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Russia has extensive Arctic Ocean and North Pacific Ocean coastlines, as well as smaller coastlines on the Baltic, Black and Caspian Seas. Russia is bordered by Norway and Finland to the northwest, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus and Ukraine to the west, Georgia and Azerbaijan to the southwest, Kazakhstan, China and Mongolia to the south, and China and North Korea to the southeast.
European Russia stretches from the borders of the states of Belarus and Ukraine to the Ural Mountains, over 600 miles east of Moscow; even without the rest of the Russian Federation, it constitutes by far the largest country in Europe. It was also, for many years, one of the hardest to visit. Today Russia is far more accessible, and although accommodation often has to be booked in advance, independent travel is increasingly an option. Nonetheless, Moscow and St Petersburg remain the easiest places to visit.
Russia is a land of snow and deadly winters, but also of rivers that meander across meadows and a midsummer sun that never sets. Its people, in the words of a Russian proverb, 'love to suffer', yet they also love to party and can be disarmingly generous and hospitable