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VISIT RUSSIA

What is Russia made up of

The shortest introduction to the world’s biggest country

Russia is certainly one the most fascinating countries in the world, with borders stretching from Central Europe to the Pacific. Russia’s lands are clad in Arctic tundra, taiga, steppe and even desert, fringing the Caspian Sea, and its richly mixed culture is made up of over 185 nationalities. In other words, Russia’s diverse. Seriously diverse. Take a dip into the weird mix that is Russia with our short guide.

AUTHOR

Galina Kukenko

ILLUSTRATOR

Khadia Ulumbekova


A piece of Russia in the Middle of Europe

Kaliningrad

In order to reach Kaliningrad, Russians have to cross the borders of Belarus and Lithuania. The city was founded by the Teutonic Knights during the Northern Crusades, and after a long history of captures and liberations it was annexed by the Soviet Union. As a consequence, the residents of the westernmost Russian city live at the intersection of cultures: Soviet apartment blocks neighbor Catholic churches and Art Nouveau villas.


Population:
489 359 people

Founded:
1255

Federal Subject: Kaliningrad Oblast

Languages:
Russian


Romanov palaces, gastronomic tourism and river canals

St. Petersburg

The architecture of the city stands in stark contrast with the rest of the country, with baroque, eclecticism and Northern modernism dominating the harmonious city landscape. The shabby mansions of the city centre harbour lively cultural and gastronomic projects. Any resident of Saint Petersburg can recommend the best place to have your morning coffee and pastries or a memorable local restaurant. Arts and luxury attract tourists just as much as diverse gastronomic experiences. The Hermitage, for instance—the largest art museum in Russia, with a distinguished collection of Western paintings—occupies the grandiose Winter Palace, once inhabited by the Imperial Family.


Population:
5 398 064 people

Founded:
1703

Federal Subject:
The Federal City of St Petersburg

Languages:
Russian


The City of Northern Lights

Murmansk

The largest city in the world located beyond the Arctic Circle is rather cold and dark in the wintertime. Northern lights, glowing green, blue, red and violet in the night sky, compensate for the hardships of the polar night, though. With its access to the White Sea and Barents Sea, Murmansk was historically the centre of the Northern Fleet and the fishing industry: tons of cod, salmon, and trout are still processed and sold abroad today.


Population:
287 847 people

Founded:
1916

Federal Subject:
Murmansk Oblast

Languages:
Russian


The Financial and Cultural Center of the Country

Moscow

The majority of students in the universities of Moscow come from other regions: many of them young people striving for life and career opportunities in the richest city in Russia. Most of Russia’s big businesses are registered here, outstanding art events happen daily, and the city is so huge and crowded that one’s daily commute might take an hour or two. Although the pace of Moscow life leaves no opportunity to sit back, Muscovites have access to the infrastructural resources they need for new beginnings—and get vibrant, diverse communities in return.


Population:
12 678 079 people

Founded:
1147

Federal Subject:
The Federal City of Moscow

Languages:
Russian


The Heart of Southern Resorts

Sochi

The city stretches along the northeastern coast of the Black Sea. Back in the 1930s, Sochi became a favourite destination as a health and sea resort for the Soviet people. Many residents are still engaged in the all-season tourist services. Apart from the sandy beaches and verdant splendour of southern nature, Sochi has its snowy mountains, too: the Roza Khutor ski resorts at Krasnaya Polyana, for instance, served as the location of the 2014 Winter Olympics.


Population:
443 562 people

Founded:
1838

Federal Subject:
Krasnodar Krai

Languages:
Russian


Thousand-Year-Old Center of Tatar Culture

Kazan

As the capital of Tatarstan, Kazan blended Russian and Islamic cultures for centuries now. The city is notable for developing contemporary culture within the context of national traditions: local film festivals and art venues are driven by an interest in Tatar language, folklore, and Islamic heritage. Ocpocmaqs, qistibis and other stuffed pastries are significant parts of Tatar identity as well. Kazan, with its beautiful mosques and delicious cuisine, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Russia.


Population:
1 257 391 people

Founded:
1005

Federal Subject:
The Republic of Tatarstan

Languages:
Russian, Tatar


Multicultural City on the Caspian

Makhachkala

The population of Dagestan is extremely heterogeneous: its dozens of ethnicities, who are immediate neighbours, speak Avar, Darghin, Lezghian, Nogai and many other languages. Some of these languages, such as Akhvakh, have several dialects but no written alphabet. As the capital of Dagestan, Makhachkala is one of the ultimate expressions of multiculturalism. Besides, it is one of just a few Russian cities where the majority of the population professes Sunni Islam.


Population:
603 518 people

Founded:
1844

Federal Subject:
The Republic of Dagestan

Languages:
Russian and many national languages


Experimental Science City of IT Innovation

Innopolis

Innopolis was built from scratch in 2012 and now is considered the smallest city in the country. It is one of the three science cities in Russia, otherwise known as “Naukograds.” These cities started to appear as experimental projects in the Soviet period in order to allow for the implementation of the latest technological and scientific developments. Innopolis was created as a testbed for IT innovations. Most of its population consists of young scientists.


Population:
405 people

Founded:
2012

Federal Subject:
The Republic of Tatarstan

Languages:
Russian


The Closed City in the Ural Mountains

Novouralsk

Closed cities started to emerge in the Soviet Union as locations for processing radioactive materials and developing nuclear weapons. Residents were prohibited from sharing information about their daily lives in order to keep the production activities a secret. Thirty-eight closed cities still exist in Russia, and one of them is Novouralsk. Highly enriched uranium was produced there in the 1940s and was later utilised in the creation of the first Soviet uranium-based atomic bomb.


Population:
80 357 people

Founded:
1941

Federal Subject:
Sverdlovsk Oblast

Languages:
Russian


The Center of Buryat Culture near Baikal

Ulan-Ude

Ulan-Ude is just a hundred kilometers away from Baikal, the largest freshwater lake in the world. Apart from its proximity to this natural wonder, the capital of Buryatia is distinguished by its strong connection with Mongolian traditions. As many Buryats profess Buddhism, the city has Buddhist temples, called Datsans, and special national holidays. Celebrations of Tsagaan Sar, the Lunar New Year, for instance, still recall the holiday’s shaman origins. The Buryats prepare a feast table with fried dumplings to welcome spring.


Population:
439 128 people

Founded:
1666

Federal Subject:
The Republic of Buryatia

Languages:
Russian, Buryat


The Coldest City of Treasures

Yakutsk

Winter temperatures usually drop to minus 50 degrees Celsius, but children of Yakutsk are only allowed to skip school when the thermometer says it’s minus 45. This grueling climate taught the Yakuts to protect themselves skilfully: they erect houses on stilts to keep human warmth from melting the permafrost. The deep-frozen soil is also quite famous for its mammoths and diamonds. Another gemstone of Yakutsk is contemporary cinema, much of which is produced in the Yakut language.


Population:
322 987 people

Founded:
1632

Federal Subject:
Sakha Republic

Languages:
Russian, Yakut


City on the Pacific Bonded with Asia

Vladivostok

Settled around the Golden Horn Bay, Vladivostok is the largest Russian cargo port on the Pacific Ocean. It maintains strong economic connections with China, Japan and Korea, in particular through the fish trade. It takes 6 days by train or 8 hours by air to get from Vladivostok to Moscow. No wonder that its residents prefer to visit nearby Asian countries on vacation. This Eastern influence is visible in the assortment featured in the region’s markets and in the local street food: pyanse, kimchi and ramen are more common than pancakes.


Population:
606 561 people

Founded:
1860

Federal Subject:
Primorsky Krai

Languages:
Russian


The Northernmost Town in Russia

Pavek

Pevek was founded as a transport hub in the Arctic waters for the needs of the emerging Chukotka mining industry after tin, uranium and other valuable metals were discovered there in the 1930s. Although several gold-mining enterprises are still active near Pevek, half of its residents chose to leave the city after the collapse of the Soviet Union. As a result, Pevek has only one school and a single bus route.


Population:
4494 people

Founded:
1933

Federal Subject:
Chukotka Autonomous Okrug

Languages:
Russian


Pacific City in the Land of Volcanoes

Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

Three active volcanoes (Kozelsky, Avachinsky, and Koryaksky) are nicknamed “domestic,” as they can be seen from any spot in the city. Although the nearby Pacific ocean beach is covered with black volcanic sand, these domestic volcanoes rarely bother the residents: Koryaksky last erupted in 2009. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is a gateway into the magnificent landscapes of Kamchatka Krai, with its glaciers, geysers and mountain rivers. What’s more, you even can watch eared seals’ rookeries in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky itself.


Population:
179 586 people

Founded:
1740

Federal Subject:
Kamchatka Krai

Languages:
Russian