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Top 5: Russian drinks

What do Russians drink? Vodka, and sometimes … more vodka! If you think so, then this top is for you! There is a big variety of drinks that can only be found in Russia and its neighbors or foreign drinks that Russians adopted. Some are quite good, some are … quite strange for those who are not used to it, but I will leave you the judge of it (as Russians say “for taste and colors there are no comrades”). So here are some of the most popular drinks you can ( and must ) experience in Russia.

  • vodka

Let’s start with the obvious one… Yes, vodka is the most appreciated strong alcohol in Russia, but there are way more interesting things to say about this drink (even if you don’t drink). First of all, “Vodka” comes from the Slavic word “Voda”  (water) and can be translated by “little water”. It started spreading in Russia and in eastern Europe in the 16th century. Vodka is usually obtained from the distillation of grain like wheat or rye, but you can also find some (few) from potatoes or even grapes. In Russia, it used to be quite common for people to make their own vodka called Samogon, but it’s dangerous because it can contain methanol and it is now forbidden.

There is also a legend saying that the great Russian scientist Mendeleïev is the “inventor of vodka” having proven scientifically that the perfect percentage of alcohol is 40°C. Unfortunately, this rule was introduced in Russia in 1843….. when Mendeleïev was 9, quite young to be interested in vodka, even for a Russian.

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Vodka usually comes with something to eat, here salted cucumbers
  • Kompot

The word “Kompot” comes from the French word “compote”, but that is the only French contribution to this beverage. It’s a very old way of conserving fruits that used to be called “ouzar” until the 18th century. It is obtained by boiling fresh or dry fruits in sugar water and served fresh. But Kompot is not specific to Russia, it’s a very popular drink in all central and eastern Europe. It is quite common to find glasses of kompot in every cafeteria or “stolovaya” in Russia.

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Kompot made with dry fruits
  • tea

Tea is not from Russia, but they like it for sure! If you ever work in Russia, you’ll experience the “tea break” (it’s basically a coffee break but you drink tea instead of coffee). When invited by Russians to their house they will probably offer you some tea with pastries. Nevertheless, Russians still have their own way to drink tea. Back in the day, the Samovar was very common, but its use declined with the arrival of modern electrical kettles. Nowadays, Russians usually prepare one very strong teapot that they can use during the whole day.  They pour a certain amount in the cup then dilute it with hot water. No need to wait for your cup to get cold then forgetting it, here you can control the temperature!

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The king of glass tea is served in Russian trains
  • Russian soda

Why is it here you might say? Soda is basically water, sugar, and bubbles with some taste… Well, in Russia they have some of the weirdest sodas I tasted in my life (Haven’t been to Japan thought but I heard it’s quite weird there too). Those tastes are the reflection of what Russians like. For example, you can find some cucumber taste soda! Having seen how much Russians love cucumbers I’m not surprised that they made it real. Another one quite interesting is a neon green soda perfumed with… Tarragon!! It was first thought of as a remedy against stomach ache by the Georgian pharmacist who invented it (maybe that why it taste like a medicine to me). There are so many other strange sodas in Russia that I don’t even know how to describe them, so I’ll just tell you to go and taste.

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A street vendor with different soda types (very colorful)
  • Kvass

Last but not least, Kvass! This might THE Russian drink. It is an ancient fermented beverage which origins come as far as the middle ages (and maybe even further). This traditional Slavic drink is usually obtained by the fermentation of rye bread in water and is comparable in some way to beer. It can also sometimes be flavored with fruits or berries. Homemade Kvass was (and is still in some ways) quite popular and the internet is full of receipts if you want to try it yourself.

During the Soviet Era, it was quite common to see Kvass vendors in the streets. The drink was then quite popular and cheap. When the Soviet Union collapsed, new sodas from the west arrived (we’re all living in America), but nowadays, Kvass is regaining popularity, and a very famous soda company from America (like very, very famous) created their own brand of kvass.

Funny thing, due to its low level of alcohol (around 0.7% to 1.2% usually, compared to around 9% for wine) Kvass is not concerned by the alcohol legislation in Russia!

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A glass of Kvass with rye bread, rye bread is very popular in Russia and known as black bread

Do you want to try those drinks? Then come to Russia and discover more of this country with your guide on Tsar Visit!

 

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Top 5: influential women in Russian history

Russia has a rich and complex history in which women have always played a significant role. Numerous Russian personalities (and sometimes foreigner ones) left a permanent mark on Russia. You may know some of them (or may not, I’m not here to judge), but just in case here are some of the most influential women of Russian history, let’s go!

  • Olga

Also known as Olga of Kiev, she was the regent of the Kiev principality. She started her reign by avenging the death of her husband Igor who was killed by the Drevlian tribe while collecting taxes ( Sweet vengeance). Baptised in Constantinople, she became a Christian in a kingdom that was mainly pagan at the time and tried to convert her son but without success. She is also the first woman saint of her country and is celebrated on the 11th of July (24th of July in Gregorian calendar).

Helga_Olgacredit: Wikimedia Commons
  • Sophia Alexeïevna

Sophia was a very intelligent and cultivated woman, she was probably as ambitious as she was smart (which is a good combo). When her brother Fedor died without an heir, a new Tsar had to be chosen, her brother Ivan was the rightful heir, but he was weak, many nobles preferred his (and her too) stepbrother Peter. Sophia disagreed, she used the streltsy (A Russian military corps) to impose her point of view and … two co-Tsars !!! Ivan and Peter. And of course, she was named regent for her brothers. She pursued in her brother’s politics of opening to the west and fought two wars against the Ottoman Empire (With not much success). Unfortunately for her, her step-brother Peter was no one else than Peter the Great. After a little less than ten years, Peter put an end to his sister’s carrier and made her retire in the Novodevichy Convent where she lived the rest of her life.

Sophia_Alekseyevna_by_anonim_(19_c.,_Hermitage)credit: Wikimedia Commons
  • Catherine II

This is certainly the best part, Catherine is by far my favorite Russian ruler of all time. Not only did she managed to get to the top power position as a woman in a world mainly dominated by men, but she was not even Russian, nor born in Russia.

Catherine was born of the minor nobility in Prussia, nowadays Germany. She got married to Peter (not the great unfortunately), heir of the Russian Empire, and quickly learned Russian and the Russian way of life, she also converted to Orthodoxy. When the tsarina Elisabeth I (You should also check her out) died, her son, Peter III (Catherine’s husband) took the throne. To be polite, he was not a well-appreciated ruler and Catherine, helped by officers of the guard, organized a coup ( and possibly had her husband killed). She then became Empress of all Russias until her death.

Her reign is full of military victories and art creation. She had a lot of talented counselors and was open to new ideas such as the enlightenment ( she used to converse with Voltaire).

Katharina-II-von-Russlandcredit: Wikimedia Commons
  • Anna Pavlova

Anna Pavlova was a Russian Prima Ballerina in the late 19th and early 20th century. Those who like ballet probably already know her and won’t learn much more than they already know here (really sorry guys). But for every body else, Anna Pavlova was one of, if not the, best ballet dancer. She learned from the best in St Petersburg where she danced in the famous Mariinsky theater. She then started an international career, leading her own dance company and she became the first ballerina to make a world tour with the choreography The dying swan. She inspired many other young artists with her performances.

Anna_Pavlova_as_the_Dying_Swancredit: Wikimedia Commons
  • Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova is the first woman in space. For those who will say that it was just propaganda… well, you are right, Soviet Union saw women in cosmos mainly as propaganda. But this shouldn’t cloud your judgment, she was chosen for a reason. During her training, she flew many times on Mig 15 fight aircraft and had courses on spacecraft engineering. She flew the 16th of June 1963, two years after the first human inhabited flight, she was 26 at the time. She is still the youngest female cosmonaut and the only female cosmonaut to fly alone. After her flight, she achieved a degree in engineering and she started a political career.

RIAN_archive_612748_Valentina_Tereshkovacredit: Wikimedia Commons

Let’s also remember that the Russian revolution was initiated the 8 of March 1917 (23 February in the Julian calendar) by a demonstration of women workers asking for bread. Women can change the course of history.

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Did you know?

The Space Race

From 1957 to 1975 the United States and the Soviet Union fought a war without bullets (but still with deaths). It was the race for space, a competition not only for the control of space but a real clash between two ideologies. In less than 20 years, humanity was able to go out of its birthplace and dream of space conquest. Quite ironically, peace greatly slowed this race for the star. Let’s dive into this adventure made of heroes and engineers, “поехали!”(“let’s go”) like Gagarin said before the flight that made him famous.

Probably one the most exciting adventure of the XXst century. The Space race took place between the United States and the Soviet Union. It was a competition between Engineers and scientists of both sides, and it all started… from the military. Both countries were looking for new ways to send each other some nukes. Their research programs were inspired by the Germans V2 weapons of the Second World War (and they also “took” some of the German scientists wo made it to work on their respective project). Sending satellites was already in the boxes for a long time, but the cost of it was often dissuading (and they didn’t see any strategic advantages).

But it all changes the 4th of October 1957, in the newly built base of Baïkonur in nowadays Kazakhstan. The team of Korolev had been working on intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, and it’s using one of those that they launched the first artificial satellite from earth, Sputnik-1 (which means “companion” or “satellite”). The repercussion, both political and on the opinion, were colossal. The excitement of this success in the USSR was comparable to the deception felt in the USA. The first battle of this war was a Soviet victory. This first satellite had very basic instruments on-bor$ard, mainly to measure things like temperature or pressure.

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Copy of Sputnik-1 the first artificial satellite

The Soviet did it again one month later by sending the first being in orbit, Laika, a female dog. Unfortunately for her, this satellite was quickly made to celebrate the 40th birthday of the revolution, and she died, probably of heat due to some misconception, inside the satellite during the flight. Nevertheless, it showed that inhabited flight was possible. The following years the two superpowers invested massively in space exploration and both got several achievements.

On the 12th of April 1961, The USSR bit the USA a second time by sending the first human into space (and bringing him alive by the way). Youri Gagarin then became a national and international hero. The test pilot was chosen among several other pilots for… being small (1.60 m). And I still don’t know why they needed a pilot since he did more or less no piloting, everything was commanded from Baikonur. For the anecdote, he didn’t land with his capsule but was ejected 7 km above the earth and continued with a parachute. Becoming a hero in a few days, he was forbidden to fly, fearing he would die in a crash… Which he unfortunately did, he convinced his chef to let him flight again and die 7 years later in the crash of his Mig-15.

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From left to right Pavel Popovitch, Youri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova (first woman in space)

Did you know? There are two different words to designate people traveling in space in Russian and in English, respectively cosmonaut and astronaut (and now way for Europeans, Chinese and Indians). It’s the only work that uses different terms depending on the nationality of the person. Ironic considering that space is literally borderless.

Death is also a part of this race. You already know Laika, the first animal to go to space, many other dogs died for space exploration. And in 1967, for the first inhabited flight of the Soyuz spacecraft (further versions of this spacecraft are still used to service the International Space Station), it had a problem while re-entering the atmosphere and crashed at full speed, killing the Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov. He is the human to die during a space mission. One of the reasons for this tragedy is the haste of the Soviets in order to stay ahead of the Americans.

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Soyuz 19, during the Apollo-Soyuz mission, Spacecraft from Soyuz family are still used today

The first real failure for the Soviet Union happened when Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon. The success of the Apollo mission was a kind of revenge for Sputnik. Nevertheless, the race continued, and after the first man on the moon, the Soviet sent the first robot (and the expertise gained will then be used in other circumstances, especially during the Chernobyl catastrophe). They also launched the first orbital station “Salyut 1”, which paved the way to the International Space Station.

The “Space Race” officially ends in July 1975 with the Apollo-Soyuz mission. A co-joined mission of the two great powers, two spaceships, one American and the other Soviet, docked in space. The crews exchanged gifts and visited each others spacecraft. They conducted scientific experiments and spoke in each other language.

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From left to right: the Americans Slayton, Stafford et Brand, and the Soviets Leonov et Kubasov

With the success of the co-joint mission started a kind of cooperation (they were still enemies, but a bit less). During this time, new space powers emerge such as Europe (European in space are called Spacionauts) or China (Chinese in space are called Taikonaut). If you want to learn more about all those great deeds and way more, you should visit the Museum of Cosmonautics in Moscow, there you can find different reproductions of satellites and rockets and even a real size Soyuz spacecraft!

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Ethnic groups and languages in Russia

Russia is the biggest country on earth, its territory extends in Europe and Asia, from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean, from the Caucasian mountains to the Siberian tundra. It is composed of very diverse landscape as well as many different people with different cultures, languages or traditions. Actually, there are more than 150 ethnic groups in Russia, those groups can vary from millions of individuals to a few thousand. If I tell you “Tatar” you think about “Steak Tartare”, then you clearly need to read this!

First of all, to really understand the concept of nationalities in Russia, you need to know that there are 2 words for Russian, россиский which is used to speak about the citizenship and the government, and русский which is used to speak about ethnic Russians. In Russia, there is a difference between your citizenship and your nationality. A Russian citizen can be Tatar, Ouïgur, Bashkir, Mari, Osset or even Ukrainian, Polish or German (Those Germans are prior to the Soviet Union).

Now let’s start from the beginning because it can get quite complicated. Not just because there are so many of them, but also because… of Soviet Union, them again! I won’t explain all the ideologies that were behind the construction of “The New Soviet Man”, because it’s complicated and… I’m not sure to really understand it. What I know, is that Soviets were very big fans of paperwork. They methodically studied all the cultures present in Soviet Union at that time and gave a writing system to those without. First in the Latin alphabet, in Cyrillic, they had to be able to read Russian. Under Stalin, the politic regarding minorities changed quite a bit with a (sometimes forced) Russification of the population. It reflected the centralized government that he established it’s quite unexpected since he is Georgian. With world war two he organized the deportation of millions of people

Russia is a Federation, which means it’s composed of different regions with a certain degree of independence. it is composed of republics with their own constitutions, oblast and kraï (something like “region” or “department”) and one autonomous oblast, namely the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, on the border with China (Because why not ?). Every one of these republics and regions has their own history and sometimes it’s all language(s). If you ever go for a road trip in Russia (who knows), you will encounter a very big variety of cultures and customs as well as languages, even if (usually) everyone speaks Russian. Listing them would be quite boring so I’ll just tell you about some of them where I actually went, so I know a bit what I’m talking about.

Tatarstan, Where people speak Tatar (don’t worry, they also speak Russian and if you are lucky English). Tatars are a Turco-Mongol people that arrived with the Mongol expansion. First United into the Golden Horde, they then divide into different khanate that was all absorbed by the growing Russian empire. The Kazan Khanate was located in what is now the Republic of Tatarstan. Kazan, the capital of the Republic, has it’s own Kremlin and is one of the biggest city in Russia. Tatars are Muslims and you can see a very beautiful mosque in the capital.

Another interesting place to visit in Russia is the Republic of Buryatia. Landscapes there are breathtaking, you can admire the Baïkal lake, the deepest lake in the world (more than 1600m !!!!) and also one of the purest water in the world. This lake is considered by the local population as a sacred sea. Talking about the local population (I’m proud of this transition), Buryatia is the home of Byriats (nothing extraordinary yet). Buriats are a semi-nomadic people related to the Mongols, they share with them many similarities in terms of culture, languages (except that they write in cirylic, Mongols have their own script) and religion. There are two main religions in Buryatia (except from orthodoxy brought by Russian settlers) Tibetan Buddhism and Tengrism, this last one is a shamanic religion that was quite famous before mainly because of someone called Genghis Khan.

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Cultural Fact

Rasputin

Before being this good song by Boney M, Rasputin was a man, a priest, a healer, a prophet… or a sinner, a charlatan, a liar, a spy… In a good or in a bad way, he always made a very strong impression on the people he met (especially the ladies of the court apparently). Adored by the imperial family, hated both by the nobility and the Soviet regime, this character is still fascinating nowadays. Have you ever wondered who was this man? How did he become so famous that he got his own song? So put on your headphones and listen to it while I tell you the story (and legend) of ‘The Mad Monk’ Rasputin.

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A Photo of Grigori Rasputin (source: Wikicommons)

Grigori Efimovitch Rasputin is probably born around the year 1869 in Pokrovskoye, a small town in Siberia. He got interested in the Bible very early, and he made several pilgrimages. He was known for having some mystical powers such as prediction but most importantly a healing gift.

This gift brought him to St Petersburg. The Tsarevitch Alexei is hemophiliac (a blood illness that can make any bleeding mortal) and in this time, doctors were powerless against this illness. Introduced to the family by nobles he met during his pilgrimages, he was able to calm the Tsarevitch pain after he got hurt. It impresses the imperial family so much that they decided to keep the monk with them since he seemed to be the only one able to calm their son’s pain. His “powers” were probably a mix between his extraordinary charisma and … defying the doctors by preventing the patient to take aspirin an anticoagulant (they didn’t know it then) making the disease even worse. Progresses were made till then so if you are hemophiliac no need for a strange Siberian monk!

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Nicolas II, his wife Alexandra Fedorovna, their 5 children (source: Wikicommons)

Rasputin became a very important counselor of the imperial family and an attraction for the capital’s elite (especially with women ). This charismatic character really made an impression on everyone he met, his eyes were said to be fascinating and even hypnotizing. His political views, pleading for peace, and its… let’s say… quite immoral behavior, made him many enemies amongst the nobility. After the start of the first World War he was seen as a danger for Russia as well as the Tsarina who had German origins.

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Another photo of Grigori Rasputin (source: Wikicommons)

 

His death is certainly the most controversial part of his story. It’s hard to know where the legend starts. He was killed by a conspiracy of monarchists who disliked the influence he had on the Tsar and feared he would bring him to make peace with Germany. Felix Yusupov, one of the richest noble of St Petersburg, invited him to his Palace (by the way you can visit it with a guide just here). He was given poisoned food and wine but it did not seem to affect him, they hence shot him. Seeing that the monk was still not dead, they beat him up, shot him several times (again), wrapped him into some piece of clothes to throw him into the river. His body was found a few days later, a doctor who examined the body claimed that he didn’t die because of the poison nor the gunshot but by drowning (Russian Die Hard).

As cool and incredible this story is, it is probably false. The doctor who gave the poison later said he gave some harmless product because he had remorses. The doctor who examined the body also remade his statement saying that most of the contusions and wounds were made post-mortem (meaning he was already dead when they threw him into the river).

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Caricature of an “Evil” Rasputin – 1916 (Source: Wikicommons)

 

Another very important part of his legend is the letter he wrote and in which he predicted his death, and with it the death of the imperial family within two years!!! (he died in 1916 and the imperial family was killed in 1918 in Ekaterinburg) This is another mystical stuff but let’s focus on the most important… he may not have written it!!! Again? you would say. So what’s the point with this guy if nothing is true? I’ll answer you that it’s how a legend works, no one knows the truth, but it could be true.

With the fall of the monarchy and the rise to power of the Bolsheviks, Rasputin was used as the symbol of the moral decay of the Tsars. They greatly participated in the edification of the myth of the “mad monk”.

 

Now that you know more about this central character of Russian history why not come to Russia and visit the places he has been! Book your guided tour on Tsar Visit!

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Top 5: Key historical figures of Russia

Every country has its great figures. Characters who will live through centuries and still leave a mark in everyone’s spirit. Even though the vision of their deeds can evolve with time, they still live in our memory. Russian is not an exception and also has its historical figures that all Russians know about (or at least should). Do you know some of them?

  • Ivan IV

Also called Ivan the Terrible, even if most Russians will tell you it’s a bad translation (trust me on this don’t even try to argue with them about it). But apart from being quite cruel, like enjoying watching his enemies being tortured, Ivan was a great reformer. By great I mean he tried things, even though it wasn’t eventually successful all the time.

To do his reforms, he needed power. It might be surprising, but even within a monarchy, there were counter powers (mainly nobility and the clergy). So he did something… Special! He simply left Moscow, with a letter saying he would come back only if he could do want he wanted, without being contradicted. And you know the funny part? It actually worked! And so, he did what he wanted, he created a state police called the Oprichnina. The idea was not that stupid, creating an army with lands to finance it and which only answers to the Tsar. But Ivan used it mainly as a way to persecute all the people he thought were his enemy, basically everybody with some power. They were finally disbanded during his reign after they failed to protect against the Crimean Tartars and the Tsar lost faith in their effectiveness.

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Ivan The terrible kills his son Ivan on November 16, 1581 – Ilia Repine (1885)

After his death, a very serious succession crisis happened, his children dying without heirs. The time of troubles, as it’s known, was a real mess of kings, false kings, treasons… If you liked Game of Thrones you will like it!

  • Peter The Great

Just by the name, you know this guy did something extraordinary. Indeed, he was quite the guy, who started his career as a Tsar he ended up as an emperor. He is the one who modernized Russia to make it become a great power, gave it a Navy and created a city that bears his name and is one of the biggest and most beautiful city of Russia, St Petersburg.

Born from the second wife of his father, he started as a co-Tsar with his brother Ivan V. He was the favorite of the Russian nobles but his stepsister Sophia didn’t agree with that. She had both of them crowned and took power as the regent. Peter grew up in a village near Moscow where he liked to play war games with real regiments. That regiment will become the core of its guard that helped him taking power from his sister.

He formed an embassy and went to all the European countries to form alliances and study the way of life, science, culture… He even worked incognito in a shipyard to learn about shipbuilding. His embassy was shortened by a revolt of the Streltsy, a Russian military corps that previously allied with his sister

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Morning of Execution of Streltsy – Vasily Surikov (1881)

Nevertheless, his reign was also brutal and bloody. He fought for twenty years in the great northern war against the very talented Swedish King Charles XII (but defeated him in the end, he is still Peter the Great), the construction of his new capital cost hundreds of thousands of workers’ life, had to fight different revolts and maybe the worst, had his own son beaten to death because he disagreed with his father’s new ideas. His modernization effort often met resistance that he would drown in blood.

  •   Alexander Pushkin

Considered by many as the greatest Russian poet (or at least one of the best). Alexander Pushkin is also known to be the father of modern Russian. Combining elements from the Grammar written by Lomonosov and the old Slavonic language, mainly used during Religious ceremonies, he also added different loan words, words taken from other languages. With his novels, he popularized the use of this way of speaking and also gave some of the most beautiful pieces of art, like the novel Eugene Oneguine, later adapted into an opera. Russian language evolved and is still evolving, but he is the one who was able to unite the different influences of Russian and built the base of the modern Russian language.

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Portrait of Alexander Pushkin – Vassily Tropinin (1827)

His grandfather was Abraham Petrovich Hannibal, an African slave bought as a child by Peter the Great (remember him?) and raised as a noble. He occupied several important positions like governor of Tallinn.

  • Lenin and Stalin

Not to be mistaken with Lenon and Stalone… Badam Tsum! (Please don’t judge me on this joke). Let’s cut the joke, those two really had a very (very, very) big impact on Russia, describing here all they did and their consequences would take us hours if not days! I suppose most of you already know more or less who they are and what they did. So I’ll tell you about what is left of them, especially how they are seen by Russians nowadays.

What I know, is that Russians are very divided on the matter. Some see them as cruel monsters who destroyed and killed for an ideology, other as savors who did what was necessary to save and transform Russia. You might think that only elderly people, the ones who grew under the Soviet regime, are the most enthusiast about USSR. Well, it’s kind of true, but not only, I personally met a student who claimed to be a Stalinist, it’s quite surprising I have to say. Even if there are very few statues of Stalin (they were all taken down during Khrutchev period) you can still see his face on some flags. He is still a strong symbol of hope for some people. As for Lenin, it’s a bit different, there are still many statues of Lenin in different towns in Russia and sometimes in the former Soviet Union. By the way, you can still see his mummy in its mausoleum on the Red Square (for free). I think it’s the sign that Russians aren’t completely done with this part of their past.

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Stalin, Lenin, and Kalinin – Modified photo from the VIII Congress of the Russian Communist party in 1919

 

  • Andreï Sakharov

Last but not least, Andreï Dmitrievitch Sakharov, a Russian great physicist that worked for the Soviet Nuclear program and was awarded a Nobel Peace price! Yes, you read it well, a Nobel PEACE price! But how? Don’t worry, I will tell you :).

Probably one of the greatest physicists of his time, Sakharov is one of the inventor of different civil Thermonuclear devices (for example the Tokamak system, still used today for the fusion reactor project ITER). He also worked in the military sphere, with his team they designed the most powerful bomb to ever detonate on earth (Tsar Bomba). He then started to realize the threat of the nuclear arms race. He began to criticise the government politics and wrote essays that were often distributed illegally. In the same time, he continued to work on problems about physics especially cosmology, and enounce the “Sakharov conditions” to explain the unbalance between matter and anti-matter (Quantum physics and stuff). But it is his activities as a Human-right activist and standing against the Soviet power led him to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. After protesting against the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan he was arrested and sent to exiled (he avoided Gulag due to his academician status).

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Graffiti on Berlin’s wall “Thank you Andrei Sakharov” – Photo: Joachim Thurn
Source: Bundesarchiv

His exile ended with the arrival of Mikhail Gorbachov and his political reforms (Glasnost and Perestroika). Sakharov then started his political career and became one of the leaders of the democratic opposition. He continued to fight for Human-Rights until his unexpected death in 1989.

 

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Top 5: Street food in Russia

Time is always precious, especially if you are on a trip visiting another country. You may not have time to look for a restaurant and wait for your meal to be ready. Street food is often the best solution to get the energy to go exploring the country. Russia, despite the arrival of fast food giants, has its own types of street food that you might enjoy as well. Here are some of the best ( and I personally tested them for you!).

  • Shawarma

The question of who created Shawerma is still a source of tension but we are not here to discuss it today. Shawerma arrived in Russia through the Caucasus and extended its influence over all Russia, from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific ocean. It’s the most popular food among the young generation of Russians and students (maybe because it stays open until late in the night).

It is usually composed of chicken, sheep or beef meat, marinated and sliced in thin slices. It is rolled up in a Lavash bread with different vegetables likes tomatoes or cucumbers and sauce.

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  • Pirozhki

One of the most famous traditional Russian meal. The best are of course the home-made ones by a real “Babushka”, but you can still find good ones in the streets of every Russian city. A pirojok, which is the singular form of Pirozhki, is a type of pastry stuffed with different fillings. It goes from stewed fruits, like apples or berries, to marinated beef with onions or mashed potatoes and mushrooms.

WARNING !!! never forget to ask what is inside the Pirozhok or you might eat one expecting a sweet fruit taste and end up with some boiled cabbage (happened to me once).

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  • Pelmeni

As for Shawarma, Pelmeni are not a traditional Russian food, it comes from Siberia and is now one of the most favorite food of Russians. In Siberia, they used to be frozen outdoors and then carried by explorers but nowadays no need for Siberian winter, a simple refrigerator is enough.

Pelmeni are a type of dumpling filled with various meat (pork, beef, chicken,…) or with mushrooms. They often come with Smetana, a milk product close to sour cream that Russians appreciate a lot.

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  • Blini

Blini is a Russian traditional Pancake. It is so much popular that there even is a whole fast food brand dedicated to this dish, Teremok. In those restaurants, you can find different types of blinis with different topping both sweet and salty. It often comes with soup like Borscht or shchi. It is a good alternative if you don’t want to go to the same fast food as usual ( no need to name it, you know what I mean).

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  • Boiled corn

This might sound strange to some people but Boiled corn is really a thing in Russia. You can find small shops selling those in every park and even in train stations. It is quite cheap and nourishing, especially in cold weather.

Plus scientists say it’s healthy to eat corn so why not try 😉

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To Do in Saint-Petersburg Traveling in Russia

Yusupov Palace

The Yusupov Palace or Moika Palace was the house of the Yusupov family. One of the richest family of Russia at the verge of the Revolution. Its princes were well-known philanthropists and art collector. Preserved and transformed into a museum, it now tells us about the life of the nobility in the Russian Empire.

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Build in 1776 by the French architect Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe, the Yusupov Palace stands on the Moika river in St Petersburg. In 1830 it was acquired by the Yusupov family. This family, well known for its philanthropy and its art collections, transformed it into a splendid residence, a real piece of art. Many different artists contributed to this palace and you can still admire this variety of styles nowadays. The luxury of this place, its art gallery, the charm of its private chambers and even a private theater, will make you travel to the time when emperors and empresses were governing Russia.

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This Palace holds a very important place in Russian history. It was one of the finest demonstrations of Russian art and a nest for future talents. But most importantly, it was between these walls that the murder of Grigory Rasputin took place, more precisely in the cave that can be visited nowadays!!!. The murder was organized by a group of monarchists led by Felix Yusupov, the last owner of this palace. The exact way the murder occurred is still obscure, many parts are still unclear. Here is one of the most famous version (and my favorite). After inviting the monk to this palace, the conspirators offered him wine and pastries with enough poison to kill 5 men. Since he didn’t seem to be affected by the poison, they shot him with pistols and beat him, then they wrapped him into a broadcloth and threw him into the Moika river. A doctor that examined the body said Rasputin didn’t die because of the poison, nor the pistols, but out of hypothermia (it happened in December).

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The Russian revolution turned it into a museum, one of the most visited of St Petersburg. It also hosts different diplomatic or artistic events. It is probably one of the finest and most beautiful palaces of the Imperial area that you can visit in Saint Petersburg.

Visit this palace with a guide right now! Check out Tsar Visit!

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Top

Top 5: Aquaparks in Moscow

Are you staying in Moscow over the Summer and still would want to get a feeling of being on vacation during weekends? Want to spend time with your family and forget about the heat? Here are our top 5 Aquaparks:

  • Kva Kva Park

Not the closest Aquapark, since it is located 1km away from the MKAD, the ring road encircling Moscow, on the Yaroslavsky Shosse. The always hospitable and cozy, always clean and safe, always sunny and joyful Kva-Kva park is one of the best destinations for the whole family: 7 large slides, a large wave pool, hot steam rooms, a fabulous blue lagoon with mysterious caves and a large aqua zone for children. Even in winter, Kva Kva is the place where you can get a feeling of Summer.

 

dreamstime_xl_20004477website (only in Russian) : kva-kva.ru

 

AddressKommunisticheskaya St., 1Mytishchi 141011

For more information about this park click here!

 

  • Moreon (Yasenevo)

Are you looking for space and variety? Then Moreon is the place as it is the largest Aquapark in the capital with an area of 25,000 square meters! Unrestrained fun, joy, and happiness: a wave pool, 6 slides, a spa zone, a Thermal zone with lots of steam rooms. Moreon is rightfully considered one of the best water parks in Moscow and the Moscow region. I recommend to visit the Moscow Aquapark Moreon!

 

img5752_1419594840source : aquapark.more-on.ru (only in Russian)

 

Address: Golubinskaya St, 16

For more information about this park click here!

 

  • Karibia

This is one of the largest water parks in Moscow and the Moscow region and ideal for you, if you go there with your children. 20 000 square meters of summer and joy: 4 slides, a large wave pool, saunas, 2 hammams, a children’s aquazone, bubbling Jacuzzi. The unique design of the Moscow aquapark Karibia impresses even the most sophisticated guests and it has the right to be called one of the best water parks in Moscow. It is located close to the Perovo metro station, which makes it easily accessible by public transportation, so for those who have no car, Karibia is the place to go to.

 

gallery_big_2source : karibiya.ru/akvazona (only in Russian)

 

Address: Zeleny prospekt, 10b

For more information about this park click here!

 

  • Fantasy

Are you looking for already tested places? Then Fantasy is the place because it is one of the first Aquaparks in Moscow. It was opened in 2003 and has since then been a center for family recreation with its 5 water slides, a large wave pool, an aqua zone for children. Fantasy definitely deserves to be in the top 5 of Moscow’s Aquaparks.

 

akva_18source: fpark.ru/o-parke

 

Address: Lyublinskaya St., 100

For more information about this park click here!

 

  • Alye Parusa

Alye Parusa is slightly more expensive than its competitors. Not everyone can get here, but the stunning architecture of the Alye Parusa water park creates an unforgettable atmosphere of tranquility. This premium class place has a Swimming pool, a lagoon with mysterious caves, a wave pool, a bubbling Jacuzzi, water slides and, of course, saunas. A shallow pool is provided for children, in which the youngest visitors can safely swim. Alye Parusa is definitely worth a visit!

 

aquaparkalyeparusa-532701eb7a37f_620_416Source: chips-journal.ru

 

Address: Aviatsionnaya Ulitsa, 79

Unfortunately I only found a Russian website for this one, guess it’s time to learn Russian)

 

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Categories
Traveling in Russia

Tsarskoye Selo

Founded in 1710 and located near St Petersburg, this city used to be the residence of the emperors and empresses of the Russian empire. Tsarskoe Selo means in Russian “Village of the Tsar”, it was renamed during the Soviet period into Pushkin, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of the famous Russian poet.

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Tsarskoe Selo – Tchesmé Church

The land of the future “Village of the Tsar” was first given by Peter the Great to his second wife Marta Skavronskaya, also known as Catherine I. She started the construction of a palace that would be later known as Catherine Palace. Her daughter, Empress Elizabeth I, rebuild the palace into a much bigger and more comfortable one in the flamboyant rococo style. Her successor Catherine II started the construction of the Alexander Palace for her grandson (his name was Alexander as you probably guessed). It then became the summer residence of the Tsars, and in 1905 Nicolas II moved to the Alexander Palace with his family to get away from the growing discontent in the capital (St Petersburg at the time).

After the revolution, both palaces and their parks were turned into museums. It is now one of the most visited places in Russia and a must see if you are in St Petersburg. You can book a guided tour of this city here!

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Tsarskoe Selo – Catherine palace

The palaces host some of the finest pieces of art and architecture of Russia. In Catherine’s palace, you can stroll in the impressive great hall or light gallery. This vast reception hall covers all the width of the palace, Its windows, placed on both sides of the room, magnificently enlight it during the day (hence the name). But the real jewel of this palace is the amber room. Totally covered with amber, gold, and mirrors (you love it or you hate it!) it used to be considered as the 8th marvel of the world but it was unfortunately destroyed or lost during World War II. A replica, made using original drawings and old black and white photos, can be seen today. It took 24 years and a lot of skilled amber craftsmen to recreate it.

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Tsarskoe Selo – Catherine Palace – dance hall

Alexander’s Palace is not as famous as its neighbor, but still very interesting. It is the last residence of the last emperor and his family before the Bolshevik sent them to Ekaterinburg where they would be executed. The interior is very different from all the other palaces you will see (or have already seen!) in Russia. The then-modern art-nouveau style, chosen by the Tsarina Alexandra Fedorovna, was not seen as so “imperial”. In this palace you can learn about the daily life of the last emperor and his family.

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Tsarskoe Selo – Garden

Both palaces possess a great garden where you can walk in the steps of the Russian emperors. If after this you don’t want to go to Russia and visit this amazing place, I don’t know what to do. But if you are willing to, then you can book a guided tour here!

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