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Russia

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!

Russia

Europe and Asia

Russian, Ukrainian, Tatar, Tuvin, Chuvash, Azerbaijani

Russian Ruble

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.

Explore Russian holidays and specific symbolism.

Interesting facts

  • 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…

Explore Russia’s government site.

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.

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Russia spans over an eighth of the earth’s landmass. With space to roam, a nature lover can enjoy beaches, tundras, mountains, and lakes. There is much to see within the Russian borders; historically, there have been many shifts in power, making it an interesting grounds for history buffs and cultural lovers.

For those who enjoy art, meandering through certain Russian cities might actually feel like walking a living, breathing art gallery. Russia has housed many artists and philosophers, making it an eclectic space of progressive thought.

Remember, Western Russia is quite different than Eastern Russia, so make sure you are doing your research and planning. If you want to visit both parts of the country, you will need to take a plane, unless you have a month or two to tour. It takes a rather long time to trek across the country, and it is not a trip for the weak of heart. The temperature difference can be astounding once you cross from the West to the East.

Peterhof Palace

The idea of this palace was birthed in 1705, by Peter the Great. A site to see in the center of Saint Petersburg, some liken it to Versailles. Consisting of palaces, intertwined with magnificent gardens, it is a fairytale scene, straight from a Disney movie.

Even with a magical aura, it was still stained by the blood of war history, as Nazis ruled over Saint Petersburg for the better portion of World War II. During the time, they destroyed intricate pieces of the palace, along with eloquently, handcrafted fountains. It is a shame, but fortunately, most of the structure has been restored and brought back to its original beauty.

To explore more

Peter & Paul Cathedral

A large, narrow steeple ascends over the cathedral, in a way to symbolize its prominent, important space in Saint Petersburg. It is the first and longest standing landmark in the city, as Christianity has shaped Russian history. Starting as a stone church, it has since undergone interior renovation. With a gold encrusted alter, it is truly a magnificent site to see.

To explore more

Kizhi Island

Kizhi Island sits in close proximity to Lake Onega. Inhabited since the 15th century, settlements, communities, and churches have been built upon the isle. It is a mere 6 kilometers long and only 1 kilometer wide. On the isle, there are educational opportunities to learn more about the natives of Karelia. With the reconstruction of this village, traditional crafts and tasks are acted out throughout the day, as they would be in a peasant life a century ago. It is forbidden to stay on the island over night, as there is a mission to preserve its integrity as much as possible, so just plan a day trip!

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Russia spans over an eighth of the earth’s landmass. With space to roam, a nature lover can enjoy beaches, tundras, mountains, and lakes. There is much to see within the Russian borders; historically, there have been many shifts in power, making it an interesting grounds for history buffs and cultural lovers.

For those who enjoy art, meandering through certain Russian cities might actually feel like walking a living, breathing art gallery. Russia has housed many artists and philosophers, making it an eclectic space of progressive thought.

Remember, Western Russia is quite different than Eastern Russia, so make sure you are doing your research and planning. If you want to visit both parts of the country, you will need to take a plane, unless you have a month or two to tour. It takes a rather long time to trek across the country, and it is not a trip for the weak of heart. The temperature difference can be astounding once you cross from the West to the East.

Peterhof Palace

The idea of this palace was birthed in 1705, by Peter the Great. A site to see in the center of Saint Petersburg, some liken it to Versailles. Consisting of palaces, intertwined with magnificent gardens, it is a fairytale scene, straight from a Disney movie.

Even with a magical aura, it was still stained by the blood of war history, as Nazis ruled over Saint Petersburg for the better portion of World War II. During the time, they destroyed intricate pieces of the palace, along with eloquently, handcrafted fountains. It is a shame, but fortunately, most of the structure has been restored and brought back to its original beauty.

To explore more

Peter & Paul Cathedral

A large, narrow steeple ascends over the cathedral, in a way to symbolize its prominent, important space in Saint Petersburg. It is the first and longest standing landmark in the city, as Christianity has shaped Russian history. Starting as a stone church, it has since undergone interior renovation. With a gold encrusted alter, it is truly a magnificent site to see.

To explore more

Kizhi Island

Kizhi Island sits in close proximity to Lake Onega. Inhabited since the 15th century, settlements, communities, and churches have been built upon the isle. It is a mere 6 kilometers long and only 1 kilometer wide. On the isle, there are educational opportunities to learn more about the natives of Karelia. With the reconstruction of this village, traditional crafts and tasks are acted out throughout the day, as they would be in a peasant life a century ago. It is forbidden to stay on the island over night, as there is a mission to preserve its integrity as much as possible, so just plan a day trip!

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