ARTICLES ABOUT RUSSIA
We welcome you to read some facts about Russia!

A WINDOW ON ANOTHER WORLD

View of the Red Square

View of the Red Square

Over the past decade, with the fall of communism, Russia has captured the imagination of many western travelers. Spanning two continents and eleven time zones, it is the world’s largest country and a land of enormous variety. Arctic deserts and tundra cover much of the north; deep green forests and steppes stretch across the south.

Over the past decade, with the fall of communism, Russia has captured the imagination of many western travelers.

Spanning two continents and eleven time zones, it is the world’s largest country and a land of enormous variety. Arctic deserts and tundra cover much of the north; deep green forests and steppes stretch across the south. The majority of its people are Russian, but many minorities also live within its borders: Tatars, Ukrainians, Chuvash, Bashkir, Belarusians, and Mordvins, among others.

The region between the Dniester and the Volga rivers – European Russia – has been inhabited by various people, including the Slavs.

Kievan Rus, the first Slav state, emerged in the 10th century only to lose its supremacy to Novgorod and other independent states in the 11th and 12th centuries. In the 13th century, Russia was occupied by the Mongols. The princes of Moscow gradually overthrew the Mongols in a series of bloody uprisings during the 14th and 15th centuries. In the 16th century, Muscovy (Moscow) began to expand its territory in a drive that would continue through the reigns of both Peter the Great (1689-1725), and the equally powerful and enigmatic Catherine the Great (1762-96).

In 1812, Russia was invaded by Napoleon. His defeat gave Russia most of the grand duchy of Warsaw. Later in the 19th century, Russia annexed Georgia, Armenia, and the Caucasus territories, making it the largest empire in the world.

The turbulent overthrow of the tzarist regime, in 1917, after the February and October revolutions in St. Petersburg, marks the beginning of the Soviet era. The powerful communist regime that came to power would inevitably become the symbol of Russia for the next 70 years. Russia has been an independent country since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991.

Since the majestic celebration of the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg in 2003, Russia has welcomed a steady stream of tourists from all over the world.

Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great and named after his patron saint, St. Petersburg was the capital of Russia the Royal Russian Empire from 1712 to 1918.

It is said that every sandstone block used in its construction was personally inspected by Peter the Great himself. Nothing can compare with the splendor of “White Nights” in St. Petersburg at the end of May. Standing on the Nevsky, overlooking the spectacular cathedrals and other monuments whose breathtaking facades glisten on the Neva River, one gets a sense of the luxurious, decadent, and yet very tragic history of this northern European capital.

A night train ride from St. Petersburg – or Piter as the Russians call it – brings you to Moscow, the capital of modern Russia. Located on both sides of the Moskva River in western Russia, about 400 miles southeast of St. Petersburg, Moscow is the largest city in Russia.

A night train ride from St. Petersburg – or Piter as the Russians call it – brings you to Moscow, the capital of modern Russia. Located on both sides of the Moskva River in western Russia, about 400 miles southeast of St. Petersburg, Moscow is the largest city in Russia.

Moscow became the capital of the principality of Muscovy in the 13th century and remained the capital of Russia for almost two centuries (1547–1712).

Moscow became the capital of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1918. In the years to come, it would stand as the ultimate symbol of communism. Even today, enfolded by the red walls of the Kremlin, one still feels the undeniable presence of something quite great and very prevailing.

The spiritual home of the Russian Orthodox church for more than 600 years, Moscow is the political, industrial and cultural center of Russia. It is also a great metropolitan European city. Moscow’s most notable structure, the Kremlin – flanked by the Red Square along its eastern wall and dogged by St. Basil's Cathedral at the southern end of the square – is a breathtaking symbol of Old and New Russia.

Moscow and St. Petersburg are favorite destinations, but there is an ancient part of Russia still unknown to many tourists – The Golden Ring of Russia.

The Golden Ring is a chain of Russian cities to the northeast of Moscow that form a circle and “lock up” in the Russian capital. Magnificent churches and monasteries dating back to the 11th century can be found along the route.

Often called Open Air Museums, these towns – Sergiev Posad, Suzdal, Vladimir, Rostov Veliky, Kazan, Novgorod, Kostoma, Tver, and Kizhi, among others – have withstood the power of time and stand today as evidence of an unforgettable and mysterious past.



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THE CITY OF PETER THE GREAT

View of the Palace Square and Alexander Column in St. Petersburg.

View of the Palace Square and Alexander Column in St. Petersburg.

I love, thee, Peter’s own creation,
I love thy stern and comely face,
Neva’s majestic perfluctation,
Her bankments’ granite carapace,
The patterns laced by iron railing,
And of thy meditative night
The lucent dusk, the moonless paling…

Thus is the glory of Peter the Great’s city, St. Petersburg, depicted in the poem The Bronze Horseman by Alexander Pushkin.

The Bronze Horseman is also the name of a statue that stands in all its granite glory on Senatskaya Plochad facing the Neva River in St. Petersburg.

Created by the famous French sculptor Etienne Maurice Falconet, the statue depicts Peter the Great as a Roman hero. The pedestal is made of a single piece of red granite in the shape of a cliff. From the top of this “cliff” Peter shows the way for Russia as his horse steps on a snake. The snake represents the enemies of Peter and his reforms. Ironically, the “evil” snake also serves as a third point of support for the statue.

The St. Petersburg region was originally inhabited by the Swedes. It was conquered by Russia during the Great Northern War (1700-1721) fought between Sweden and a coalition of countries led by Russia.

In 1703, Russian tsar Peter the Great chose a site on Zayachy Island in the Neva River and began the construction of the Peter and Paul Fortress named after two patron saints. Although the site was cold, damp, and poorly protected, Peter was determined to build a new capital in the Neva delta to replace Moscow, which had served as Russia’s capital since the origins of the Russian state in the 1300’s.

Peter wanted an outlet to the Baltic Sea and intended to make St. Petersburg a modern, Western-style city that would serve as Russia’s “window on Europe.”

Although the fortress was originally a primitive earthen structure, stone was brought in when construction of the city began. St. Petersburg was built at great human cost, the Northern Russian climate was very harsh, hunger and cold killed nearly 100,000 people during the first years of its construction. Working from dawn to dusk, they died in great numbers, but the war was on and the fort had to be completed as soon as possible.

On May 16, 1703, (May 27 by the modern calendar) St. Petersburg’s fortress (the Peter and Paul Fortress) was founded and that day became the official birthday of the city.

The imperial capital — including the Russian court, the Senate, and the foreign embassies — was moved to the new city in 1712. Peter and the rulers after him commissioned Dutch and Italian architects to build the city’s magnificent palaces and churches and an influx of Western scholars and artisans helped make St. Petersburg a cultural as well as a political center. Peter also commanded a new dress code for the nobility modeled after the French court. Several days later the wooden Cabin of Peter the Great was built and became the first residential building in the new city. A new capital of the Russian Empire was born.

The Boyars were ordered to shave their long beards. Those caught wearing the old heavy unfashionable dress would have their cloth cut off from the knees down. Originally, there were no bridges crossing the mighty Neva River. People had to be ferried between banks by boat — one of the reasons why St. Petersburg became known as the “Venice of the North.” The city itself consists of 101 islands and is miraculously built on mostly their banks. Today, St. Petersburg has the largest number of bridges of any city in the world, numbering 539 with 315 bridges in the downtown area alone.

St. Petersburg is no less of a marvel to visit today. The influx of tourists over the last couple of years has doubled in size.



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