The Dacha

If you’ve spent more than a few weeks in Russia, you surely must have bumped into the whole concept of “dacha”, the country cottage where Russians go to get away from the city on weekends or during the summer. This custom is actually so widespread that a real exodus takes place in Moscow every weekend, so much…

Matryoshki

The matryoshka is probably the most popular symbol of Russia, and the most common souvenir. It is basically a nested doll made of wood divided in two halves that can be split apart and which contains increasingly smaller versions of itself, from a minimum of three up to 25 or even more. It is usually painted to…

Untranslatable Russian Words

Russian is such a rich language, full of shades of meaning, and many of its words are literally not translatable. This makes it both a nightmare to learn but also incredibly interesting, and being able to speak it is probably the only true way to actually understand Russians and how their minds work. Here are some…

VKontakte – the Russian Facebook

If you live in Russia for a while, it won’t take you more than a couple of weeks to realize that Facebook and Twitter that are not the biggest social media. People actually use another platform: VK, “VKontakte”. I personally realized this when I started to notice that I was missing out on most of…

White Nights

“It was a wonderful night, such a night as it is only possible when we are young, dear reader.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky, White Nights While the phenomenon of the “White Nights” or “Midnight Sun” is common to many northern cities, in no other place like in Saint Petersburg is it more celebrated, as no other…

Samovars

Samovars are a cultural symbol in Russia, as getting together and drinking tea around these ornate devices is part of Russian tradition. References to samovars are indeed commonly found both in Russian literature, like in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and Russian art, like in Malevich’s painting “Samovar”. But what is a samovar? The word literally means “self-boiler”, which is a…