This ranking of the ten largest countries in the world is based on the countries’ surface area. It does not take into account the size of the population. The acreage figures are taken from The World Factbook on the CIA website. They add the area of land to that of inland waters. The rest of the data comes from the World Bank.
The largest country in the world: Russia
With its 17,098,242 km² spread over two continents, Europe and Asia, Russia is the world’s largest country. Its surface area corresponds to approximately 11% of the emerged lands. It is about 30 times the size of mainland France. It shares its 20,000 km border with 14 countries (second globally) and is divided into 11 time zones.
It occupies a considerable part of Eastern Europe (and even an enclave between Poland and Lithuania around Kaliningrad) over 3,992,500 km². What nevertheless places Russia at the top of the podium is the immense Siberia and its 13.1 million km², symbolically limited to the east by Vladivostok, a port overlooking the Sea of Japan.
The country has been even more significant in the past. When Russia was still the USSR (until December 1991), it extended over 22.4 million km² (after World War II)! But with the fall of communism, many countries that were part of the USSR, in Central Asia, or Eastern Europe, declared their independence.
When Russia was an empire (until 1917), it was even more significant: 22.8 million km2! The size of the Empire was disproportionate. Warsaw, for example, the current capital of Poland, was integrated into the Russian Empire. The latter even owned Alaska, North America, which was sold to the United States in 1867.
With a population of 147 million (approximately), today’s Russia is a relatively sparsely populated country.
Indeed, the density of the Russian population amounts to 8.82 inhabitants/km². In comparison, the United States has 33.21 people/km². The country is also experiencing a severe demographic crisis.
Most of the population lives in the European part of Russia. Siberia is sparsely populated.
We don’t think of Canada as a gigantic country.
And yet, with its 9,984,670 km², Canada ranks second in this ranking (but behind China and the United States if we consider the only land without inland waters). The country, which has access to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, has land borders only with the United States (Alaska and the contiguous United States). It is divided into six time zones.
It is true that Canada, whose capital is Ottawa, is a sparsely populated country. It has “only” 37 million inhabitants. The density of the country is even lower than that of Russia: 4.04 inhabitants / km².
However, the growth of the Canadian population is significant (1.22%).
Canada was formed by English colonies, added to the American possessions that France lost after the Seven Years’ War.
The predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec is the second-largest territory in Canada (1.5 million km², almost three times the size of mainland France) behind Nunavut and the number one province.
The United States
Favorable geography notably serves American power. Indeed, the surface of the American territory amounts to 9 833 517 km ². The country has, like Canada, the immense advantage of having access to two oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific. It shares land borders with Canada and Mexico. The continental United States is divided into four time zones.
The country, formed by the Thirteen English colonies on the Atlantic coast, declares its independence on July 4, 1776. It will then continue to expand towards the West: immense Louisiana is bought from the French in 1803, Texas integrated the union in 1845, California was created in 1850, Alaska was bought in 1867, the island of Hawaii was annexed in 1898, etc.
Unlike Canada, the United States has a large population (approximately 327 million people in 2017). Population growth, more moderate than in Canada, is, however, significant (0.71%). The population density is 35.61 inhabitants/km².
When we think of China, we think above all of a demographic giant. With 1.4 billion inhabitants, it is indeed the most populous country in the world.
However, China is also a territorial giant: it covers 9,596,960 km². It is not only the country with the longest borders in the world (22,000 km) and the largest number of neighbors (14 countries): North Korea, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, Laos, and Vietnam.
Despite its extension, China has an only a one-time zone.
While attention is mainly concentrated in the east, on the coast, where most of the population is located, China has large, sparsely populated regions in the West, such as Tibet and Xinjiang.
Formerly, under the Qing dynasty (1644 – 1912), the country was even more significant. The Chinese Empire owned all of Mongolia and Manchuria.
Brazil is the largest country in South America. It covers 8,515,770 km². This country comes from a Portuguese colony that declared its independence in 1822.
It shares borders with all South American countries (and in particular France) except Chile and Ecuador.
The country’s population (207 million inhabitants) is found mainly on the coasts, particularly in the south, with the megalopolises of Rio and Sao Paulo. The North East is low. The interior, still little exploited, is partly occupied by the Amazon, the largest forest globally, an unfortunate victim of deforestation.
The population density is low (25.04 inhabitants/km²).
According to definitions, Australia is considered the largest island globally or a continent in its own right.
The Commonwealth of Australia, according to its official name, covers an area of 7,741,220 km². It is divided into three time zones and does not share a land border with any other country.
Australia is a young country (independent since 1901), sparsely populated (23 million inhabitants for a density of 3.2 inhabitants/km²) but whose population is experiencing significant growth (1.59%).
Its capital is Canberra.
The second most populous country globally (1.3 billion inhabitants) is also a vast country of 3,287,263 km². India, seventh in the ranking, is more than twice the size of Australia, located in sixth place!
India has 14,000 km of borders shared with six countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, China, Nepal, and Pakistan. Certain territories are disputed with the latter (Kashmir, for example) and China.
Indian territory is also very densely populated: 450.42 inhabitants / km².
The British Raj, without Burma but with Pakistan and Bangladesh, covered 4,095,833 km².
India has been independent since 1947.
Argentina, a country of 2,780,400 km², shares immense Patagonia with Chile, a magnificent landscape region.
It also shares 9364 km of borders with five countries: Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Chile.
More than a third of the country’s 44 million inhabitants are concentrated in the province of Buenos Aires, where the country’s capital is located. The population density is low: 16.18 inhabitants / km².
Kazakhstan’s 2,724,900 km² were born from the fall of the USSR in 1991. This country is, therefore, very young.
Kazakhstan is also the only country on this list that does not have access to the oceans. Almost landlocked, it must be content with access to the Caspian Sea.
However, this isolation is offset by 12,000 km of land borders, shared with five countries: China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Russia, and Turkmenistan.
It is a steppe country, sparsely populated (18.5 million inhabitants for a density of 6.68 inhabitants/km ²).
Since South Sudan’s independence in 2011, which drastically reduced Sudan’s area, Algeria has been the largest state in Africa and the largest in the Mediterranean.
Former French Algeria, independent since 1962, covers 2,381,740 km². Algeria shares more than 6,300 km of borders with seven countries: Tunisia, Libya, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, and the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
A considerable part of its territory is occupied by the Sahara, the world’s largest hot desert.