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Russia is a vast and varied country that covers one-eighth of the world’s surface and extends across 11 time zones. Rich in natural beauty, the country changes from steppes to mountains, deserts to tundra, grassy meadows to mighty rivers. Its cities offer some of the finest museums on earth, world-class ballet, opera, theatre, and music. Family life is very important in Russia.
Russians are warm and intelligent people. The family is the principal stabilizing factor in society. Both parents usually work, and often the grandmother assumes the responsibility of managing the home and caring for the children.
Most Russians live in relatively small apartments, and at least one member of the family is likely to smoke. Privacy is a very difficult issue, because there is no concept of privacy in Russian culture. It is not unusual for a Russian family to show its affection for its children by partly limiting their freedom, spoiling and over feeding them. Russians are protective of their children. Parents expect to know when the children are going out and where they are going.
Russia is a land of paradox. While some people are moving up the economic ladder in the new entrepreneurial economy, others have had their savings wiped out by hyperinflation. Many comforts that were available a few years ago are no longer part of their lives.
Recent developments in the country have given rise to mixed feelings of hope and doubt, gratitude and anger as Russians try to cope with wrenching social and economic change. They have a strong awareness of their history and are well informed about specific events in their past. While proud of their culture, they do not necessarily feel the same way about the political system.
Teenagers like to get together with their friends at someone’s home, go to movies, watch television, go to theaters or museums, and hang out in local cafés. In rural areas, students often organize dances at the local high school.
Football (soccer), hockey and track and field are popular sports, and many people participate in volleyball, cross-country skiing and ice-skating. Chess is both a favorite leisure-time undertaking and a competitive activity.
Russians are hearty people. The bases of their main meals are pork, noodles, chicken, potatoes, cabbage, rice and soups such as borscht (beet soup) and shchi (cabbage soup). Pastries, preserved fruit and sweets are often served at the end of the meal. For breakfast, sausage, cheese, eggs, hot cereal (kascha) and bread are common. Everybody drinks tea or coffee at meals and elsewhere, but tea is a mainstay of Russian life.
Russian is the official language, but the country has many regional languages and ethnic dialects among its indigenous peoples. With the breakup of the Soviet Union, there has been a resurgence of interest in religion. Russian Orthodoxy in the principal religion in European Russia. However, most of the people do not attend church services.