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In the northeast, above the Arctic Circle, lies a huge expanse of frigid, occasionally marshy tundra, a nearly unpopulated region where much of the land is permanently frozen and little grows but moss and shrubs.

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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.

It is largely the result of the economic and social upheavals of the postsocialist period, which have impoverished the population and caused a decay of social services.

Growing unemployment, long-term nonpayment of wages and pensions, paid wages that are below the poverty line, unsafe working and road conditions, the spread of infectious diseases, and the impoverishment of public health care systems have caused stress, depression, family breakdown, and rising rates of alcoholism, suicide, homicide, and domestic violence.

Equally important is the ability of rural and urban dwellers to survive challenging conditions of land, climate, and politics.