Beauty of Russia

10 June 2021

Moscow   | Baikal   |   Kamchatka   | Taiga   |   Volga

Moscow – Capital City of the Biggest Country in the World

Moscow is the capital city of the Russian Federation, the “heart” of the country. It is the largest Russian city both in terms of its territory – Moscow takes 2 511 км² - and in terms of its population: there are almost 12 million of people living there, only by official account which, as many experts insist, grossly underestimates the real numbers. In any case, Moscow is the most populated city in Europe.

There is always something going on in Russia’s capital – concerts, sport events, exhibitions, guided tours, art performances, theatrical shows, you name it. If you happen to be in Russia’s capital but not exactly in a mood to join an event of some sort, even walking the streets can be an enjoyable experience, as the city’s view is true eye-candy. There are over 120 parks in Moscow, the picturesque Moskva River flows through the city with a beautiful medieval fortress, perhaps one of the best-known fortresses in the world, standing on one of its shores – the Moscow Kremlin (Kremlin means “citadel” in ancient Russian), which rises above one of the best-known squares in the world – the Red Square. The Red Square, that saw numerous glorious moments of Russian history. There, on 7 November 1941, as the Nazi forces were closing in on Moscow, the Red Army held a historic military parade that became a symbol of everlasting will of Soviet people to protect their Motherland. This will allowed them to win the Battle of Moscow and eventually defeat Nazi Germany along with its satellites. There, on Red Square, the very first Victory Parade was held in 1945.

Moscow is rightfully among the most beautiful cities. Even its underground is picturesque. Underneath the city lies the famous Moscow Metro – one of the most beautiful subways in the world. It includes 278 stations which earns Moscow Metro a place among the world’s 10 largest subways.

If you are planning to visit Russia one day, Moscow is definitely a must-see. It is a city where rich history and modern-day technologies merge, bringing an unparalleled tourist experience. If you see Moscow once – it will remain in your heart forever.



Baikal – World’s Deepest Freshwater Lake

Russia’s Transsiberian railway built in 1891-1916 forms an essential international transport corridor linking Europe with the Asia-Pacific region. On this route, Lake Baikal is one the main destinations.

The planet’s oldest and deepest Belgium-sized lake is situated right between two Russian regions: the Irkutsk region and the Republic of Buryatia (in South Siberia). Baikal is truly a world of its own, it is populated by an estimated 2,600 species of plants, animals, and microorganisms – most of which are endemic to and cannot be found elsewhere on Earth. Scientists have it that Baikal was formed approximately 25-30 million years ago, though no signs of its deteriorating with age have been found yet, which leads to the hypothesis that Baikal is a nascent ocean. Baikal’s average depth is 744,4 m, while the inmost depth – 1642 m!

Lake Baikal contains 20% of the planet’s reserves of fresh water and it is sometimes called “the freshwater sea”. And even if every human on the planet would consume 500 litres a day from it, Baikal would have enough water for 40 years.

The first Russian settlements emerged in the region of Baikal in late XVII century. At that time, the Baikal area was inhabited by the Buryat people. Siberian cossack Kurbat Ivanov is considered the first Russian to discover Baikal in 1643. In the following decades, several fortresses were founded in the vicinity of the lake including those which later grew into current towns Slyudyanka and Nizhneangarsk.

There are about 27 islands in Lake Baikal with the largest one – Olkhon being one of the last remaining centres of shamanism – pre-religious form of spiritual practice referring to the Stone and Bronze Age. Due to its almost perfect isolation, Olkhon was the last stronghold of the North Asian shamans. It was a refuge for the Mongolian shamans hiding from persecution in the time of Genghis Khan, and later for the Buryat shamans when Buddhism spread in Buryatia.

Many creative minds were inspired by Baikal – like playwright Anton Chekhov, artist Nicholas Roerich producer, or more recently Hollywood producer James Cameron. The “Avatar” director celebrated his 56th birthday by diving beneath the surface of the lake in the Mir-1 submersible with a team of scientific researchers.


Kamchatka – Land of Volcanos

Geographically, Kamchatka peninsula lies twice closer to the US than to Moscow, though its local time is 9 hours ahead of Moscow and 21 hours ahead of Alyaska. Before air travel became commonplace, it could take up to a year to get to Kamchatka from Central Russia. Within the peninsula’s area, one could fit the whole of New Zealand or the UK.

By the time Russian explorers first came to Kamchatka in mid-XVII century, its main population was represented by Itelmen and Koryak people. In 1740, the expedition under the leadership of Vitus Bering founded Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky – current Kamchatka’s administrative centre.

As incredible as it may seem, this remote land became one of the theatres of the Crimean War (1853-1856) fought predominantly in Europe. As the war was in full swing, in August 1854 a small Russian garrison successfully repelled attacks by the overwhelming forces of an Anglo-French squadron on the port of Petropavlovsk, at that time the country’s main stronghold in the Far East.

Kamchatkas and Eurasias tallest volcano Klyuchevskaya Sopka Nowadays, Kamchatka gains more and more popularity as a tourist destination. Kamchatka Peninsula is known as the land of volcanoes which form part of the the Circum-Pacific belt (“Pacific Ring of Fire”). The largest active volcano known as Klyuchevskaya Sopka is some 8,000 years old and it last showed eruption activity in February-March 2021. Together with 28 other active volcanoes, it is part of the natural “Volcanoes of Kamchatka” UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Kamchatka is a true “bear region” of Russia. According to various estimates, it is a habitat for 15,000-30,000 brown bears – such a high concentration of bears cannot be found elsewhere in the whole world. The safest and most impressive place to observe Kamchatka’s bears is at Lake Kurile which is part of the Kronotsky Nature Reserve.

Another internationally acclaimed Kamchatka’s landmark is the Valley of Geysers – the only one in Eurasian region and the 2nd largest concentration of geysers in the world (after the US’s Yellowstone national park).

The valley is a deep canyon with some 20 big and hundreds of small geysers and thermal outflows with water temperature reaching 95 C.



Taiga – Russian Miracle

Taiga constitutes a boreal forests biome that is a very large biogeographic region in eastern Russia. It is the largest type of forest on Earth. Its huge territory accounts for one-fifth of the world's total forested land and contains as much as one-half of the world's evergreen forests. The Taiga is one of the world’s largest terrestrial ecosystems. It is a great example of how nature strives through the harshest of weather conditions.

Among some of fascinating facts about Taiga one can mention is that the total area of it is more than fifteen million square kilometers; more than thirty-two thousand species of insects live in these forests; thirty-eight nature reserves are located in the Russian taiga; around eight hundred different types of flowers grow in the Siberian forests. Taiga produces enormous amount of oxygen - enough for the entire planet. It is no wonder why Taiga is sometimes referred to as a Russian miracle.

Taiga’s environment is strikingly different between summer and winter months. In summer, it may be hot and wet, while in winter large quantities of snow cover the ground. Some mammals have evolved separate coats of fur so they can be camouflaged in both seasons. For instance, the ermine, a close relative of the weasel, is a small predator that eats rodents, birds and insects. In summer its fur is a reddish-brown that matches the dead plant matter of the forest floor. However, in winter the ermine's coat grows out entirely white, except for a black tuft on its tail. The ermine's white winter coat lets it blend in with snow and stalk its prey unseen.

Nowhere else in the world are there so many furry animals than in taiga. Large animals and small rodents are residents in these forests – bears, weasels, raccoons, wolves, lynxes, rabbits and squirrels. They are well adapted to the harsh weather. Larger animals eat a lot during the warm months, gain a lot of weight, and then sleep through the colder months when they hibernate. The animals that don’t hibernate generally become less active.

Russian taiga represents the largest, oldest and snowiest type of land territory, covering extremely large areas in northern Russia, mostly Siberia. In some places, the width of these forests reaches several thousand kilometers. It is so large – it takes up to 11 percent of the Northern Hemisphere


Mother Volga

The Volga River is the 16th largest river in the world and the 5th largest river in Russia. At the same time, it is known as the longest and largest on the European continent.

This mighty river starts from a small spring in the Valdai Hills north-west of Moscow and about 320 kilometers south-east of Saint Petersburg and has a length of 3.690 km and a catchment area of 1.360.000 km2. Volga includes 151.000 rivers and a number of streams, the total length of which estimates at 574.770 km which makes it the main water sources of Russia.

If you look at the Volga River on the map it would remind you of a big tree spreading its branches which go down the Great Russian Plain and then to the sea.

The River Volga is widely regarded as the national river of Russia. It has a symbolic meaning in Russian culture and is often referred to as Volga-Matushka (Mother Volga) in Russian folklore. For thousands of years the Volga has played a central role in country’s history. People's feelings for the Volga often find echoes in songs and literature. One of the most famous songs dedicated to this river used to be performed by brilliant singer Lyudmila Zykina “Volga River Flows” – one of the most iconic & best-known Russian songs of all time.

Even foreign authors pay tribute to the Volga River: "Every country has its national river, and Russia has the Volga – the longest river in Europe, the Queen of rivers – and I was one of the many who went to bow to her Majesty River Volga" – famous French author Alexandre Dumas once wrote.

The Great Russian River Volga was known to the antique world as well. Greek scientist Ptolemy in his 'Geography' called the Volga 'Ra' (Ra means “river” in Sanskrit). He lived far from the Volga, on the coast of Africa, in the town of Alexandria, but the rumors about the Great River reached him there also. It was in the second century A.D. Finnish tribes that lived along the Volga named the river ''light' and 'Glaring'. The Arabs in the Middle Ages called it “Yishl” – “River of rivers”.

For a relaxing summer holiday, there are countless places along the River. But probably the best way to experience the Volga magic is to take a river cruise. Riverboats have cabins with two to four bunks. The journey can take from 10 hours to 24 days. Exploring the Volga River can not only introduce you to the Russian culture and its natural beauty but also give a chance to discover the soul of Russia!

Embassy of Russia in South Africa