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Top 10 Myths About Russia

Russian cosmonaut

“Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside enigma”

Winston Churchill

The job of tour guide means not only to talk about the history and show famous attractions. The goal of a tour guide is also to show real Russian culture, traditions and to break stereotypes. Of course, I’m ready for some funny questions from the tourists connected to the most widespread stereotypes about Russia. But sometimes even I can be surprised to hear interesting thoughts which tourists had before coming to Russia. Let’s have a look at top 10 myths about Russia:

1. Do you have bears? Where are they?

russian bears

Fluffy bear walking in the streets of Novosibirsk

Many people around the world believe that in Russia bears are everywhere just freely walking in the streets. Fortunately, this is not true (otherwise, it could be very dangerous).

Wild bears could be met only in some distant forests. They rarely come close to small villages and only if it’s not enough food there. In Moscow, you can meet bears only at the zoo. 

2. What do you like more, vodka or beer? When finally we will drink vodka on our tour?

These questions my colleague and I got from Chinese tourists. The funny thing was that they asked two non-drinking people. One of the famous stereotypes is that Russians drink a lot of vodka. Firstly, Russia takes 6th place in the world by consumption of alcohol, thus we are not the most drinking country. Secondly, we have many different alcoholic and non-alcoholic traditional drinks apart from vodka. Speaking about traditional alcoholic drinks, one of the most popular is honey beer and kvas.

 

Our tourists drinking kvas and mors (another non-alcoholic traditional drink based on berries and water) at the tour Eat like a Russian.

Kvas is the oldest drink in Russia. It was created more than 1000 years ago. Initially, it contained a high degree of alcohol (but still not as strong as vodka) and it was possible to get drunk soon. Even special slang verb appeared: “Kvasit’ ” – which means to drink a lot. But nowadays both, kvas and honey beer are just slightly alcoholic (honey beer is around 10% and kvas is only 0.1%).

However, vodka is still popular, as far as it is the most suitable for mixing with other drinks. Thus, it is widely used in pubs to make cocktails. If you want to learn more about drinking traditions and to try different alcoholic drinks, join our More Than Just Vodka Spirits tour.

3. What else to see in Russia apart from Red Square? There are should be a lot of churches. We came just for two days in Moscow, as far as there is not much to see

Moscow is so big, with a lot of interesting places, amazing architecture, museums, theaters, etc. So one human life is not enough to fully explore it. But there are also other places in Russia worth seeing. Love traveling? You can visit a lot of great attractions in Russia: ancient towns (Derbent in the Republic of Dagestan, founded in 438, Veliky Novgorod, founded in 859, , Kazan in the Republic of Tatarstan, founded in 1005), volcanoes (for instance, the biggest active volcano in Asia Kluchevskaya Sopka – 4750 m, which is located in Kamchatka), Death Canyon (yes, we have our own, and it is indeed connected with death…), Northern lights (for example in Murmansk), seas with different temperature of water (from +25…+30 to -10C), deserts, mountains, taiga, etc. or the deepest and the most clean lake in the world, Baikal!

Taiwan tourist drinking vodka from the ice of Baikal

Our country is multinational with more than 100 languages. And that is why you can see different cultures while you are traveling around Russia.

Far North nation (picture taken from Russiangeography.com)

And if you’re going to Russia but want to travel around Europe as well, you actually can combine these two wishes. Venice? Go to Saint-Petersburg. It is a unique city with amazing architecture, history and there are 3 times more bridges than in Venice! Paris? There is one with exactly the same name in the Ural Region. And we also have our own Berlin, Leipzig, Varna, Trebia and some more villages with European names. And you don’t need an extra visa for that!

If you want to learn more about ancient Russian culture, then you can travel around The Big Golden Ring (up to 20 ancient towns), The Small Golden Ring (8 ancient towns), The Silver Ring (12 old towns around the most ancient city Veliky Novgorod). And if you want to have a really outstanding experience, go by the longest railway – Trans Siberian through the whole of Russia. Just 7 days of the journey.

Exercise in the train on Trans Siberian railway

4. It is not that cold as we expected. Where is snow? (Question in June)

During wintertime, the coldest temperature in Russia is –71.2 °C, but only in the far north, in Oymyakon town. But during summertime even in northern parts, the temperature can be +15… +20 degrees and more. Moscow is far enough from these cold parts. So we have the usual spring starting in March and summer starting in June. Southern parts of Russia could be even without snow at all during wintertime, such as Sochi, for instance. So, do not be disappointed not to see the snow in Moscow during spring and summertime, just come in winter, better at the end of January, when the coldest temperature in Moscow is around -20 … -30. You will see the snow and Russian people swimming in cold water. It is connected with the time of Jesus Christ baptizing. You can even try to join this tradition as well.

My friends from India swimming in an ice hole (-23C)

5. Where are people in traditional Russian clothes and famous hats?

This stereotype is quite logical because accordingly to famous Hollywood movies Russians wear only traditional clothes and ushanka hats, and are always with a bottle of vodka in the pocket.

Russian cosmonaut

Russian astronaut from the Hollywood movie “Armageddon”

But the truth is that ushankas are worn only during winter time and not the way it is shown in the picture from Armageddon movie (without the Soviet emblem and with “ears” up). This way it looks much better. Actually, Russians are very stylish. Even traditional patterns are used in some trendy things. You can read more about Russian fashion in the article by Denis Bets.

6. Never smile, unfriendly and rude

When you see a serious Russian person during your visit, just try to say “hi” and you will see that the person will start smiling. Russians usually are deeply in their thoughts about work, family, life, philosophical questions, etc. and they don’t smile if there is no reason for that. We even have a saying: “Smile without a reason is a symbol of a not intelligent person”.

In Moscow, somebody could push you and not to say sorry. It is not because Russians are impolite. Just everyone knows, that in Moscow there are more than 15 million people, so it is not easy not to push somebody in the metro, especially in the rush hour. Nobody in Moscow has time to apologize for small troubles. However, you would see, that in case if you are lost in Moscow, somebody will definitely come to help you, even though everybody is in a hurry. Also, it is very easy to become a friend with a Russian, especially after a glass of beer or vodka (just kidding), and they can easily invite you to their home.

7. Moscow is so clean and safe! We did not expect that!

As far as we do not have bears walking in the streets, Russia is quite a safe country indeed. No jokes, there are of course pickpockets and scammers as in any other city, but still not so many. You just need to be careful with using a taxi in airports, first check the price (it shouldn’t be more than 2000 – 3000 rub). And do not leave your wallet in the back pocket of your jeans.  And yes, Russian cities are very clean. In Moscow streets are washed two times a day, walking paths are also without garbage as far as a lot of street cleaners are walking each hour and picking it up. Just imagine, even during the World Cup Moscow still was clean all the time!

8. What else can we try apart from borscht and dumplings?

We have very different dishes. In Russia, you will find not only our traditional cuisine (which actually has more than 300 recipes) but the cuisine of different nations of Russia (Tatar, Bashkir, Buryat, etc.) and of Post-Soviet countries (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, etc.).

Our tourists eating cheburek, traditional pie from the southern part of Russia

To know more, sign in for Eat like a Russian tour, where you will have an opportunity not only to see different dishes but also to try them!

9. We thought of Russia as old, conservative and everything is written only in Russian

You will be surprised to know that technologies are widely spread in Russia, especially in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg. There are a lot of Wi-Fi spots in the cities, you can order taxi, food, clothes with special apps, you can pay by card and even by PayPass or ApplePay in most of the places, there are interactive metro maps at the stations, ticket machines and a lot of other facilities. It is even possible to register marriages online! Russia also tries to help the environment. We have electric cars, separate garbage collection and recycle, solar panels for street lights and parking counters, etc. We are newbies but a good start was given to it.

As far as English now is a global language, a lot of signs in the underground and in the streets are in English. 

10. Russian women are the most beautiful

Oh, wait, this is not a myth!

Irina Shayk

Irina Shayk, Russian supermodel

Russia is the biggest country in the world with rich history and traditions. And of course, there are a lot of myths and rumors around it. But I hope that this article helped you to break the stereotypes about Russia!

by Valentina Ekimova, local guide