Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12884

You'd expect the world's largest country to have an influence on the rest of the world, and that is certainly true of Russia. Learn its ancient and checkered history, and video your own news report!



learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Most countries sit on just one of the seven continents. What country is so large that it spans two continents?

At 6.6 million square miles, Russia is the largest country in the world.

That’s ten times the size of Alaska, which is the largest state in the United States! Russia is so large that it cannot be contained by a single continent. Rather, Russia takes up large portions of both Europe and Asia. In this lesson, you will learn about the history, geography, and culture of this massive country.

A brief history

Russia did not start as the large country it is today (2017). It took years of conflict and growth to make it what it is. Watch the following video to learn a little about the history of Russia. As you watch The Animated History of Russia, by Suibhne, write the answers to the following questions on a separate piece of paper:

  1. Who formed the first Russian state?
  2. What was the meaning of the word “tsar"?
  3. What challenges did Russia face in the early 1600s?
  4. What was serfdom? What role did serfdom play in early Russia?
  5. How did the Russians drive the French out of their country during the Napoleonic Wars?
  6. What was the purpose of the Russian Revolutions in the 1900s?
  7. What were the beliefs of Joseph Stalin? What role did Joseph Stalin play in Russia during the 1900s?
  8. When did the U.S.S.R. fall?
  9. What new countries were formed with the collapse of the U.S.S.R.?

You can pause the video at any time to write your responses:

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Russian history is not only characterized by changes in the size of the nation, it is also characterized by major shifts in political views.

  • What Russian political view do you find the most interesting?
  • What role did political views play in the various revolutions that took place?

Discuss your responses with your teacher or parent.


Take a look at the map below. Write a few sentences describing the relative location of Russia on a separate piece of paper:

map of russia

Since Russia is so large, it is surrounded by a number of countries and bodies of water. Take a look at the map above and write down all the countries that surround Russia, then click on the following statement for the answer:

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About 50% of Russia is bordered by water. Once again, take a look at the map above and write down all of the bodies of water that surround Russia. Then, check your answer below:

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  • What do you think the land in Russia looks like?
  • Do you think it is similar throughout all of Russia?

When you look at the world map, located at the beginning of the lesson, you can see that Russia is not only large, but it also extends far north, to the Arctic Circle. The size and various temperatures create very different terrains throughout Russia.

  • To the west, you can find steppes, or large areas of flat, open land.
  • The southern borders have large mountains.
  • The northern parts of Russia are characterized by coniferous forests, or forests containing evergreen trees, and a vast tundra, which is a frozen desert. In the tundra, the soil is permanently frozen due to the freezing temperatures, making it difficult for plants to survive.

The images below show some of the different landscapes you can find in Russia:

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If you were to visit Russia, which of these scenes would you hope to see?


Take a look at the Russian Köppen climate map below. The Köppen climate classification system is one of the most commonly used systems for identifying climate zones. It is named for the person who invented it, Russian climatologist Wladimir Köppen.

  • What climates can be found in Russia?
  • Why do you think Russia has so many different climates?

Russia map of Köppen climate classification

Image by Ali Zifan (Enhanced, modified, and vectorized), via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Russia has more than ten different climate zones. The size of the land and the various landscapes create a variety of different climates. The majority of Russia is characterized by a cool continental, or subarctic, climate. The winters in this climate zone are harsh and freezing, and summers are cool.

  1. Use World Climates (Brynn Schaffner, Blue Planet to identify the conditions of at least three different Russian climate zones.
  2. You will notice there are three letters in parentheses next to each type of climate zone. The site will help you to identify what each letter represents. You can also scroll all the way to the bottom of the page for a summary of each climate zone.
  3. Write a short summary for at least three Russian climate zones, describing what the temperatures and precipitation are like in those regions throughout the year.

When learning about the history of Russia, you learned the French were driven out of Russia during the Napoleonic Wars because of the Russian winter.

  • Now that you have learned about the climate in Russia, why do you think the French were unable to withstand the Russian winter?


Russia’s government has seen significant changes over the past 100 years. You will watch a video to learn how Russia’s government has changed throughout the years and what it looks like today. As you watch Overview of Russia’s Political Structure, by Sarah Syed, take notes. These notes will be used to help you with an activity later in the lesson.

When you have finished watching the video, use your notes to help you answer the following questions:

  1. What type of government does Russia have today?
  2. What are the branches of government?
  3. Who is considered to be the leader of Russia? What type of leader is he?

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As you can see, Russia has changed a great deal since 1900 and remains an important leader in international politics. You will have an opportunity to learn more about Russia’s relationships with its neighboring countries in the Got It? section.


Russia has an abundance of resources, including energy resources. Energy resources are considered to be some of the most valuable natural resources in the world because they are what we use to power our homes, automobiles, and businesses. Russia produces about 20% of the world’s natural gas and oil. Russia is also one of the leading producers of many important metals, including steel and aluminum. Being one of the world’s richest countries when it comes to natural resources makes Russia a wealthy country.

Russia is so large that it covers 11 time zones!

  • Do you think it is easy for citizens of Russia to travel from one side of the country to the other?
  • What challenges do you think the government faces trying to run such a massive country?

Write your responses to these questions on a separate piece of paper or in the space provided below:

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Now, move on to the Got It? section to learn the role Russia has played in recent international affairs.

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