The unknown Russia: dissolving the myths
A vast snow-clad country, the native land of vodka, bears and the KGB: myths about Russia seem to be an integral part of its image. The reality is a heady mix of people, traditions and history.
Spanning 9 time zones and two continents, Russia puzzles and fascinates. Taking up an immense space, a home to different nationalities and cultures, it’s often called a bridge between the East and the West. You can spend a lifetime exploring it without ever unveiling all its mysteries or feel at home over a week-end.
It’s a country of snow-covered plains and sizzling seaside, never-ending forests and high peaks, vibrant cities and forlorn villages. Everything’s on a grand scale. For centuries Russia’s been changing and re-inventing itself. It’s seen great glory and great downfalls. Emerging as one of the world’s top powers, it’s still dealing with its Soviet past. A land of age-old traditions and contrasts. For almost a century it’s been seen as “an evil empire”. Some believe it still is. Others think it’s carving itself a new place in the world.
A challenge as much as a destination, it’s the unknown Russia. It’s up to you to discover it.
Once Putin’s right-hand man, President Medvedev has vowed to put his own stamp on Putin’s policies while fighting against corruption.
Nikita Mikhalkov is the Russian filmmaker and actor.
An ardent proponent of non-figurative art as the supreme form of human creative activity, Kazimir Malevich is best known among the general public for his “Black Square” painting.
A week of celebrations preceding the Great Lent, marking the end of winter and welcoming spring.
From spy to President, the enigmatic Mr. Putin is largely credited with getting Russia back on its feet. However, many say that Russia’s stability came with a cost.
Anna Netrebko is a Russian soprano opera singer, and a People’s Artiste of Russia.
Rudolf Nureyev was a ballet dancer from the Soviet Union known throughout the world for his breathtakingly talented performances and fantastic commitment.
Vladimir Nabokov is Russian-American writer, lecturer and entomologist. Most famous for his novel, Lolita, about a literary scholar’s obsession with a 12 year old girl.
Prince Oleg is the legendary hero of the Ancient Rus.
These special days are reminders of the events that shaped the history and culture of Russia.
Alexander Ovechkin is the Russian professional ice hockey player.
Lyubov Orlova is the most glamorous and popular actress of Soviet cinema.
Mikhail Piotrovsky is a Russian scientist and the Director of the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.
The post-Soviet constitution set a new basis for the country’s structure, a first in Russian history.
Some 140 thousand people from nearly 160 different ethnic groups inhabit Russia, but the majority are Russian.
Aleksandr Pushkin is considered Russia's greatest poet and the founder of modern Russian literature.
The collapse of the USSR, the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and Yeltsin’s reforms gone awry mark a period of great difficulty for a Russia in transition.
The Romanov Dynasty (1613 to 1917) was the last imperial dynasty to rule Russia. During the Romanov reign Russia became and remained a major European power.
Russia is home to all three of the world’s dominant religions, with thousands of churches and mosques making up some of the finest architectural masterpieces.
Grigory Rasputin, a peasant who exerted a powerful influence over Nicholas II and Aleksandra, is one of the most mysterious figures of Russian history.
When talking about Russian cuisine, shchi, the delicious hot soup, is one of the most distinguishable dishes – along with pelmeni and okroshka.
Andrey Sakharov was a brilliant scientist, designing the hydrogen bomb and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Joseph Stalin is one of the most controversial and enigmatic figures in Russian history and is still the subject of fierce discussions.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Russian Nobel prize-winning author who exposed the horror of Soviet prison labor camps and gave new meaning to the word "gulag."
A key figure in the history of science, Tsiolkovsky, never having had a degree, conducted studies on rocketry, paving the way for conquering space.
Three-horse open sleigh or carriage.
The last Ryurik Dynasty member dies with no heir and Russia plunges into the Time of Troubles, bringing the closest royal relative, Mikhail Romanov, to the throne, and the Romanov Dynasty begins.
A Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy is widely seen as one of the greatest European novelists of all time.
Criticized for his horrific Gulag labor camps and mass repressions by some, others praise Stalin for turning Russian into an industrial powerhouse.
Vladimir Ustinov is ex-Prosecutor General and a current Presidential Envoy to the Southern Federal District of the Russian Federation.
Fyodor Ushakov was responsible for the modernization of the Russian Navy in the 18th century. His military operations are still carefully studied in naval academies worldwide today – over 200 years later.
Galina Ulanova was an iconic figure in Soviet ballet, called by another legendary dancer of the 20th century, Rudolf Nureev, “the world's Number One ballerina.”
Vishnevskaya is the beacon of modern classical music and the diva of international opera, whose exquisite soprano has impressed audiences all over the world.
Mittens, which were brought to Russia by Varyags, the warlords of Scandinavia.
Felt winter boots worn in Russia for centuries.
Nikolai Valuev is a Russian boxer who became the Russian Champion in 1999 and Champion of the World, according to the Pan-Asian Boxing Association in 2000.
Admiral Ferdinand Wrangel was an outstanding scientist and seaman who made two world cruises and was a notable public figure.
From the creation of NATO and the KGB to the space and arms race, the Cold War saw the passing of Josef Stalin and the theatrics of Nikita Khrushchev.
Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of Russia in 1812 becomes the turning point in a series of Napoleonic Wars, becoming the subject of the world-renowned novel “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy.
Count Sergei Witte was a highly influential Russian policy-maker, witnessing the abolition of serfdom and the first Russian Revolution.
Yermak conquered and annexed Siberia, which was the most significant event in Russian history before the rule of Peter the Great.
Valentin Yudashkin is Russia’s most famous fashion designer and the only Russian designer to be honored with membership in the Syndicate of High Fashion in Paris.
Yeltsin put an end to the USSR, becoming the first president of the post-Soviet Russia.
In 2000 FIFA named Lev Yashin as the best goalkeeper of the 20th century and established the Yashin Award for the Best Goalkeeper.
Appetizers or the little bites consumed with vodka, or any other alcoholic drink.
Georgy Zhukov, also known as the ‘Victory Marshall,’ was a life long professional soldier and three times Hero of the Soviet Union.
Zworykin is known for his contribution to the development of many electronic devices, including the all-electronic television.
It is only now that the name of Slava Zaitsev has actually become synonymous with exquisite taste and high fashion in Russia.
Orphaned at the age of three and brought up by relatives in a remote area in Northern Russia, Roman Abramovich has been ranked the 15th richest man in the world by Forbes.
The country’s enormous territory is divided into more than 80 unique and diverse federal entities.
Despite being 1.72 meters tall, Andrey Arshavin is the biggest star in Russian soccer.
The Guiness World Records winner, this automatic assault rifle designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov in 1949 is still the most widely used weapon in the world.
Learn more about Russia’s population, political and economic systems, administrative division and social structure.
Russian fastfood chain, similar to the French. The word originates from the Russian "bistro" meaning "quick" taught to the French during Russian occupation in Napoleonic times.
Timur Bekmambetov is recognized as one of the most talented Post-Soviet Russian film directors and the only Russian film director to enjoy success in Hollywood.
The classic wicked witch of the Russian fairy tales.
People living in settlements along the southern border of the Russian Empire, who in exchange for their independent living helped protect the country from enemies.
Soviet, and now Russian word for what the English-speaking countries call an austronaut.
The Arctic chills of the north and the subtropical temperatures of the south span one-seventh of the earth’s dry land - Russia.
Anton Chekhov is the most insightful and époque-making dramatist in Russia, author of world famous plays, mostly through their interpretation by the Moscow Art Theater.
Sergey Diagilev is considered to be the first Russian to bring Russian art abroad. His Ballets Russes attained an unprecedented level of fame from 1909 until 1929.
Flat thick potato pancakes, which are traditionally made without any flour.
Father Frost, the Russian Santa Claus.
Fyodor Dostoevsky was one of Russia’s greatest writers, one whose works are read and discussed all over the world.
Ilya Ehrenburg was a prolific Russian writer and journalist.
Russia’s oil driven economic boom continues, while the country still aspires to join the WTO.
Sergey Esenin's flamboyant personality, peasant origins, and craving for self-destruction have forever canonized him as Russia's favorite "hooligan poet."
A film director and father of montage cinema, Sergey Eisenstein's works are still regarded as among the most significant in cinema history.
Russia's growing industrialization stimulates a strong socialist movement among workers, who seek revolution in the country. They succeed in February 1917.
The little window, which is usually the top part of the main window frame. One may keep it open to air the room even during the most severe Russian winter.
Throughout his life, Svyatoslav Fyodorov had done just that, helping hundreds of thousands of people through his pioneering eye surgery.
Viacheslav Fetisov is one of the most decorated players in the history of hockey with Olympic golds, seven World champion titles and holder of two Stanley Cup rings.
After stagnation under Brezhnev, Gorbachev finally takes the first real steps to end the cold war and implements economic reforms with ‘Glasnost’ and ‘Perestroika’.
Nikolay Gogol was a Ukrainian-born writer, playwright, poet, critic and publicist.
Valery Gergiev, head of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, is one of the most sought after conductors in the world, applauded at the podiums of major opera houses and orchestras.
Yury Gagarin was the first man to orbit the earth in a man-made spacecraft leading the world into the era of the space exploration.
Aleksandr Ivanovich Herzen was a Russian radical writer and philosopher.
Boris Yeltsin left behind a controversial legacy, guiding Russia through a time of great change and challenge.
Following the October Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks seize power in Russia and start gearing up to build a communist union with their closest neighbors, known as Soviet Union.
From the moment he won the Cardiff Singer of the World competition in 1989, Dmitry Hvorostovsky has been hailed as one of the greatest voices of all times.
A cunning and cruel politician, Ivan Kalita greatly contributed to the development and enforcement of the Moscow principality.
Sergey Ivanov is First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia. He is a reserve colonel general and a member of the Russian Security Council.
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is the first and only president of the Russian Republic of Kalmykia to date and also the president of the World Chess Federation.
The saint, who became the prototype of an ancient Russian folk epic hero, known for his strength and courage, while fighting off the enemies.
Shaped in the 9th century, Kievan Rus is traditionally seen as the beginning of Russia and the precursor of Belarus and Ukraine.
Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet leader, who succeeded Stalin and exposed his personality cult, bringing the famous "Khrushchev thaw" to the country.
Alina Kabayeva is one of the most beautiful women in Russia and the country´s most successful rhythmic gymnast to date. Her career wins include 18 World Championship medals, 2 Olympic medals and 25 European Championship medals.
Once Russia’s richest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky became even more famous after he was sentenced to prison for the biggest tax fraud in Russian history.
Aleksey Leonov was the first man on Earth to perform a spacewalk.
While Russian is spoken by nearly 200 thousand people worldwide, it is only one of the 100 other languages spoken in the country.
Mikhail Lomonosov was the first Russian scientist who combined his outstanding scientific discoveries with laying the foundations of the modern Russian language.
Vladimir Lenin was the guiding spirit of the Soviet Republic, leader of the Bolshevik Party and the mastermind of the 1917 October Revolution.