pyrethrum, sorghum, sweet potatoes, tea.
Mining - tin, wolframite.
The flag has three vertical stripes of red, yellow, and green, with a large black R in the centre.
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