Culture in Russia

In order to understand Russian culture one must realize that it is a unique symbiosis of European and Asian traditions. Russia has part of its roots in European culture where the ideas of goodness, honour, and freedom have similar meaning as in the West. The Mongols, [Tartars, Tatars] conquered Moscow in 1234 and Kiev in 1240, and controlled Russian lands for over 200 years. That brought Tatar blood into Slavic mix, creating modern Russian nation. When Moscow liberated itself from the Tartars in 1480, the modern Russian state was born. Distant from Europe, the new state was cut off from Constantinople which in 1453 had fallen to the Muslim Ottoman Turks. The Russian Orthodox Church, isolated from the rest of Christianity, developed independently as a national church. Russia regarded itself as the third and Last Rome, successor to Rome and Constantinople, the two capitals of the Roman Empire which had fallen to barbarians and infidels. It's mission as the new center of Christianity was to unite the people of the East and West.

Modern Culture
Living for centuries in a very harsh climate explains the Russians' strength, their ability to endure extreme hardship, and their occasional bleak outlook on life - but only to the non-russian observer. Russians themselves never consider their life miserable. Hardships also helps develop such abilities as simplifying things (complex mechanisms break in tough climates, think Kalashnikov and other russian military armament). Russians tend to find way around obstacles. Russian culture produced a number of world famous artists and writers. Literature would not be the same without Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky or Joseph (Iosif) Brodsky. Here you can read more about russian art. Russians consider themselves a well-educated nation. They read a lot of books. They attend theatre, Russian ballet is very popular around the world. Russia produces world's top mathematicians and physicists.

Russian Orthodoxy, a branch of Christianity, is deeply rooted in russian culture. The majority of russians consider themselves Christians, but in fact most of them are not true believers. People often attend church just to "light a candle" and have a quick praying. People do not have to be members of the church or pay monthly contributions to attend. Church marriage is not official in Russia, a couple has to register with the government authorities first to be allowed to have a church ceremony.

Russian Folklore
Folklore is still very popular in Russian cities and towns. You may have heard about Palekh Art, russian "basnya" poems and folk songs. Traditions is what keeps Russian Culture unique and alive to this day.

Libraries & Museums
Russia has over 50,000 state public libraries (39,000 of these rural) in total possession of over a billion books, and the stock is steadily growing. Every general-educational school and the majority of offices and large factories have libraries of their own. Close to 1,500 museums cover practically all fields of knowledge-historical , ethnographic, memorial, of folk crafts, fine and applied arts, theatre, music, natural sciences, technology, and many others. Museums-reserves have lately come into the foreground. Twenty open-air ethnographic museums present folk architecture, arts and everyday life. All museum collections, with a total exceeding fifty million items of historical, scientific and artistic value, comprise Russia's invaluable museum fund, its precious national treasure.

Theater & Art
The reforms removed all fetters from the stage. Despite all the problems of contemporary Russian life, the number of theatres is growing. Up to fifty new companies have appeared in 1993-1994. All told, Russia has 413 companies, with drama accounting for over half. Since 1989 local budgets have financed theatres to encourage provincial theatre. There are 31 languages of acting in our multi-ethnic country. Some ethnic companies are top-notch, and worthy rivals of Moscow theatres. In 1974, a team of Moscow artists opposing officially encouraged practices for the first time threw a public challenge to the powers-that-be with an impromptu shaw on a strip of waste land in Belyaevo, a distant suburb. The police literally razed it to the ground with orders to bulldoze the pictures. Later, some non-conformistworks found their way abroad. Things have now changed beyond recognition. The new Artists' Union Charter, adopted in 1993, proclaims freedom of creativity, high professionalism and humane goals among its basic principles. The union arranges exhibitions for its 13,000 members, and helps them with Picture sales in its many salons. Private galleries are also burgeoning throughout the country. Moscow alone has over a hundred.

Folk Art
Today, folk art in Russia survives in two basic forms - handicrafts practiced on a broad scale and works of art created by gifted persons working at home. Articles fashioned from marble, glass, ceramics, metal, or ornamental textiles have really become part of our lives, adding a touch of beauty and hannony to our daily existence. The most popular handicrafts in present-day Russia are: wood carving and painting (Bogorodskoe, Khotkovo, Abramtsevo-Kudrino)- the Golden Khokhloma; artistic ceramics (Gzhel); clay toys (Dymkovo, Kargopol, Filimonovo, Abashevo); acquer painting (Fedoskino, Palekh, Mstera, Kholui); decorative tray painting (Zhostovo, Troitskoe); artistic metalworking (Veliky Ustiug silver, Rostov enamel, Kazakovo filigree)- bone carving (Kholmogoli, Tobolsk, Chukotka, Khotkovo); artistic stone working (Tyva carved sculpture)- lace making (Vologda, Vyatka, Yelets) - embroidery, golden thread needlework, pattern weaving and rug making. Whatever kind of folk art is looked at, it reflects the richness and diversity of the nation's soul and the splendor of the works crafted by its hands.




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