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  • Russian population and culture
    Russia has a population of approximately 145 million. The largest cities are Moscow (the capital) and St. Petersburg. There are hundred eighty four different nationalities represented in the Russian Federation, but majority of population (80%) are Russians. Almost all of nationalities inhabiting Russia has their own language, but Russian language is official for everyone. Sixty percent of Russians are secular; the majority of religious Russians are Orthodox Christians. The most popular Russian last names are Kuznetsov, Ivanov, Petrov, Smirnov, and Popov; the most common first names are Elena and Alexei.

    Russians very much enjoy reading one always sees passengers reading on the subway and on the city busses and trolleys. Book stores and street kiosks selling books and magazines are always full of customers. However, the Russians are still lacking in their knowledge of foreign languages, which is the result of the Iron Curtain that kept the Soviet Union closed from western influences during the many years of totalitarian rule. Young people learn languages (mainly English) very actively, however, you may find it difficult to communicate with the older generation if you do not speak Russian.

    Russia's culture is quite old: the alphabet is based on ancient Greek and the architecture is based on that of Ancient Byzantium. A number of architectural monuments have been preserved throughout the country, many of them are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The paintings of Russian masters are excellent, and frescoes by Dionysius (about 1440-1505) can be compared with those of Giotto (1267-1337). Icons by Andrei Rublyov and Theophan the Greek (end of the 14th beginning of the 15th centuries) are highly valued worldwide.

    The Russians are proud of their great compatriots, including Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, and many others. Five Russian writers have won the Nobel Prize: they are Ivan Bunin, Mikhail Sholokhov, Boris Pasternak, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and Joseph Brodsky. Music by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Schnittke is performed throughout the world. The painters Kazimir Malevich and Vassili Kandinsky brought fame to the Russian avant-garde movement. The famous Left Handed Master, a protagonist in the story of the same name by writer Nikolai Leskov (1831-1895), has become a symbol of Russian craftsmanship: the man was so talented that he managed to put tiny metal horse shoes on a miniscule, visible only under a microscope, steel flea! The impeccable skill of folk craftsmen's work has always been especially distinguished in Russia.

    Russians are proud to be the originators of many innovations, ranging from samovars and world-famous matryoshkas (nesting dolls) to fundamental discoveries in chemistry, aviation, and nuclear physics. In 1961, Russia (then the USSR) was the first country to have a manned vehicle in space. Russian tanks, warplanes, and the renowned Kalashnikov machine-guns are undoubtedly among the world's finest weapons. Russian classical ballet is second to none, as is the success of the Russian athletes. Traditionally, Russia takes first place in team competition at the Olympic Games: swimmers, weight-lifters, gymnasts, figure-skaters, hockey players, and other athletes are proud of their excellent achievements. The majority of the world's chess champions are either Russians or have Russian ancestry.
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