Introduction to Russia

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007 at 12:00 am

RussiaWhen Russia, then known as the Soviet Union, and the U.S were still in the height of the Cold War, people have a lot of misconceptions about Russia. Movies and television did not help disperse rumors about Russia and instead created more misgivings and mistrust on anything Russian. But after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia opened its doors giving visitors a fresh outlook to the country.

Now officially known as the Russian Federation, the country remains the largest country in the world with a land area of more than 17,000,000 sq. km. Russia covers parts of both Asia and Europe bordering countries like Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, and North Korea.

However, even though it is the largest in terms of land area, a lot of the land types in Russia are uninhabitable and/or unusable for farming and cultivation. This is only natural since the country’s climate varies from the extreme cold of Northern Russia and Siberia to the subtropical climate of the Black Sea shore.

Land type include tundra and taiga belts. Also features areas with wooded steppe and northern black-earth steppes. Russia also has areas of semi-desert and desert. But the most prominent features of the Russian landscape are the plains in its Eastern Europe area, the Urals, the lowlands of West Siberia and the central Siberian plateau.

Russia has more than 60 recognized ethnic groups with Russians making up for the majority of the population. Other groups include Ukrainians, non-Slavic linguistic and ethnic groups like Tatars, Bashkirs, Chuvash, Komi, Komi-Permyaks, Udmurts, Mari, Mordovians, Jews, Germans, and Armenians. Political subdivisions of Russia are in terms of a territory which is called kray or by region which is also known as oblast.

Majority of the Russian population does not hold any religious affiliation. The reason can be traced back to the anti-religious stand of the former Soviet Union. Among the most prominent religion in the country includes the Russian Orthodox Church, the Old Believers which is a break away group of the Orthodox Church, other Christian churches, sects of Islam, Lamaist Buddhism, Judaism, and other tribal religions.

Part of the Russian cultural heritage include the unique Russian icon painting which was highly influenced by the art of the Byzantine churches. The Byzantine influences can also be seen in the country’s architectural designs. When it comes to literary works, Russia is no stranger. Among the famous novelists in world are Russians. The likes of Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky should ring a bell.

During the Soviet Union’s time, the government censored a lot of artistic endeavors saying that non-socialist views are no good for the country and for the Russians. Censorships limited creativity in the arts, like in painting, film making and other visual arts. Fortunately, Russian arts began a new series of revival after the fall of the communist regime.

Another greatly associated with Russia is their long history of classical music innovation. With a number of prominent composers, Russian classical music has remained very influential not only in the country but as well as in the international scene. Other cultural heritage Russia and Russians are known for include ballet and operas.