The Largest Countries in the World

A Visual Comparison of the World's Largest Countries.

Illustration by Hugo Lin. ThoughtCo.

If you take a look at a globe or a map of the world, it's not too hard to find the largest country, Russia. Covering more than 6.5 million square miles and stretching 11 time zones, no other nation can match Russia for sheer size. But can you name all 10 of the largest nations on Earth based on land mass?

Here are a few hints. The second-largest country in the world is Russia's neighbor, but it's just two-thirds as big. Two other geographic giants share the longest international border in the world. And one occupies an entire continent. 

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St. Petersburg, Russia and the Cathedral on Spilled Blood. Amos Chapple / Getty Images

Russia, as we know it today, is a very new country, born out of the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991. But the nation can trace its roots all the way back to the 9th century CE, when the state of Rus was founded.

  • Size: 6,592,771 square miles
  • Population: 145,872,256
  • Capital city: Moscow
  • Date of independence: August 24, 1991
  • Primary languages: Russian (official), Tatar, Chechen
  • Primary religions: Russian Orthodox, Muslim
  • National symbol: Bear, the double-headed eagle
  • National colors: White, blue, and red
  • National anthem: "Gimn Rossiyskoy Federatsii" (National Anthem of the Russian Federation)
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Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta. Witold Skrypczak / Getty Images

Canada's ceremonial head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, which shouldn't come as a surprise because Canada was once part of the British empire. The longest international border in the world is shared by Canada and the United States.

  • Size: 3,854,082 square miles
  • Population: 37,411,047
  • Capital cityOttawa
  • Date of independence: July 1, 1867
  • Primary languages: English and French (official)
  • Primary religions: Catholic, Protestant
  • National symbol: Maple leaf, beaver
  • National colors: Red and white
  • National anthem: "O, Canada"
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United States

North American map. Shan Shui / Getty Images

If it weren't for the state of Alaska, the U.S wouldn't be nearly as large as it is today. The largest state in the nation is more than 660,000 square miles, bigger than Texas and California put together.

  • Size: 3,717,727 square miles
  • Population: 329,064,917
  • Capital city: Washington, D.C.
  • Date of independence: July 4, 1776
  • Primary languages: English, Spanish
  • Primary religions: Protestant, Roman Catholic
  • National symbol: Bald eagle
  • National colors: Red, white, and blue
  • National anthem: "The Star-Spangled Banner"
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Beijing, China. DuKai photographer / Getty Images

China may only be the fourth-largest nation in the world, but with more than a billion people, it's number 1 when it comes to population. China is also home to the largest human-made structure in the world, the Great Wall.

  • Size: 3,704,426 square miles
  • Population: 1,433,783,686
  • Capital city: Beijing
  • Date of independence: October 1, 1949
  • Primary language: Mandarin Chinese (official)
  • Primary religions: Buddhist, Christian, Muslim
  • National symbol: Dragon
  • National colors: Red and yellow
  • National anthem: "Yiyongjun Jinxingqu" (The March of the Volunteers)
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Aerial view of Amazon River, Amazon Jungle, Brazil, South America. Eurasia / Getty Images

Brazil isn't just the largest nation in terms of land mass in South America; it's also the most populous. This former colony of Portugal is also the largest Portuguese-speaking country on earth.

  • Size: 3,285,618 square miles
  • Population: 211,049,527
  • Capital city: Brasilia
  • Date of independence: September 7, 1822
  • Primary languages: Portuguese (official)
  • Primary religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant
  • National symbol: Southern Cross constellation
  • National colors: Green, yellow, and blue
  • National anthem: "Hino Nacional Brasileiro" (Brazilian National Anthem)
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Aerial view of Sydney cityscape, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Spaces Images / Getty Images

Australia is the only nation to occupy an entire continent. Like Canada, it is part of the Commonwealth of Nations, a group of more than 50 former British colonies.

  • Size: 2,967,124 square miles
  • Population: 25,203,198
  • Capital city: Canberra
  • Date of independence: January 1, 1901
  • Primary language: English
  • Primary religions: Protestant, Roman Catholic
  • National symbol: Southern Cross constellation, kangaroo
  • National colors: Green and gold
  • National anthem: "Advance Australia Fair"
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Old Delhi.

Mani Babbar / Getty Images

India is much smaller than China in terms of land mass, but it's expected to overtake its neighbor in population sometime in the 2020s. India holds the distinction of being the largest nation with a democratic form of governance.

  • Size: 1,269,009 square miles
  • Population: 1,366,417,754
  • Capital city: New Delhi
  • Date of independence: August 15, 1947
  • Primary languages: Hindi, Bengali, Telugu
  • Primary religions: Hindu, Muslim
  • National symbol: The Lion Capital of Ashoka, Bengal tiger, lotus flower
  • National colors: Saffron, white, and green 
  • National anthem: "Jana-Gana-Mana" (Thou Art the Ruler of the Minds of All People)
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Foz de Iguazu (Iguacu Falls), Iguazu National Park, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Argentina, South America. Michael Runkel / Getty Images

Argentina is a distant second to its neighbor Brazil in terms of land mass and population, but the two countries share one big notable feature. Iguazu Falls, the largest waterfall system on the planet, lies between these two countries.

  • Size: 1,068,019 square miles
  • Population: 44,780,677
  • Capital city: Buenos Aires
  • Date of independence: July 9, 1816
  • Primary languages: Spanish (official), Italian, English
  • Primary religions: Roman Catholic
  • National symbol: Sun of May 
  • National colors: Sky blue and white 
  • National anthem: "Himno Nacional Argentino" (Argentine National Anthem)
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Kolsay Lake at early morning, Tien Shan Mountains, Kazakhstan, Central Asia, Asia. G&M Therin-Weise / Getty Images

Kazakhstan is another former state of the Soviet Union that declared its independence in 1991. It is the largest land-locked nation in the world.

  • Size: 1,048,877 square miles
  • Population: 18,551,427
  • Capital city: Astana
  • Date of independence: December 16, 1991
  • Primary languages: Kazakh and Russian (official)
  • Primary religions: Muslim, Russian Orthodox)
  • National symbol: Golden eagle
  • National colors:  Blue and yellow
  • National anthem: "Menin Qazaqstanim" (My Kazakhstan)
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Life In The Algerian Capital. Pascal Parrot / Getty Images

The 10th-largest nation on the planet is also the biggest country in Africa. Although Arabic and Berber are the official languages, French is also widely spoken because Algeria is a former French colony.

  • Size: 919,352 square miles
  • Population: 43,053,054
  • Capital city: Algiers
  • Date of independence: July 5, 1962
  • Primary languages: Arabic and Berber (official), French
  • Primary religions: Muslim (official)
  • National symbol: Star and crescent, fennec fox
  • National colors: Green, white and red
  • National anthem: "Kassaman" (We Pledge)

Other Ways of Determining the Largest Nations

Land mass is not the only way to measure the size of a country. Population is another common metric for ranking the largest nations. Economic output can also be used to measure a nation's size in terms of financial and political power. In both cases, many of the same nations on this list can also rank among the top 10 in terms of population and economy, although not always.

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Your Citation
Rosenberg, Matt. "The Largest Countries in the World." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Rosenberg, Matt. (2020, August 27). The Largest Countries in the World. Retrieved from Rosenberg, Matt. "The Largest Countries in the World." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).