Russia covers about 1/3 of the territory of the Eurasia continent where about 23% of the country’s area is located in the east of Europe and about 76% in the north side of Asia. Due to large territories and far distance from the sea, climate in Russia is continental, and characterized by all four seasons with pronounced summers and winters. The nature of Russia is diverse and has its own characteristics in different parts of the country. The territory of Russia consists of different natural areas: arctic deserts, tundra, taiga, mixed and deciduous forests, bushes, semi-deserts and deserts. Along with climatic conditions, it is rich in biodiversity, flora and fauna.
Russia is a truly unique country which along with a highly developed modern culture carefully preserves the traditions of its nation, deeply rooted not only in Orthodoxy, and even paganism. Russians continue to celebrate pagan holidays, believe in numerous people’s signs and traditions. Christianity gave the Russians such wonderful holidays as Easter, Christmas and the Rite of Epiphany, and paganism – Pancake week and Ivan Kupala. Pancake week – this is the bright holiday of the resurrection of Christ. This holiday came to Russia from Byzantium with baptism at the end of the 10th century. Since then, throughout the whole Russia, this Christian holiday has been celebrated widely. The Nativity of Christ is the holiday of Jesus Christ’s birth, the Savior, when people are praying for mercy, kindness, truth and eternal life. The Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas according to the Julian calendar on January 7, unlike the Western churches that celebrate it on December 25th according to the Gregorian calendar. In old times, Pancake week was dedicated to the memory of the dead. So the burning of the dummy- it’s a funeral, and pancakes – a memorial meal. But time has passed, and the Russian people, greedy for fun and rest, turned a sad holiday into a Pancake week. But the tradition to bake pancakes – round, yellow and hot, like the sun, remained and evolved. Now it includes riding on horse sleds and sleighs from the icy mountains, and fisticuffs. Pancake week ceremonies are very unusual and interesting, as they combine the celebration of the winter ending and the opening of a new spring period for festivals and that were supposed to promote a rich harvest.
Russia is a multinational country where you can try a variety of dishes, some of them are pretty exotic starting from the Tatar chuck- chuck (desert from dough and honey) and ending with the Yakutsk’s stroganina (fresh-frozen fish or meat). But traditional dishes can be found in every region of our country. The Russian cuisine has visibly changed in last 100 years due to urbanization, new structure of the society as a result of revolutions, and many other changes. Climatic conditions — long winters and vast forests – also impacted the variety of the traditional Russian dishes: a diversity of soup, porridge and cereal, pickles, mushroom dishes and fowl made part of a regular menu. Central position of the Russian stove in a house predetermined an important role of the home baked bread, pies and patties, stewed and boiled or baked; in the traditional cuisine, unlike modern, there were practically frying dishes.
ABOUT SAINT PETERSBURG
Saint Petersburg is one of the biggest cultural centers of global significance, there are more than 200 museums, 70 theatres, 17 stadiums and more than 1000 exhibitions, 120 premieres, 280 festivals are hold there. That’s why Forum’s delegates will be able to touch historical, artistic and spiritual treasures of the “Cultural capital of Russia”.
After 200 years of serving as a grand summer residence of the emperors, Peterhof is inextricably connected with the Russian history. The seaside paradise was built, as a grandiose triumphal memorial glorifying the grandeur of Russia, in conquering the much needed and desired access to the Baltic Sea, during the Great Northern War.
The Grand Peterhof Palace, majestic and elegant, with its facade stretching for almost 300 meters, occupies the dominant position of the Peterhof ensemble composition, connecting the Upper garden and the Lower park, in a single artistic entity. “Having stretched its wings” over the aquatic extravaganza of the Great cascade, it unites and forms a harmonic complex of alleys, architectural constructions and fountains. For a long time, the Grand Peterhof Palace has been a center of social life. Celebrations, receptions, balls and masquerades, inviting for up to three thousand guests, took place here. In the Palace Church, they held wedding ceremonies, baptized their children and served prayers in honor of military victories.
STATE HERMITAGE MUSEUM
The State Hermitage Museum is a museum of art and culture in Saint Petersburg. The second largest in the world, it was founded in 1764 when Empress Catherine the Largest acquired an impressive collection of paintings from the Berlin merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky. The museum celebrates the anniversary of its founding each year on 7 December, Saint Catherin’s Day. It has been open to the public since 1852. Its collections, of which only a small part is on permanent display, comprise over three million items (the numismatic collection accounts for about one third of them), including the largest collection of paintings in the world. The collections occupy a large complex of six historic buildings along Palace Embankment, including the Winter Palace, a former residence of Russian emperors. Apart from them, the Menshikov Palace, Museum of Porcelain, Storage Facility at Staraya Derevnya and the eastern wing of the General Staff Building are also part of the museum. The museum has several exhibition centers abroad. The Hermitage is a federal state property. Since July 1992, the director of the museum has been Mikhail Piotrovsky. Of the six buildings in the main museum complex, five—namely the Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage, New Hermitage and Hermitage Theatre —are open to the public. The entrance ticket for foreign tourists costs more than the fee paid by citizens of Russia and Belarus. However, entrance is free of charge the first Thursday of every month for all visitors, and free daily for students and children. The museum is closed on Mondays. The entrance for individual visitors is located in the Winter Palace, accessible from the Courtyard.
THE MARIINSKY THEATRE
The Mariinsky Theatre can trace its history as far back as 1783, when a Decree on the establishment of a theatre committee “for performances and music” was published on 12 July and the Bolshoi Stone Theatre was opened on Carousel Square amid great pomp on 5 October. The theatre gave the square its new name – even today it is known as Theatre Square. Built according to plans by Antonio Rinaldi, the Bolshoi Theatre staggered the public with the sheer scale of its dimensions, its majestic architecture and its stage, equipped with the most up-to-date theatre equipment and machinery. Giovanni Paisiello’s opera Il mondo della luna was performed at the opening. The Russian Opera Company performed here in turn with the Italian and French Companies, and there were also plays and concerts of vocal and instrumental music. For more than two centuries the Mariinsky Theatre has been presenting the world with a plethora of great artistes: the outstanding bass and founding father of the Russian operatic performing school Osip Petrov served here; this is where such great singers as Fyodor Chaliapin, Ivan Yershov, Medea and Nikolai Figner and Sofia Preobrazhenskaya honed their skills and rose to glory. Ballet dancers reigned supreme on this stage, among them Mathilde Kschessinska, Anna Pavlova, Vaslav Nijinsky, Galina Ulanova, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov. This is where George Balanchine set out on the road to art. This theatre has witnessed the dawn of the talents of such brilliant theatre decorators as Konstantin Korovin, Alexander Golovin, Alexandre Benois, Simon Virsaladze and Fyodor Fyodorovsky among countless others.
THE PALACE BRIDGE
From all list of sights, which literally crammed Saint Petersburg, we could pick out the most emblematic. Panorama of Saint Petersburg wouldn’t have been so complete without his famous engineer facility – drawbridges. One of picturesque, and perhaps, the most photographed place is Palace Bridge. For sure guests of Saint Petersburg have pictures of wings of Palace Bridge against a background of spire of Peter and Paul Fortress. From the very beginning the Palace Bridge was supposed to be the most beautiful in the city, but over the years of his exhibition destiny had been playing the cruel game. But against the above, devoid of architectural innovations Palace Bridge attract like magnet thousands of people, who wall from the Hermitage to Spit of Vasilievsky Island. The name was given for nearness with Winter Palace and Palace Embankment. With arrival new authority in 1918 bridge was given a new name like Republican Bridge, but in 1952 it was recovered to historical appellation.
SAINT ISAAC’S CATHEDRAL
Saint Isaac’s Cathedral or Isaakievskiy Sobor in Saint Petersburg, Russia, is the largest Russian Orthodox cathedral in the city. It is the largest orthodox basilica and the fourth largest (by the volume under the cupola) cathedral in the world. It is dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great, who had been born on the feast day of that saint. The church on St Isaac’s Square was ordered by Tsar Alexander I, to replace an earlier structure by Vincenzo Brenna, and was the fourth consecutive church standing at this place. A specially appointed commission examined several designs, including that of the French-born architect Auguste de Montferrand (1786–1858), who had studied in the atelier of Napoleon’s designer, Charles Percier. Montferrand’s design was criticised by some members of the commission for the dry and allegedly boring rhythm of its four identical pedimented octastyle porticos. It was also suggested that despite gigantic dimensions, the edifice would look squat and not very impressive. The members of the commission, which consisted of well-known Russian architects, were also particularly concerned by necessity to build a new huge building on the old unsecure foundation. The emperor, who favoured the ponderous Empire style of architecture, had to step in and solve the dispute in Montferrand’s favour. The cathedral took 40 years to construct, under Montferrand’s direction, from 1818 to 1858. To secure the construction, the cathedral’s foundation was strengthened by driving 25,000 piles into the fenland of Saint Petersburg. Innovative methods were created to erect the giant columns of the portico. The construction costs of the cathedral totalled an incredible sum of 1 000 000 gold rubles. Under the Soviet government, the building was stripped of religious trappings. In 1931, it was turned into the Museum of the History of Religion and Atheism, the dove sculpture was removed, and replaced by a Foucault pendulum. On April 12, 1931, the first public demonstration of the Foucault pendulum was held to visualize Copernicus’s theory. In 1937, the museum was transformed into the museum of the Cathedral, and former collections were transferred to the Museum of the History of Religion (located in the Kazan Cathedral). During World War II, the dome was painted over in gray to avoid attracting attention from enemy aircraft. On its top, in the skylight, a geodesical intersection point was placed, to determine the positions of German artillery batteries. With the fall of communism, the museum was removed and regular worship activity has resumed in the cathedral, but only in the left-hand side chapel. The main body of the cathedral is used for services on feast days only. On January 10, 2017 Georgy Poltavchenko, the Governor of St. Petersburg, announced that the Cathedral would be transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church.