A whole lot of land

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2007, 12:00am


Russia stretches over 12 time zones from Europe to the Far East.

About 85 per cent of the population are ethnic Russians, with the rest belonging to one of about 70 other ethnic groups.

This country is rich in natural resources, such as oil, gas, coal, gold, and platinum, fuelling a US$1.7 trillion economy that has been growing steadily over the last eight years.

Russia also has a rich artistic heritage, boasting writers like Tolstoy, composers like Tchaikovsky, ballet dancers like Anna Pavlova and artists such as Faberge who made those famous jewelled eggs.

Although Russia is now a democratic country, with Vladimir Putin as its elected president, it was the head of the Soviet Union, the communist superpower that was created in 1927 and broke up in 1991.

Quick Stats

Area: 17,075,400 km2

Capital: Moscow

Population: 142,754,000

Language: Russian


Canada is best known for its natural beauty. About 75 per cent of Canadians live within 150 kilometres of the US border, leaving the rest of the country's forests, lakes and rivers to wolves, bears, deer, beavers, trout and other wildlife.

While 83 per cent of Canadians describe themselves as 'white', there are many indigenous tribes, such as the Mohawk, Nuxalk, Salish, Metis and Inuit.

Canada's vibrant culture of British, French and Aboriginal traditions has made Inuit carvings world famous, and has nurtured artists such as author Margaret Atwood, film director Michael Snow and musicians Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell.

Oil and logging are an important factor in Canada's US$1.2 trillion economy, but two-thirds of the money comes from finance, real estate and communications sectors.

Quick Stats

Area: 9,984,670 km2

Capital: Ottawa

Population: 33,029,500

Language: English and French


The United States is one of the world's most powerful and wealthy nations with an economy worth US$13 trillion. It produces 60 per cent of the world's agricultural crops, and is also the biggest producer of electrical energy, nuclear energy, liquid natural gas, aluminium and salt producer.

US films and TV programmes like Friends, Desperate Housewives and Heroes are translated into dozens of languages, spreading US culture all over the world.

Although most productions focus on 'mainstream American culture' - the mishmash of English and Western European traditions followed by 75 per cent of Americans - the country also has large Hispanic and black populations.

Native Americans like the Sioux and Navajo make up less than 1 per cent of the total population.

Quick Stats

Area: 9,631,420 km2

Capital: Washington DC

Population: 302,515,000

Language: English


China calls itself the world's third largest country by including Aksai Chin and Trans-Karakoram Tract, territories claimed by India, bringing its area to 9,640,821 km2.

However, there is no dispute about China's status as having the world's biggest population. Almost one in five people in the world is Chinese!

China had a centrally-planned economy from 1949 until 1978. After that, businesses became more market-oriented. Today China has the third largest economy in the world, worth about US$9.9 trillion.

China's cultural heritage has tourists flocking to the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, the Terracotta Army in Xi'an , and beauty spotssuch as the Three Gorges.

Quick Stats

Area: 9,598,086 km2

Capital: Beijing

Population: 1,321,851,888

Language: Mandarin and regional dialects


Brazil is the home of the Amazon rainforest, the samba, the Mardi Gras carnival and ethnic tribes like the Wajapi whose lifestyle is so unique that Unesco has declared them 'Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity'.

The country's 500 Amerindian tribes, including about 67 who have yet to be contacted, live in remote mountain and forest areas. Cities like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are dominated by descendants from Europe, Africa and Asia.

Brazil is the world's biggest soybean, coffee, orange juice and iron ore producer. Its US$1.7 trillion economy makes it a regional powerhouse, but one in five Brazilians still live under the poverty line.

Quick Stats

Area: 8,514,877 km2

Capital: Brasilia

Population: 190,010,647

Language: Portuguese

fab fact!

The International Monetary Fund ranks the European Union as the biggest economy in the world, worth about US$13 trillion. Hong Kong's economy is listed at US$0.2 trillion.


The world's biggest countries pale in comparison to the seas. The Pacific Ocean covers 169.2 million km2, more than all the world's landmasses put together!

Build Your Vocab

When you're reading, you don't always need to know every word to understand the sense of the passage. But do you remember new vocab when you come across it?

Build your word power by finding appropriate synonyms for the following words and phrases in the text. Want an extra challenge? Try completing this exercise from memory first!

1. racial

2. cultivate

3. mixture

4. gather

5. successor