Culture Cafe: Russia

Greetings from Culture Café! We are back after a long winter break. Did you miss us? We missed you! On February 5, we gathered for our first Culture Café meeting of the new year, and, as per tradition, our first meeting was devoted to our beautiful homeland – Russia. Each semester we start with our home country so that our foreign friends can have the opportunity to get to know their new home a bit better and make their exchange experience unforgettable. So, let’s recap our fascinating journey through wonderful Russia!

What do you know about Russia? Perhaps, after our Café it’s not so complicated of a question for you anymore. Our people aren't as cold as you might have thought, but our history certainly is as great as you thought.

Certainly, our enormous territory and unique location is worth a closer look. Russia is pretty huge - 17,1 million km2 (compare that to the planet Pluto, which is about 17,7 million km2). Thanks to our vast territory, you can celebrate 11 different New Year Eves here! Our country is transcontinental: part of it is situated in the Eastern Europe (22%) and another part in the Northern Asia (78%). In contrast to our geographical distribution, however, Russia's population is largely concentrated in the European part (more than 70%). We love our neighbors, and we have a lot of them: Norway, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, North Korea, Japan, and the USA by sea. The most famous cities in Central Russia are Moscow, our capital; Saint-Petersburg, our so-called “cultural capital”; Murmansk our winter fairytale city; and Kaliningrad, which is where the German philosopher Immanuel Kant was born. If you want to explore the south, then you should definitely visit Sochi, a small coastal city where 2014 Winter Olympic Games were hold. To enjoy the beauties of nature, go farther south to the North Caucasus. We guarantee you the most spectacular views you'll ever see! Before visiting the Ural Mountains, don’t forget to spend some days in Kazan and Nizhniy Novgorod, cities with historical heritage. Already been there? Then go straight to Ekaterinburg and then to the cold but very welcoming Siberia. Visit Novosibirsk, the third biggest city in Russia and one of the main economic and political centers in the Asian part of the country. Moreover, it’s a perfect place from which to travel farther East and visit our famous Lake Baikal. No words needed, just go there. And the last point of our big mini journey is the Far East. Feel the East Russian vibe in Vladivostok and be struck by the indescribable natural beauty of Kamchatka.

That is our country in a nutshell. Now you can go forth and have yourself a grand Russian adventure! 

Our Culture Cafés aren't just about fantastic sites - they are also about culture. We discussed famous Russian composers like Dmitri Shostakovich and Sergei Rachmaninoff and Russian playwrights like Anton Chekhov and Konstantin Stanislavski. If you have ever heard about Russian ballet, then you should indeed go and see at least one ballet performance. (And if you haven’t heard about it, then we recommend you catch a performance even more!)

If you prefer to stay home at the dorm in the evening, perhaps you would like to watch some classic Russian films, such as Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears or The Irony of Fate, or some more contemporary cult favorites like Brother (in 2 parts), Loveless, and more.

As hosts, we taught you some really useful Russian phrases to make your life here easier and much more comfortable. Now you know if someone in public transport, especially metro, asks you “Vy vykhodite?”, this means the next station is his/her stop and they would like to get by you if you're not also getting off at the stop. And we can’t live without tongue-twisters, right? That mission seemed impossible, but you successfully completed it! Now you can easily impress anybody reciting the tongue-twister about Karl and Klara!!!

Finally, our favorite - and the most delicious - part: Russian food. We introduced to you the main Russian dishes, such as borscht, pelmeni, kholodets, herring under a fur coat, buckwheat, syrniki, solyanka, okroshka, caviar and aubergine paste, and beef stroganoff. Trust us when we say that these dishes deserve your attention and you won’t be disappointed by their taste, proven over the years!

This concludes the recap of our first Culture Café of the year. We hope you enjoyed it and are interested in presenting your own home country. It’s a big pleasure for us to travel with you, even virtually. This is only the beginning, and we look forward to new destinations!

Text: Svetlana Dzhafarova