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Spotlight on Russia

Updated on March 16, 2014

Russia - A Great Vacation

Russia is a tremendous place to visit, I remember during my Navy days, we would never have dreamed of going here, in fact I don't think they would have permitted us entry into the country. Well, gone are those days, and for this lens, although about Russia in general, I shall concentrate on the areas that I have personally visited with St Petersburg being the hub. I shall endeavor to periodically update with new postings of different locations throughout Russia, and those areas that I have not personally visited, but know off, I shall highlight this fact.

Why have I picked Russia, well, there is lots of history, of which I like, the sites are worth taking time to view, the culture is much different to what you will be used to, and the night life is an eye opener.

Having said all of that, what I do need to mention at this stage, is that, (and although I am a relatively fit type of guy, and can normally take care of myself), most, if not all of my visits to Russia were work related and I was in the company of what can only be described as a minder.

Bureaucracy is still in practice, women in Russia still have considerably less social freedom than in Western Europe, politeness is hard to come by, and you need be be aware of your personal safety/security.

So if you intend on spending time in Russia, travel with a companion or guide and try to appreciate what a different mindset it is, be flexible and remember that you're the foreigner, taking all these into consideration, you will have a good time.


Where is Russia

Located in the northern and middle latitudes a 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. It was here, roughly between the Dnieper River and the Ural Mountains, that the Russian Empire took shape. It is also located on the Northern most tip of Asia.

Russian Climate

Most of the country has a continental climate, with long, cold winters and brief summers. There is a wide range of summer and winter temperatures and relatively low precipitation. January temperatures are in the range of 6° C (45 ° F ) on the southeastern shore of the Black Sea. A record low temperature of -71° C (-96 ° F ) was recorded in 1974 at the northeast Siberian village of Oymyakon, the lowest temperature ever recorded anywhere in the world for an inhabited region. In many areas of Siberia the soil never thaws for more than a foot.

Russian Nesting Dolls

Russian Culture & Society

Russian families are dependent upon all its members, and most families live in small apartments, often with 2 or 3 generations sharing little space.The majority of families are small, often with only one child because most women must also work outside of the house in addition to bearing sole responsibility for household and childrearing chores.

Russians are proud of their country, patriotic songs and poems extol the virtues of their homeland. They accept that their lives are difficult and pride themselves on being able to flourish in conditions that others could not, and they take great pride in their cultural heritage and expect the rest of the world to admire it.

For generations until the 1930's, Russian life centered on the agricultural village commune, where the land was held in common and decision-making was the province of an assembly of the heads of households. This affinity for the group and the collective spirit remains today. It is seen in everyday life, for example most Russians will join a table of strangers rather than eat alone in a restaurant. Everybody's business is also everyone else's, so strangers will stop and tell someone that they are breaking the rules.

Etiquettes in Russia

  1. Meeting

    The typical greeting is a firm, almost bone-crushing handshake while maintaining direct eye contact and giving the appropriate greeting for the time of day. When men shake hands with women, the handshake is less firm. When female friends meet, they kiss on the cheek three times, starting with the left and then alternating. When close male friends meet, they may pat each other on the back and hug.

  2. Gift Giving

    Gift giving using takes place between family and close friends on birthdays, New Year, and Orthodox Christmas. If you are invited to a Russian home for a meal, bring a small gift. Male guests are expected to bring flowers, do not give yellow flowers. Do not give a baby gift until after the baby is born. It is bad luck to do so sooner. Russians often protest when they are offered a gift, reply that it is a little something and offer the gift again and it will generally be accepted.

  3. Dining

    If you are invited to a Russian's house: Arrive on time or no more than 15 minutes later than invited. Remove your outdoor shoes. You may be given slippers to wear. Dress in clothes you might wear to the office. Dressing well shows respect for your hosts.

    Expect to be treated with honor and respect. Offer to help the hostess with the preparation or clearing up after a meal is served. This may be turned down out of politeness. Asking 'are you sure?' allows the hostess to accept your offer.

  4. Table manners are generally casual.

    Table manners are Continental -- the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating. The oldest or most honored guest is served first. Do not begin eating until the host invites you to start. Do not rest your elbows on the table, although your hands should be visible at all times. You will often be urged to take second helpings and it is polite to use bread to soak up gravy or sauce.

    Men pour drinks for women seated next to them. Leaving a small amount of food on your plate indicates that your hosts have provided ample hospitality.

    Do not get up until you are invited to leave the table. At formal dinners, the guest of honor is the first to get up from the table.

  5. Going on Business - Business Meetings

    Appointments are necessary and should be made as far in advance as possible. It often takes roughly 6 weeks to arrange a meeting with a government official, and you should confirm the meeting when you arrive in the country and again a day or two in advance.

    The first week of May has several public holidays so it is best avoided.

    Remember to arrive punctually for meetings. Typical Russian schedules are constantly changing and everything takes longer than expected, so be prepared to be kept waiting. Worst of all, meetings can be cancelled on short notice, it has happened to me on a number of occasions..

    The first meeting is often a vehicle to determine if you and the company you represent are credible and worthy of consideration for future business dealings. Use the time effectively to demonstrate what differentiates your company from the competition and expect a long period of socializing and getting-to-know-you conversation before business is discussed.

    Have all printed material available in both English and Russian.

    Russians expect long and detailed presentations that include a history of the subject and a review of existing precedents. Meetings are frequently interrupted, and it is common for several side conversations that have nothing to do with the topic of the meeting to be carried on during the meeting.

    On completion of the meeting, expect to sign a 'protokol', which is a summary of what was discussed.

St Petersburg - Church on Spilled Blood

St Petersburg is one of the world's most beautiful cities, it has all the ingredients for an unforgettable travel experience: high art, lavish architecture, wild nightlife, an extraordinary history and rich cultural traditions that have inspired and nurtured some of the modern world's greatest literature, music, and visual art.

From the mysterious twilight of the White Nights to world-beating opera and ballet productions on magical winter evenings, St. Petersburg charms and entices in every season.

Saint-Petersburg is situated in the North-West of Russia in the Neva River delta on the Eastern coast of the Gulf of Finland and occupies, together with the administratively subordinated territories, the terri-tory of 1439 square kilometres.

The city is located on 44 islands formed by the Neva River and 90 more rivers and canals.The city has definitely led an interesting past, with over 300 colourful years of history, for more than 200 of which it was actually the capital city of the whole Russian Empire. The present-day St.

Petersburg remains an exceptional city in all aspects, more than living up to the dreams of Tsar Peter the Great, who founded the city in the early 1700s. The climate is humid, close to maritime, with a moderately warm summer and a rather long moderately cold winter.

Many of the best sights in St. Petersburg are to be found around the actual city centre and its prominent thoroughfare named the Nevsky Prospekt. Head to the Palace Square, known locally as the Dvortsovaya Ploshchad and appreciate the architecture of the Winter Palace, or spend the afternoon cruising on the city's canals on water buses, stopping of at the Mikhaylovsky Gardens en route.

Downtown St. Petersburg is an old city previously known for its aging population. Since the 1880s, when Peter Demens gave the city a railroad and the name of his Russian hometown, St. Petersburg has been associated with healthful climes and restorative waters.

In its early days, retirees and convalescents flooded the peninsular town looking for rest and rejuvenation. This took its toll on St. Petersburg.

For many years it looked like a worn-out rest home waiting room. But new blood has been transfused into the city in recent decades, making its waterfront district a happening place for lovers of the outdoors and for other visitors.

The rejuvenation is ongoing, turning St. Petersburg into a thriving metropolis with its own college, major-league baseball arena, world-class museums, and fashionable shopping districts.

Sightseeing in Russia

The Kremlin - Founded in the 12th century by Prince Yury Dolgoruky and now a mass of crenellated ramparts, glittering onion domes and majestic turrets. It is now the spiritual, political and historical heart of Moscow.

Red Square - The oldest and most historical square in the city, and home to some of Moscow's most famous landmarks - the pompous Lenin Mausoleum and the wonderful brightly colored onion domes of St. Basil's Cathedral.

The Bolshoi Theater - world-class ballet theater with a tumultuous history dating back to the late 18th century and producer of some of Russia's most famous ballets stars, including Rudolf Nuryev and Maya Plisetskaya.

The Cathedral of Christ the Savior - magnificent replica of the 19th century church constructed to commemorate Russia's victory over the French in the Napoleonic Wars, which was demolished on Stalin's orders in the 1930s but built anew in the 1990s to mark Moscow's 850th birthday.

The Tretyakov Gallery - home to the world's most extensive collection of Russian art, including everything from icons by the legendary Andrey Rublyov to portraits of some of Russia's most prominent 18th and 19th century public figures.

Novodevichy Convent and Monastery - beautiful 16th century convent founded by Vasily III in 1524 to commemorate the recapture of Smolensk from the Lithuanians ten years earlier and the resting place of some of Moscow's most famous artists, writers, politicians and public figures

The Arbat, Moscow, Russia The Arbat - once a bohemian quarter of the city, littered with cafes crammed full of the capital's intellectual elite, the Arbat is today Moscow's liveliest pedestrian street and offers a great choice of street cafes, restaurants, bars, clubs, souvenir stalls, art markets and street entertainers.

Moscow State University - housed in one of the city's seven enormous gothic skyscrapers commissioned by Stalin in the 1950s, the university is the great seat of learning of some of Russia's most famous scholars and political figures, including the former President Mikhail Gorbachev.

The Moscow Metro - constructed during Stalin's rule to be the "people's palaces", the Moscow metro system abounds with magnificent architecture, elegant designs and a lavish and profuse use of marble, mosaics, sculptures and chandeliers.

Izmailovsky Souvenir Market, Moscow, Russia Izmailovsky Souvenir Market - just a few minutes walk from the 16th century Imperial Estate where the future Peter the Great spent much of his childhood, the city's largest and most animated souvenir market offers visitors a wide range of Russian handicrafts, Soviet memorabilia, original paintings and delicious local cuisine.

Nightlife in Russia - St Petersburg - City of Artists

Russians are known for their love of good drink and their beautiful women. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Russian nightlife is so vibrant.

Nightlife aficionados arriving in St. Petersburg have cause for celebration - Russia's second largest metropolis can give the capital a run for it's money when it comes to boogieing, boozing and generally binging to excess. This city of artists is the spiritual home of both Russia's live music and dance music scene, and although St. Petersburg's nightlife may not have all the glitz and glam of Moscow's nightlife it has bags more creative integrity, with clubs on the whole tending to be more down to earth and friendlier - with a touch more mayhem for good measure!

A couple of great places to begin an assault on your liver are the Idiot and Cynic Bar. Both are cult favorites amongst the literati expat types and local students, with all the Bohemian drinking habits you would expect from such a crowd. For those who prefer something a bit more civilized, the James Cook tavern offers pub grub and caters to a somewhat older and wiser crowd and the Shamrock is the resident Irish Pub, frequented by ballerinas.

When it comes to heading towards a nightclub one obvious choice is Metro Club. A huge Euro-disco on three levels, you'll find music runs the gamut of pop to hard-core techno. Whereas clubbing purists are unlikely to be impressed (Metro generally attracts youngsters from the suburbs, rather than hip locals, and is something akin to the Hippodrome in London), those hoping to chase pretty blondes across the dance floor should have a good time. Far more authentic nightlife options present themselves in the form of Griboedov and Tunnel Club. Both are housed in old bomb shelters, the former throwing a real smorgasboard of madcap events ranging from live concerts to Soviet disco and drum and bass nights. Tunnel meanwhile is Russia's first ever techno club and despite entering its third incarnation seems to have lost none of its life or reputation for hedonism! Worthy of mention too is Fish Fabrique - an alternative live music venue popular with artistic/alcoholic types.

Finally for those looking to explore St. Petersburg's jazz legacy, a visit to Cafe Club Che should prove rewarding. This swanky club is frequented by well-heeled music lovers, and a good place to chill or party.

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What You Think

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    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

      Russia is so huge and varied, no one could possibly even explore half of it in a lifetime. Many places in Russia would be amazing to visit.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Would love to visit Russia, looks vey inviting, nice lens.

    • profile image

      moonlitta 5 years ago

      Brings nostalgic memories from the years when we learned Russian at school (no, never been there though!)

    • Bill Armstrong profile image

      Bill Armstrong 6 years ago from Valencia, California

      @Annamadagan: Sure is, why not give it a try ;)

    • Bill Armstrong profile image

      Bill Armstrong 6 years ago from Valencia, California

      @juditpaton: Thanks for visit..the history of Russia is what amazes me most, owe and the Russian people are great, looking forward to another visit

    • Bill Armstrong profile image

      Bill Armstrong 6 years ago from Valencia, California

      @poutine: Certainly worth a visit

    • Bill Armstrong profile image

      Bill Armstrong 6 years ago from Valencia, California

      @Mary Crowther: Thanks for the visit, I love Russia, not been in a few years now but will eventually get back

    • Mary Crowther profile image

      Mary Crowther 6 years ago from Havre de Grace

      Great lens! I found the culture and society portion extremely interesting.

    • profile image

      poutine 6 years ago

      Would love to visit Russia.

    • juditpaton profile image

      Iudit Gherghiteanu 6 years ago from Ozun

      Russia is exiting place, i did visit Kiew and Soci, both impressed me, as well. my russian friends with their love of life. I agree with you on everything, again...

    • profile image

      Annamadagan 6 years ago

      Nice lens! Russia looks like an exciting place to be.

    • Bill Armstrong profile image

      Bill Armstrong 6 years ago from Valencia, California

      @norma-holt: Many thanks Skiesgreen for your blessing, makes me feel warm to receive these, appreciated

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      good lens with useful information...............

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 6 years ago

      Wonderful lens. Blessed and featured on Blessed by Skiesgreen 2012. Hugs

    • Bill Armstrong profile image

      Bill Armstrong 6 years ago from Valencia, California

      @Andy-Po: I'm a lover of Russia, been there many times, thanks for cisiting

    • profile image

      Andy-Po 6 years ago

      Great lens. Useful information. I go to Russia fairly frequently to visit my wife's family.

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 6 years ago

      i want to follow the footsteps of the catherine the great.

    • profile image

      nikyweber 6 years ago

      great lens thumbs up!

    • profile image

      Lindrus 6 years ago

      Interesting and very accurate lens! I've lived in Russia and found it a place of extremes, for good and bad. Interesting, that's for sure!

    • profile image

      Lindrus 6 years ago

      Very interesting and accurate lens! I've lived in Russia and have found it a country of extremes, for good and bad. Interesting, that's for sure.

    • profile image

      GenesisLabs 6 years ago

      Very interesting lens. I especially enjoyed the details about the Russian culture and etiquette. Thanks.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 6 years ago

      Nice lens...interesting facts...My Paternal Great grandfather lived in St Petersburg Russia in the early 1800's and made his wealth there, moving back to Germany when the revolution broke out...I would love to know more of my Russian (Reval, Estonia) genealogy

    • LeopoldBlatt profile image

      LeopoldBlatt 6 years ago

      Never been to Russia but would love to visit. That image of St Petersburg in your lens is awesome. Very good and informative lens, enjoyed it immensely.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      How beautifully and wonderfully inviting...and even a little advice for those who want to start an assault on their the reality humor you sneak in here and there! I've not been to Russia but my sister was there some years ago and came back with her own wonderful doing a clandestine money exchange with a street vendor as the police walked by. The Russian people are very wonderful and welcoming to Americans and are very generous, Shell came back with many treasured gifts as well as bringing a whole suitcase of things to bring to the Russian people. It is my pleasure to leave some angel dust to sparkle over your spotlight on Russia!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      There are great suggestions on the places you can visit in Russia, I had never put Russia in my wish list but I will have to do so now.

    • Bill Armstrong profile image

      Bill Armstrong 6 years ago from Valencia, California

      @elyria: Ah you did view my lens on Russia, I am so happy you enjoyed lens, I actually called my friends last week in St Petersburg:-) Hopefully I shall return for a visit soon also

    • jolou profile image

      jolou 7 years ago

      I would certainly love to see it, but not in the winter time.

    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I'd love to visit Russia on vacation someday. Actually, I have flown to India via Russia. So essentially, I was in transit at the airport. If I didn't have time constraints, I would have loved to spend a few days there. Lots of valuable info in this lens on Russia!

    • elyria profile image

      elyria 7 years ago

      I enjoyed your Lens on Russia so much! Being from Russia, it reminded me how truly beautiful and unique my home country is. Now I miss it even more :) It's been 3 years since my last visit back home, so time to go back and play tourist :))

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I'd love to visit Russia. Beautiful lens, very well done.

    • Bill Armstrong profile image

      Bill Armstrong 7 years ago from Valencia, California

      @howtocurecancer: It's a very exciting country with beautiful scenery and history

    • howtocurecancer profile image

      howtocurecancer 7 years ago

      You love Russia.

    • Bill Armstrong profile image

      Bill Armstrong 7 years ago from Valencia, California

      @IndependentEuroTravel: A great adventure at that :-)

    • profile image

      IndependentEuroTravel 7 years ago

      Russia is adventure for me. Can't way to go there :)

    • Bill Armstrong profile image

      Bill Armstrong 7 years ago from Valencia, California

      @MarianaFargasch: Why thank you :-) comments like these are always appreciated

    • MarianaFargasch profile image

      MarianaFargasch 7 years ago

      I absolutely loved St Petersburg - Church on Spilled Blood. Fascinating!! Great job here Billy :)

    • Bill Armstrong profile image

      Bill Armstrong 7 years ago from Valencia, California

      @I-sparkle: Many thanks, great feedback, watch out for my next venture :-)

    • I-sparkle profile image

      I-sparkle 7 years ago

      You did a great job on this lens. I liked reading about the customs and I think that the photos and pics were wonderful.


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