Introduction to Russia
Do Russians love vodka? Are Russian women beautiful? Can Russians be blunt? All stereotypes, but all the more true, perhaps, than the statistical misrepresentation of Russian communist villains on Hollywood’s silver screen today. Russia, once hidden behind the Iron Curtain, piques the most curious of minds with its grand riches and extreme hardships, uninhabitable winter wastelands and sunny beaches, great minds of intelligentsia and tyrants past, historical monuments and emerging, contemporary culture, and everything in between.
Russia spans 9,000 kilometres from east to west, along the way greeting some 18 neighbouring countries, 11 time zones, the shores of 12 seas and the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The world’s largest country is home to some of the toughest terrain on Earth moreover, and includes natural marvels such as Europe’s largest lake, Ladoga, the 800 glaciers of Altai and the ancient Ural Mountains that divide Russia between Asia and Europe.
The two cities of significance are the superlative capital, the red-brick and onion-domed most populous city in Europe, Moscow, and architectural gem, city of ideas and ‘Window to the West’, St Petersburg. Both emerging scenes undertaking a cultural revolution of sorts, here you will find all sorts of creative pursuits and hedonistic clubs among the rich history.
Russia has seen rulers from medieval grand dukes to tsars to communist despots to ex-KGB strongman turned Russian President and Forbes Most Powerful Person for 2013 recipient, Vladimir Putin. As well known for his physique as for helping Russia return to a world power after a decade-long, post-Soviet struggle, Putin is not the only famous Russian without the need to mention a first name. Think Tolstoy, Stalin, Tchaikovsky, Lenin, the list goes on before you get to more recent celebrities like actress Mila Kunis and tennis champ Anna Kournikova.