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SANTA MONICA, California — Fifteen years after the Soviet Union collapsed and split apart, Russia still fits British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s characterization of Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union nearly seven decades ago: “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

Throughout the presidencies of Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s and that of Vladimir Putin, Russia has opened its doors to international trade, investment, tourism, the media and the Internet. In sharp contrast to the Soviet Union, Russia now publishes voluminous (if not always reliable) economic, social and demographic information.

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