Welcome to our weekly edition of the Matryoshka’s Diary. Today I will take you on a journey to Russia and you will get a chance to explore Russia from a Geographical perspective.
With its 11 local times, Russia is one of the countries with the most time zones worldwide. While France and its dependencies stretch across 12 time zones, Russia holds another world record: 10 of the country’s 11 time zones cover a contiguous landmass—only the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, wedged between Lithuania and Poland, breaks that pattern. The country is so big that when someone who lives in Anadyr’ (the easternmost town neighboring the U.S.) is about to head off to work, someone in Kaliningrad is about to go to bed! So, people of the eastern part of Russia literally live in the future! Let’s take a look at some amazing parts of Russia.
How big is Russia? Brief overview
Just to give you a general idea of how our country is structured:
- The country is divided into 8 Federal districts, 12 economic districts, and 85 Russian Federal Subjects.
- There are republics, cities of federal importance, krays, oblasts, autonomous regions and autonomous oblasts, one such example is Jewish autonomous oblast which is just a quick train trip from the city where I was born.
- People who live in the Asian part of Russia are indeed close to China, Korea, and Japan so we learn Asian languages at school and/or university. I actually studied Mandarin at Uni. And just the opposite, European languages such as French, German, and Spanish are more popular among those living in the European part of Russia.
- A trip from Vladivostok which is a sea port in the South East of Russia to Moscow will take about 8-9 hours by plane or a week by train. It is the same amount of time a trip from Hong Kong to Sydney will take.
- A lot of people in Russia have a dream to travel by plane from the east of Russia to the west on the New Year’s Eve so they can get to celebrate the New Year’s multiple times and make multiple wishes.
- Geography also determines where we go on holidays. The majority of people who I know back home would pick Asian countries such as Thailand, China, Korea and Japan over European countries for their holidays. A lot of people living in the Far East of Russia do business with Asian countries or simply move to China to study or work there.
- Many young people and university graduates move to China as they get offered jobs there in such fields as international trade, education, and tourism.
- Kaliningrad – is a unique city. It is a city with a population of 450 000 located in the far west of Russia and is surrounded by European countries such as Poland and Lithuania. This is a very unique location. Due to its geographical location, the city is isolated from the rest of the country, and it is very different from other Russian cities in a way that it has German heritage. Before it was annexed by the USSR after the World War II, the area was part of a unified German state called East Prussia for 700 years. Its capital was the beautiful medieval city of Konigsberg.
- A trip by the Trans-Siberian Rail road is something very unique and special and is of huge interest to many international visitors.
If you happen to travel to Vladivostok and you have never been to China – I would say it worth a visit
Harbin was founded by Russian colonists in the late 19th century, on the bank of the Sungari River inside the territory of the Chinese Empire. In Harbin, before anything else, there was a train station. In 1898 China had granted Russia the right to build a shortcut on the Trans-Siberian Railway across Manchuria, from Chita to Vladivostok.
For three decades, in early 20th-century Harbin was among the most cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic cities of the Russian empire, without rival in the Far East. It had grand boulevards named for Russian writers, onion-domed churches, large businesses… After the Revolution, Harbin became the home to a unique culture — that of the exiled White Russians, driven out by the Bolsheviks’ Red Army. Like Shanghai, Harbin, city of no passports, was a home for Russian Jewish culture.
Nowadays, a visitor to Harbin will see Russians in fashion advertisements and Russians in hotels and bars, Russian writing on the walls and Russian songs played by saxophonists in the street. There is a high demand for European faces – my cousin is actually a really popular model in Harbin and he gets invited to shoot in ads.
The Russian culture which created Harbin is still very much on display, but absent of a significant Russian population, an everyday life has disappeared, and the only traces of “Russian-ness” are objects which can be purchased — food, souvenirs, clothes. So yes, Harbin is not Russian in any way anymore but no one can deny its Russian heritage.
I have mentioned Harbin and Kaliningrad and touched on their unique history, geography, and cultural heritage just to give you an example of how diverse and multicultural our country is. It can also give you an idea of where you can start your Russian journey.
If you get a chance to travel to Russia and experience it first hand, you will understand what I am talking about.
What are the best locations to visit in Russia?
It is a very difficult question to answer. It really depends on what interests you most and how much time you have to explore the country. I know some people who have done a road trip across Russia and Mongolia and it took them 3 months, some other people I have met cycled from London through Europe and Russia all the way to Asia and it took them 8 months.
It is a personal choice, but no matter which cities you decide to visit, I am positive that you will fall in love with Russian food, art, architecture, and nature!