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Russia

Location
Northern Asia (that part west of the Urals is included with Europe), bordering the Arctic Ocean, between Europe and the North Pacific Ocean

Population
141,377,752 (July 2007 est.)

Age structure
0-14 years: 15% (male 11,064,109; female 10,518,595)
15-64 years: 71.3% (male 49,534,076; female 52,958,107)
65 years and over: 13.7% (male 6,177,580; female 13,529,871) (2004 est.)

Administrative divisions
48 oblasts (oblastey, singular - oblast), 21 republics (respublik, singular - respublika), 7 autonomous okrugs (avtonomnykh okrugov, singular - avtonomnyy okrug), 7 krays (krayev, singular - kray), 2 federal cities (goroda, singular - gorod), and 1 autonomous oblast (avtonomnaya oblast')


Oblasts: Amur (Blagoveshchensk), Arkhangel'sk, Astrakhan', Belgorod, Bryansk, Chelyabinsk, Chita, Irkutsk, Ivanovo, Kaliningrad, Kaluga, Kamchatka (Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy), Kemerovo, Kirov, Kostroma, Kurgan, Kursk, Leningrad, Lipetsk, Magadan, Moscow, Murmansk, Nizhniy Novgorod, Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Omsk, Orenburg, Orel, Penza, Pskov, Rostov, Ryazan', Sakhalin (Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk), Samara, Saratov, Smolensk, Sverdlovsk (Yekaterinburg), Tambov, Tomsk, Tula, Tver', Tyumen', Ul'yanovsk, Vladimir, Volgograd, Vologda, Voronezh, Yaroslavl'


Republics: Adygeya (Maykop), Altay (Gorno-Altaysk), Bashkortostan (Ufa), Buryatiya (Ulan-Ude), Chechnya (Groznyy), Chuvashiya (Cheboksary), Dagestan (Makhachkala), Ingushetiya (Magas), Kabardino-Balkariya (Nal'chik), Kalmykiya (Elista), Karachayevo-Cherkesiya (Cherkessk), Kareliya (Petrozavodsk), Khakasiya (Abakan), Komi (Syktyvkar), Mariy-El (Yoshkar-Ola), Mordoviya (Saransk), North Ossetia (Vladikavkaz), Sakha [Yakutiya] (Yakutsk), Tatarstan (Kazan'), Tyva (Kyzyl), Udmurtiya (Izhevsk)


Autonomous okrugs: Aga Buryat (Aginskoye), Chukotka (Anadyr'), Khanty-Mansi, Koryak (Palana), Nenets (Nar'yan-Mar), Ust'-Orda Buryat (Ust'-Ordynskiy), Yamalo-Nenets (Salekhard)


Krays: Altay (Barnaul), Khabarovsk, Krasnodar, Krasnoyarsk, Permskiy, Primorskiy (Vladivostok), Stavropol'


Federal cities: Moscow (Moskva), Saint Petersburg (Sankt-Peterburg)


Autonomous oblast: Yevrey [Jewish] (Birobidzhan)


Note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers (exceptions have the administrative center name following in parentheses)


Economy - overview
Russia ended 2006 with its eighth straight year of growth, averaging 6.7% annually since the financial crisis of 1998. Although high oil prices and a relatively cheap ruble initially drove this growth, since 2003 consumer demand and, more recently, investment have played a significant role. Over the last five years, fixed capital investments have averaged real gains greater than 10% per year and personal incomes have achieved real gains more than 12% per year. During this time, poverty has declined steadily and the middle class has continued to expand. Russia has also improved its international financial position since the 1998 financial crisis. The federal budget has run surpluses since 2001 and ended 2006 with a surplus of 9% of GDP. Over the past several years, Russia has used its stabilization fund based on oil taxes to prepay all Soviet-era sovereign debt to Paris Club creditors and the IMF. Foreign debt has decreased to 39% of GDP, mainly due to decreasing state debt, although commercial debt to foreigners has risen strongly. Oil export earnings have allowed Russia to increase its foreign reserves from $12 billion in 1999 to some $315 billion at yearend 2006, the third largest reserves in the world. During PUTIN's first administration, a number of important reforms were implemented in the areas of tax, banking, labor, and land codes. These achievements have raised business and investor confidence in Russia's economic prospects, with foreign direct investment rising from $14.6 billion in 2005 to an estimated $30 billion in 2006. In 2006, Russia's GDP grew 6.6%, while inflation was below 10% for the first time in the past 10 years. Growth was driven by non-tradable services and goods for the domestic market, as opposed to oil or mineral extraction and exports. Russia has signed a bilateral market access agreement with the US as a prelude to possible WTO entry, and its companies are involved in global merger and acquisition activity in the oil and gas, metals, and telecom sectors. Despite Russia's recent success, serious problems persist. Oil, natural gas, metals, and timber account for more than 80% of exports and 32% of government revenues, leaving the country vulnerable to swings in world commodity prices. Russia's manufacturing base is dilapidated and must be replaced or modernized if the country is to achieve broad-based economic growth. A 20% appreciation of the ruble over 2005-06 has made attracting additional investment more difficult. The banking system, while increasing consumer lending and growing at a high rate, is still small relative to the banking sectors of Russia's emerging market peers. Political uncertainties ahead of the elections, corruption, and widespread lack of trust in institutions continue to dampen domestic and foreign investor sentiment. From 2002 to 2005, the government bureaucracy increased by 17% - 10.9% in 2005 alone. President PUTIN has granted more influence to forces within his government that desire to reassert state control over the economy. Russia has made little progress in building the rule of law, the bedrock of a modern market economy. The government has promised additional legislation to make its intellectual property protection WTO-consistent, but enforcement remains problematic.


Information is taken form The World Factbook. More information on https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/rs.html


Ukraine

Location
Eastern Europe, bordering the Black Sea, between Poland, Romania, and Moldova in the west and Russia in the East

Area: total 603,700 sq km

Population
46,299,862 (July 2007 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 15.9% (male 3,883,485; female 3,715,668)
15-64 years: 68.7% (male 15,692,388; female 17,096,611)
65 years and over: 15.4% (male 2,472,023; female 4,871,904) (2004 est.)

Administrative divisions
24 oblasti (singular - oblast'), 1 autonomous republic* (avtomnaya respublika), and 2 municipalities (mista, singular - misto) with oblast status**; Cherkas'ka (Cherkasy), Chernihivs'ka (Chernihiv), Chernivets'ka (Chernivtsi), Dnipropetrovs'ka (Dnipropetrovs'k), Donets'ka (Donets'k), Ivano-Frankivs'ka (Ivano-Frankivs'k), Kharkivs'ka (Kharkiv), Khersons'ka (Kherson), Khmel'nyts'ka (Khmel'nyts'kyy), Kirovohrads'ka (Kirovohrad), Kyyiv**, Kyyivs'ka (Kiev), Luhans'ka (Luhans'k), L'vivs'ka (L'viv), Mykolayivs'ka (Mykolayiv), Odes'ka (Odesa), Poltavs'ka (Poltava), Avtonomna Respublika Krym* (Simferopol'), Rivnens'ka (Rivne), Sevastopol'**, Sums'ka (Sumy), Ternopil's'ka (Ternopil'), Vinnyts'ka (Vinnytsya), Volyns'ka (Luts'k), Zakarpats'ka (Uzhhorod), Zaporiz'ka (Zaporizhzhya), Zhytomyrs'ka (Zhytomyr); note - when using a place name with an adjectival ending "s'ka" or "z'ka," the word Oblast' should be added to the place name
Note: oblasts have the administrative center name following in parentheses

Economy - overview
After Russia, the Ukrainian republic was far and away the most important economic component of the former Soviet Union, producing about four times the output of the next-ranking republic. Its fertile black soil generated more than one-fourth of Soviet agricultural output, and its farms provided substantial quantities of meat, milk, grain, and vegetables to other republics. Likewise, its diversified heavy industry supplied the unique equipment (for example, large diameter pipes) and raw materials to industrial and mining sites (vertical drilling apparatus) in other regions of the former USSR. Shortly after independence was ratified in December 1991, the Ukrainian Government liberalized most prices and erected a legal framework for privatization, but widespread resistance to reform within the government and the legislature soon stalled reform efforts and led to some backtracking. Output by 1999 had fallen to less than 40% of the 1991 level. Loose monetary policies pushed inflation to hyperinflationary levels in late 1993. Ukraine's dependence on Russia for energy supplies and the lack of significant structural reform have made the Ukrainian economy vulnerable to external shocks. Ukraine depends on imports to meet about three-fourths of its annual oil and natural gas requirements. A dispute with Russia over pricing in late 2005 and early 2006 led to a temporary gas cut-off; Ukraine concluded a deal with Russia in January 2006 that almost doubled the price Ukraine pays for Russian gas, and could cost the Ukrainian economy $1.4-2.2 billion. Ukrainian Government officials eliminated most tax and customs privileges in a March 2005 budget law, bringing more economic activity out of Ukraine's large shadow economy, but more improvements are needed, including fighting corruption, developing capital markets, and improving the legislative framework for businesses. Reforms in the more politically sensitive areas of structural reform and land privatization are still lagging. Outside institutions - particularly the IMF - have encouraged Ukraine to quicken the pace and scope of reforms. In its efforts to accede to the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ukraine passed more than 20 laws in 2006 to bring its trading regime into consistency with WTO standards. GDP growth was 7% in 2006, up from 2.4% in 2005 thanks to rising steel prices worldwide and growing consumption domestically. Although the economy is likely to expand in 2007, long-term growth could be threatened by the government's plans to reinstate tax, trade, and customs privileges and to maintain restrictive grain export quotas.

Information is taken form The World Factbook. More information on https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/up.html


Byelorussia (Belarus)

Location
Eastern Europe, east of Poland

Population
9,724,723 (July 2007 est.)

Age structure
0-14 years: 14.7% (male 733,010/female 691,734)
15-64 years: 70.4% (male 3,327,119/female 3,520,690)
65 years and over: 14.9% (male 471,863/female 980,307)
(2007 est.)

Administrative divisions
6 provinces (voblastsi, singular - voblasts') and 1 municipality* (horad); Brest, Homyel', Horad Minsk*, Hrodna, Mahilyow, Minsk, Vitsyebsk
note: administrative divisions have the same names as their administrative centers

Economy - overview
Belarus's economy in 2006 posted more than 8% growth. Trade with Russia - by far its largest single trade partner - decreased in 2006, largely as a result of a change in the way the Value Added Tax (VAT) on trade was collected. Trade with European countries increased. Belarus has seen little structural reform since 1995, when President LUKASHENKO launched the country on the path of "market socialism." In keeping with this policy, LUKASHENKO reimposed administrative controls over prices and currency exchange rates and expanded the state's right to intervene in the management of private enterprises. Since 2005, the government has re-nationalized a number of private companies. In addition, businesses have been subject to pressure by central and local governments, e.g., arbitrary changes in regulations, numerous rigorous inspections, retroactive application of new business regulations, and arrests of "disruptive" businessmen and factory owners. A wide range of redistributive policies has helped those at the bottom of the ladder; the Gini coefficient is among the lowest in the world. Because of these restrictive economic policies, Belarus has had trouble attracting foreign investment, which remains low. Growth has been strong in recent years, despite the roadblocks in a tough, centrally directed economy with a high, but decreasing, rate of inflation. Belarus receives heavily discounted oil and natural gas from Russia and much of Belarus' growth can be attributed to the re-export of Russian oil at market prices. This growth will be threatened in 2007, however, when Russia raises energy prices closer to world market prices for Belarus. Russia is planning to increase Belarusian gas prices from $47 per thousand cubic meters (tcm) to $100 per tcm for 2007, gradually increasing to world prices by 2011. Russia has also introduced an export duty on oil shipped to Belarus, which will increase gradually through 2009, and a requirement that Belarusian duties on re-exported Russian oil be shared with Russia - 70% will go to Russia in 2007, 80% in 2008, and 85% in 2009.


Information is taken form The World Factbook. More information on https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bo.html