Located in the north, west and east latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, most of Russia is much closer to the North Pole than to the equator. Individual country comparisons are of little value in gauging Russia's enormous size and diversity. The country's 17.1 million square kilometers include one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area. Its European portion, which occupies a substantial part of continental Europe, is home to most of Russia's industrial and agricultural activity and is where, roughly between the Dnieper River and the Ural Mountains, the Russian Empire took shape. Russia includes the entire northern portion of Asia.

From west to east, the country stretches from Kaliningrad (the exclave separated by the 1990 secession of Lithuania from the then-Soviet Union) to Ratmanov Island (one of the Diomede Islands) in the Bering Strait. This distance is roughly equivalent to the distance from Glasgow, Scotland, to Nome, Alaska. From north to south, the country ranges from the northern tip of the Russian Arctic islands at Franz Josef Land to the southern tip of the Republic of Dagestan on the Caspian Sea, spanning about 4,500 kilometres (2,800 mi) of extremely varied, often inhospitable terrain.

Extending for 57,792 kilometres (35,910 mi), the Russian border is the world's longest, a source of substantial concern for national security in the post-Soviet era. Along the 20,139-kilometer land frontier, Russia has boundaries with 14 countries: Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland (via the Kaliningrad Oblast), Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, the People's Republic of China and North Korea.

Approximately two-thirds of the frontier is bounded by water. Virtually all of the lengthy northern coast is well above the Arctic Circle; except for the port of Murmansk—which receives currents that are somewhat warmer than would be expected at that latitude, due to the effects of the Gulf Stream—that coast is locked in ice much of the year. Thirteen seas and parts of three oceans—the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific—wash Russian shores.

Russia shares a maritime boundary with the United States and with Japan.