Russia has the largest territory of any country in the world—more than twice the size of the United States. The physical expanse of this vast landmass reflects its varied environment: tundras, steppes, snow-capped mountains, and birch forests. Its climate also varies across this massive region: type D (continental) weather dominates the southern regions, while type E brings hot summers and frigid winters to the Arctic borderlands.
Despite the long distances that separate them, the Russian people have developed an identity and culture with a global impact. Their cultural sphere is rooted in the rich traditions of classical music, ballet, and literature, with works by Tchaikovsky, Glinka, and others still popular today.
This resonant heritage is complemented by the nation’s storied history of political upheaval and social change. The turbulent twentieth century witnessed the reversal of centuries of centralized power in favor of the republics that became the Soviet Union, followed by the dissolution of that empire and the formation of the independent state of Russia.
The country’s geographic remoteness has also influenced the development of its culture. This isolation has bred a strong sense of pride, and the Russian people have sought to assert their identity by preserving and promoting the values that they believe are most essential for the survival of their nation.
Most overseas visitors first touch down in Moscow or St Petersburg and travel overland from there to other major cities. Direct flights to Moscow’s Pulvoko Airport are available from a range of European and Asian hubs.
From there, it is possible to travel via daytime high-speed trains such as the Sapsan, which whisks you from Moscow to St Petersburg in about four hours. It is also possible to fly between most major Russian cities, although this can be expensive.
Russian women are internationally known for their beauty, and many models have made their names in the fashion industry after landing the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue or appearing at hyped events like the Met Gala. The sultry beauty of model Irina Shayk is perhaps the most famous example of this.
Shayk’s rise to fame accelerated after she became the first Russian model to make the cover of the magazine in 2011. She has since worked with many designer brands and starred in countless movies and TV shows.
While the country’s capitals are the most visited by tourists, most of the nation’s most fascinating sights lie outside of them. Whether it’s the icy spires of the Ural Mountains or the wild, rugged landscape of the Altai Republic, Russia is a treasure trove for nature lovers and adventurers.
As with any foreign destination, it’s important to check with the US Embassy for updates before travelling to Russia. The current US Travel Advisory classifies the country at Level 4: Do Not Travel, due to the ongoing conflict with Ukraine. It’s also a good idea to check with your mobile phone provider to ensure you’ll have coverage in the country and to store emergency contact numbers before departing.