Despite its name, the .44 Russian is actually American; production was started in response to a request for the purchase of a large number of Smith & Wesson Model 3 revolvers for the Imperial Russian Army.
The man representing the Russians, General Alexander Gorloff (who at the time was the military attaché for the Russian Embassy in Washington D.C.), had reservations about the standard .44 S&W American chambering of the Model 3; like the .22 Long Rifle cartridge, it had an externally lubricated bullet. Gorloff recognized that externally lubricated bullets tend to pick up debris and contaminants, which eroded the bore when fired. As a result, a qualification of the purchase contract was that S&W develop an internally lubricated version of the .44 S&W American.
S&W reduced the diameter of the .44 bullet to .429 inches and added lubrication grooves to the base of the bullet (the part that sets inside the case).
The .44 Russian is a rimmed, centerfire, blackpowder cartridge. It has an overall length of 1.43 inches, and a case capacity of 27.10 grains (H2O). It is typically loaded with a powder charge of 23 grains of blackpowder propellant.
The cartridge is noted as being exceptionally accurate for its time.