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These environmental factors have affected the demographic profile and shaped cultural, social, and political institutions, influencing colonizing projects, settlement patterns, household configurations, village politics, agricultural systems, and military technologies.Bold defiance of these natural limitations include Peter the Great's founding of Saint Petersburg on northern swamplands in 1703, and the twentieth-century plan to reverse the northerly flow of some of Siberia's rivers to facilitate the movement of natural resources.
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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.
These factors limit agricultural production and account for the frequency of crop failures; what is produced requires substantial labor.
The huge forests provide for foraging, hunting, and logging.
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.
The last three groups are widely dispersed throughout the federation.Limited access to year-round seaports has always been a military and commercial problem.A lack of natural borders has meant vulnerability to invasion, a danger offset by the size of the country and its harsh, long winters.Equally important is the ability of rural and urban dwellers to survive challenging conditions of land, climate, and politics.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.The capital, Moscow, is in the center of this region, where much agriculture has been located despite the thin, poor soil.