About Russia http://www.belykamen.com Tue, 18 Sep 2018 19:43:22 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb History of Russian Bath http://www.belykamen.com/guide/item/1500003-history-of-russian-bath.html http://www.belykamen.com/guide/item/1500003-history-of-russian-bath.html History of Russian Bath
Apostle Andrew wrote in 1113: "Wondrous to relate, I saw the land…

Apostle Andrew wrote in 1113:

"Wondrous to relate, I saw the land of the Slavs, and while I was among them, I noticed their wooden bath-houses. They warm themselves to extreme heat, then undress, and after anointing themselves with tallow, take young reeds and lash their bodies. They actually lash themselves so violently that they barely escape alive. They then drench themselves with cold water, and thus are revived. They think nothing of doing this every day and actually inflict such voluntary torture upon themselves. They make of the act not a mere washing but a veritable torment."


Going to bania is a very old Russian custom. From medieval limes it was popularly seen as a national institution, and not to bathe in one at least three times a week was practically taken as a proof of foreign origins.


Most villagers in Russia had a bathhouse, usually some way off from the rest of the houses in the village, where possible near water. The bathhouse had its own resident sprite, the bannik, the most hostile of the Russian domestic goblins, and was not a place to visit alone. The bannik was envisaged as a naked dwarf or a little old man. The proper time for people to use it was the five or seven hours before the midday . Only three or two bathing sessions were safe, after that it was Devil's turn and no peasant would go in after the third session or after the sundown. A site of former bathhouse was considered to be unclean, even evil and new houses were not built there.


Every noble household had its own steam house. In towns and villages there was invariably a communal bath, where men and women sat steaming themselves, beating one another, rolling around together in the snow. Because of its reputation as a place for sex and wild behavior, Peter the Great attempted to stamp out the bania as a relic of medieval Russia and encouraged the building of Western bathrooms in the palaces and mansions of St. Petersburg . But, despite heavy taxes on it, noblemen continued to prefer the Russian bath and, by the end of the eighteenth century, nearly every palace in St. Petersburg had one.


Going to the bathhouse often was, and is regarded as a way of getting rid of illnesses - it was called the "people's first doctor'"(vodka was the second, raw garlic the third). There were all types of magical beliefs associated with it in folklore. To go to bania was to give both your body and your soul a good cleaning, and it was the custom to perform this purge as a part of important rituals. Bathhouse was the place for the ritual pre-marriage bathe and for the delivery of babies. It was warm and clean and private, and in a series of bathing rituals that lasted forty days, it purified the mother from the bleeding of the birth which, according to the Church and the popular belief that held to the idea of Christ's bloodless birth, symbolized the fallen stale of womanhood. The records about the seventeenth-century Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich mention that when tsarina (his wife) went into labor, she was taken off to the bathhouse, where she remained with only her midwife and female attendants until her child was born.


The bania's role in prenuptial rituals was also to ensure the woman's purity: the bride was washed in the bania by her maids on the eve of her wedding. It was a custom in some places for the bride and the groom to go to the bath house before their wedding night. These were not just peasant rituals. They were shared by the provincial nobility and even by the court in the final decades of the seventeenth century. This intermingling of pagan bathing rites with Christian rituals was equally pronounced as Epiphany and Shrovetide ('Clean Monday'), when ablution and devotion were the order of the day. On these holy days it was customary for the Russian family, or whatever social class, to clean the house, washing all the floors, clearing out the cupboards, purging the establishment of any rotten or unholy foods, and then, when this was done, to visit the bath house and clean the body, too.

admin@belykamen.ru (Admin) Articles about Russia Fri, 14 Mar 2014 07:26:27 +0000
Russian Customs and Traditions http://www.belykamen.com/guide/item/99972-russian-customs-and-traditions.html http://www.belykamen.com/guide/item/99972-russian-customs-and-traditions.html Russian Customs and Traditions
There are certain peculiarities that only Russians have and it's useful to…

There are certain peculiarities that only Russians have and it's useful to know them. Otherwise you risk losing friends, getting shot, or having an argument.

Below we tried to list some common traits of the Russian character and list some things that Russians love and hate. If you are lucky enough to meet a person whose character incorporates all of the items from the list below, we can assure you that this person possesses the pure Russian spirit and should be treated with high respect. If you decide to become a Russian, you can use the list below as guidelines.

• We are a free nation. Here we despise all the rules. It’s an honor for our drivers to move on the red light or to bother other drivers and scorn pedestrians.

• It’s cool to do nothing and to just lie on the sofa thinking about how great you are. Really, Russia is such an amazing country and we have given the world so much, that we can rest a bit.

• If you're invited for a meal, expect that the hosts will feed you until you feel completely full and not capable of moving. If you think that's dangerous for your health, or you're on a diet, we advise you to emulate satiety, otherwise you will end up badly.

• We value generousity. We can give you the last piece of bread we have if we believe you really need it. And we expect the same in return.

• Some of us are naturally indifferent; we don’t care too much about dirt on the streets, saving money, the war in Tchechnya, breaking the rules, risking without particular reason, drinking too much...

• ... and most of us are very proud. Don't talk to us about our vices, we won't listen anyway. And don't dare to critisize the way our country is -- Russia is the best place and we will prove it to the whole world very soon.

• Some of us are quite emotional, but somehow it’s all kept inside most of the time. We may seem a bit cold and too much to ourselves at first, but when you get to know us better, we're like a volcanoe.

• We love trends – even though we're not the global trend-setters, we take them to the extremes. Give us the latest Dazed & Confused and we'll show you how to turn avant-garde to mainstream and even make good money on it. By the way, same goes for technology and the internet. We get it later, but we make it better :)

• We are not politically correct, we take pleasure in talking our opinions out loud and we will not use fancy words to conceal our real feelings.

• We don't feel easy about talking to strangers on the street, but if you start conversation saying that you're from another country or ask for some help, there's a good chance we will be very open, because we are naturally curious about foreigners. 

• Some of us think that foreigners are bloody rich; so if we spot a foreigner, we try to make some money on him, because we still have this communist idea that everybody should be equal.

• Women and old women are very respected here. It’s considered polite if while being in the metro and seeing a woman or an old woman coming in and there’re no free seats, man offers her his seat.

• Beware of the babushkas (old women). They are active, pushy and very proud of themselves, so if you do something not the way they think you should’ve done, better disappear.

• When you are invited to the party bring something with you - beer is usually accepted with pleasure.

• If you invited a girl or a woman somewhere be prepared to pay for her everywhere. If you invited a man, he’ll pay for himself, and there's a good chance he'll pay for you as well without telling you about it.

• Men should be strong and assertive and women should be smart and beautiful. That's just one of our stereotypes.

• No, Russians are not racists. We were grown up in the world, where everybody is equal and where the friendship of nations is an important part of our agenda. If you notice one of us staring occasionally at a black person, it's just because we are curious -- there's not many black people in Russia... The only word of warning is about older people, who are sometimes too much patriotic, so be careful: don't offend their feelings. 

• Yes, we love vodka, but we're not alcoholics. Despite what some people think, Russians are not drunkards, they just have a special resistance to alchohol, that's why they can drink so much. And we actually get our strength from it and it warms us during the cold winters. By the way, if you drink with us, you'll have to drink as much as we do, or we will be offended.

• Russians are weird. We think that a sudden change from communism to capitalism has something to do with it, but this topic deserves a more thorough exploration. The only smart explanation that can be proposed here is that some of us jumped too deep into capitalist world, while some stayed too far behind.

• Russians are hooligans. It's not because we're bad - we just like everything extraordinary. But too often we don't express this feeling enough, so when it comes out, it's like a volcanoe. That's why you hear our tourists singing folk songs at 3am and that's why we make a revolution every 80 years.

• We believe in magnetism. The thing is, that every so often the sun sends some electro-magnetic signals and this affects the whole course of events on the earth, including our mood and feelings. So, if you see two housewives discussing how bad their day went because of the electro-magnetic storm that happened in the afternoon - don't think they are adepts of some sort of new age philosophy, it's completely normal here.

• Yes, we are superstitious. And if you want to shake our

hand, you can never ever do it through the door: you have to come in, otherwise we will quarrel. If you come back to your house just after you left - look at the mirror, it's for your own good. If you're sitting at the corner of the table, you won't be married for 7 years. If a fork falls, a woman is going to come, if a knife falls, a man will certainly appear.

• Most of us know a few words in English, but we are too shy to speak - no practice, you see... However, you will be surprised at how many things are written in English on the streets: it is used to show a shop or a cafe, to advertise a new product, and there's a lot of foreign goods. Also, almost more than a half of Russian products have their ingredients listed in English. 

Russians learn English at school, and many people can understand the basics, but are shy to speak to a stranger. We estimate about every one out of five Moscovitans can speak English well enough, and there's a higher chance among younger people.

• We like all things fancy. But our understanding of it is very original. You will often see men in suits or tucked-in shirts and office trousers (even in clubs on Friday night), while women prefer noticeable and sexy outfits. The colors for men are usually dark or grey, while women like light and white colors. This is a generalization and of course you'll see a lot of different people and outfits. 

• A club is not a place to party - it's the place for the chosen ones. 

If you want to visit clubs, they have this thing called "dress code" where you might not be allowed because you wear Nike sneakers, old khakis or a fleece coat. However, the rules are more lax for foreigners, so if unsure about your appearance just speak English while you're passing the club's entrance, and you're guaranteed to get in.

• We express what we feel, but we're not extrovert. We shout in public and we kiss in public. It's acceptable to show affection in public (look at how many kissing couples there are on the long escalators in Moscow metro!) but extrovert behaviour may be resisted. You won't see a lot of people sitting in public places with their legs stretched or crossed

(in an American way) and Russians do not gesticulate much when they are talking.

• Most Russians feel a bit strange about gays and lesbians, but prefer not to talk or express their feelings about it. There is however, quite a large gay & lesbian community in Moscow and St. Petersburg and specialized websites have thousands and thousands of profiles featuring gorgeous queer men and women.

• Smoking is a national sport, but many people understand it's not good for health and will always agree to turn off their cigarette if it bothers you.

Many people have a positive attitude towards healthy lifestyle and have a daily morning exercise routine or run in the park.

• We believe that if you are a vegeterian, chances are you are one of those Hare Krishna guys or you have problems with digestion. (However, we should say that the creators of this site were vegetarian for two years... until we traveled to Siberia and were presented with the choice of either making a good travel guide or not eating the meat that was offered)


admin@belykamen.ru (Admin) Articles about Russia Mon, 12 Aug 2013 00:00:00 +0000
Russian Samovar story http://www.belykamen.com/guide/item/99971-samovar.html http://www.belykamen.com/guide/item/99971-samovar.html Russian Samovar story
Samovar is a pure Russian find for tea. Tea was firstly presented…

Samovar is a pure Russian find for tea. Tea was firstly presented to a Russian tzar by Mongolian khans and later the samovar's "grandfather" came to Russia from Persia.

In old Russia tea quickly replaced favorite Russian drink - sbiten (mix of hot water, honey and herbs) and became a way of life. Tea was drunk all day long - you could find hot tea sellers on street corners, in trains, in offices, not talking about bars and restaurants.

The best way to serve tea was a samovar which was considered a staple in every home. The steaming samovar embodied (and still does!) by its smooth silver surface home comfort and Russian hospitality.

Samovars were made from nickel, copper, pinchbeck, in special cases - from silver. Skilled masters wanted to astonish customers and made samovars as a real art of work. Samovars were plated with gold, or silver and came in various shapes ("vase", "pear", cubic, many-sided) and sizes depending on their use. Most samovars were small for homes.

The first samovar was made in Tula. Later samovar manufactures were in the Urals, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Tula, in Vladimirskaya, Yaroslavskaya and Vyatskaya provinces. But Tula became known as the center of Russian samovar and there were about 40 samovar factories there by 1900. Tula samovars gained first prizes at the exhibitions not only in Russia, but abroad.

In fact, the samovar is an urn in which water is kept boiling for a long time, since charcoal or wood is burned in a vertical pipe through the center that heats water. On the top of the samovar a small teapot was held that provided a strong tea brewing. This tea is usually diluted with hot water from the samovar.

Nowadays Russians still serve tea with samovars quite often, electric ones though. Samovars can be easily found in kitchens, offices, and even cafes. The warmth of Russian samovar tea drinling will melt your heart with fluxing comfort and delight.

admin@belykamen.ru (Admin) Articles about Russia Mon, 12 Aug 2013 00:00:00 +0000
Myths and Truths about Russia http://www.belykamen.com/guide/item/99970-mifi.html http://www.belykamen.com/guide/item/99970-mifi.html Sometimes we hear and see so many striking, odd and new things…

Sometimes we hear and see so many striking, odd and new things about Russia on TV or in newspapers or from the people we meet, that I think I'm missing something! Really, it turns out I live at such a dangerous place, which is ruled by authoritarian regime, flooded with mafiosi, catastrophes, bombings happening all the time, with deadly cold winters, demolished economy, depressed people... I'm really surprised I'm still alive and living here. The point is that all those things about Russia are either not true or very much exaggerated.

Myth: Russia is full of mafia and it's dangerous here!

Truth: Really, many people think that Russia is some place filled with Mafia and it's so dangerous to come here. Well, there is Mafia, but the wild west nineties are left in the 20th century. Nowadays it's like any place in the world and Russia is not more dangerous than anywhere else. If you know where to stay, keep away from the "bad" places, do your normal traveler's things and practice your normal traveler's safety, you'll be okay. You can only have contact with criminals when you're into something illegal, like buying or selling drugs, or are really looking for trouble. Really, think about it: why would anybody have problems because of you? The mafiosi spend all their time making business, the gangs spend all their time dealing with each other, so you certainly will not experience any of that. Also there's so much police on the streets of Moscow it seems like the safest place in the world. Definitely places like New York and some areas of London are much more dangerous. There's no gang crime in Moscow, only serious stuff.

Also, you should know about so-called "gopniki". These are the working class youngsters hanging out in the poor neighborhoods. Back in the 90s they could be a real nuisance, but these days they are more like endangered species. We at Way to Russia created a small online museum to keep them alive (at least in our memory), and you can check it out on Russki Beat's page. Or watch the educational video below:


Myth: It's a real hassle to travel to Russia – too much effort and paperwork

Truth: If you know how it's done then it's no problem. All the paperwork you need are your passport and an invitation from Russia. It's easy now to get the invitation, and you don't need to book a hotel for the whole period of your stay. The invitations can be made through hotels/hostels (which will ask you to book one night), or travel agencies (which will ask only your money), and the price in both cases will be $25-$35 US for an invitation. The invitation can be sent to you by fax or e-mail. After you received the invitation (or its copy), you just need to bring it to Russian consulate to get your visa. A Russian visa costs around $50-$60 US (for this price it's ready in 7-14 days), and if you pay more it takes only one day to process. Actually, while we're at it, let's do some covert advertisement. You can get the invitation online through the companies listed on Way to Russia. You get 100% reliable and fast service, we get some commission from them, so we can continue building the site. It's like donating to charity :)

Now, some people say it's too long and expensive to get here, but if you travel to Eastern Europe, Russia is really close and not expensive to get to. Besides, since a few years several no-frills budget airlines have regular flights to Moscow from Germany and from Italy. So, a return flight to Moscow from Berlin may cost you only 100€ if you book early. Otherwise, a ticket from most European capitals costs $350 US return, and if you're on a tight budget, you can get one of those EasyJet or RyanAir flights from London or Berlin to Riga (Latvia) or Tallin (Estonia), and then get a bus or a train to Russia for $10-$25 US.

If you want to know more about these and other better options to get to (and from) Russia, check out our Transportation section.

Myth: There are so many catastrophes and bombings, I will die!

Truth: Not more than anywhere else. It's just that Russia is a very big country and it's size is like both Europe's and United States', do you think there are more disasters happening in Russia than in the whole Europe and United States together?


Myth: The economy is destroyed and not at all diversified, Russia has no future!

Truth: The funny thing is that two years ago we'd just say it's not true: look how fast the GDP is growing, look at the millions of people who managed to climb from the poverty in the last few years.... Well, noways things are quite different. After the financial crisis hit the country it became very obvious that you can't build a solid economy on natural resources, like oil and gas. On one side it made things quite unstable again. On the other side, many people finally got a kick in their ass and started to do something about innovation rather than thinking about it. The bottom line is that Russia still has a huge human resource potential. Even though the education is hopelessly outdated, the economy is hopelessly dependent on the outside markets and not at all diversified... We still have small grass-root initiatives here and there that keep Russia on the international map (for example, tandp.ru below). If the society (and through it – the government) realizes that it should nurture these attempts and give resources to talented and passionate people instead of bureaucrats, we'll see a very fast rise and diversification of the economy.

Anyway, there's still a huge progress from empty shelves and overall poverty in the end of 80s and the average country-wide wage of $500 US these days ($1000 US in Moscow). In just 20 years millions of Russians climbed out of poverty and are able to lead normal lives and think about their future and their children having a comfortable life. So, things are getting better, just not as fast as they could have.

Myth: The winter is so cold in Russia!

Truth: It's not very cold, though sometimes it might be quite freezing. But if you have warm clothes, you'll be ok. Generally, the lowest is minus 10 or 15 Celsius in the winter, though it might sometimes (rarely) go as low as minus 25 or 30, but even that is not very cold, because it's not humid. And the true thing about Russian winter is that it's very beautiful, that is right. I like it!


Myth: Many Russians are racists, arent' they?

Truth: Russians are not racists. Even in the communist time people were raised up on the idea that everybody was equal. The only thing is that few middle-aged and old people have something against the States. But they'll not insult or offend a tourist because of that. Just don't hurt anybody's patriotic feelings.

Anyway, Russians are more often than not very open and generous to the foreigners.

Myth: Russians drink too much... way too much...

Truth: Maybe, but after ages of driking they have a strong immune against alchohol, so they don't become drunk too fast. Also vodka is considered to be the best thing to warm oneself up with in winter. And, in fact, I have the same stereotype about .. uhm... British. Do they really drink as much beer every day as they say?

Seriously, alchoholism is a big problem in Russia, especially among older people. After the collapse of Soviet Union, many people got lost and instead of dealing with the new challenges, they decided to escape their problems through drinking. Because of that, families are unhappy, many people are unemployed, people don't want to build something new, but want to drift into the 'careless' state of mind and not to do anything.

Myth: Putin is the new Tsar, your country has a dictatorship and no democratic freedoms.

Truth: Only a few years ago we wrote that Putin was just a very popular politician and that he acts accordingly doing what the majority wants him to do. Nowadays things have changed. The recent events of 2011, the decision to run for the third extended presidential term, the rigged parliamentary election, the unwillingness of the current government to ease the political processes in the country have angered a lot of people, especially those who consider themselves to be middle class. 

Lots of things have improved in Russia during his 8 (unofficially 12) year reign. Putin was good for the country in the beginning of  2000s when all people wanted was stability. Russia is a huge country, somewhat even uncontrollable, so many people were happy to see someone with a strong hand being able to manage this mess and regain respect internationally (at least comparing to Eltsin's times). However, after a few years it also became clear (at least to the people who think beyond the official newsline) that Putin's main power and talent is in usurpating and controlling the media. He is an amazing actor and in that he is also a talented politician. He managed to get the complete control over the major media outlets in the country therefore being able to shape public opinion in the way that corresponds to the ideology that he expresses. This is when the system he built started to short-circuit itself because it got into a feedback loop and stopped listening to what people wanted.

Many people realize that Putin is not the man you see on the picture above. There is a dynamic combination of various power interests and this man just happened to be a good negotiator that managed to keep a sort of balance between the different forces that want to control the Russian political life. Therefore, yes, in this sense Russia is a dictatorship but the dictators are the semi-government corporations that see Russia and Russian people as the resources they can use to increase their profits. Whatever is left from democratic freedoms is just something to make "corporation Russia" look good in the outside world. It's a huge spectacle directed by the Kremlin's spindoctors and it's not a coincidence that film and theater directors are so popular among Russian politicians. 

So to answer this myth, Russia is not a dictatorship, it's one huge live performance produced by the oil and gas corporations, directed by a team of spindoctors such as Surkov and others, with Putin having the lead role. The monopolized information machine usurpated by this team of people is working to enslave the population with promises of the stable future. The best people get so far is the "euroremont" - a cheap cosmetic renovation of their surrounding. Russia is in the state of ideological dictatorship and as long as people continue buying the myth of stability versus development and personal growth it will stay the same. Hopefully people like Navalny will be able to change something but it will only happen if there are thousands of them. 


Myth: Privatization

Truth: It's a myth. During the privatization in the 90s every single Russian person (even children) got a "piece" of the country in the form of a voucher. Most of them didn't have anything else. So, a director (who was not paying them any salary) told them: "you'll get your salary, but you need to give me the voucher you have".

It's like you are invited to a casino and you are given a chip. But you don't have any money. Then the manager comes up to you and tells you not to risk and just give you your chip and get 10 bucks instead.

The same thing happened in Russia: the vouchers (or shares) accummulated in the hands of directors who were then selling it to big players. The big players would make their stakes and only 1% survived and now own the majority of production in Russia. The people who sold their vouchers stayed where they started and that's why there's a lot of social tension in Russia nowadays.

At least one positive thing is that the middle class is now forming in our country, so the gap is not that huge anymore. But this little story explains why so many people approve that even such an intelligent and charming man as Yukos' former Khodorkovsky is made into criminal. What they don't want to understand though is that the "casino managers", those who gave them the chips first place, and they themselves are responsible, too.


admin@belykamen.ru (Admin) Articles about Russia Mon, 12 Aug 2013 00:00:00 +0000
Easter http://www.belykamen.com/guide/item/99969-easter.html http://www.belykamen.com/guide/item/99969-easter.html Easter
Easter, the day of Jesus' resurrection is considered the biggest event in…

Easter, the day of Jesus' resurrection is considered the biggest event in spiritual life of a believer.

"Easter Kulich"

Last days of Week - Maundy Thursday, spiritual purifying, Good Friday, Jesus sufferings, Holy Saturday, the day of sorrow and at last Blessed Sunday had a symbolical effect on folk tradition, rites and Easter table. Many beautiful traditions, dated for Week, existed in the Rus. So, Maundy Thursday is also called "clean", not only because every Christian tries to adopt sacrament in his soul, but the purifying by water was widely spread - people swam in river ice-holes or poured cold water on them until sunrise in banyas. In the north, there was a tradition to gather juniper twigs, burn them and fumigate houses. healing juniper smell protected a man and an animal. People believed that an egg laid on Maundy Thursday protected from illnesses. Eggs were painted at this day as well.

Christianity gave new meanings to the egg, it is considered as the symbol of resurrection. Eggs were traditionally painted in red color, as it means the joy of resurrection and revival of mankind, but it is also the colour of the blood shed on the cross by Jesus Christ. Since then there is a tradition to present different painted eggs at Easter. The simplest way to paint eggs is by onion husk. Boil eggs in onion water for 10 minutes and they'll a beautiful colour. On the Easter day priests came to houses of the faithful and served public prayer. All relatives and friends visited to congratulate each other during this day. They were invited to the table to enjoy Easter dishes. The table groaned with food: ham, pancakes, baked leg of veal, drachona, cold boiled pork, turkey, paskha, kulichi, painted eggs.

Paskha, Kulich and painted eggs are principal rudiments of meat food, they are consecrated by church at Easter day or overnight after Great Saturday liturgy. Paskha is a symbol of God's grave, made from tvorog (farmer's cheese) in the form of truncated pyramid.

Easter table couldn't be without Kulich, holiday ceremonial bread. Kulich was decorated by Easter lamb, made from butter or sugar. Easter lamb is a symbol that reminds of sacrificial death of Jesus Christ as the atonement of all the sins. Lamb is a necessary attribute of Easter table. Guests usually brought chocolate eggs for children. Easter Sunday was usually devoted to charity. The nobility attended hospitals, prisons, orphanages and presented food, clothes and money to poor paupers.

"Easter lamb"

Revelry, exultation and gaiety ruled everywhere. People greeted each other with a phrase: "Jesus is arisen!", kissed three times and presented red eggs. But kids and youth had fun most of all, they played "bitki" (beaters). Two participants beat eggs of each other with egg tops. The winner, whose egg was kept unbroken, was recognised lucky and got an egg of the loser as an award. The holiday lasted all the next week and, the table covered, people invited all quests, especially poor comers to taste some holy food. At nightfall violinists walked around villages and played music in honour of Jesus Christ, the host gave a glass of vodka and presented eggs in response.

admin@belykamen.ru (Admin) Articles about Russia Mon, 12 Aug 2013 00:00:00 +0000