The one minute summary on Russia
This is it: one minute to the best info on Russia. This info alone will put you ahead of 99% of foreigners visiting Russia, garner the admiration of the locals who will instantly want to be your friends, and the envy of your fellow travelers. Read on. You’ll make friends faster that way, become a traveler instead of simply being a tourist, and also enjoy your travels a lot more.
Founded in the 12th century, the Principality of Muscovy, was able to emerge from over 200 years of Mongol domination (13th-15th centuries) and to gradually conquer and absorb surrounding principalities. In the early 17th century, a new ROMANOV Dynasty continued this policy of expansion across Siberia to the Pacific. Under PETER I (ruled 1682-1725), hegemony was extended to the Baltic Sea and the country was renamed the Russian Empire. During the 19th century, more territorial acquisitions were made in Europe and Asia. Defeat in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 contributed to the Revolution of 1905, which resulted in the formation of a parliament and other reforms.
Repeated devastating defeats of the Russian army in World War I led to widespread rioting in the major cities of the Russian Empire and to the overthrow in 1917 of the imperial household. The communists under Vladimir LENIN seized power soon after and formed the USSR. The brutal rule of Iosif STALIN (1928-53) strengthened communist rule and Russian dominance of the Soviet Union at a cost of tens of millions of lives. The Soviet economy and society stagnated in the following decades until General Secretary Mikhail GORBACHEV (1985-91) introduced glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) in an attempt to modernize communism, but his initiatives inadvertently released forces that by December 1991 splintered the USSR into Russia and 14 other independent republics. Since then, Russia has shifted its post-Soviet democratic ambitions in favor of a centralized semi-authoritarian state in which the leadership seeks to legitimize its rule through managed national elections, populist appeals by President PUTIN, and continued economic growth. Russia has severely disabled a Chechen rebel movement, although violence still occurs throughout the North Caucasus.
That was it. I promised one minute.
For other condensed info check also my other posts on local culture (don’t make the mistakes I made), local food or local drinks. And when you call your friends to tell them you were by far the most knowledgeable at the party, do that with confidence that you’ll not get hit with a 6.99 per minute bill. You’ll also pick the local food from the tray, and order a local drink with confidence.
- Cultural Mistakes To Avoid in Russia
- Does my current phone work in Russia ? Tips to cell phone usage in Russia
- Local food you should try in Russia and No miss drinks in Russia
Now, cheers to the most Russia aware person at the cocktail party.
What are the key history moments for Russia?
An Imperial Power Russian identity can be traced to the Middle Ages, its first state known as Kievan Rus and its religion rooted in Byzantians’ Christianity that was adopted from Constantinople. However it was not considered part of mainstream Europe until the reign of Tsar Peter the Great, who ruled until 1725. He was a dedicated Europhile and the first Tsar to visit ‘Europe proper’. Peter established the Russian Empire in 1721, although the Romanov dynasty had been in power since 1613. One of Russia’s most charismatic and forceful leaders, Peter built the foundations of empire on a centralized and authoritarian political culture and forced “westernization” of the nation. As part of this effort he moved the capital from the medieval and insular city of Moscow to St. Petersburg, a city built by force of his will and strength of his treasury. Modeled largely on French and Italianate styles, St.
Petersburg became known as Russia’s “Window on the West” and adopted the manners and style of the royal courts of western Europe, to the point of adopting French as its preferred language. The Russian Empire reached its peak during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, producing many colorful and enlightened figures such as Catherine the Great, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy. Nevertheless, the gulf between the authoritarian dynasty and its subjects became more apparent with each generation. By the late 19th century, political crises followed in rapid succession, with rebellion and repression locked a a vicious cycle of death and despair. The occasional attempts by the Romanovs and the privileged classes to reform the society and ameliorate the condition of the underclasses invariably ended in failure.
Russia entered the World War I in the union of the Triple Entente, like other European Empires with catastrophic results for itself. Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, proved to be feckless, weak, and distracted by personal tragedies and the burdens of the war. The government proved unable to hold back the Russian Revolution of 1917. Deposed and held under house arrest, Nicholas, Alexandra, and their children — and with them the Romanov dynasty — were exterminated by gunfire in the basement of Yekaterinburg manor house and buried in unmarked graves which were found after Communism and reburied in the St. Paul and Peter Cathedral in Saint Petersburg. Headquarters of Communism World War I strained Imperial Russia’s governmental and social institutions to the breaking point of Revolution in 1917.
Following a brief interim government headed by social democrat Alexander Kerensky, the Bolshevik faction of the Communist Party under Marxist Vladimir Lenin seized power, withdrew Russia from the war, and launched a purge of clerics, political dissidents, aristocrats, the bourgeoise, and the kulak class of wealthy independent farming classes. A brutal civil war between the “Red Army” of the communist leadership and the “White Army” of the nobility and middle classes lasted until late 1920. In his years in power, Lenin used the Red Army, the internal security apparatus, and the Communist Party leadership to arrest and execute many opponents of the nascent regime, and redistribute land that have long been owned by the nobility to peasants who work in it (Collectivisation of agriculture would not take place until 1928).
After the Civil War, Lenin adopted a New Economic Policy, which allowed certain sectors to be denationalized, as well as canceling the practice of grain requisitioning that was widely used in wartime, as well as a loosening of political and cultural controls. The revolutionary state was not directly ruled by the officials in titular control of the government, which was established in the name of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The government in the commonly understood sense was largely irrelevant both in fact and in Communist theory throughout the years of Communist control. In a manner akin to the Tsarist regime, the real power lay in the leadership of the Communist Party, the Red Army, and the internal security apparatus (secret police). Following Lenin’s death in 1924, a power struggle among the Bolshevik leadership ensued, with Josef Stalin emerging as the new leader of the Communist Party and dictator of the USSR. Stalin’s brutal rule (1928-53) was marked by waves of “purges” in which suspected dissidents in the government, the Party, the Red Army, and even the security forces were executed or exiled to gulags (prison camps) on little or no evidence. In addition to forced collectivization of agriculture and renationalization of industries, Stalin introduced a ruthlessly centralized economic system (“socialism in one country”) that rapidly industrialized the USSR. Stalin’s rivals to succeed Lenin, as well as critics arising thereafter, typically ended up as victims of the purges. Although seen as less of an idealist than Lenin or Trotsky, Stalin did relentlessly pursue international revolution through the Russia-based “Comintern” control over the communist parties of foreign countries, and foreign espionage. World War II, from a Soviet perspective, began with Stalin abruptly entering into a Non-Aggression Pact with Nazi Germany.
The Treaty, which shook Western governments to their core and stunned the Left in Europe and America, guaranteed Hitler a free hand to launch war against Poland, France, and England. The Pact also granted the USSR itself leave to invade and conquer neutral Finland and take over all of eastern Poland after the German invasion in 1939, which predominantly populated by East Slavic tribes. Finally in June 1941, having conquered France and most of the rest of Western Europe, Hitler turned on his erstwhile ally and invaded the USSR. A change to an alliance of necessity with the Western nations was instrumental in the defeat of Nazism in 1945.
The Red Army’s bloody campaigns on the Eastern Front, culminating in its capture of Berlin, resulted in over 20 million Soviet deaths, most of them civilian victims, or soldiers thrown into ghastly land battles. At the conclusion of the Second World War, the USSR rapidly moved to establish influence over all of the eastern half of Europe, encouraging the creation of Communist regimes in East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Romania and effectively crushed political dissent.
In Asia, it also helped to install communist governments in China, North Vietnam and North Korea. Western critics came to describe the USSR and its European and Asian “satellites” as trapped behind an “Iron Curtain” of ruthless totalitarianism and command economies. Yugoslavia’s Communist Party rifted from Moscow in 1948, but similar attempts in Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968) were ruthlessly crushed. After Stalin’s death in 1953, Soviet heavy industry and military might continued to grow under Georgy Malenkov (1953-1955) and Nikita Khrushchev (1955-1964), Stalin’s successors as General Secretary of the Party. Attempts were made to produce consumer goods, as well as a progressive decentralization, despite resistance from the armed forces. In 1956, Khrushchev renounced the excesses of Stalin’s regime and commenced his own purge to “de-Stalinize” the economy and society of the USSR. Results were mixed, and Khrushchev himself was deposed. In October 1957 the USSR became the first country to launch an artificial satellite into space. This was followed by sending the first human (Yuri Gagarin) into space in 1961. The Soviet Union reached its military, diplomatic, and economic peak during the closing years of Leonid Brezhnev (1964-1982). But increasing corruption and a slowdown in economic growth marched inexorably to a crisis that eventually led General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-91) to introduce glasnost (openness) and perestroika (limited economic freedom – literally: rebuilding). His initiatives inadvertently released forces that went beyond his control, triggering political movements that eventually consumed the Soviet Union itself in December 1991. A Nascent Democracy Novgorod memorial to the Viking Ryurik and the ensuing 1,000 years of Russian history The Russian Federation emerged from the Soviet Union, accompanied by a storm of problems followed. The first leader of the newly formed nation was Boris Yeltsin, who rose to power by standing up to an attempted putsch by the KGB. Yeltsin largely succeeded in transferring control over the country from the old Soviet elite to his own oligarchic apparatus.
Yeltsin was a charismatic leader widely supported by the West, but his government proved to be unstable. A wave of economic hardship put Russia’s economy in ruins and left the military underfunded and undisciplined. During this time, Russian organized crime and its relationship with the government, now universally recognized as corrupt and incompetent, assumed greater control over the nation, even as political reforms were taking place. Ironically, before he came to power Yeltsin had labelled Russia as the “biggest mafia state in the world”. Russia was also at war with Chechen separatists, which had devastating consequences for the already weak Russian economy. Widespread corruption, poverty, and large-scale political and social problems, eventually forced to Yeltsin resign, and Vladimir Putin filled his remaining term (January – April 2000) as President. An ex-KGB officer under the Communist regime, and head of the revived Russian spy service under Yeltsin, Putin imposed his own personality and will on the unruly and criminal quarters of the country, but has been much condemned for his authoritarian behavior. Having served his constitutionally limited terms (2000-2008), Putin titularly stepped down as President but continued to control the government through his anointed successor, Dmitry Medvedev. To no one’s surprise, Putin resumed the presidency when eligible again in 2012.
Since 2000, under Putin’s direct and indirect rule, the economy has bounced back from crisis, thanks in no small part to five-fold increases in the prices of raw materials Russia has in abundance. Inflation has dropped down from the triple digits into single units, poverty has been reduced, and Russia has re-emerged as a dominant regional economic, political and military power. This performance has often been called the “Russian Miracle.” Today, the modern Russia still has to fully recover from the doldrums that have hit the country in recent years, with inflation driving up prices, an increasingly unstoppable burden to combat pervasive corruption, an under-competitive political system, conflict in the North Caucasus, a demographic crisis, and decreasing economic competition. Russians also appear to be facing up to the problem of reconciling Putin’s successes with his totalitarian and self-aggrandizing impulses. Nonetheless, Russians have achieved a much higher standard of living since the fall of the USSR.
The one minute summary for Russia geography
Best places to see in Russia
Russia is immense, and extraordinarily long on attractions for visitors, although many lie in the hard-to-reach stretches of the planet’s most remote lands. The best known sights are in and around the nation’s principal cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
Historical attractions Fortress at Derbent Russia’s history is the number one reason why tourists come to this country, following the draw of its fascinating, sometimes surreal, oftentimes brutal, and always consequential national saga. Early history Derbent, in the Caucasian Republic of Dagestan, is Russia’s most ancient city, dating back 5,000 years. Home to the legendary Gates of Alexander, the walled fortress-city, alternately controlled by Caucasian Albania, Persian empires, and the Mongols (until its eighteenth century conquest by the Russian Empire) was for 1500 years the key to controlling trade between Western Russia and the Middle East. Other ancient peoples of Russia left less evidence of their civilization, but you can find traces of the Kurgan people of the Urals, in particular the ruined pagan shrines and burial mounds around the old capital of Tobolsk and throughout the Republic of Khakassia. Of early Russia’s city states, one of the best preserved and most interesting include Staraya Ladoga, regarded as the nation’s first capital, established by the viking Rurik, to whom the first line of Tsars traced their lineage. Novgorod, founded in 859, was the most important city of Kievan Rus in modern Russia (with Kiev itself in modern day Ukraine), and home to Russia’s first kremlin. Early Medieval Russia saw two major civilizations, that of the independent Novgorod Republic and the Mongol Empire, which dominated the Russian principalities of former Vladimir-Suzdal (whose initial capital of Vladimir retains an excellent collection of twelfth century monuments and kremlin) and Kievan Rus. While the Mongols left mostly devastation of historical sites in their wake, the wealthy trading nation to the north developed grand cities at the capital of Novgorod, as well as Staraya Ladoga, Pskov, and Oreshek (modern day Shlisselburg), all of which have extant medieval kremlins and a multitude of beautiful early Russian Orthodox churches filled with medieval ecclesiastical frescoes.
As Mongol power waned, the Grand Duchy of Moscow rose to power, and particularly under the later reign of Ivan the Terrible, consolidated power in all of Western Russia, including the conquest of the Kazan Khanate (and establishing another grand citadel there) and concentrated power in Moscow, building its kremlin, St Basil’s Cathedral, and several other of Russia’s best known historical sites.
The cities of the Golden Ring surrounding Moscow likewise saw significant construction during this period. A really neat off-the-beaten-path destination also rose to prominence in the extreme north of the countrythe Solovetsky Monastery-fortress on the islands of the White Sea, which served as a bulwark against Swedish naval incursions. Imperial history The Grand Cascade in Peterhof Ivan the Terrible’s reign ended in tragedy, the Time of Troubles, which only saw destruction and ruin, and you will find little evidence of civilizational development until the establishment of the Romanov Dynasty in the early seventeenth century. Peter the Great, after having consolidated power, began the construction of his entirely new city of Saint Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland, the Window to the West. Saint Petersburg from its foundation through the neoclassical period became one of the world’s most magically beautiful cities, and the list of must-see attractions is far too long to be discussed here.
The surrounding summer palaces at Peterhof, Pavlovsk, and Pushkin are also unbelievably opulent attractions. The Russian Revolution was one of the twentieth century’s defining moments, and history buffs will find much to see in Saint Petersburg. The two best known sites are found at the Winter Palace, which the communists stormed to depose Tsar Nicolas II, and the beautiful Peter and Paul Fortress on the Neva River, which housed numerous revolutionary luminaries in its cold, hopeless prison. For those interested in the grisly end of the Romanov family of Nicholas II, perhaps inspired by the story of Anastasia, look no further than the Church on the Blood in Yekaterinburg, built on the spot of his family’s execution. Moscow, on the other hand, has the most famous monument from the revolutionary periodLenin’s himself, with his embalmed body on display in Red Square. Soviet history The Soviet Era saw a drastic change in Russian history, and the development of a virtually brand new civilization. Mass industrialization programs came with a new aesthetic ethos which emphasized functionality (combined with grandiosity). The enormous constructivist buildings and statues of the twentieth century are often derided as ugly monstrosities, but they are hardly boring (whereas the industrial complexes polluting cities from the Belarussian border to the Pacific are genuine eyesores). Both World War II and Stalin’s reign of terror made their presence felt greatly upon Russia’s cultural heritage. The bombings involved in the former virtually wiped out anything of historical interest in Russia’s extreme west (the Chernozemye region) and damaged much more throughout European Russia. It did, however, lead to the construction of monuments to the war throughout the entire country.
For military buffs, a visit to Mamaev Kurgan, the museum complex at Volgograd (former Stalingrad) is an excellent destination. Kursk, for its enormous tank battle, and Saint Petersburg, site of the Siege of Leningrad, make interesting destinations. The Motherland Calls, looming over the Battlefield of Stalingrad, atop Mamayev Kurgan Maybe the saddest of the Soviet legacies is the network of prison camps known as the Gulag Archipelago.
The term Archipelago really does not capture the scope of suffering across 10,000 kilometers of cold steppe. Perhaps the most interesting sites for those interested in this legacy are on the Solovetsky Islands in the White Sea, and the devastatingly bleak Kolyma gulag system of Magadan Oblast. If you were hoping to see where Alexandr Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned, you’ll have to travel beyond the Russian borders to Ekibastuz in Kazakhstan.
Cultural sights Russia has several of the world’s greatest museums, particularly in the field of the visual arts. The Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg is the true star, with an enormous collection amassed first by the wealthy tsars (particularly by its founder, Catherine the Great) and later by the Soviets and the Red Army (which seized enormous treasure from the Nazis, who in turn had seized their bounty from their wars around the globe). Equally impressive is the edifice housing the collection on display, the magnificent Winter Palace of the Romanov Dynasty. Saint Petersburg’s often overlooked Russian Museum should also be a priority, as it has the country’s second best collection of purely Russian art, from icons of the tenth century on through the modern movements, in all of which revolutionary Russia led the charge ahead of the rest of the world. Moscow’s art museums, only slightly less well known, include the Tretyakov Gallery (the premiere collection of Russian art) and the Pushkin Museum of Western Art. Other museum exhibitions certainly worth seeking out are the collections of antiquities in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, particularly at the Hermitage Museum, and the Armory in the Moscow Kremlin.
For military buffs, Russian military museums are often fantastic, truly best-in-the-world, regardless of whether you are at one of the main ones in the Moscowthe Central Armed Forces Museum, Kubinka Tank Museum, Central Air Force Museum, Museum of the Great Patriotic War (WWII), or way off in the provinces. The other category in which Russian museums outshine the rest of the world would be within the literary and musical spheres. Nary a town visited, if only for a day, by Alexander Pushkin is without some small museum dedicated to his life and works. The best of the big city museums include the Bulgakov Museum in Moscow and the Anna Akhmatova, Pushkin, and Dostoevsky museums in Saint Petersburg. Great adventures await in quieter parts of the country, at Dostoevsky’s summer house in Staraya Russa, Tolstoy’s “inaccessible literary stronghold” at Yasnaya Polyana, Chekhov’s country estate at Melikhovo, Tchaikovsky’s house in Klin or remote hometown of Votkinsk in Udmurtia, Rakhmaninov’s summer home in Ivanovka, Pushkin’s estate at Pushkinskie Gory, or Turgenev’s country estate at Spasskoe-Lutovinovo near Mtsensk. The best museums are in the countryside.
For classical music lovers, the apartment museums of various nineteenth and century composers in Saint Petersburg are worth more than just nostalgic wanderingsthey often have small performances by incredible musicians. Kazan’s Kul-Sharif Mosque, largest in Europe All tourists in Russia find themselves looking at a lot of churches. Ecclesiastical architecture is a significant source of pride among Russians, and the onion dome is without question a preeminent national symbol. The twentieth century, sadly, saw cultural vandalism in the destruction of said architecture on an unprecedented scale. But the immense number of beautiful old monasteries and churches ensured that an enormous collection remains.
The best known, as usual, are in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, in particular the old baroque Church on the Spilled Blood, Alexander Nevsky Lavra, and the monumental Kazan and Saint Isaac’s Cathedrals in the former, and Saint Basil’s Cathedral and the massive Church of the Annunciation in the latter. The spiritual home of the Russian Orthodox Church is to be found at the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius in Sergiev Posad on the Golden Ring circuit (lavra is the designation given to the most important monasteries, of which there are only two in the country), although the physical headquarters of the Church is at Danilov Monastery in Moscow. Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery in Vologda Oblast is often considered Russia’s second most important (and is a neat way to get off the beaten track). Other particularly famous churches and monasteries are to be found at Saint Sophia’s Cathedral in Novgorod, the Cathedral of the Assumption in Vladimir, the fascinating Old Cathedral of Königsberg (home to Immanuel Kant’s tomb) in Kaliningrad, Novodevichy Convent in Moscow, Optina Putsin (the basis for Father Zossima’s monastery in The Brothers Karamazov), and Volokolamsk Monastery in West MOscow Oblast. Kizhi Pogost on Lake Onega and Valaam Monastery on Lake Ladoga are also popular sites, especially with those cruising between Saint Petersburg and Moscow.
Ecclesiastical architecture does not, however, end with the Russian Orthodox ChurchRussia also has a wealth of Islamic and Buddhist architecture. The nation’s most important mosques are the Qol?ärif Mosque in Kazan (the largest mosque in Europe) and the Blue Mosque in Saint Petersburg (originally the largest mosque in Europe!). Notably absent from that list is the Moscow Cathedral Mosque, which was formerly considered the principal mosque in the country, but was very controversially demolished in 2011. Russia’s most prominent Buddhist temples are in both KalmykiaEurope’s lone Buddhist republic, and the areas closer to Mongolia, especially around Ulan Ude in Buryatia and Kyzyl, Tuva. Natural attractions While the distances are great between them, Russia’s natural wonders are impressive and worth seeking out for nature lovers.
The best known destinations are far to the east in Siberia, with Lake Baikal known as its “jewel.” At the extreme eastern end of Russia, nearly all the way to Japan and Alaska, is wild Kamchatka, where you will find the Valley of the Geisers, lakes of acid, volcanoes, and grizzlies galore. Yugyd Va National Park, in the Komi Virgin Forests Other highlights of the Far East include the idyllic (if kind of cold) Kuril Islands to the south of Kamchatka, whale watching off the coast of arctic Wrangel Island, the remote Sikhote-Alin mountain range, home to the Amur Tiger, and beautiful Sakhalin. The nature reserves throughout these parts are spectacular as well, but all will require permits in advance and specialized tours.
The northern half of Russia stretching thousands of miles from the Komi Republic through Kamchatka is basically empty wilderness, mostly mountainous, and always beautiful. Getting to these areas is problematic, as most are not served by any roads, infrastructure, or really anything else. Russia’s great north-south rivers are the main arteries for anyone moving through the area: the Pechora, Ob, Yenisey, Lena, and Kolyma. Beyond that, expect to be in canoes, helicopters, and military issue jeeps will be the only way of getting around, and you’ll likely want to go with a guide. Russia’s other mountainous territory is in its extreme south, in the Northern Caucasus. There you will find Europe’s tallest mountains, which tower in height over the Alps, including mighty Elbrus. Favorite Russian resorts in the area include those at Sochi (which hosted the 2014 Winter Olympic games) and Dombai. As you go further east in the North Caucasus, the landscapes become ever more dramatic, from the lush forested gorges and snow capped peaks of Chechnya to the stark desert mountains of Dagestan, sloping downwards to the Caspian Sea. Throughout the entire country, there are over a hundred National Parks and Nature Reserves (zapovedniki).
The former are open to the public, and considerably more wild and undeveloped than you would find in, say, the United States. The latter are preserved principally for scientific research and are often not possible to visit. Permits are issued for certain reserves, but only through licensed tour operators. If you have the opportunity, though, take it! Some of the most spectacular parks are in the aforementioned Kamchatka, but also in the Urals, particularly in the Altai Mountains (Altai Republic and Altai Krai). Itineraries Circum-Baikal Railway is the road on the shore of Baikal Lake. Golden Ring the classic route around ancient cities and towns in Central Russia crowned with golden cupolas of its churches and convents. Green Ring of Moscow Natural Parks and Reserves in Moscow vicinities. Silver Ring the chain of Northern towns surrounding Saint Petersburg. Trans-Siberian Railway the endless train ride that needs no introduction.