Churches near the kremlin of Serpukhov
Serpukhov is an old town in Moscow Oblast, Russia, which is situated at the confluence of the Oka and the Nara Rivers. It is located 99 km (60 miles) south from Moscow on the Moscow—Simferopol highway. The Moscow—Tula railway passes through the town. Population: 131,097 (2002 Census).
The town of Serpukhov was established in 1339 to protect the Southern approaches to Moscow. Two years later it was made a seat of the powerful princedom ruled by a cousin and close associate of Dmitry Donskoy, Vladimir of Serpukhov. The princedom continued until 1456, when the last prince escaped to Lithuania. The town frequently fell prey to the hordes of Toqtamysh, Crimean Tatars, and other steppe conquerors. It was necessary to protect it with a stone citadel, or kremlin, which was completed by 1556 as part of the Great Abatis Belt.
Just in case you mistakenly heard that it was all ice and snow in Russia, take a peek at the Big Bikini Exposition. This is right on the river Moskva in Moscow!
Moscow has been the capital of Russia for almost its entire history. The exception is during the period of the Russian Empire, which lasted from 1721 until the Russian Revolution 1917. For these two centuries the capital was St. Petersburg. The Russian Empire was the second largest contiguous Empire in world memory; only the Mongol Empire had been greater.
Check out what's happening north of Mongolia these days, in Chita
Although you may not have heard of Sochi, on the Black Sea, they're building up quickly and hope to host the 2014 Olympics.
Other periods of Russian history include the Tsardom of Russia, from Ivan IV to Peter the Great, and the Grand Duchy (14th-16th centuries).
The earliest period of Russian history was ruled by the Novgorod Republic and Kievan Rus, which was the first Russian state dating back to 800AD in Kiev.
Modern Russia remains one of the world's superpowers. They launched the earth's second satellite, called Sputnik 1, and were the first country to put a human being into orbit around earth. (The first one is called the Moon.)
After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia became a federal republic of 83 states.
Text by Steve Smith.