Exploring Russian Culture

Russia is twice the size of the U.S. and is made up of many different regions and ecosystems like massive rivers, deep freshwater lakes, wild plains, tundras, and forests. There are different climate zones from subtropical to polar. The Russian landscape is home to thick forests (taiga), vast plains (steppe), the highest mountain in Europe, Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus (5,642m), the deepest lake in the world, Lake Baikal, and many other wonderful places.

Russia is equally rich in history and traditions and has a deep cultural heritage of art and music. Though the Soviet Union ceases to exist, traces of this period can still be found in everyday Russian life in the habits and ways of thinking of Russian people, especially of the older generation. It’s deeply rooted in Russian culture and requires respect and understanding. It’s common to see people working outside in their vegetable gardens and old men sitting in the park playing chess.

Host a Russian student in the U.S.


Russian People and Community

AFS Student with family in Russia

Russian families are generally hospitable and open-minded. They really like to spend time together, so it’s not common to spend evenings sitting alone in one’s room. Families in towns and cities tend to live in apartment; single family homes are more common in rural areas. A babushka and dedushka (grandma and grandpa) play a special role in the family.  Weekends and holidays may be spent at the family country cottage, called dacha.

Russian culture is shaped by an authoritarian way of thinking, so the relationship between generations is also shaped by respect and appreciation. Russian parents are mostly very protective of their kids. They usually make important decisions regarding their children themselves without discussion. They want to know everything about their children’s lives and care very much what their child wears, eats, how, and where they spend their free time. They must always know where and with whom their kids go out and at what time they are supposed to come home.

Russians do not enter the house with their shoes on, people wear slippers in the house or just go barefoot. Immediately after they come home, they put on their slippers and change into comfortable clothes. The reason is that feeling comfortable at home means a lot to them and that they don’t like to carry the “dirt of the streets” into their home by wearing the same clothes as outside.

Language and Communication Style

The official language is Russian, with another 27 official regional languages and over 100 minority languages. The Russian alphabet is Cyrillic. Russian belongs to the East Slavonic Branch of the Indo-European family, which ties it to Greek and Latin. Its closest spoken relatives are Ukrainian and Belarusian. Over the centuries, its vocabulary and style have been influenced by German, French and English.

Food in Russia

Traditional soup in Russia

In Russian culture, there is no fixed time for meals. People may have a snack or drink tea or coffee when they feel hungry. Generally, Russian cuisine is quite hearty! Most meals include pork, noodles, chicken, dumplings, potatoes, cabbage, beet soup, and cabbage soup. Pastries and sweets are often eaten for dessert. For breakfast, most Russians eat eggs, sausage, cheeses, bread, and hot cereal. Tea and coffee are both common, but tea occupies a particularly special place in Russian culture. If somebody is invited “to drink tea”, it doesn’t mean just drinking tea. It means they are going to have a long, heart-to-heart talk. This is a very Russian way to talk or discuss serious questions in a relaxed atmosphere, to solve problems, to share one’s feelings or show one’s love and affection. Russians can drink tea several times a day.