The Way of Life
In modern Russian life the reality of today is mixed with old traditions, running back to the times of the Tsars or even pagan times. Much of our life is similar to the life of people in Europe or the USA but sometimes you will come across some customs or attitudes toward life, which have been affected by oriental influences or are simply expressions of the unique Russian soul. Please, remember that all that may seem strange to you stems from the conditions of Russian life and history. The differences between our culture and the west can be quite fascinating. You are sure to experience some new and different cultural occurrences while visiting Russia and hopefully these will be most interesting for you.
Family life in Russia, in general, is not very different from those in Western world. Most people expect to marry and have children - from one to three. Three is considered to be a lot, such families are called large and have social support. It's not often that there are more than three children in a family. A child lives with his parents and is cared for until he reaches adulthood. It's a recent practice for teenagers and young people to look for work in order to have they own money. This is a result of both the difficult economical situation and new business possibilities of recent years.
The father is considered the head of the family. This is not a special Russian tradition but it is traditionally important in Russia, where the only head of a family is associated with the only head of the state and where there should be only one leader in any business. However, the role of woman has always been considered important. There is a common type of Russian woman, who rules family life or any business in sensitive degrees; leaving men to think they are the most important. Nowadays, single mothers often lead households. Usually both husband and wife work and earn money but household duties are rarely shared. Because women have to do a double job - at work and in the house, this is often a source for family quarrels and insults.
The Staff of life
In the Soviet times, when the economy was strictly ruled and private initiative was prohibited, the range of food and other things in shops was very small, although everything was cheap. In the last ten years the variety of food and products of consumption are in abundance but the prices are high. Considering that salaries at state organizations are small and pensions are low, everybody looks for their own way of surviving. That's why many people turn to country, to their dachas, where they grow vegetables, fruits and sometimes even raise cattle. In the Russian the climate this is very hard work. The successful dacha owners who have a good harvest make lots of jars of pickles and other sour and salty products, as well as different jams, for winter. Some people on fixed incomes eat mostly potatoes and bread and at times dairy products and meat.
As to the Russian cooking, there are lots of tasty popular dishes that are advisable to taste. Borsch - is a Ukrainian tradition that took root in Russia and became part of our native cuisine. This is soup with meat, beetroot, cabbage, potato, carrot, etc. (the last two items are common for most of soups). Shi - is also a soup, which has a sour taste, cooked with cabbage plus other vegetables and meat (optional) Golubtsy is cabbage stuffed with meat. A variation of this dish as "lazy golubtsy" - when minced meat is not rolled into cabbage leaves but mixed with finely cut cabbage. In both cases all ingredients are braised. Pelmeni is a Siberian tradition. However it has always existed in the South, in Caucasus and Asia where it has a slightly different shape and another name - manty. Pelmeni are made of pasta stuffed with meat. Varenniki are similar to pelmeni, though they are not round but oblong and stuffed with cottage cheese, (tvorog), potato or jam. Pirozhki are stuffed rolls. There are a great variety of them - with all kinds of stuffing and different methods of cooking the dough. They are very popular, they are loved and they are good for both a fast meal and as part of a festive occasion.
Drinking tea is a common habit
Although Russians are known as heavy drinking people, they do not drink much more than some other nationalities. The fact is that a merry disposition is fitting to the Russian character!
An occasion can be either a time of deep distress or a time of reckless happiness.
Having a shot of vodka or two along with a salty or sour snack (zakuska) has been a traditional start for a dinner - for good appetite. It came from Tsarist times and was continued in Soviet times. It's still accepted as a rule now by people who are middle aged and older.
The process of inventing vodka took several centuries from early methods of brewing to the derivation by Mendeleev of the optimal formula of 40-degree vodka. In the old times Russians used to brew spirits in heavy tubs. The home-made beer was poured in traditional ladles bearing two handles, resembling a bird's head and tail, and served in a bratina, a round vessel that could hold up to three liters. In the reign of Peter the First, when the concept of vodka itself appeared, it was measured in pails. Stopka, which means a very small glass of vodka now, was in fact a quarter of pail! In the times of Stalin, Georgian wines were highly valued. Actually, wine has always been considered a noble drink. Beer has consistently remained popular.
There is nothing special about the way of dressing except for that Russians are often dressed casually. It's because thinking about themselves, paying attention to the way they look and caring about the impression they make on others hasn't become a habit for many people yet. This is a result of the economic history and the fact that there were little or no social obligations required regarding dress during the past eighty years. However, everything is changing and there are many more people dressed tastefully and in modern style. Styles and trends are beginning to be seen on the streets of the city especially in the dress of Russia's younger generation. In the summer people wear shorts and t-shirts and in the winter the streets are filled with people wearing fur coats. The Russian fur hat is probably the most significant item that defines a Russian tradition in dress. Blue jeans are very popular in Russia.
Spending free time
Russians have little leisure time, as they must work very long hours in order to support themselves and their families. The few that do not work have more free time but they do not know what to do with it! Leisure time in a family is spent sitting in front of the TV, watching it while having meal or tea. Families that live in the big cities enjoy theatres and movies though they do not visit them too often. In cities more and more nightclubs are opening, where young people like to go for entertainment. Russians like soccer, hockey, and ice skating, as well as swimming in summer and skiing and sledging in winter. In summer people also pick mushrooms and berries (blueberries, wild strawberries) for recreation.