The largest country on earth, Russia is truly its own. The landmass extends for over 17.1 million square kilometers, making it larger than the entire continent of Europe. It holds varied terrain, from tundra to sweeping forests, and subtropical beaches. The nation has coasts along both the Pacific and Arctic Oceans.
Home to 144 million people, it is the ninth most inhabited country in the world, while taking up one-eighth of the world’s total landmass. Just over 77% of Russian citizens live in the western region, belonging to Europe; East Russia remains less populated.
The history of Russia dates back to the existence of East Slavs, between 800-900 AD. Since then, control has waxed and waned. It has shifted from a socialistic society to a now, semi-presidential government, as the power of decision is split between a president and prime minister.
If you are planning to tour Russia, know that there are different regions, various languages spoken, and many customs observed. It can be seemingly overwhelming to organize a trip to such a massive country, but we promise, it will be worth your journey!
Europe and Asia
Russian, Ukrainian, Tatar, Tuvin, Chuvash, Azerbaijani
Important dates in Russia
|Jan 1||Monday||New Year’s Day||National holiday|
|Jan 2||Tuesday||New Year Holiday Week||National holiday|
|Jan 3||Wednesday||New Year Holiday Week||National holiday|
|Jan 4||Thursday||New Year Holiday Week||National holiday|
|Jan 5||Friday||New Year Holiday Week||National holiday|
|Jan 7||Sunday||Orthodox Christmas Day||National holiday, Orthodox|
|Jan 8||Monday||New Year Holiday Week||National holiday|
|Jan 14||Sunday||Old New Year||Observance|
|Feb 14||Wednesday||Valentine’s Day||Observance|
|Feb 23||Friday||Defender of the Fatherland Day||National holiday|
|Feb 27||Tuesday||Special Operations Forces Day||De facto holiday|
|Mar 8||Thursday||International Women’s Day||National holiday|
|Mar 9||Friday||Bridge Public holiday||National holiday|
|Mar 20||Tuesday||March equinox||Season|
|Apr 8||Sunday||Orthodox Easter Day||Observance, Orthodox|
|Apr 28||Saturday||Working day – moved weekend||Working day (moved weekend)|
|Apr 30||Monday||Spring and Labor Day Holiday||National holiday|
|May 1||Tuesday||Spring and Labor Day||National holiday|
|May 2||Wednesday||Spring and Labor Day Holiday||National holiday|
|May 9||Wednesday||Victory Day||National holiday|
|Jun 9||Saturday||Working day – moved weekend||Working day (moved weekend)|
|Jun 11||Monday||Russia Day Weekend||National holiday|
|Jun 12||Tuesday||Russia Day||National holiday|
|Jun 21||Thursday||June Solstice||Season|
|Sep 1||Saturday||Day of Knowledge||De facto holiday|
|Sep 23||Sunday||September equinox||Season|
|Nov 4||Sunday||Unity Day||National holiday|
|Nov 5||Monday||Unity Day observed||National holiday|
|Dec 21||Friday||December Solstice||Season|
Make sure you take note of these dates. At the beginning of the year, there are many traditional celebrations, so most local places will have limited hours or will be completely closed for nearly a week. There will be festivities (celebrations, parades), but if you are planning to go to certain galleries and museums, you might want to plan your trip for after the New Year and Orthodox Christmas holiday.
- Before taking off from airports, the attendants usually say, “Присядем на дорожку,” which means “let’s sit down for the road.” Traditionally, this would be a time of silence, in which the passengers would say a quick prayer to prepare for the journey.
- New Year’s is much more important than Christmas.
- While a little under 75% of Russia’s landmass is actually in Asia, only 22% of the population actually inhabits this area.
- Many Russians go mushroom foraging; others pick berries, but mushrooms are more common.
Good to know
You will want to apply for a visa to Russia at the very least a month in advance, before you are leaving on your excursion. You should try to start the application even earlier, in case you need to provide more documentation; this is rather normal. Visit your home nation’s governmental website to find out more about the requirements to make your Russian trip happen…
Culture and Etiquette in Russia
Winston Churchill once said, “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” His sentiment still seems to ring true with many people. It is difficult to grasp the culture and custom of Russia’s large, seemingly rigid persona. All the same, Russians are known for the their fun-loving New Year’s celebrations, exquisite art, philosophical literature, and smooth vodka.
That is not all; Christianity is prominent. Mixing copious amounts of vodka and beautiful, artistically-decorated, well-respected churches, in the same country? Yes, they actually practice the juxtapose quite eloquently. The churches are worth a tour, especially in the capital city of Moscow. It is considered best etiquette for women to wrap their heads and cover their shoulders upon entering the church. Men are asked to remove hats and not to wear shorts. In some churches, women might be asked to wrap up in an extra skirt, which will most likely be provided.
Russia is not the United States, Moscow is not D.C., and that is not the White House.It is a huge ‘no-no’ to take photos of governmental buildings. Refrain from taking photos of official-looking buildings. While they might be gorgeous, let them be just that. Take a mental photo and carry on. There have been far too many people arrested and/or fined for seemingly innocent activity. You do not want this to be you! There is too much exploration to be had.
Since there are 11 different timezones across the state of Russia, it is in your best interest that you check and double-check train, bus, and plane times. If you are confused, try to ask someone. It can be extremely confusing for anyone, especially a first-time traveler. Asking for help is not a dumb thing to do; just be politely insistent. If you need to ask more than one person, that is okay.