Russian history is said to have started when the state of Garðaríki was founded in 862 AD. Over the next few hundred years it was influenced by the Byzantine Empire which brought Christianity and the Mongol invasions of 1237 to 1240.
After the 13th Century the Russian Empire grew out from Moscow, led by Ivan III (The Great) in the 15th Century and Ivan IV (The Terrible) in the 16th Century. In the early 1600s civil war led to the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty which went on to survive until 1917 under strong leaders such as Peter I and Catherine the Great.
In 1812 the French under Napoleon invaded and were defeated. The dynasty continued until the last Tsar, Nicholas II and his entire family were murdered in 1917 leading to the end of the dynasty and the establishment of the Communist Bolsheviks.
From 1922 Russia became the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), bringing one party rule under the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Its wartime leader, Joseph Stalin beat back the Germans under Adolph Hitler but only after more than 23 million Russians had lost their lives.
Following the Second World War Stalin and President Harry Truman fell out over Eastern Europe and the Cold War started. Great leaders of that time included Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev.
But by the 1980s the economic and social structures in the Soviet Union were collapsing. In the late 1980s Mikhail Gorbachev introduced perestroika (restructuring) which eventually led to the disintegration and dissolution of the Soviet Union on 29th May 1991.
The first free and democratic elections held in Russia took place on 12th June 1991 when Boris Yeltsin was elected with 57.3% of the vote under the Democratic Party of Russia banner.
In 1993 Yeltsin’s party did badly in the Duma elections, taking just 14 seats out of 450 and coming eighth. Two parties, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and Russia’s Choice both took 64 seats.
In 1995 there were further elections and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) won the largest number of seats with 157 seats out of the possible 450 seats.
Despite this setback, Yeltsin won again in 1996, taking 53.8% of the vote in a second round runoff.
The Communists did well again in 1999, becoming the largest party but with 113 seats this time. In a surprise move Yeltsin resigned in late 1999 and his prime minister, Vladimir Putin became acting president. Putin went on to win the 2000 election with 52.94% of the vote and the 2004 election with 71.31%.
Although an independent, Putin was supported by his party, United Russia which had been formed in September 2001. United Russia went on to win the 2003 general election, taking 223 of 450 seats and in 2007 increased this to 315 of 450 seats.
By 2008 Putin had completed his two terms in office and was not allowed to stand for a third consecutive term. So he became prime minister and Dmitri Medvedev stood in that election and won with 70.28% of the vote.
In 2011 and 2012 the two are switching once more. Medvedev will slot back in as prime minister and Putin will stand once more in the presidential election.
The President is elected by popular vote for a four year term and may serve a second term.
The parliament is bicameral. The Federation Council has 166 seats with members appointed by the top executive and legislative officials in each of the 83 federal administrative units to serve four years terms. The State Duma has 450 members elected by proportional representation from party lists winning at least 7% of the vote. Members serve four year terms.
The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Russia at joint 131st out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 29 (where 100 is least corrupt).