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European Russia, the most densely populated, urbanized, and industrialized region, lies between the Ukraine-Belarus border and the Ural Mountains.
Seventy-eight percent of the population lives in this area.
The current figure includes several million immigrants and refugees from newly independent former Soviet republics.
Since 1991, a stark drop in the birthrate has combined with a dramatic rise in the mortality rate.
Below that, the relatively arid steppe, with grasslands and semidesert and desert regions, runs along the northern edge of the Caucasus Mountains and north of the Caspian Sea beyond the Volga River basin into Central Asia.
The climate of much of European Russia is continental, with long, cold winters and short, hot summers.
Many great rivers transect the country, such as the Dvina, Don, Oka, and Volga in the European heartland and the Ob, Yenisei, and Lena in Siberia; most of these rivers are linked by subsidiary waterways.
Until the advent of railways and roads, the rivers were the only efficient way to travel, and they remain a significant form of transport for people and materials.
Tens of millions of families depend on food they grow for themselves. In July 1999, the population was estimated at 146,393,000, a decline of more than two million since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991.However, despite repression of their cultural autonomy, minority cultures have survived within the Russian Federation; including the peoples of the North Caucasus, numerous indigenous groups in Siberia, the Tatars in the Volga region, and the East Slavic Ukrainians and Belorusians.