Capital | Moscow
Population | 139,390,205 (July 2010 est.)
Area | 17,075,200 SQ KM
Official Language | Russian
Holidays | Russia Day, 12 June (1990)
Currency | Russian rubles (RUB)
Time Zone | UTC +3
Best Time to Visit | May to October
Connecting with the Culture | Experiencing imperialist extravagance at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. Taking a train journey across Siberia. Learning to drink vodka the Russian way. Gazing at the clear blue waters of Lake Baikal from an old wooden cottage in lovely Listvyanka. Sweating in a banya – the combination of dry sauna, steam bath and plunges into ice-cold water is a regular feature of Russian life. Visiting Lenin’s mummified body in Red Square. Wandering the streets of Moscow to take in the variety of architecture.
Read | Tolstoy’s War and Peace or Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment
Listen | to Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff
Watch | the Oscar-winning Burnt by the Sun, a poignant treatment of Stalinist purges or the 1965 film Dr. Zhivago, staring Omar Sharif and Julie Kristy about the life of a Russian doctor/poet who experiences hardships during the Bolshevik Revolution.
Eat | bliny (pancakes stuffed with savory or sweet fillings) and caviar
Drink | vodka
In a Word | Za vashe zdarov’e! (to your health)
Characteristics | Vodka; Soviet-era architecture; babushkas in scarves; dachas; cabbage
Surprises | St. Petersburg is a beautiful city of canals, sometimes known as the ‘Venice of the North’. It’s precisely the Russian people’s combination of gloom and high spirits, rudeness and warmth, secrecy and openness that makes the journey through their country such an extraordinary experience.
NEWS ABOUT RUSSIA
Russian parliament approves ‘web censorship’ bill
(HN, 7/12/12) - The Russian parliament on Wednesday voted to approve a contentious bill that activists fear will introduce Internet censorship by blacklisting sites deemed as undesirable. In a further controversial move, deputies also passed in 1st reading a bill that makes libel & slander criminal offences with punishment of up to 5 years. “The goal of the bill is to wipe out dissent in our country,” Communist deputy Anatoly Lokot exclaimed at the hearings. The 2 bills are criticised as likely to be used against the opposition & follow initiatives hiking protest fines & introducing the term “foreign agents” for NGO's with funding from abroad. The Russian-language version of Wikipedia went on strike the day earlier in protest of the bill which must be signed by President Vladimir Putin & is expected to become law in November. (Read more at the Pakistan Daily Times)
Madonna Threatened With Fine If She Violates Russia Anti-Gay Law
(HN, 3/22/12) - Madonna could face a fine of 5,000 rubles if she defies St. Petersburg, Russia's recently enacted gay propaganda law when she performs there this summer, warned city council member Vitaly Milonov, the bill's author. Earlier this week, Madonna stated that she would defy the ban. “I will come to St. Petersburg to speak up for the gay community & to give strength & inspiration to anyone who is or feels oppressed,” she wrote on her Facebook page. The law, which took effect earlier this month, criminalizes “public actions aimed at propaganda of pederasty, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism among minors” & effectively outlaws Gay Pride parades & gay rights demonstrations. The 5,000 rubles fine translates to roughly $170. (Read more at On top Magazine)
(AsiaTimes, 3/19/12) - Russia nudges Syria to move on - The latest United Nations Security Council statement on Syria displays unanimity of opinion over the year-long crisis. The onus on the West now is to find a way to work with Russia rather than around Russia, which is taking a lead role in pressurizing President Bashar al-Assad. Moscow will be aware Washington is giving it a rope to hang itself. By M K Bhadrakumar