Friday, October 17, 2008

Introduction - Russia and Russian People

contents: what is russia - facts about russia - map of russia - population - people & subcultures in Russia - your comments

What is Russia - Introduction

Russia is the country of vast landscapes, vibrant life, beautiful contrasts, and interesting people. Taking an immense space of 9000 kilometers from west to east and 5000 from north to south, being home to people of so many different nationalities and customs, Russia is

St Petersburg view

often called a "bridge" between Europe and Asia, both geographically and sociologically.
From the ancient times up to now, Russia has been changing and re-shaping itself, its boundaries, its culture. In the ancient times, the Slavs, Finn tribes, Tatars, had made their way through Russia, and this mix of many different nations and their traditions has defined the unique Russian character and culture.
Visiting Russia, especially if you come by a plane, you'll see neverending forests and lakes, scattered among them, gleaming little churches in Moscow and impressive imperors' palaces in St. Petersburg, all the modern attributes of "capitalist" world and old relics of communist times, hip crowds of young people and old babushkas (old women) wearing big fur hats and coats in the snow. To us, it's all about this kind of differences, about constant change in Russia now, which makes it a very dynamic country with lots of energy and potential. There has never been time in the Russian history, when it was still or calm, always there would be something like a revolution, an economy crisis, a war, as if to make life less predictable, and, perhaps, more interesting too.

Facts about Russia

Russia is the largest country in the world. Ural mountains divide Eurasian continent - and Russia - to Europe and Asia. One fourth of Russian territory lies in Europe, the other part lies in Asia. Russia’s taking the area of 17.1 million square kilometers - it’s like USA and Europe together and the country is 9000 kilometers from east to west and 5000 from north to south. The capital of Russia is Moscow and the second largest city is St. Petersburg (which is also called the "Northern capital").Map of Siberia, Russia



The population is 147.5 million people and three fourths live in the European part and one fourth lives in the Asian part of Russia (Siberia and Far East regions). Most of these people are Russianss (81%) the others are Ukrainians, Tatars, Belorussians, Polish, Germans, Jews, Caucasians. The language spoken is mostly Russian. 

Russian People and Subcultures

Even though Russia is considered to be a mix of Europe and Asia, this assumption is only based on geography. The reality is that culturally Russia has always been oriented towards the West and the recent influx of western lifestyle has created subcultures similar to those found in any other major country opened to the information from the outside 

Girls and a man in Moscow, Russia
world. Nevertheless, Russians managed to retain a certain degree of intrinsic qualities of the national character that you won't find anywhere else. It is very interesting to see how these peculiarities affect and transform well-defined subculture groups, making them inherently "Russian".
The differences are less noticeable among younger people who seem to have almost completely embraced the western lifestyle, but the geration of people born in the second half of the 20th century still has some peculiar mix of the old Soviet attitudes and the modern western lifestyle.
You will meet middle-class families with all the standard "western-like" wishes, attitudes, and lifestyle, and be surprised at the superior role of the man in the family. You might see an old woman who looks absolutely like your old quiet neighbour Miss Smith, until she shoves the way with her elbows shouting to get in train before you do. You will be invited for a dinner by your business partner and be surprised at his taking offence in your unwillingness to drink this last fifth glass of vodka. Your new Russian friends might feel very strange about your vegetarian eating habits and these "worn-out" jeans you have. You might be rejected by fancy Moscow clubs and warmly welcomed in the family of the guy who will be giving you a taxi ride. Your new Russian girlfriend might not like your "metrosexual" attitude, and your tourguide will be truly amazed that you think it was not Russians who won the second world war. When you go trekking, your guide will be truly amazed at your wanting to take frequent, but short pauses. And when you will be giving the passport to the immigration officer in Sheremetyevo airport with a big friendly smile on your face, he might think you're a bit silly.
All these are generalizations and exaggerations, of course, but the point is that your encounter with Russians is going to be very interesting, because of the hidden little differences, which you are yet to discover. Just take it easy and be open-minded: Russians are good-natured people with certain beliefs, which may seem strange at the first sight, but quite understandable if you look a bit closer.

If you would like to learn more about Russians you might be interested in the Russian People section - interviews with the real Russian people from the streets.

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