Time to Speak Russian::Cultural Information
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Сultural information Grammar Notes Course Vocabulary


Cultural information 1

Immigration Card

миграционная карта

When you arrive to Russia and plan to stay there more then 72 hours, you are required to fill out an immigration card.The immigration card may be offered in English and in Russian. The problem is that the card is very often in Russian, which is why we would like to explain to you how to fill it out.The card is consisted of 2 parts, the both should be filled the same way. One part you should give when you arrive, the second one -when you leave Russia.You can use Latin alphabet.
You should fill the next blanks:

  1. фамилия - surname
  2. имя - name
  3. отчество - patronymic (the latter one is not required)
  4. дата рождения день, месяц , год - date of birth (dd/mm/yyyy/)
  5. пол: Муж./Жен. - sex (M/F)
  6. документ, удостоверяющий личность - kind of travel document (your passport number)
  7. гражданство - nationality
  8. цель визита (нужное подчеркнуть) - the purpose of your visit to Russia (please underline the applicable)
    • 8.1 служебный визит - official business
    • 8.2 туризм - tourism
    • 8.3 коммерческий визит - commerce
    • 8.4 Учеба - education
    • 8.5 Работа - employment
    • 8.6 Частный визит - privite
    • 8.7 Транзит - transit
  9. Сведения о приглашающей стороне (наименование физического или юридического лица, адрес) - information about inviting organisation (name of the privite person, address)
  10. идентификационный номер визы - visa ID
  11. номер приглашения на въезд - the number of your official invitation for entering the country
  12. срок пребывания с ... по - dates of your stay in Russia
  13. подпись - signature

Moscow airports


There are three international airports in Moscow: Sheremetyevo, Vnukovo and Domodedovo. You can get to the city by cab or by bus from each airport. It is possible to order a cab in advance or from the airport, the price is 1000-1500 roubles to downtown Moscow. If you arrived to Domodedovo airport, you can get to the city by a very comfortable non-stop train for only 200 rubles.

On the way out from the airport, there is going to be a lot of drivers who will offer you to take a ride from them in a private car. It is very expensive and often just dangerous

Why Russians don't smile?


Foreigners often put this question to themselfs, because they pay attention to it immediately in Russia. " May be a smile is not expression of politeness in Russia?" - they think.- " May be Russians can't smile and laugh at all?"- think others. "We head that Russians are gloomy and agressive -that's true, we see it now with our own eyes",- other group decides. So is it true that Russians don't like to smile?

Of course not! Russians like anecdotes and jokes, they prefere comedies instead tragedes. One can see a lot of spectetors at the performances with comic actors and showmen. Russian like to laugh very much!

However, a Russian smiles and laughs easily when he feels relaxed - with close freinds, at home with his family. But there is not a common rule, a habbit to smile politely to unknown person in the street or to a neighbouer in your house. This rule of behaviour did't become a standard form of politeness in modern Russia yet. Because of pecularities of Russian culture, history, traditions formal smile to unknown person ( it's very impotrant that's the person is unknown, alien) was not an obligatory element of Russian traditional communicative culture ( if you compare for examper with such easten countries like Japan or China).

Now Russia if under both influences -from East and from West, and you can see how formal polite smile appears on russian faces: you see smiles in a good restaurant, in a fashinable boutique, in a hotel - everywhere in the places where you are beloved client. In othere spheres of live the process goes not so fast.

You can be convicted that Russians are friendly, polite and well-disposed - let's addrees with a question or request to unkown person even in the street. Smile and say:" Exuse me, please, I am a foreigner and don't know the town (country, language etr). I don't know how (to buy a ticket, to find the stop or metro station, to have some coffer etr). Could you help me, please!" You see the result with your own eyes!

Cultural information 2

How to address a person you don’t know. The words «Молодой человек!», «Девушка!»


One of the peculiarities of the Russian language today is the fact that there are no generally accepted neutral address words to appeal an unknown person – a man or a woman.

Such kind of words were used before the revolution 1917. They were сударь (sir) and сударыня (madam), господин (mister) and госпожа (mistress). The revolution changed not only life in Russia, but also the Russian language and speech. People started to frequently use the word товарищ (comrade) to address both men and women. In formal relationship, especially in the written speech and documents, the word гражданин (citizen) was used.

Along with disintegration of the Soviet Union the soviet word товарищ also vanished, but no new word took it’s stand. The empty space was filled by the expressions «Молодой человек!» (a young man) и «Девушка!» (a girl). Nowadays, if you want to address an unknow person you can say «Молодой человек!». Please note that it’s absolutely unimportant how old the person you address to is – 20 or 60 years old. Don’t be confused to use these words and expressions and don’t think about their exact meaning.

Weather in Moscow


Russia is a huge country that’s why the climate is different in different parts of the country. Foreigners usually think that winters are very cold and snowy on the whole territory of Russia. This isn’t true: the weather in the European part of Russia is not very cold in winter; some winters do not even have much snow. Of course it’s connected with the problems of global warming. It’s usually warmer in big cities and there is less snow there than in small villages.

Winter can start very early - in the second half of November. It often snows and average temperatures can be - 2 – 4 C. The snow falls but melts quickly; it doesn’t stay on the ground. In December and in January temperature can go down –10-15 C, and snow can create big problems for transport.

November and December are the darkest months in a year. It’s getting light only in 8.30 am, and it’s already dark in 4 pm. The sun appears very rarely, the sky is grey and lifeless and this is a big problem for people. There’s even a term “autumn depression”.

In February it snows a lot and the sun comes often. This is the best winter month. Sometimes winter continues in March too. It may snow in March and temperature is not higher than –2-5 C. Real spring comes only in the middle of April.

A question about nationality? Strange…


In Russia a foreigner can often hear in reply to the question “Who are you?” an answer “I’m Russian”, “I’m Ukrainian”, “I’m a Tatar”, etc. It can be explained by the fact that in Russia such notions as nationality and citizenship are traditionally synonymous, categories that are interchangeable. An American (nationality and citizenship) is from America, an Italian (nationality and citizenship) is from Italy, a German (nationality and citizenship) is from Germany.

The situation in the world has changed a lot, globalization process created societies which consist on citizens of different nationalities living in one country. But Russian language didn’t have enough time to react on this phenomenon. That’s why let us not be surprised and embarrassed, if you’re asked about your nationality! This is the same as to ask what country you are from.

By the way, people of different “non-Russian” nationalities, such as the Tatars, the Chuvashs, the Bashkirs, the Eskimos and others live in Russia. When they go abroad, all of them not being Russians by nationality become Russians automatically. That’s why “Russians” means from Russia.

Cultural information 3

When to use “you” and “You”?

Russian people call each other differently.


In official situations, in the documents or when you see a person for the first time, it’s a tradition to use a name and a patronymic (father’s name in a special form): Ivan Petrovich, Maria Nikolayevna. The names “Ivan”, “Maria” are full first names. “Petrovich”, “Nikolayevna” are special forms from the names “Petr”, “Nikolai”. However young people because of their age and influence of Western culture prefer to give only their first names: Alexei, Natalya, Anna, Sergey. But an official “You” is preserved.


Among close friends, in the family and at school people don’t use their “full” names, they use diminutive forms. For example: for the name Alexei a short form is Aljosha, for Maria – Masha, for Petr – Petja, for Lev – Ljova, etc. Such short forms tell us about close and informal relationships between people. People in such cases use “you” – “ты”. Be attentive: there’re names in short forms in Russian which end on –а (Vanja, Serjozha, Aljosha, Dima) and look the same as female but are male names!

There’s another short and tender form addressing people: Mashenjka, Serjozhenjka, Oljechka. Kids and close ones can be called like this. This form is made with the help of different suffixes (-еньк, -оньк, ечк) to the short form of a name.

Thus, you can guess what relationships are between people if you know how people address each other.

Hotels Of Moscow

Шаблон Шаблон

Moscow is a huge city where now 10 millions people live. 2 millions arrive to Moscow for a work every day from suburb and country side and no one knows how many tourists visit Moscow! Unfortunately there exists a real problem with staying in the hotel in Moscow, it concerns especially cheap hotels in the down town area. So it’s better to book a room in the hotel in advance. Today it’s more convenient and easy to do it through Internet. There are a lot of special informative online sites –they help you to chose and book the room you like.Here there are some of them - try youself!

The information here is in Russian. There is a big hotel list for different accommodations and prices. You can receive all the information (prices, pictures, references) and choose what you wish.
big hotel list, all the information is in English.
The biggest hotel list is on this site. You may also find the information about hotel location and infrastructure of the area.

Safety problem


Those who came to Russia for the first time are very concerned about personal safety. Is it safe to walk along some streets and districts, can one come back home from a restaurant or a theatre late in the evening?

It’s necessary to say that in terms of safety living in Moscow for a foreigner is approximately the same as in other European capitals. That’s why it’s better to keep basic safety rules when you come to Russia: to keep an eye on your things in the airport or a railway station, to be cautious in the metro in rush hours (pick-pocketing or mobile thefts are possible), not to come back home alone and late in the evening, etc.

You have to know, that there are no special dangerous places in Moscow and other cities of Russia as, for example, in the USA. In the day time you can go or walk in the downtown or in the outskirts where you like safely.

The peculiarity for a foreigner in Russia is that a policeman may ask for your documents in the street just to check. That’s why it’s better to have documents, such as a passport, a visa and a registration for dwelling with you. You will have your visa in your passport, of course, and as for the registration, it’ll be given to you in the hotel automatically. No other additional documents should be asked. Students can show a student card instead of the passport, diplomats can show a diplomat card.

Cultural information 4

How and what do the Russians eat?


Russians used to eat 3 times a day: in the morning before leaving for a work they have breakfast. Lunch time - at 13-14. After work they have their supper at home. Usually they do not eat a lot for breakfast: a sandwich, eggs or firied eggs, cottage cheese or yougourt. Russians drink tea or coffee in the morning.

Russian dinner takes place within the period from 1 to 3 pm. Today more and more people have dinner in the cafes and restaurants, there was no such tradition in the past. Sometimes there’s a special canteen in the office for the employees. People have soup, main dish and tea or juice for dinner.


In the evening the whole family has supper at home. For supper there’s usually one hot dish and a tea.

In big cities more and more people have recently started to have dinner in cafes and inexpensive restaurants. There’s a special price for dinner from 12 to 16 pm (it’s called “business lunch” price in the menu) not more than 300 roubles.

There’s a tradition in Russia to give bread: white and black to every meal. Black bread is made out of rye. It has a specific pleasant taste. Black bread was traditionally baked in Russia. The idea of motherland is usually associated with the taste of black bread. Russian people who live outside Russia are always missing the taste of rye bread. Do not forget to taste black bread!

Foreigners often think that Russians drink vodka as often as they eat. This is not true! Of course, people drink vodka in Russia, but usually when there are many people at the table: family members, friends, acquaintances and when there is a reason, an important event, holiday, birthday, a wedding, etc. Beer becomes more popular now in Russia, but people usually do not drink beer in winter time, when it’s cold. And in summer when it’s hot, a popular national beverage kvass becomes very popular. It helps to stop the thirst in summer time.

Moscow restaurants and cafes


There’re many different restaurants in Moscow where you can try any cuisine: Italian, Russian, Georgian, French, etc. One can find information about restaurants in the newspaper “The Moscow Times” or in the Internet on the information sites rambler.ru, mail.ru in the section “Restaurants”. If you’re looking for inexpensive ones, it’s worth mentioning the network of restaurants “Mu-Mu”, “Jolki-Palki” and “Grabli”. These are comfortable, middle sized restaurants of self-service, where you can have lunch or dinner for 300-400 roubles. Here the owners try to keep traditional Russian cuisine. Dishes resemble homemade ones. They are simple and very tasty.


Walking along the streets of Moscow you can drop in at one of the cafes of the city: “Coffee House”, “Shokoladniza”, “Coffeemania”, etc. The minimum price for a cup of espresso is 60 roubles. You can also take some juice or a cocktail, a sandwich, a salad or a cake.

If you don’t have enough time to sit in a café, you can buy food in a kiosk in the street. You can find inexpensive and tasty food in such kiosks as “Kroshka-Kartoshka” (a very big potato with a salad inside), or “Russian Bliny” (pancakes with different fillings).


In big and expensive restaurants you can pay by a credit card or cash. If you want to pay cash, find out beforehand if they take it or not. Sometimes they don’t take credit cards in small places, they take only cash. Speaking about the tips, there’re no strict rules in Russia regarding additional for “tea”, as it’s called. Usually it’s 10-15 % from the total account.

If you come to the restaurant or a café with a Russian girl, take into account that she will be waiting for a man to pay. There is a tradition in Russia that men pay the bills. Of course, if a girl says proudly that she will pay, then there’s nothing to worry about. If you go to the restaurant in a big company, people agree beforehand who will pay. Usually these are men, who divide the bill between them.

Russian cuisine

Russian Oven

In the ancient times all dishes in Russia were cooked in the Russian oven. The temperature inside was not so high as the temperature of the open fire, but it could stay high for a long time. A clay pot was put inside the oven and the food was being cooked for a long time. That was why all the dishes were semi liquid. The most traditional Russian dishes are dishes from veggies and wheat: porridges, dough dishes (bread, pirogi) and all kinds of soups. Even today we have a proverb: “Shchi and porridge is our food”. People ate little meat and more often they ate fish.


We eat and we like porridges: from wheat or buckwheat even today. Porridges are given to kids for breakfast. Buckwheat is eaten as a separate dish or side dish. If you cook buckwheat porridge right, add some butter into it, you’ll find it very delicious. Porridges are often eaten with milk. You have to add milk to the plate with porridge or you can cook buckwheat porridge with milk..


The main food in Russia is bread. People eat a lot of bread, bread is always served to the table despite the number of dishes. In the former times a worker or a peasant usually ate from half to a kilo of black bread with soup. This was often all his dinner.

There’re many kinds of bread in Russia, but you can divide this into two main groups: ”white” bread (from wheat flour) and “black” bread (from rye flour). “Black” or “brown” bread is made from rye and is traditionally Russian bread. It has specific taste and aroma and you can taste it only in Russia.


The history of blyny is as old as the history of bread. When Slavic tribes were still pagan blyny were considered sacred food. Lots of traditions were connected with blyny. They were cooked by peopled dressed in special clothes in special places and cooking was a mystery for many. The first pancake was left for the souls of dead predecessors – people wanted to be taken care of by them. In the long run pancakes became very important in the pagan spring holiday Maslennitsa (Pancake Week). It was the holiday of meeting the Spring. A pancake is round and hot and it looks like the sun. All people in Russia cooked and ate pancakes. People contacted the sun which brings warmth and spring. People ate lots of pancakes. For the whole week people were eating, singing songs about spring and burning a scarecrow of a Pancake Week, which imitated winter.

Шаблон Шаблон

Traditionally people cooked big and round pancakes from different sorts of flour (today pancakes are made mostly from wheat flour). Pancakes should be soft and friable. In Russia one has to put butter or sour cream on pancakes to make them softer. It’s better to eat such pancakes with salty fish or caviar. You can put such adding to a pancake, wrap it and eat. To feel Russian one can also drink a shot of vodka before eating a pancake. This is traditional Russian dish! Today people eat pancakes not only during a Pancake Week. One can also meet not only traditional pancakes but lots of other types: small sized pancakes with lots of sweet addings: jams, condensed milk, etc. This is really tasty but most Russians prefer to eat pancakes with salty addings.

Today people eat pancakes not only during a Pancake Week. One can also meet not only traditional pancakes but lots of other types: small sized pancakes with lots of sweet addings: jams, condensed milk, etc. This is really tasty but most Russians prefer to eat pancakes with salty addings.


One has to name kvas among traditional Russian beverages. Kvas is a low alcoholic beverage (not more than 1.2% of alcohol in it). It’s made by natural brewry process. Kvas is more than 1000 years and it’s also popular in Lithuania and Poland.Kvas is light, foaming beverage, it’s very healthy and it helps to overcome thirst in hot months of summer. But kvas has specific shades of taste which a foreigner may not like. One has to get used to kvas. Kvas is now sold in plastic bottles in the shops.


A very unusual summer soup is cooked on the basis of kvas. It’s called okroshka. One usually puts boiled potatoes, fresh cucumbers, boiled eggs and green onion in okroshka. You have to cut all ingredients into small pieces and then put some kvas. It’s served with sour cream. This is typical okroshka but you can put all leftovers that you have at home: veggies, sausages and green herbs. The recipe for peasant okroshka is very simple: green onion, bread and kvas. Choose what you like.



One can mention traditional Russian soups: schi, borsch,okroshka, soljanka and fish soup. You know about okroshka, now let’s cook a famous Russian borsch.


Borsch is a soup made out of beets. People in many Slavic and European countries: Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Moldova, Lithuania, etc. like to cook it. The basis for borsch is meat broth where you add such veggies as beet, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, parsley, onion, tomatoes, and sometimes beans, apples, zucchini and some meats. There are different types of borsch but one can make them more or less thick and fatty.


Shchi is a typically Russian dish not like international borsch. Many years ago all soups in Russia were called shchi, later only cabbage soups were called shchi. Fresh cabbage as well as sour cabbage was used in shchi. Sour cabbage gave unforgettable sour flavor to this dish. Classical shchi is cooked on the beef broth (sometimes on fish broth). Onion, carrot, celery, potato, dill, sometimes mushrooms, and cabbage are necessary ingredients of shchi. One puts pieces of boiled meat or fish into the plate then add shchi and sour cream on top. It’s better to eat shchi with brown bread.


Spring time is good for cooking green shchi. It’s cooked from young sprouts of sorrel or nettle. We call it shchi because it is as sour as shchi. Green shchi is served with sour cream and cut boiled eggs.

solyanka (a spicy soup of vegetables and meat or fish)

Soljanka is not so popular as shchi, because it’s more difficult to cook it. In ancient times soljanka was called seljanka from the Russian word “sjelo” – “a big village”. Perhaps this soup was popular in the village. It looks like shchi, because the base is meat or fish or mushroom broth. Besides vegetable ingredients (potatoes, cabbage, onion, carrots) one has to add sour and salty ones: salty cucumbers, a lemon, olives, salty mushrooms and a lot of cut meat of different kinds or fish. One should add herbs and tomato paste to make this soup thick and flavory.

Attention! There is one more dish in the Russian cuisine under the same name “Soljanka”. This is a dish made from stewed cabbage and it doesn’t have anything in common with soljanka soup!

fish soup

Fish soup is sometimes is called Ucha which is no right. Ucha is a soup made from fresh fish with clear broth where one can see small pieces of fish. One can use one type or several types of fish for Ucha. Carrot and onion which is added to the broth in the beginning of cooking is taken away afterwards and only some potatoes and herbs are left: peper, parsely, dill and bay leaf.


Cultural information 5

An acquaintance or a friend?


Foreigners often don’t know when to use the word “an acquaintance “and when “a friend”. This happens because in Russian these words have additional meaning.

Usually we use the word “an acquaintance” when we want to show that there’s no friendship between people. Usually we speak using this word about a colleague or a neighbor. Or sometimes we can call a person whom we don’t know well “an acquaintance”.

We say “a friend”, when we want to stress, that we know this person well and for a long time. People often say “ a school friend”, “an old friend”, and “a close friend”. One shares common interests and has close relationship with a friend. The word “a friend” toward a close person can be used regardless of gender. One can say: Maria is a close friend of mine”, “Sergey is my best friend”.

The word «подруга» “a girl friend” is an equivalent to the word “friend”, when it’s used by a woman. But when it’s used by a man, this word gets and additional “sexual” connotation. That’s why if a Russian man wants to say that he has only friendly relationship with a woman, he uses the word “an acquaintance”. But if he wants to show that there’s not only friendship, but love between them, he says: “my girlfriend”, “my girl”.

Don’t forget about these peculiarities when you tell about your girlfriends!

Moscow Map


If you haven’t bought a map of Moscow yet, you are definitely thinking about it in the close future. When you come to an unknown city, it’s necessary to have a map. In any case, you can find Moscow map in internet on the following site: map.yandex.ru.

Look at the map: you’ll see that there are many “circle” streets. They encircle the central place which is the Kremlin. The Kremlin is a political and administrative centre of Russia. The President works in the Kremlin. Important governmental meetings and events take place there. Earlier the most important and the richest people of Russia lived there, for example, the Patriarch – Head of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Kremlin was both the dwelling and a fortress: that is why there’re such thick walls in the Kremlin. There are magnificent works of art and history from different centuries inside and outside of the Kremlin.

In the past all Moscow was inside the Kremlin. That’s why you can see such thick wall around it. Later the town began to grow and a new wall, another “ring” appeared, which took the name “Kitaj- Gorod”. Several centuries later one more “circle” street appeared: the boulevard ring, and at last the main circle thoroughfare of central Moscow today appeared : “Sadovoje” or “Garden” ring.

Radial streets appeared alongside circle ones. They were built to go to other Russian cities and towns: to the West- to the city of Smolensk – Smolenskaya street, to the town of Tver- Tverskaja street, to Dmitrov- Dmitrovskoje thoroughfare. Tverskaya street is traditionally one of the main central streets of Moscow. One can find the most expensive restaurants, shops, popular theatres, movie theatres, etc. here.

Metro map coincides in many ways with the ground structure of the city: there is a” circle “ line in the center of the city (people often call it “a ring” line) and many radial lines which cross the “ring” line. To get to the downtown, for example, to the Kremlin or to the Red Square, one needs to go to some central stations: “Arbatskaya” or “Ohotny Rjad” or “Biblioteka Lenina” or “Plocshadj Revoluzii”.

Russian Cuisine (part two)

pelmeny, meat dumplings

There is a favorite dish in Russian cuisine that many Russians mistakenly take for a traditionally Russian one. This is pelmeni. May be because this dish is so universal: one can eat it as a soup or as a main dish, one can store them for a long time.

Pelmeni came from Siberia to Russia. They were brought by the Mongols to Siberia, and this dish came to Mongolia from China. People in Siberia and the Urals were making pelmeni by the whole village, especially in late autumn, when first frosts fell on the ground. Pre-made pelmeni were put in big sacks and left in a cold place, sometimes near the house, on the snow: such pelmeni could be stored till springtime!

There is a tradition in Russia not to make pelmeni with sweet addings: only with ground meat, fish or mushrooms. Many Russians like to eat not only pelmeni but to drink the broth where they were cooked. One can add butter, pepper, sour cream and sometimes vinegar to pelmeni.


One more dish, to be more exact product, which found motherland in Russia is potatoes. It’s difficult to imagine that before 17-th century nobody heard about this vegetable. Peter the Great who was a great reformer in Russia, and who liked all new and unusual things, sent the first sack of exotic vegetable from Holland to Russia. Probably he didn’t explain well how to cook dishes from potatoes – nobody liked the vegetable. But the state wanted to plant potatoes without any explanation and it made people eat it. People got poisoned: the peasants didn’t know that it has to be boiled: they ate potatoes fresh: roots and stems. Only by the end of the 19-th centuary Russia understood what beautiful veggie it is. Today we call it “the second bread”. One can make more than 100 dishes out of it.


The most popular vegetable in ancient Russia is a turnip. It is from the cabbage family. As well as cabbage and carrot turnip can be stored during winter period, it grows well and doesn’t need lots labor to take care of it.


Turnip is a very healthy product. Some time ago it was used to cure different illnesses as well as food. Now turnip is not grown widely. It’s used for eating it fresh and some type of turnip is used as food for cattle.

One can eat turnip fresh and boiled. It’s so simple to cook different dishes from turnip that there’s even an expression in the Russian language: as simple as stewed turnip. This means that it’s very simple

The fact that turnip was very popular some time ago is reflected in a popular fairytale for small kids “A Turnip”. This fairytale tells that once upon a time a huge turnip has grown at the vegetable garden of an old man and his wife. It was so big that nobody could pull it out.


The word “vodka” is known in Russia from the 17-th century and it’s the derivative from the word “water”. In Russia people didn’t drink or manufacture vodka till the 15-th century, there were other low alcohol beverages like beer or honey. Since 15-th century vodka was made in Russian monasteries from wheat and since then Moscow prince Ivan III introduced state control on production and sales of vodka. The word “vodka” for dissolved alcohol in water was fixed only from 18-th century, before that such drink was called “bread wine”.

High quality of Russian vodka is explained by very high distillation of alcohol. In the middle of the 18-th century according to the state law noble people were permitted to manufacture vodka. Land owners started to implement this law so actively that one could find a small distillation plant practically everywhere. A specific of home made vodka is that berry extracts are added into it.

In 1894-1896 state standard for the quality of vodka was introduced. It consisted of 40 parts of ethyl alcohol which were put through coal filter. This drink was called “Moscow special”. At that time state monopoly was introduced on vodka. Gradually it was spread out around the whole country.

In Moscow and St.Petersburg there’re museums of Russian Vodka..


Many foreigners think that Russian people drink vodka every day, which is far from reality. People usually drink vodka and other alcoholic drinks during holidays with friends or relatives. There’s certain culture in Russia in drinking vodka. Vodka helps to digest different fatty hot spicy, salty Russian dishes. These dishes help people not to get drunk after drinking vodka.

One can drink a little of vodka in medical purposes: when a person is frozen vodka helps to warm and stimulates immune system. In medical purposes one can have very simple food after drinking vodka: a piece of rye bread or a salty cucumber.

One can not imagine the traditional Russian kitchen without it's two special dishes: kholodets and herring "under fur"!


Kholodets is one of the favorite national dishes, although one couldn't guess that at first: it doesn't look very appetizing.It is prepared in the following way: Several large pieces of meat, beef, or pork should be boiled on low heat for 4-5 hours. Kholodets requires only particular parts of meat - ideally, it can be the head, brain or legs of the cow, and, if you are using pork, you can also add it's ears and tail. During the boiling process, the meat softens and produces gelatin, which will later harden when cooled. The dish's name itself somewhat explains the preparation process - "kholodets" comes from "kholod", which means "cold". Before cooling, some vegetables are added to the meat substance - carrots, greens, garlic, and some spices. Then it is cooled for a while, and afterwards - the taste is unforgettable!

Sometimes fish is also cooked in a similar way, with gelatin being added to it. Cooking details are the same as in kholodets, except instead of using chunks of meat, pieces of fish are used. This dish is called "zalivnoe".

Шаблон Шаблон
Herring "under fur".

This dish with such a strange name is relatively new, but very popular. It first appeared during the Soviet times, when available food products were very limited. Nevertheless, one still wanted to be able to make nice dishes using the groceries they could use at the time. Perhaps it was only the creative Russian women who could come up with such an original dish that uses simple canned herring, and also give it such a funny name.Why is it called "herring under fur?" Because the herring is on the bottom of the dish, covered with several layers of vegetables, which become it's warm "fur coat".


The dish is extremely simple to prepare. First, you cover a flat dish (or a large plate) with pieces of herring. Then, on top of it, you add several layers of boiled vegetables: first potatoes, then carrots, and then beets. In between each layer should be a layer of mayonnaise. When the dish is ready, it can be decorated with greens and pieces of hard-boiled egg.


Some words about salads…

A salad is not a Russian dish. Russian people didn’t like such dishes where products were cut into small pieces. Russians were suspicious: why everything is cut into such small pieces and who knows what it is. Salads and appetizers started to appear in Russia beginning from the 18-th century when Western traditions were introduced to Russia. By the 20-th century appetizers were so varied and popular that some of them could be called “people” appetizers. The most popular one is the salad called “Olivier”, which is called “Russian” salad in Europe and the USA.

Salad “Olivier”

Lucien Olivier was the name of a Frenchman who lived in Moscow in the beginning of the 19-th century. He had a good restaurant and he invented a recipe for his restaurant specialty – a salad. This salad got the name “Olivier Salad”.

In the Soviet period when the choice of products was scarce, Russian women recalled about this simple and tasty recipe. They substituted hard-to-find ingredients into available-at-that time ones. Today one usually puts boiled veggies into the salad: carrots, potatoes, sausages or meat, eggs, fresh cucumbers and onion and add mayonnaise. The salad “Olivier” is ready. In some restaurants salad “Olivier” is called “Stolichny” but this is the same salad.

Salad “vinaigrette”

Another popular Russian salad is vinaigrette. This word came from French but in Russian it didn’t mean a sauce but a special dish was called so. One puts boiled veggies into this salad: potatoes, carrots, beats which gives sweet taste and red color to the salad. One has to add salty cucumbers (sometimes sauerkraut) and onion, add sunflower oil or mayonnaise.Another popular Russian salad is vinaigrette. This word came from French but in Russian it didn’t mean a sauce but a special dish was called so. One puts boiled veggies into this salad: potatoes, carrots, beats which gives sweet taste and red color to the salad. One has to add salty cucumbers (sometimes sauerkraut) and onion, add sunflower oil or mayonnaise.

Pay attention that Russians like mayonnaise and put this product into practically all salads. If you don’t like it, you have to tell about this before you will be served. Pay attention that Russians like mayonnaise and put this product into practically all salads. If you don’t like it, you have to tell about this before you will be served.

Pyrogy (a pie, cakes)

Cakes as well as pancakes were invented long ago. In Old Russ people liked doing cakes. It was very convenient to do them in the Russian stove. There were lots of types of different cakes: from different dough, different form and with different fillings. A pie was a symbol of home, good and crafty hostess and that’s why it played an important role during engagements, weddings and other festive and sad occasions. Later on cakes became obligatory part of a festive table. There’s a Russian proverb “there’s no Pancake week without a pancake and there’s no birthday day without a cake”.


Today pyrogy are made from non sweet dough with a filling from cabbage or meat. One puts a layer of dough then a filling and again dough. Small cakes are very popular. One can make cakes with salty or sweet fillings: apples jam etc. Two ways of cooking are possible: to bake in the oven or to fry in the open fire.


Tea came to Russia as well as to Europe from China as a gift in the 17-th century. At first it became popular as a medical beverage, later it spread throughout the country. At the fairs in Russia black tea was mostly sold. It was cheaper and soon all Russians got used to black tea.

Water for tea was boiled in special devices – samovars and tea was made in special small kettles. Nowadays nobody uses samovar daily, but the idea to use two separate kettles remained: one puts some strong tea into a cup first and then adds some boiling water.


People have tea at the end of meals and lots of sweets are accompany tea drinking: jam, sweet cakes, honey and lemon. Russians like to add a piece of lemon, sugar or honey to a cup of tea. This give excellent taste and aroma to tea.

Russian like to have tea quite often, after every meal: breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you dropped into a house for the first time, a polite hostess will offer you a cup of tea (with all additional things of course). This is a tradition of politeness that everyone knows. It’s easier to talk, to get acquainted while having tea: tea drinking doesn’t take a lot of time, but gives much pleasure to people.People have tea at the end of meals and lots of sweets are accompany tea drinking: jam, sweet cakes, honey and lemon. Russians like to add a piece of lemon, sugar or honey to a cup of tea. This give excellent taste and aroma to tea. Russian like to have tea quite often, after every meal: breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you dropped into a house for the first time, a polite hostess will offer you a cup of tea (with all additional things of course). This is a tradition of politeness that everyone knows. It’s easier to talk, to get acquainted while having tea: tea drinking doesn’t take a lot of time, but gives much pleasure to people.


Samovar is an ancient device for boiling water and cooking tea. The system was invented in China but in China nobody cooked tea with the help of samovar.

There is a tube in the middle of samovar into which one puts material for burning: coal, wood, etc. Water is between the tube and samovar itself. To make good burning process one puts a pipe on top of samovar. Water remains hot for a long time in samovar. This water is used for making tea in a small tea pot.


First samovars appeared in Russia in the town of Tula at the end of the 18-th century. Tula is a famous place of armory workshops. One of the craftsmen made the first samovar in his free time. Samovars became popular and production of samovars started to grow. A samovar producing factory appeared in Tula. In the middle of the 19-th century there were 28 samovar producing factories only in Tula. They produced 120 thousand samovars each year! Samovars were different: for 3 liters of water, for 5, 10 and even 25 liters!

Today people don’t use samovars often, but samovars are still produced in Tula. Today these are electrical samovars. If you ever come to Tula, visit a samovar museum, where you can find lots of different types of samovars and learn their history.


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Moscow metro is the fastest and most convenient transport in the capital.


If you want to go by metro, then you need to buy a pass at a ticket office located inside any metro station. You can buy a pass for one trip and go in any direction and as long as you wish with it. You can buy a pass for two, five or ten trips or a monthly pass. All fares are posted next to a ticket office window. When you give money to a cashier, it’s necessary to say what pass you would like to buy: for one trip, two trips, five trips, ten trips, etc.

There’s an electronic chip in every paper ticket. When you put a ticket to a turnstile, wait for the green light and go.

Metro lines are similar to all main city streets. You can see a CIRCLE line, which goes under the main thoroughfare of Moscow – “Sadovoye Koltso” or “Garden ring.” Radial metro lines cross the Circle line. The have different colors on the scheme. The places where lines cross are transfer stations. Transfer stations may have only one name, for example: Prospect Mira. In order not mix anything we say: Prospect Mira radial (orange color) and Prospect Mira circle (brown color). But transfer stations can also have two names: Dobryninskaya/ Serpuhovskaya, or even three names:Ohotny Rjad/Teatralnaya/Ploschad Revoljutsyi.T

There’s a scheme of all metro lines at every station and in any metro train carriage, so if you have some problems, don’t panic! You can have a look at the scheme once again and find a needed station in any place of Moscow metro.

VVTs/VDNH and other recreation places in Moscow.


VVTs means All Russian Exhibition Centre, which is located near metro station VDNH. This is a very interesting place in Moscow. One can have a walk, rest and visit many exhibitions, fairs and make shopping here.

VDNH is first of all a historical place, which reflects tastes and priorities of Soviet era. This was the time of severe repressions, killings of innocent people, poverty. In August 1, 1939 an exhibition is opened which demonstrates achievements of the Soviet people in agriculture. The visitors is this agricultural exhibition, which later on became permanent, admired abundance of huge fruits and veggies, big domestic animals, selected cereals. This is how a future society will live, this will be the life of communist “tomorrow”.

The best architects built beautiful palaces-pavilions for the exhibits of the exhibition. There was (and today you can see it ) a big Square of the Collective Farms with a fountain in the middle of the architectural ensemble. There’s a famous monument “A Worker and a Collective farmer” made by Vera Muchina in front of the entrance to the exhibition. This sculpture demonstrated a triumph of the Soviet society.

There was a recreation zone around the pavilions of the exhibition. You can study a popular “Stalin” style on their example. There was also a big park, some rollercoaster, a place for the summer theatre. One can spend his leisure time here as well as in another park of Moscow – Gorky Park. You can walk, roller skate, ride a bicycle, skate and ski in winter time here.


Moscow is a green city. There’s a green belt in the very centre of Moscow – the belt of boulevards. It’s called a Boulevard Ring, where one boulevard follows the other: Chistye Prudy, Sretensky Boulevard,Rozshdestvensky Boulevard, Petrovsky, Tverskoy, Nikitsky…

There’re small but very interesting ancient parks in the centre of the city: Alexandrovsky sad (metro station Alexandrovsky sad), Aptekarsky ogorod (metro station Prospect Mira), sad Ermitaz (metro station Raretny riad).

Kolomenskoye, (metro station Kolomenskoye), Ostankino, Kuskovo (metro station Rjazansky Prospect), Lefortovo, (metro station Aviamotornaya), Izmailovo (metro station Izmailovsky Park), Poklonnaya Hill (metro station Park Pobedy), Zarizino (metro station Zarizino), Sokolniki (metro station Sokolniki), Park MGU on the Sparrow Hills (metro station Vorobjovy Gory) and many others.


If you came to Moscow in summer time you can make a walk in the centre of the city along the Moskva-river by a small boat, which is called a river boat. The boat goes from Novospassky stop (metro station Proletarskaya) or Kievskaya stop (metro station Kievskaya) and passes the oldest and most interesting districts of Moscow, including the picturesque panorama of the Kremlin. If the weather is fine, you’ll have unforgettable impression from this river journey!


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Transport in Moscow.

Moscow is the city with a well-developed transportation system. In addition to the metro there are buses, trolleybuses, trams, taxis and fixed-route taxis in Moscow.

Public transport tickets are not expensive. You can get them at the special kiosks called 'Mosgortrans'. You can often find these kiosks next to the bus stops. It is possible to buy a ticket only for one trip or you can pay for several trips. A single trip ticket costs approx. 30 roubles.


If you could not find such a kiosk, you can buy the ticket right from the bus driver - but in this case the ticket will cost you more. Use the front door to get on a bus, a tram or a trolley. There is a turnstile by the door where you should insert your ticket and then move on into the bus.


Along with the state urban public transportation there is a system of private transportation - taxis and fixed-route taxis that are called "marshroutka". In fact the marshroutkas substitute buses and trolleybuses. They are small vans travelling along a fixed route that matches the routes of the public transport. The marshroutkas supplement public transport on the most complicated and busy routes. They are small and this offers a lot of advantages in the big city - flexibility, fast service and sometimes they are even cheaper. You do not have to buy a marshroutka ticket in advance. You get on and pay straight to the driver. You might not even get a ticket because in a van with only 10 passengers it is easy for the driver to notice who paid and who didn't.


Taxi is rather expensive in Moscow. Minimum price is 350 roubles for 30 minutes. There are not too many cabs in the streets so it is better to reserve the cab either by phone or on-line. There are a lot of companies in Moscow that provide all kinds of taxi services. For example, "taxi-sms.ru". You can try to reserve a cab on your own. You should google just two words - Москва, такси.

Taxi is still an expensive way of transportation for most Russians. That is why a lot of people prefer to use so-called "chastniki". "Chastnik" - is a private car used is a taxi. The drivers of such cars work in their spare time. So they virtually work as taxi drivers. To flag down a "chastnik" you just step out into the road and lift your hand. Several cars will immediately stop in front of you offering the trip.


You tell your destination and the driver suggests the price. If the price suits you - the deal is sealed. But be aware that you stop the car at your own risk: you know nothing about the car's condition and the intentions of the driver. We very much recommend you not to do it alone without Russian friends and not to use such cars late in the evening or at night.

If you want to drive a car in Moscow on your own, please, address the car rentals. It is easier to find them on-line. Here are a few rentals: "alfacar.ru", "moscowprokat.ru", "5052579.ru". However, there are some rules and restrictions. For example, the driver must be no younger than 25 years old and must have a driving license valid in Russia.

If you don't want to drive a car, ride a bus or a metro, you can rent a bicycle! Unfortunately, the bicycle as not a very popular mode of transportation in the Russian cities. First of all it is due to our climate: it is mostly cold and damp throughout the year. You must admit that it is not very nice to cycle in bad weather, and absolutely impossible in the winter. Moreover there are neither bicycle lanes nor even a designated part of the road where you can cycle. That is why it is simply dangerous to cycle in Moscow. The change in traffic pace has changed dramatically in the last few years, the roads have become extremely busy and still there is no culture of safe driving. In Russia, especially in Moscow a lot of people drive too quickly and carelessly. So you should be very attentive in the street!

Cultural Life of Moscow (museums, theatres, exhibitions).

Moscow is a city with an intense and versatile cultural life. We are going to tell you in short about the most interesting, popular and important locations in Moscow.

Being an old city Moscow has a lot of historical places of interest. The main one is, of course, the Kremlin - a huge fortress built at the end of the 15th century. The Kremlin is located right in the downtown. Up to the 18th century it was the residence of the Russian tsars.That is why a lot of relics of the past are well preserved in its territory: the cathedrals, the palaces, the belfry of Ivan the Great.


The Red Square is located by the Kremlin. It is the main square of the city. The Red Square is home to Saint Basil's Cathedral (16th century), the Lenin's Tomb (20the century), the State Historical Museum (the end of the 19th century) and some other interesting monuments.


Our country was christianized at the end of the 10th century and a lot of religious monuments remind us of this event: there are numerous cathedrals, churches, monasteries and convents. One of the best-known cloisters in Moscow is the Novodevichy Convent (16th-17th century). The convent is famous not only for its rich history and beautiful architecture (it represents an excellent piece of barocco architecture) but also for its cemetery. The cemetery holds the tombs of outstanding Russians: authors, actors, political leaders.


First place amongst the arts galleries in Russia’s capital must go to the Tretyakov Gallery - a collection of works of Russian art. The old historical building of the Tretyakov Gallery (in Lavrinskiy Pereulok) holds a collection of Russian art dating from the ancient times to the October Revolution of 1917. The new Tretyakov Gallery building is situated elsewhere (Ulitsa Krimskiy Val), this is where one can see Russian and Soviet Art of the twentieth century.

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An interesting collection of art from Western Europe is to be found at the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum. Its branch - the Мuseum of Private Collections – holds one of the most complete and beautiful collections of impressionism and post-impressionism.

You may get acquainted with the modern art at the Museum of Modern Art (ul. Petrovka, 25) and at several small private galleries in Moscow, the most popular of which are located at the Vinzavod Centre of Modern Arts.


In addition to the art galleries, the Russian capital is also the home to many museums devoted to the famous Russian scientists, writers and artists. There are so many museums that it is impossible to list them all – check the website http://www.museys.ru

There are many places in Moscow where you can listen to both classical and modern music. To listen to classical music, go to the Мoscow Conservatory (ul. Bolshaya Nikitskaya). The Moscow Conservatory has excellent acoustics and many famous musicians, including Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Rostropovich have performed there.


Another, modern building, called the House of Music, was built recently. This venue features several concert halls where not only classical but all types of music is preformed, including jazz, folk, world music and also rock & pop.


The theatrical age of Moscow is rather modest. The first theatre was established only in the middle of the 17th century. However, nowadays there are about 100 different theatres and drama schools. The best-known is the Bolshoi Theatre, which holds performances of ballet and opera. The main building of the Bolshoi is closed for restoration, but next to it the New Stage was erected where the Bolshoi performances are given until the main stage is finished.


Another popular location for moscovites is the Moscow Musical Theatre named after Stanislavski and Nemirovich-Danchenko. Ballets and operas staged at this theatre are always modern and fascinating.

We also must name the oldest Russian drama theatre - the Malyi theatre (in the Teatralnaya ploshad, next to the Bolshoi Theatre). This theatre’s repertoire mainly consists of Russian classics.

In the end of the 19th century a famous Moscow Art Theatre was founded by the outstanding Russian producers Constantin Stanislavski and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. The theatre quickly became famous when it staged Anton Chekhov's major works. That is why the theatre is named after Chekhov. Another popular locations in Moscow are the Taganka Theatre, the Moscow State Theatre named after Lenin's Komsomol (Lenkom), the Satirikon Theatre of Arkadii Raikin, the Moscow Sovremmenik Theatre, Mayakovsky Theatre, the Meyerhold Centre and a number of other venuues.

To learn more about Moscow sights visit "moscow-hotels-russia.com"

Cultural information 8

Beoyond Moscow


Peredelkino is the closest Moscow rest house/"dacha" location. It is situated 20 km to the south-west of the city. The beautiful nature and the 17th century ancient church with a cemetary are its main attractions. The history of Peredelkino is fascinating on its own but it is mainly known as the residence of a great Russian poet Boris Pasternak who used to live here at his dacha from 1936 to 1960. Nowadays his dacha has been turned into a museum. In Peredelkino you can visit the museums of several other famous Russian Soviet poets: children's poet Korney Chukovsky and of a poet of the second half of the 20th century Bulat Okudzhava.


Sergiev Posad

Sergiev Posad is located 70 km to the north-east of Moscow. Originally there was a church and later a monastery that was dedicated to the Holy Trinity. The monastery was founded by the monk Sergyi Radonezhsky in the 14th century. At its territory different buildings (churches, temples, bell towers, palaces ) still remain. They cover the period of Russian history from the 15th to the 19th century. The main cathedral of the monastery - the Trinity Cathedral - holds the most famous Russian icon "The Trinity" painted by the greatest medieval Russian painter of icons Andrei Rublev.

Sergy Radonezhsky was a monk and later became the father superior of this monastery. He had exerted a deep influence on Russian people. They came to him from everywhere begging for help, for an advice or asking for a blessing and stayed. That's how the settlement was founded that had later grown into the town of Troitsk, which is now known as Sergiev Posad.

The architectural ensemble of The Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius is diverse and harmonious. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site.



Kolomna is a small town located in Moscow region. It is about 900 years old. In the 14-15th centuries Kolomna used to be the second important city after Moscow. In the first half of the 16th century the Kolomna Kremlin was built to defend the southern Russian borders. This monumental structure still remains. Inside the Kremlin walls there are still monasteries and churches built in the 16th century. Cathedrals, bell towers, churches of the town represent various architectural styles: a tented roof design, the Baroque style, the Russian gothic, classical architecture.

One can enjoy a magnificent view on the three rivers - Moskva-river, Kolomenka and Oka - from the hill where the Kolomna Kremlin is located.



Suzdal is one of the most ancient towns of Russia located 240 km from Moscow. The town remained intact, so today we can see how the provincial Russian towns had looked in the 18-19th centuries: a lot of old churches, monasteries, small one-storeyed houses scattered here and there with vegetables patches. Can you imagine that in the 12th century the town was the center of the Vladimir-Suzdal Prinicipality? Nowadays Suzdal is the tourist center with an excellent infrastructure. It is a perfect place for recreation, one where one can also learn a lot about Russian culture.



Vladimir is located on the Klyazma River. The town is only 40 km from Suzdal. These towns have a history to share.

Vladimir was founded by the prince Vladimir Monomakh in 1108. When it was founded the capital of the ancient Russian state moved from Kiev to Vladimir. Vladimir had played an important role in politics and economy of the state before the Mongol/Tatar invasion of the 13th century. Vladimir had developed its own vladimir-suzdal schools of icon painting, architecture and writing of annals. A lot of white-stone cathedrals of Vladimir including Dormition Cathedral and Cathedral of Saint Demetrius (12th century) are the World Heritage Sites.



Yaroslavl is the ancient Russian city that was founded at the confluence of the Volga and the Kotorosl rivers about 1000 years ago. It was founded by the Russian prince Yaroslav Mudry and is named after him. The coat of arms of Yaroslavl depict a bear standing on its hind paws. It is a symbol of foresight and power.

There are a lot buildings built in classical style of the 18-19th centuries, a lot of churches and monasteries of the 17th century.The historical centre of the city is declared the World Heritage Site. Yaroslavl is home of the first public Russian drama theatre, that was created by a Russian actor Fedor Volkov at the end of the 18th century.



The town of Tula is located 193 km to the south of Moscow. Tula was one of the first cities that faced the enemy attacks from the south. The most famous battle that took place near Tula was the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380. The significance of this battle for the Russian history is explained by the fact that it was the the first battle between the army of Mongol-Tatars and the Russia army of the Muscow prince Dmitriy Donskoy, which had resulted in a victory for the Russians.

Tula is famous for its arms prodcution that had been founded in the 18th century: visit its museum of the armaments. Tula also produces the most famous Russian gingerbreads - and there is a gingerbread museum to prove it.


Not for from Tula the memorial museum - estate of a great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy called "Yasnaya Polyana" is located. Tolstoy was born and spent his childhood there. After he had become a famous writer he lived there for a very long time. He had described the house, the atmosphere of the life of a noble family, the surrounding villages and nature in his books. Today you can visit and experience the atmosphere of the estate.


Veliky Novgorod

Veliky Novgorod is a city of an unusual history. It is located far from Moscow, more than 500 km to the north-west. The city is built on the banks of the Volkhov River near its inflow into the Lake Ilmen. Novgorod is older than Moscow. The first mention of the city in the chronicles dates back to the year 856. It was the capital of ancient Russia before Kiev. From the 12th century till the end of the 15th century Novgorod was the feudal Republic, where the popular council - "veche" was the highest legislature and judicial authority. It is condsidered to be the only example of democratic rule throughout all of the history of Russia. There was still one other republic/town - Pskov - that was the part of Novgorod lands without losing its independence.

Unlike the majority of Russian manors and principalities Novgorod wasn't conquered by the mongol-tatars, which makes its destiny unique. Novgorod is called Veliky, which means Great in Russian. It was a very rich, well organized, economically and politically developed city. Ivan the Terrible ended the history of the independent Novgorod Republic. At the end of the 16th century he had conquered the city and destroyed it. Since that time Novgorod had become part of the Moscow Principality.



Kazan is a capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, that is a part of the Russian Federation. More than a half of the Tatarstan's population are tatars, a nationality of a Turkic group. Tatars live along the Volga river, in Siberia, in the Urals, in Kazakhstan. Tatars are muslims. They have their own original culture, their own traditions and a unique history.

Kazan was a part of the Golden Horde. Since the middle of the 16th century the Kazan khanate became the part of the Moscow Principality, and later the part of the Moscow State. Today Kazan is a large modern city that functions as a trade and political mediator between the East and the West.



At present Petersburg is the second most important city after Moscow. It was the capital of Russian Empire from 1712 till 1918. Peter I conceived and realized the idea of constructing a new city on the Gulf of Finland of the Baltic Sea. While planning Petersburg the tzar kept in mind such European cities as Amsterdam and Stockholm. But the Russian way of life, Russian traditions, culture, religion, climate, introduced certain corrections. Despite a great contribution of European experts Petersburg had remained a truly Russian city. Its architecture is unique, the Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and related groups of monuments are the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


It is no wonder that Petersburg is called the cultural capital of Russia. There are over 200 museums, numerous libraries, exhibition centres and galleries. Various festivals and holidays take place here. The life of the 19th century that is now referred to as the Golden Age of Russian Culture was concentrated in the city. The most famous writers, poets, scholars and scientists, people of art, philosophers and political leaders were this way or another connected to Petersburg.


However one can learn more than just of the art of the classical period in Petersburg as it is the modern, live fast-moving city. For instance, it is considered to be the capital of contemporary Russian rock music culture.

Petersburg is often referred to as "the city on the Neva River". Great and wide the Neva River flows throughout the city. It is the core of the city, its center line. In addition to the Neva River there are over 100 smaller rivers and streams, more than 20 channels. Bridges are another attraction of Peretsburg. One can be most impressed by the drawing of the bridges over Neva during the summer navigation.

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Petersburg features a very specifice marine climate. Summers are hot and winters are humid and mild. The famous White Nights is the season from the end of May till the end of July. The sun sets only for a brief period of twilight. The city stays alive day and night, compensating for hard winter months when Petersburgers can hardly enjoy the daylight. Mystic light of the White Nights are widely reproduced in paintings, novels, poems and music.


Cathedral and icon.

During your travels across Russia you will see a lot of monuments of arts and first of all you will be encountering historical monuments of religious nature. To enjoy them you should learn a bit about Russian Orthodox culture and the Orthodox Church.

The state that existed in the early Middle Ages in the territory of the Eastern-European Plain was called Kievan Rus, because of its capital Kiev. It was a powerful state reigned by the Grand Prince of Kiev. In the end of the 10th century Kievan Rus was christianized by Vladimir the Great who chose Eastern Christianity. The choice of the Byzantine Rite can also be explained by the fact that Orthodox Byzantium with the capital in Constantinople (called Tsargrad in Slavic, that literally means the tzar city) was the most powerful state in Europe. Vladimir was canonized in the 13th century as the baptizer of Rus and named Vladimir the Baptizer.


From Byzantium to Russia Orthodoxy brought Orthodox books, religious rites, architecture and the first priests. The Orthodox churches, that were built first by foreigners and later by Russian architects, used the Greek cross plan in church architecture and were crowned by a dome or several domes. That is why this architectural form of churches is called crossed-dome. One of the first Orthodox churches are Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev (beginning of the 11th century) and Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod (beginning of the 12th century).


There are neither benches nor chairs inside the Orthodox church. People stand during the whole service regardless of its length. The decoration of the church interior was also Byzantine. There were mosaics, fresco paintings, icons. However, there wasn't a tradition to put sculptures. Icons were painted right on the church walls. And there was also a special wall between the place for parishioners and the sanctuary which was covered with icons. The wall is called the iconostasis.


First the iconostasis was small with only a few icons in a tier. By the 15th century it had grown up to five tiers of icons. The placement of icons is regulated by a number of rather strict rules. There is a door in the center of the iconostasis called the Beautiful Gate. During the Easter week - the main holiday of the Orthodox believers - the Beautiful Gate is kept opened. Any other time the Gate opens during the services and is only used by the clergy.

In Russia the art of icon painting had truly blossomed. Icons were never signed that is why we do not know the names of the artists except for a few ones. However all of them had to follow a set of strict technical rules of the Byzantine icon painting school. The icon itself is symbolic. The artist had to show the spiritual aspect in the first placel. The icon actually spoke with the parishioners who were often illiterate and ignorant. People were able to understand the plot without a word, they recognized the faces and the figures in the icons because of the repeating details and some certain colours of the clothes. They understood the symbolism of these colours, of gestures and poses of the saints. In order to emphasize the spiritual nature of the saints the artists changed the proportions of bodies and faces. The face was drawn smaller, the figure more stretched. The folds in clothing were drawn in every detail. The painters used reverse perspective where the further the objects are, the larger they are drawn. The use of this perspective displays the spiritual communication with God.

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Till the 17th century icon painting was the only visual art known in Russia. In different towns and cities icon painting schools were established. For example, the schools in Novgorod, Vladimir and Suzdal, Yaroslavl and Moscow are widely known.

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Come to visit!

In Russia people enjoy getting together at each other homes. Friends and relatives visit each other a lot. It is a long-standing Russian tradition to get together at home instead of in a cafe or restaraunt. At home the atmosphere is relaxed, it is cozy and warm, and the lady of the house can show off her culinary talents. Besides, during the Soviet time cafes were unattractive, and the restaurants were very expensive.

There are a lot of occasions to be invited to one's party: it may be a holiday (the New Year, Christmas, Masleniza, Easter, the 1st of May, the Victory Day), one's birthday or just a simple desire to meet and to spend time together. Especially in summer!

To have a good time for many Russians is first of all to chat with friends and family at the table. In Russia the tradition to feed the guests well has always been taken seriously. A lot of people lived rather poorly and weren't able to buy good food every day. It is the reason why a well laid table with plenty of delicious food to eat was the sign of hospitality, friendship and appreciation that the hosts showed to their guests. The time of hunger has long passed, but the tradition remains: the hosts - usually the woman, the lady of the house - tries to prepare as many tasty and different dishes as possible. The best wine and vodka is served - to demonstrate that the best is kept for the dear gusests! It is not a councidence that the custom of presenting the dear guests with the loaf of bread and salt - "khleb-sol'" is still repsected. Bread was the most important product for the centuries in Russia and salt was a rarity and used to be very expensive. This is the background of the Russian word "khlebosolniy", the synonim of "shedriy" - generous.


Russian women cook, lay the table, clean after the patry. You might ask why she still likes to invite guests if it is so tiring. Of course, it is! But in Russian tradition the woman is the one who does everything around the house. Moreover guests praise her for her beauty, her nice and cosy home, delicious meal. Women like compliments, and so she feels proud for herself and her family and that gives her strength.

Usually guests come in the evening, but not too late - at around 6 or 7. Men usually bring small gifts. It may be a box of chocolates, a cake, flowers or a bottle of wine. It is a gift to the hostess for her hospitality. Most Russians live in rather small or very small flats. That is why it is difficult to organize a standing reception - there is simply no space to move around. So when guests come they sit straight at the table. The table is the main and the most important place in the house during such visits.

When the guests sit down the hostess urges to try her dishes. Russians are not used to have an appetizer drink before the main meal as in Europe. They simply grab food and put it to their plate, then they pour wine or vodka and wait.


They wait when a toastmaster (a tamada) will be chosen. A tamada is the guest who leads the party. Tamada is a Georgian word, the tradition to choose the tamada came to Russia from Georgia and got widely spread during the Soviet period. One of the guests or the host himself could be chosen as the tamada, the leader. He or she should be a good organizer and a merry person who knows all the guests well. Tamada proposes the first toast and then asks every guest to say a word. That's how the party turns into a funny and lively event. Guests usually drink to every person invited and at the end of the party to the host. If the guests gathered to celebrate one's birthday, each one says something good about the person whose birthday it is. They say what they like most in this person and what they consider to be most important to say on such an occasion. In Russia people do not pour alcohol to themselves and drink on their own. Usually guests clink glasses after the toast and then drink all together.


Naturally the tradition of such feasts is fading away nowadays. More and more people go to restaurants and cafes to have some rest or to celebrate a birthday. Fewer young women want (or have time and strength) to host a party at home. However it is happening only in large cities, smaller cities and towns still follow the traditions of Russian hospitality.


Russian holidays

In Russia people like to relax and to celebrate holidays. Russians are not different from the other world, are they? However Russians are still different at least in one thing: they like to celebrate every kind of holiday - old, new, pagan, orthodox, traditionally Russian or even foreign. Don't be surprised!

The New Year

The New Year is the holiday that starts the year. This popular holiay is rather new. In Russia people started to celebrate it according to the decree of а Russian Emperor Peter the Great in 1700. That was the time when the New Year trees were first brought into homes and decorated and when New Year feasts were first arranged.


The New Year is a winter holiday that concurs with Orthodox Cristmas and Christmastide. Orthodox Christmas was the main holiday before the October revolution. The period from Christmas till Epiphany (January 19th) - "Svyatki" (Christmastide) was the liveliest and most enchanting time during the winter. Kids adored that period most because of the christmas trees, gifts and guests.

There are no official Christmas holidays in Russia nowadays. However this period is still the time of recreation and light duties. People go out, pay visits, travel to the country or abroad, go to the theatres and cinemas.


We celebrate Orthodox Christmas on January 7th because of the calendar alterations. A lot of Russians also celebrate Christmas on January 25th together with the Catholic world. Then the whole country celebrates the New Year (December 31st - January 1st, 2nd) and then Orthodox Christmas on January 7th. Do not plan anything serious at the beginning of January - Russia is on holiday!

February 23rd, March 8th and... February 14th.

During the Soviet times two interesting and popular holidays were introduced. These are the 8th of March and the 23rd of February. At first these holidays kept a political taste: the 8th of March was called the International Women Day. It was established in honour of the women fighting for their civil rights.


The 23rd of February was established as the birthday of the Red Army.


Little by little the 8th of March became the holiday of all women. It is the holiday of mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, the holiday of the beloved Woman in general. Women are usually given flowers and gifts, paid compliments at home and at work. Russian loving and caring women decided that it is unfair that their men do not have such a wonderfu holiday. That is how the official birthday of the Red Army turned into the Men's Day - the day when women give presents to their fathers, husbands, brothers and colleagues. These truly popular holidays outlived the Sloviet state and still make us happy.

A new holiday that came from the USA - the St.Valentine's Day on February 14th, the day of everyone in love - is joining those holidays. It appeared in Russia not a long time ago but young people take an active part in it. They send valentines, give presents to each other.




It is well known that the Soviet Union was an atheist country. Soviet citizens celebrated neither Christmas nor Easter - the main Orthodox holiday. Nowadays things changed. Easter became an official holiday. Surely not all Russians are believers, but almost everyone celebrates Easter due to the long tradition of this holiday. The whole family meets at the festive table. The table features obligatory ritual dishes such as Easter cake, coloured eggs and paschal cheesecake.


40 days before Easter Russians celebrate one of the most ancient holidays - Maslenitsa. It is a pagan holiday that existed long before Rus' was converted to Christianity (10th century). This holiday is devoted to the end of winter and the coming spring.


Russian Maslenitsa traditions and rituals resemble European carnival - people sing, dance, wear funny clothes, cook ritual dishes, make funny puppets. In Russia nowadays people celebrate Maslenitsa by mainly cooking and eating ritual dishes (you can learn more about them in Russian cuisine section), though you still see street festivities here and there as well. Certainly, Maslenitsa is not an official holiday but people like it because it is vivid and natural.


1st of May

The merriest spring holiday is the 1st of May. This holiday was also inherited from the Soviet epoch. It used to be the holiday of the International Solidarity of the working people. There were demonstrations of the working under the slogans "Peace, Labour, May!" or "Glory to labour!" on them.


The Soviet epoch ended but this popular spring holiday remained having changed its name to the Holiday of Spring and Labour. In May the real spring begins, the first leaves appear, the sun is shining in the blue sky (if it is not snowing, that might also happen...). Many Russians go to their dachas for the first time after winter - the place where they can not onle have some rest but also work. So the holiday now has an absolutely appropriate name.


The 9th of May. The Victory Day.

The main nationwide holiday is the 9th of May, the Victory Day. It is the day when the unconditional surrender of fascist Germany was announced. It was a hard victory for the country that had lost over 27 million people in the war we call the Great Patriotic. It makes the Vistory Day so important. The Red Square in Moscow and main squares of other Russian cities host solemn and spectacular military parades.


When the veterans of the war were alive they gathered in front of the Bolshoy Theatre in Moscow every year to meet each other. In different cities and towns the veterans took part in Victory parades. Time goes by and very few of them are still alive...


Cultural information 10

Russian symbols: balalayka, samovar, matreshka, fur hat.

There were the times when samovar, balalayka and matreshka were unbelievably popular in Russia. There was a samovar in every house otherwise it was impossible to drink tea. There was a balalayka almost in every house because a holiday without music is not a proper celebration. Matreshka was the simplest and the most common toy in every family. Today things changed: you will hardly find a balalayka or a samovar in a Russian home, and matreshkas are bought only by foreigners.

Howeveryou can still hear the balalayka in folk music groups. It is a small musical instrument with three strings that are strung on a triangle body. In Russia the clear sound of balalayka is known since the 18th century. The word balalyka sounds similarly to the words "balagurit'", "balabolit'" that mean to chat, to talk about unimportant things.


Obviously balalayka was so popular amoung ordinary people because it is very easy to play. It was good to provide accompaniment for the singers and dancers. It was especially good with "chastushka" - short and easy humorous rhymes that were often improvised. For example, something like:

Fedya didn't close the taps
In his toilet room
To remind his fellow neighbours
of Titanic's doom.



Samovar is an ancient device for boiling water and cooking tea. The system was invented in China but in China nobody cooked tea with the help of samovar.

There is a tube in the middle of samovar into which one puts material for burning: coal, wood, etc. Water is between the tube and samovar itself. To make good burning process one puts a pipe on top of samovar. Water remains hot for a long time in samovar. This water is used for making tea in a small tea pot.


First samovars appeared in Russia in the town of Tula at the end of the 18-th century. Tula is a famous place of armory workshops. One of the craftsmen made the first samovar in his free time. Samovars became popular and production of samovars started to grow. A samovar producing factory appeared in Tula. In the middle of the 19-th century there were 28 samovar producing factories only in Tula. They produced 120 thousand samovars each year! Samovars were different: for 3 liters of water, for 5, 10 and even 25 liters!

Today people don’t use samovars often, but samovars are still produced in Tula. Today these are electrical samovars. If you ever come to Tula, visit a samovar museum, where you can find lots of different types of samovars and learn their history.



Matreshka appeared in Russia not a very long time ago, it is about 100 years old. A Japanese doll that was made according to matreshka concept when a smaller figure is inserted into a bigger one was presented to a Moscow doll factory. The Japanese doll reperesented a figure of one of the Seven Lucky Gods - Fukurokuju. One of the Russian masters who worked at the factory was so impressed with the present that he had produced his own doll. It was composed of figures of girls and boys. The artist by the name of Sergey Milutin painted these dolls. The main doll was a girl who was wearing a national Russian costume - a sarafan (sundress), a shawl and an apron; the smallest figure was a baby. The doll was called Matreshka - it is an affectionate diminutive form from the Russian name Matrena (that derives from the latin word matrona - mother).


People liked Matreshka dolls a lot. Many workshops of the small town Sergiev Posad started its production, the orders for matreshka kept rolling and the imagination of the artists does not run dry even today.

A fur hat with flap ears -"ushanka"

A fur hat with flap ears is truly popular men's headdress in Russia. It is usually called a flap hat, or "ushanka" in Russian, because it covers ears (ushi). It also covers one's forehead when it is windy outside. The hat is constructed in such a way that when it is warm the ear flaps can be tied up on top of the cap or tied below the chin to protect the ears from the cold. There is a concept that this style of hats had been introduced to Russia from Scandinavia, from Finland to be more accurate. However there is no proof for that. The fact is that this hat is usually associated with Russian clothing style. Probably because it is perfectly good for our climate. From 1940 flap hats are official winter hats of the army and police.

Today you can see flap hats of very different styles in the street - from cheap rabbit fur hats to expensive ones made from luxurious furs by fashion designers. But the fact still remains that there is no better headdress for the men in winter than this one!


Men and women in Russia

When the foreigners are asked what they like most about Russia, the most common and rather strange answer is "Russian women" (of course, this answer is given by men). However, there is quite a lot of truth in this humorous answer. The statistics proves that the number of Russian women who get married to foreigners is growing every year. Russian women get married to European and American men, to Chinese or Japanese. In this regard two questions arise - why Russian women are so popular and what's happening to Russian men?


Russian women are beautiful, it's true, but it is not the most important issue. It is more important how they behave and what they prefer in life. Historically there are fewer men than women in Russia (and it was especially true in the 20th century). Russian women "genetically remember" about this fact and draw their own conclusions: that they have to do everything so that men like them, they think that they need to win him over because the competition is so severe especially if you are in your middle ages.


The very first and the most important thing the women pay attention to is their looks. Russian woman pays a lot of attention to her appearance, the clothes she wears, the make up. Even in winter the majority of Russian women wear high heels. They think a lot about how to look beautiful and attractive and simply forget that high heels are extremely uncomfortable and dangerous for their legs. The desire to be attractive explains bright fashionable clothes, catchy make up, a lot of jewellery on the hands, neck and ears. Beauty at any expense and the desire to be loved are the things that men like about Russian women and what flatters them most.


Russian women are modest, hard-working and sympathetic.

Women all over the world are emotional, Russian women are very emotional and romantic. They fall in love desperately and often behave in an unpractical manner. This romanticism and passionate temperament of the Russian women win the hearts of men.

Despite the revolutions, wars and other disasters in Russia the role of a woman in life of her family and society is still conservative. The leading role of a man is indisputable, the role of a woman is considered to be preservation of the family hearth and bringing up children. Of course, in Russia a lot of women work nowadays, but that doesn't mean that career is extremely important for all of them. Family remains the most important thing: husband, kids, home and housekeeping. Women usually do not crave bright political or business careers. Who would let them in anyway? They themselves are usually sure that it is not their mission.


What about Russian men? Russian (and other men) face the hard times.


On the one hand Russian boys are brought up to be courageous, noble and honest. Boys shouldn't hurt girls because "real" men never do it. Boys shouldn't cry because "real" men don't cry. There are a lot of restrictions around a boy. A "real" man should be fit, strong, confident, reasonable, active and even agressive - these are taught as the proper masculine qualities. When a boy turns into a teenager he starts smoking in protest, shouts, drinks beer, uses bad language in order the show that he is a "real" tough man. That is his naive and shallow understanding of what "real" man is.

On the other hand, not everyone can be a hero and very often it is impossible for a man to admit an all-too-human foible and his lack of self-confidence. In Russia it is not common for a man to express sympathy, to take compassion, to express his feelings in publiс or in a company of other men.

Men who were brought up to take a leading role in all aspects of social life nowadays often feel confused. Especially in big cities where women often earn as much as men do and sometimes even more. And even if a woman doesn't reproache her husband on this subject, the man himself feels very uncomfortable. Everything becomes even worse if there si trouble at work for him. It is impossible for Russian men to switch over and to start taking care of his family, to help his wife with the chores because it is considered to be not his social role. Men can hardly handle the psychological stress and turn to the most well-known remedy in Russia that is vodka.

Howevernot everything is as bad as it seems. Russian men like Russian women are hard-working, emotional, passionate and romantic at the same time. These features of men's character were best described in Dostoevky's prose. If a man loves a woman he is ready to do anything it takes to win her heart over. He will court her, shower her with flowers, pay compliments and give expensive gifts and he will do it regardless of time and money.


There is also the men's friendship in Russia. Obviously, men can be friends in any country but in Russia this friendship is extremely important for them, especially for young ones. Colleagues, pals and acquaintances are not considered as friends. Real friends are usually few, and very often only one or two people can be named as close friends. A friend is a person who is often closer than the father or the brother. A friend will help you in need, you can come to a friend any time and ask for help, you can tell him everything about yourself, share all the secrets. Such friendship often starts in childhood and is preserved for many years in spite of the changing circumstances. There are a lot of songs and poems written about this friendship, all Russian boys believe in it. However, not all of them can keep their friendship through the lifetime.

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