This is Russia, it’s big.
It borders Finland to the West and stretchesfurther East than Japan.
Finland is in Europe and Japan is in Asia.
But where does Russia stand.
Is it European or Asian? The divide between Europe and Asia is theUral mountains.
So if you want a quick answer, Russia is inboth.
But the real answer is more complicated.
I'll take at look at all sides of this argumentand let you decide what you will.
Russia is an enormous country stretching fromPoland to North Korea.
Passing through 11 time zones.
Influenced by Asian and European invasions,trade, invasions, diplomacy, and invasions.
So how did Russia become Russia? Eastern Slavs arose in Europe between the3rd-8th centuries.
A bad ass Varangian warrior founded the KievanRus state in the 9th century.
And they got chummy with The Byzantines, whowere like "here have this cool Orthodox Christianity".
The Mongols arrived and did what Mongols do.
The Rus became part of the Mongol Empire.
The Grand Duchy of Moscow started unifyingthe other Russian entities.
And Under Ivan the Great they defeated theMongols and merged Central and Western Russia.
The new Russian state began to expand intothe territory once ruled by its conquerors.
Under Ivan the Terrible Russia began annexingnearby Khanates.
Russia conquered territory deep into Siberia.
Ivan became the first Tsar of all the Russians,And ruled a multi ethnic, transcontinental Empire.
Skipping very far forward we arrive at Peterthe Great.
Under his rule Russia conquered parts of theBaltic.
Where he founded Saint Petersburg, Russia's"Window to Europe".
Peter the Great's reforms brought WesternEuropean cultural ideals to Russia.
He embarked on a modernisation campaign similarto the Japanese Meiji restoration.
Peter forced his nobles to wear European clothing,instituted a beard tax, and adopted the Julian calendar.
He also declared himself Emperor of Russia.
However there was one thing that Peter couldn’tWesternise, geography.
According to Greeks, who Europeans based theirgeography on, Russia was in Asia.
And thus Russia was still a spooky Asian entityon the borders of Europe.
Then Philip Johan von Strahlenberg came alongin the 1730s and change the definition of Europe.
Asia was now everything east of the Ural mountains.
Anna of Russia, Peter’s niece, obviouslyembraced this and financed the distribution of Strahlenberg’s maps.
And Russia became less of a spooky Asian Empirewith lands in Europe more a Europeanish Empire with lands in Asia.
It was all a matter of re-branding.
But Europeans and Russians could still notdecide 100% whether Russia was a fully fledged European state, or an Asian one.
75% of Russia is east of the Ural mountainsfirmly placing it inside Asia geographically.
Demographically you can see the Asian influencein Russia too.
As well as Asian religious influences, particularlywith Islam.
As well as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Shamanismin parts of Siberia.
Russia is multi ethnic and has many peoplewith both European and Asian heritage.
Over 160 ethnic groups live in Russia.
Russia is not a member of the EU nor doesit plan to become a member.
It not a member of not NATO either.
The Russian government has instead focusedon the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a security, military and political organisationwhose members are Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
All of which would be considered Asian countries.
Russians themselves are even a recognisedminority in People’s Republic of China.
While 75% of Russia is in Asia, 77% of it’speople aren’t.
The Western part of Russia is more Europeanculturally.
The people speak European languages, and thecities look more European.
The old Russian capital of Saints Petersburgwas designed to look like Venice.
Russia's old rulers the Tsars spoke Frenchat court and were related to other European monarchs.
And even if many people don’t realise itEuropean culture would worse off without Russian contributions.
It’s next to impossible to go through theclassical libraries of Europe without finding a book written by Dostoevsky or Tolstoy.
And classical music would be left wantingwithout Tchaikovsky.
And most importantly their singers competein the Eurovision.
You could argue that modern Russia is a resultof the Age of Empires.
Like the British or French.
Who also held transcontinental territoriesin the past.
But unlike the European empires the RussianEmpire was a mostly contiguous land empire.
Which made it much easier to maintain.
One of the main reasons for this culturaland continental confusion is that Russia is populated with a majority European ethnicgroup.
Was invaded by an Asian Empire.
Which it then conquered the lands of.
And is now made up of elements of both.
Imagine if Alexander the Great's empire survivedto this day.
Would it be European or Asian? Russia is both European and Asian, Europeanand not Asian, Asian and not European, and neither Asian nor European.
It straddles the definition of both whilealso being totally different.
This is all caused by our messy definitionof continents.
How many continents are there? Some people would say 7, others 6, some others5.
There is no certain answer and it solely dependson your definition.
Europe isn’t a continent.
Europe and Asia should instead be treatedas one mega-continent called Eurasia.
This is because there is no real border betweenEurope and Asia.
Tectonically, Europe and Asia are the samecontinent.
The choice of the Ural Mountains as a dividewas arbitrary.
At best Europe should be a subcontinent, likeIndia.
By dividing Europe from Asia we are makinga continent based on cultural differences.
If we did that for every culture how manycontinents would end up with? 20?-40?-100? So if you want to use a strict geographicaldefinition Russia would be a Eurasian country.
Which actually sums up Russia very well, amix of both Europe and Asia.
Even with all these factors.
Some placing Russian nearer to Europe, othersnearer to Asia.
If you asked a Russian whether they were Asianor European they would probably tell you that they were Russian.