Russia in numbers and facts. Geography, territory, climate, Russian Federation, Political system, Population and language
WELCOME TO RUSSIA
Stereotypes and symbols of Russia
Foreigners have lots of wrong stereotypes about Russian life. Maybe they were started by the French novelist Alexander Dumas, Senior, who happened to travel about Russia. In one of his books, the author of The Three Musketeers described how he had had a rest «under a branchy cranberry-plant». It's not clear how he managed to crawl under it, since it is not a tree but a tiny bush and grows only in marshes. Since those old days, "branchy cranberry" has formidably established itself in the Russian language as a synonym for incompetence and superficiality of judgment.
It is hardly worth saying today that contemporary life in Russia has very little to do with playing the balalaika amidst matrioshkas and samovars, or wild rushing in sleighs driven by troika (three horses harnessed abreast) along the streets where bears supposedly wander. All these stories are just myths for naive tourists. Much is especially told about Russian hard drinking. Well, undiluted vodka - chilled but without ice - has been a favourite alcoholic drink in Russia since time immemorial, but it can be explained by our severe climate. Having been frozen in winter, you would have such a drink as gladly as we do. And though the Russians do know how to go on a spree, there is an old proverb: «Drink you may - but don't forget your business».
Russia is the coldest country in the world; in most regions winter lasts for four to five months, and in the North - ten. Even in Moscow, which is situated in the middle belt, frosts of about 30 degrees are rather frequent. That is why Russians wear the famous fur hats called «ushanka» to protect one's ears («ushi»); foreign tourists gladly buy these hats as souvenirs. For the majority of the guests from abroad, huge snowdrifts in the streets of Russian towns seem sort of exotic - they have only seen such quantities of snow at mountain-skiing resorts. But for the Russians their severe climate is a problem, a very serious one even if habitual. Much effort and money is spent on heating houses and stripping streets and roads of ice and snow, and one must have a lot of warm clothes. But summer in most of Russia is amiable - warm and sunny.
Foreigners sometimes repeat an old joke: there are no roads in Russia - only directions. Certainly, there are territories in our boundless country where not only will you not see any roads but you won't even see any population. Even though very much has been changing recently in the settled regions - roads have been or are being built - gigantic distances can still be felt. For example, letters might travel for weeks; and even the Express-Post works not so fast as in Europe.
«By reason, Russia can't be got...» These words were uttered by Fyodor Tutchev, a Russian poet, in the 19th century; but you could rather agree with him even today. Russia is inscrutable. She may only be sensed. But for that you must come into Russia, see Russia, travel around Russia...
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