Everything About Russian Culture

By OptiLingo • 19 minutes read

What Is the Popular Opinion of Sports in Russia?

Before you begin working your way to foreign language fluency, it helps to understand the culture behind the language you’re learning. After all, language exists to help a group of people express their ideas and beliefs. Russia is a vast country with a rich history and culture. As you begin your Russian language program, gaining a strong grasp on this history, the values, and the etiquette will help you rapidly achieve success. In particular, Russians don’t see sports with the same sense of zeal and enthusiasm as the rest of the world.

Sports – Take ‘Em or Leave ‘Em

Participation in sports may be popular in other areas of the world, but for Russia, the interest is less exuberant. Many of the occupants would much rather watch and chat about the various athletic activities with their friends and family instead of participating. However, in order to stay fit and trim, men do make an effort and may organize weekend games of volleyball or football.

When you’re looking at spectator sports, football ranks the most popular among Russians. Also known as soccer, men and children also find that in addition to watching the players run back and forth across the field, they like to participate in the sporting event.

Although many deem it as an American sport, billiards is another favorite pastime, especially among businessmen. But billiards in Russia is different as they play with one set color of balls. The corner netting that the balls fall into on the billiard table are also smaller in size.

Other favorite weekend pastime for Russians is playing cards. Many enjoy card games played on the beach for their relaxation. You’ll also find poker sessions a great pastime for men. Unfortunately, their wives are not so fond of their playing the game. Played with between 2 and 5 individuals, “Дурак” is a favorite Russian card game that uses a 36-card deck. The primary object of the game is for a person to get rid of their cards in their hand.

Integration of Politics into Sports

It is no secret that Russians are experts at sports. The latter part of the 20th century showed the best in Russian athleticism in every type of arena. This includes professional sport circuits, as well as, global showcases like the Olympics.

For some obvious reasons, Russian standout athletes can be found in sports like figure skating, hockey, weightlifting, and gymnastics. This has little to do with the fact that Russia is located in a colder climate, but more to do with the discipline of Russian athletes.

Political environments in the past have worked to create a culture in Russia that was defined by the whims of political and economic powers. Boris Yeltsin, along with his role as the first post-Soviet premier, was actively involved in sports. He created a specialized training organization dedicated to tennis. The Moscow Tennis Cup tournament arose from Yeltsin’s love of the game. Vladimir Putin is more of an extreme sports enthusiast. During his several terms in office, he has inspired a new wave of sports in the Russian population. Martial arts and equine training have grown in popularity in recent decades.

Presently, the Russian sporting scene combines vogue international trends and hardcore sport pursuits. The interests of Russian sport enthusiasts range from downhill skiing to base-jumping and snow-biking. These types of sports are attractive to amateur crowds, but are especially popular with the upper classes. It is not uncommon for visitors to Russia who want to take advantage of sport opportunities, to find saunas and pro shops that compare with shops in Beverly Hills, CA and winter wonderlands like Tahoe, NV.

Though expensive and posh sport areas are becoming more popular in Russia, visitors can still take advantage of the country’s many sport venues for affordable prices. This includes scenes that trek through Moscow’s Gorky Park, Red Square, and the abundant collection of local gyms and parks.

Russian Spirituality and Religion

The Evolving Spirituality of Russia

Russia formally accepted Christianity in 988. This conversion was lead by Vladimir the Great (ВладимирВеликий), who reigned Kievan Rus’ (КиевскаяРусь) from 980 – 1015; he sent warriors and Orthodox priests to baptize Novgorod and break local Slavs of their historical pagan religions.

For over a thousand years the Russian Orthodox Church played an important role in Russian history. It united the Russian princes in the age of feudal strife; it gave the people comfort at the time of the Tatar invasions; it developed art, blessed soldiers before battles, and fostered education.

During the Soviet era, church icons were replaced by portraits of Marx and Lenin, with the later addition of Stalin and other leaders. The Commandments were carefully woven into the “Моральныйкодексстроителякоммунизма”(“Moral Code of the Builder of Communism.”) The values of the Russian Orthodox Church—patience, humility, and mutual assistance—were ideally suited for the hardworking collectives of the “строителикоммунизма”(“builders of Communism”).

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the discrediting of Soviet ideology created a vacuum of faith: if there were to be no Communist paradise ahead, what could people believe in? At first the vacuum was filled by numerous American sects, and by magicians and con artists claiming enormous extrasensory powers; but by the middle of the 1990s the majority of the population had turned to Orthodox Christianity. With its chanting, choral music, myrrh aromas, and ornate churches, the Russian Orthodox faith appeals to the subconscious, to the emotional side of our nature, providing relief and hope.

The Cathedral of Christ the Savior

When looking for the heart of Russia’s spirituality, you need look no further than the Cathedral of Christ the Savior – “ХрамХристаСпасителя.” Sitting in the heart of Moscow, the church was built back in 1881 but Stalin had other ideas for it when he took power. In 1931 he wanted the cathedral destroyed in order to put up a Palace of the Soviets “temple.”

The site was blown up and construction began, though the palace never materialized. Eventually, the site was turned into a heated indoor swimming pool and was used for several decades. It wasn’t until 1995 that the Russian Orthodox Church asked the government to allow for the restoration of the original cathedral. The project was approved and a public fund allowed the church to rebuild.

These days, Sunday services are a sight to see. There are Russians from all walks of life choosing to attend services there. People who are visiting Russia should go in order to really get a feel, not only for the church in action, but also a better idea of what Russian culture is all about. The rules for attending are fairly simple. You should exit and leave quietly and you don’t need to stay through the entire church service.

When it comes to the style of dress, women are expected to wear headscarves and men should not be wearing anything at all on their heads when they enter the church. As long as you are respectful, the church has no problem letting you come and view a service.

Russian Art, Music, Theatre

The Thriving Theater

Russian theater – “русскийтеатр” – is still alive and thriving today. From the classics to the contemporary, the theater continues to express the Russian soul in both traditional and innovative ways. From the Moscow art theater to basement studios with several rows of seats, theaters throughout Russia are still eagerly attended.

The most famous theater and ballet stage is “Мариинскийтеатр,” named for the Russian Empress МарияАлександровна. It has historically been the largest and grandest theater, and is the home of William Forsythe’s “Sleeping Beauty”(“Спящаякрасавица”) and original cyberpunk ballets. The founding of “Александринскийтеатр” on August 30, 1756 is considered the beginning of professional theater in Russia. “Александринка,” what it is often called, was founded by the Empress Elizabeth and is still considered the ‘theater of masters’, where the highest rated talent in Russia comes to perform.

For a more musically-centered experience, be sure to visit “Большойтеатр.” It is the center of not only the Russian musical culture, but of much of the international culture of music as well. This theater cultivates the evolution of traditional Russian music traditions into contemporary cultural elements which resonate with the unique spiritual state of the country which has been through a revolution and is still reinventing itself. The best musical theater in Russia is found in “Большойтеатр.”

If you are going to visit one of Russia’s exquisite theaters, keep in mind that there are usually several plays in a theater’s repertoire at a time, and many of them require tickets to be purchased well in advance.

An Unknown Love of Reading

Among some Westerners, their view of Russians is that they are not particularly smart. That might come as a shock to people who keep track of things like who is tracking something in the publishing business. It turns out that in 2006, Russia became the fourth largest publishing market in the world. Publishing is also one of the top five sectors of growth in the Russian economy. It turns out that Russians are voracious readers and that doesn’t just mean books. The Russian people love to read magazines and newspapers as well.

The only thing the people of Russia love to do more than reading, is to talk about the thing they just read. Go to a Russian coffee shop and you are going to overhear rather loud conversations about philosophy and the most recent books to hit the market. You will also hear talk about what texts were just read in classes and what they think that means for their classes moving forward. Perhaps the only thing Russians take more pride in than what they read, is how well they are doing academically.

Russians believe the progress of their children is part of their duties here on earth. They want to make sure that their kids are learning and progressing in school. When they do find that their kids are doing well with a certain subject matter, they are going to make sure their friends and family know about the accomplishments of those children.

An Art Lover’s Paradise

If you are a lover of art, history, and culture, Russia can be a great country to visit as it boasts an impressive collection of museums, galleries, and art auctions. This stems from a deep, cultural appreciation of art. An anonymous art collector recently stated: “we Russians need to feed our souls.” International art auctions boasting Russian pieces can draw record bids, often from private Russian art collectors, and occasionally from Russian museums as well.

Art galleries and museums in Russia display both national artists and works, as well as stunning international pieces. If you are interested in Dutch paintings, “Эрмитаж” (the Hermitage) in Saint Petersburg holds the world’s largest collection. Also found there are impressionist paintings, silver, and Russian art pieces. The Hermitage is so large, guidebooks claim a person would need to visit there every single day for three years to see everything.

Further stops for the art-loving visitor should include “Третьяковскаягалерея”(the Tretyakov Gallery) and “МузейПушкина” (the Pushkin Museum) in Moscow, which offer unique collections of Russian art. “МосковскийКремль,” the Kremlin Museum, just celebrated its bicentennial, and is a great place to wander through if you want to see the country’s history unfold through gold artifacts, armor, state regalia, and manuscripts.

While you are within the Kremlin’s walls, make sure you also check out “Царь-колокол” (the Tsar Bell) and “Царь-пушка” (the Tsar Cannon) in “Ивановскаяплощадь” (Ivan Square). Both are a sight to behold as, in true Russian tradition, they were cast to be the largest in the world, though ironically neither was ever used.

Melodic Musings in Russian Music

Music is an integral part of Russian culture, and is a true reflection of the Russian soul; passionate, melancholic, and melodic, it embraces folk songs, Byzantine choral chanting, Eastern motifs, and Western harmony. It is a true amalgamation of styles which reflects the evolving nature of contemporary Russian culture. There are plenty of places in Russia where one can hear this music, from church services to culture halls. Some places like БольшойТеатр combine music with acting, a practice which plays an important role in the preservation and growth of Russian music. Famous concert halls include the Tchaikovsky Conservatory (КонсерваторияимениЧайковского) and the Izvestiya Hall (ИзвестияHall) in Moscow. The State Kremlin Palace (ГосударственныйКремлёвскийдворец) is also one of the biggest theatrical musical stages in Russia.

Music festivals, while not as prestigious or refined as a grand theater, are one of the best places to experience Russian music. While a music hall will expose you to some of Russia’s famous classical works, music festivals are a window in the music that is integral to the part of Russian society that evolved from farms and the peasant lifestyle. Among these musical, cultural events is the White Nights Festival in Saint Petersburg (Фестиваль “БелыеночиСанкт-Петербурга”), which is unique in its combination of opera, ballet, and classical music with the magic of northern June, when night slips into day in one long, ethereal twilight. If you are a music lover or wish to experience a uniquely beautiful piece of Russian culture, this is one event you will not want to miss.

Shop Like a Russian

If you want to learn how to be frugal, go shopping with a Russian, particularly a Russian woman. Women all around the world have a reputation for impulsive shopping, overspending, using credit cards and falling for a good sale. Russian women don’t really fit the mold. They will shop but rarely do they make “selfish” purchases. They are mainly buying with the family in mind. Russian women usually have the responsibility of shopping for the family, so they can be seen buying items like food, household goods and clothing for the family. They are keen on value, but this does not mean they are subject to purchasing expensive brands. They know the difference between the two and often shop knowing the price range of what they will buy before purchasing it. Russian women love style, but this does not mean they are extravagant.

Russians in general shop to get what they need, and they don’t spend excessive amounts of time in town. One English tourist visiting Moscow claimed, “I know now why Russians don’t smile on the streets. Everybody is on a mission. They concentrate on what they have to do.” Russians know that they have many obligations, such as getting to work on time, taking the kids to school and picking them up, and completing all the household shopping.

Russian Media

The Growing Internet Use in Russia

As the largest nation and one of the top 10 most populous countries in the world, you would think that Russia can easily dominate others when it comes to Internet use. However, Russians are not particularly addicted to the Internet, unlike other places.

According to the National Public Opinion, about 25% of Russians use the Internet these days. Although the percentage is quite small, Russia has seen a huge improvement in the number of users in just a few years.

Social Media in Russia: Another poll by the same organization showed that most of the Internet users choose “ВКонтакте” or “VK” as their main social media network. About 42% of the respondents say that they use VK on a daily basis. However, 39% of the respondents do not know what VK is.

Meanwhile, Instagram ranked third with 16% users, followed by Facebook with seven percent users, and Twitter at the sixth spot with just three percent users. All the respondents were at least 18 years old. “Одноклассники” is also a popular social network for classmates and old friends.

The development is slow, especially compared to other large countries, such as China and the US, which are enjoying rapid growth. Still, Russia’s numbers are improving. Its main cities, such as the capital Moscow and St. Petersburg, lead with the most number of Internet users.

Prediction: The progress may be sluggish but it is steady and it is expected to increase even more. In fact, it is predicted that by 2018, the figure will grow to over 96 million users. By 2019, there should be almost 99 million Internet users in the country.

With many methods of online communication, it is no wonder that many Russians are now turning to chatting with their friends.

TV and Radio: Still the Main Sources of Information in Russia

Russia has many sources of information, and the biggest in number are newspapers. With over 25,000 companies, you would think it would be the leading “informant” in the country. However, according to opinion polls, television is still the most trusted information source in the Russia.

The Public Has Spoken: TV beat other sources including radio programs, newspapers, and news agencies. There are over 400 news agencies in the country with over half of them running as independent companies. The rest is financed by the government, either fully or partially.

The polls showed that about 82% of the respondents see TV as the primary way for them to get the information they need. Additionally, the polls also said that the Russian public prefers TV over the press.

Radio in Second Place: Surprisingly, radio is the second source of information favored by the Russians. Almost 25% of the poll participants answered “radio” as their chosen means of gathering news. After surveying the people, they also gathered that “Маяк” (Beam) is the most popular radio station in the country. “Маяк” operates 24/7 and provides news to its listeners every 30 minutes.

There are also private radio stations in the country, including “ЕвропаПлюс,”“ЭхоМосквы,” and “Радио 101.” These stations, along with “Ностальжи” and Radio “Надежда” are among those with the most prominent audience share. They broadcast news to the public as well, and they provide analyses on the critical events in the country and the rest of the world. They also allow listeners to enjoy music as well.

Meanwhile, a new station called “Авторадио” has gained rapid popularity, thanks to its focus on cars and traffic.

Russia’s Serious Media Outlets

From Internet to television to magazines, these information channels are without a doubt dominating the market. However, journalism and other similar media outlets are no longer enjoying their glory days, unlike before. Even worse, they have been under pressure since 2000 as authorities are either blocking specific news items or ordering the company to shut down.

However, these details do not seem to matter to the brave people behind the press. Still active today are several newspapers in the country that perform their job in delivering news to the public.

Top Newspapers in Russia: Based on research and statistics, here are the biggest names in newspapers in Russia… When it comes to the top selling newspaper in the country, it is none other than “КомсомольскаяПравда.” This particularly newspaper was founded in 1925 by an organization called “Комсомол.” It is printed and distributed on a daily basis to at least 700,000 people nationwide. The newspaper is believed to have reached a total of 3.1 million readers.

For business news, “Ведомости” is the favorite. It is backed by the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. This business daily provides coverage of events relating to financial, corporate, economic, and political. It also offers forecasts and analysis on the important happenings.

“Коммерсантъ,” or in English “The Businessman,” is a page focused on commerce. The ancient newspaper originated back in 1909 and closed in 1919 after the Bolsheviks censored the media.

Other notable papers include the Russian Gazette or “Российскаягазета,” which was established by the Russian Federation and the “Московскийкомсомолец,” a Moscow-based daily.

Why Do Russians Hate Telephones?

The Real Relationship between Russians and Telephones

There is this joke all over the Internet about Russians and telephones. According to the online joke, one sign that you have stayed enough in Russia if you start picking up the phone and yell “Алло, алло, алло” even when the other person on the line did not say anything.

When you call a Russian, you may get the impression that he or she is a very impatient individual. Imagine a person not even bothering to introduce himself or herself. However, in Russia, you save time when you do this; instead just say, “Алло” or as it is often pronounced “аллё,” which is the standard way of answering the phone. For a foreigner’s ears, it can sound angry, unfriendly, or abrupt but it is just the way it is. There are many people who say “да” (“yes”) when picking up the phone, but “алло”is still more common.

Love of Talking, Hatred of the Telephone

Surprisingly though, Russians enjoy talking. You will find that the conversations typically last for hours, plus the fact that the city calls are quite cheap. However, most Russians do not trust phones. Phone tapping was widespread in the Soviet Union and even after several years, people are still wary of telephones.

In general, Russians avoid talking on the telephone as much as possible. This is why they do not like leaving or even checking their voicemails. When you call a Russian on the phone, you should not expect a warm welcome. While it may bother you, the person you are calling is not being rude at all. It is just a different culture, and soon enough, you will get used to it.

Talking Things over, the Russian Way

While the Russian bear is something that is often thought of when talking about the personalities of the country’s people, they are actually a caring bunch. It turns out that most Russians feel as though it is their responsibility to sit down and talk with people who are having a hard time. The Russian cities are seeing an abundance of counseling centers popping up but in the smaller towns, just getting together and talking things over is still the preferred avenue.

The saying usually goes that people are supposed to be able to talk to their friends when they are having a hard time. People are also supposed to be able to share their personal details with relative strangers if they really need help. If they really just want a shoulder to cry on, most Russians will say they are willing to fill that role.

While the outside view of the Russians might be one of a “tough guy” who never lets anything bother him, it’s not hard to tell that, eventually, even the toughest of tough guy is going to be willing to bare his soul, if that’s what he thinks is called for. The people of Russia believe that counseling certainly helps, but it is kind of a source of pride that they might be able to help their friends and neighbors without having to go that route. They do not want anyone to feel as though they can’t talk to someone about an issue, if there is something that truly needs to be talked about with others.

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