With a ton of impressive architectural wonders and a rich history, Russia is one of those countries that everyone wants to know more about, but they fear to visit because its culture is so much different than those of western countries. Moreover, since Russia is the largest country in the world, many potential tourists find it simply too intimidating. There is also a lot of misconception going around about Russia, as some think that the country is not as welcoming to tourists as other European countries. However, they could not be farther away from the truth - Russia is actually a very welcoming country and its different culture is just one of many things that make this country so special. With famous artists and architectures, Russia is filled with gorgeous works of art and magnificent buildings, some of which are regarded as the most beautiful wonders of human creation in the entire world. To help you get accustomed to Russia, we have prepared this list of Top 10 Things about Russia Culture and Traditions which shows some of the more intriguing things about this beautiful country.
Abundance of languages
If you thought that the only language spoken in Russia is Russian, that is not the case. While the majority of people outside of Russia think that Russians do not speak English, it is actually quite the opposite. Many Russians treat English as a second language, and almost every single one of them is taught it at school. Moreover, there are over a hundred minority languages spoken in Russia, the most popular of them being Dolgang. Dolgang is a Turkic language, spoken mostly around the Taymyr Peninsula in northern Russia. The other popular minority languages include Ukrainian, Chechen, Tartar, Bashir, and Chuvash. These languages are especially good to know if you’re thinking about visiting certain regions of Russia, as even though they account for only a small portion of the total Russian population, they are very prominently spoken in their homeland regions.
Russia is an extremely diverse country when it comes to religion, with almost half of the country’s population following the teachings of the Russian Orthodox Church, which is traditionally said to have been created by Andrew the Apostle. In Russian folklore, there is a legend that Andrew visited the place where the city of Kyiv now stands and prophesized the creation of the greatest Christian city. Apart from Russian Orthodoxy, Russia is composed of other Christian denominations, Muslims, Buddhists, NeoPagans, and atheists. Moreover, over a quarter of Russia’s population believes in some sort of divine power, but do not profess any particular religion. All of this makes Russia a very varied country, which is open to people of all religions, and religion plays a huge part in Russia culture and traditions.
You have undoubtedly heard of ballet, a very popular performance dance that actually was developed and popularized in Russia. Even though the dance originated in Italy during the Renaissance in the fifteenth century, it wasn't until Peter the Great, who opened Russia up to the western culture and allowed ballet to thrive in this country. In the beginning, the ballet was not perceived as a form of entertainment. Instead, it was considered to be the "standard of physical comportment to be emulated and internalized - an ideal way of behaving". The biggest highlight of Russian Ballet's history is the establishment of the Bolshoi Theatre in 1776. While ballet became a huge thing in Russia, the Russian version of classical ballet was rather unknown to the outside world. This changed in the 19th century when the famous composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky created such timeless classics as the Swan Lake or the 1812 Overture. These masterpieces are regarded as some of the greatest musical artifacts to this day, and you can see their place of origin for yourself!
While Russian cuisine is widely unknown in western cultures, it is highly worth discovering, as it is highly diverse and combines the flavors of Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, Caucasia, Central Asia, East Asia, and Siberia. One of the most important features of Russian cuisine is an abundance of food on the plate, so expect huge portions. Moreover, Russians use a wide variety of products when cooking, mixing flavors and textures together. Due to the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church, which requires frequent fasting of its believers, Russian cuisine is also filled with plenty of vegetarian recipes. Probably the most recognizable item of the Russian cuisine is Blin, which is a type of pancake. They resemble crepes, as they are thin and rather large, but are often served as a savory dish rather than dessert, often featuring mushrooms, cottage cheese, ground meat, cabbage, and even caviar and smoked salmon!
Russian folk tales
Similarly to other European countries with Slavic heritage, Russia is filled with many tales from Slavic folklore, including myths and legends which highly influence Russia culture and traditions. One of the legends you might have heard about is Baba Yaga, most often depicted as an old woman living in the middle of an old forest in a hut standing on chicken legs. Baba Yaga is widely recognized as one of the most memorable figures in the folklore of Eastern Europe, and the myth even influences modern culture with new renditions and spins on the classic tale. Russian folklore is also full of magic, both good and evil. Evil magic is often connected with the devil and is very seductive, but dabbling in it costs a terrible price. Good magic, on the other hand, was often connected to nature.
If you want to spend a great time in Russia, visiting the country during one of the many holidays might give you the opportunity to see some attractions which regular tourists will usually not be able to witness. For example, the New Year in Russia is often celebrated with huge parties, great food, lots of drinks, and gorgeous firework shows. The New Year is celebrated on January 1st in Russia, since Christmas in this country is celebrated on January 7th. Moreover, the six days between New Year and Christmas are also celebrated, turning the first week of January into one big party. Some Russians also celebrate Christmas on January 14th, as they may use the Julian calendar. The 14th of January, however, is reserved for family and, usually, no public parties take place.
Situated in the Red Square, right in the middle of Moscow, the Mausoleum of Lenin is, as the name suggests, the current resting place of Vladimir Lenin, the famous Soviet leader. While a mausoleum may not sound so exciting to visit, this one actually holds the preserved body of Lenin. Lenin’s body has been resting in the mausoleum since 1924, placed on display right after his death. The building itself is also an interesting piece of architecture, as it resembles some ancient tombs such as the Step Pyramid and the Tomb of Cyrus the Great. The mausoleum actually also featured Joseph Stalin’s embalmed body, placed right next to Lenin’s, but has been removed in 1961 during the de-Stalinization of Russia. The famous tomb is open to the public during the whole week, except Monday and Friday, from 10 AM to 13 AM, so make sure you wake up early as the time frame is quite short!
If you have ever attended any literature course, chances are you may have read some of Russia's greatest literary works. Authors such as Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky are famous all over the world, and their works are considered masterpieces by literature critics from every corner of the globe. You can even visit some of their homes on your visit, and if not, there is bound to be a museum dedicated to your favorite author. For example, the F. M. Dostoyevsky Literary Memorial Museum, situated in Saint Petersburg, features the greatest collection of original Dostoyevsky’s manuscripts you can find. The museum also features a great exhibit of contemporary art, as well as its own theater, which often hosts the most renowned groups in the country.
Russia is not only known for its great literary works, but also for its magnificent works of art. If you happen to be visiting Moscow, make sure to stop by the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, which not only is the first Russian contemporary art museum, but also features the largest collection of both contemporary and modern art in the country, and one of the largest in the world. Art museums and galleries are actually very popular in Russia, and you can spot one or two of them in almost every city. If you’re looking for something else than just contemporary art, we recommend visiting the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, which hosts art collections ranging from ancient times to the current day. The museum is located in Moscow, not far from Red Square.
The Moscow Metro
Popularized globally by the critically acclaimed series of postapocalyptic science-fiction novels “Metro 2033”, written by Dmitry Glukhovsky, the Moscow Metro is definitely the most grandiose and artful metro in the world. The construction of the Moscow Metro began in the 1930s and provides easy access to all areas of Moscow, connecting both industrial and residential areas with the center of the city. However, efficient transportation is only a secondary function of the Metro - it was built to show the power and wealth of Soviet Russia, and thus every station is decorated with beautiful mosaics and marble tiles, some even with crystal chandeliers and painted ceilings!