History: Location Northern Asia (the area west of the Urals is considered part of Europe), bordering the Arctic Ocean, between Europe and the North Pacific Ocean
Size: approximately 1.8 times the size of the US
Population: 141,377,752 (July 2007 est.)
Ethinic Group: Russian 79.8%, Tatar 3.8%, Ukrainian 2%, Bashkir 1.2%, Chuvash 1.1%, other or unspecified 12.1% (2002 census)
Language: Russian, many minority languages
Religions: Russian Orthodox 15-20%, Muslim 10-15%, other Christian 2% (2006 est.)
note: estimates are of practicing worshipers; Russia has large populations of non-practicing believers and non-believers, a legacy of over seven decades of Soviet rule
Unemployment rate: 6.6% plus considerable underemployment (2006 est.)
Population below poverty line: 17.8% (2004 est.)
Economy (Agriculture & Industry):
Economy: grain, sugar beets, sunflower seed, vegetables, fruits; beef, milk
Forms: Machine building; defense industries; road and rail transportation equipment; communications equipment; agricultural machinery, construction equipment; medical and scientific instruments; consumer durables, textiles, foodstuffs, handicrafts
Currency: Russian ruble (RUR)
Avoid shaking hands across a doorway threshold as it is considered very bad luck. When visiting someone’s house or office you must either go all the way in, or wait until s/he has come all the way out, before greeting each other.
Touching (apart from handshake) is limited and usually happens only in closer relationships. In such close relationships, the greetings & partings are hugs and kissing on cheeks (three kisses). This is somewhat limited between men but normal between opposite sexes and sometimes between women.
Family life: About three-quarters of Russians live in cities, mostly in large apartment blocks. The apartments are usually very small, often with just a bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom for a family of four. The living room may be used as a bedroom. In the country, people live in wooden and brick houses, some of which have outdoor toilets. At present, there is a shortage of housing in Russia. As a result, many newly married couples have to live with their parents for several years until they can find a home of their own. Russian grandmothers (babushkas) play an important role in the family. It is said that babushkas hold Russian society together. Because of the housing shortage, babushkas often live with their children. A babushka can be a great help to a Russian family because she cooks, cleans the house, does the laundry, takes care of her grandchildren, and does the shopping. Shopping often includes time standing in lines waiting to be served. When both parents work outside the house, the babushka’s help is invaluable.
Food: Russians eat breakfast between 7 and 8 a.m., lunch from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Most people finish work at 6:00 p.m. and have a late afternoon snack. Supper is usually served around 7:00 p.m. or as late as 8:30 p.m.
A traditional Russian meal begins with zakuski, an array of cold appetizers. These may include cold meats, smoked fish, pickled mushrooms and cucumbers, spring onions and the black or red fish eggs called caviar. After zakuski, there may be soup, such as borscht (beetroot) or shchi (cabbage). This course is followed by meat or fish with potatoes. Dessert may be stewed fruit or pancakes called blini, filled with jam or cream. Ice-cold vodka may be drunk with the meal. Russians who have dachas plant vegetables and fruits in their gardens. In the summer, they eat plenty of fresh food and in the winter, they eat fruits, vegetables and jams that have been pickled and preserved.
Sports: Outdoor ice-skating is a popular pastime for people of all ages. In the winter, frozen ponds or flooded artificial rinks attract crowds of skaters. Ice skating is one of Russia’s most important competitive sports. Russians are also known for their ice hockey teams.
Arts: In the 19th century Russian writing gained international attention. Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina, and Fydor Dostoevsky, author of Crime and Punishment, rank among the world’s finest novelists of all time.
Russia has dominated the world of ballet ever since the early 20th century. The St. Petersburg Ballet (formerly known as the Kirov Ballet) and the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow have trained some of the world’s best dancers. Russian composers such as Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky, Sergei Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky wrote music for the ballet, as well as symphonies, choral works and chamber music.
Holidays: Instead of Santa Claus, Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden distribute presents. On New Year’s Eve, families gather around a decorated tree and exchange presents. People have noisy parties late into the night. Christmas is celebrated more quietly on January 7. The date of Christmas is different because the Russian Orthodox Church follows the Julian calendar
Shrovetide occurs seven weeks before Easter and lasts for seven days. Many couples marry during this seven-day period. Shrovetide activities include noise-making, playing tricks, sledding and snowball fighting. In many towns people wear costumes and masks.
Easter is the main religious festival of the year. Easter service begins late on the eve of Easter and continues all night. At midnight, the congregation, carrying lit candles, follows the priest around the church three times and then outside, singing all the way.
Cultural Faux Pas
• Do not wear your shoes into someone’s house or apartment. Do not wander
around someone’s home unless they invite you for a tour.
• When you visit a former acquaintance (i.e. follow-up visit), take a small gift.
Something to eat or candies is usually nice.
• Do not shake hands over the threshold of the door.
• Do not whistle in public. Act more reserved on the streets. Do not laugh out
loud or draw attention to yourself in public.
• Do not make promises you cannot keep.
Orphans and at-risk children
The estimated number of children living on the streets is over 1 million.
• There are nearly 800,000 orphans in Russia.
• Alcoholism and drug abuse are an increasing problem resulting in many families
abandoning, abusing or neglecting their children.
• School completion rates are falling and fewer low-income children have access to education.
• 40% of children have iodine deficiency disorders due to poor water sanitation.
Buckner in Russia
Russia is Buckner’s first and longest-standing international partner to orphans for over 10 years. In 1995, Buckner responded to an invitation by Russian officials who sought its expertise to help overcome mounting problems in the country’s orphanages.
Buckner services and country support include:
• On-going humanitarian aid such as shoes, winter boots, socks and other toiletries though volunteers on mission trips.
• Buckner follow-up staff visiting children in orphanages providing weekly interaction, emotional and spiritual support.
• Assistance to our adoption program and support for in-country staff with interns during the summer.
• Follow-up workers focusing on the evangelical program in the Leningrad region. In partnership with the Baptist churches in Russia, this ministry provides support to more than 400 orphans.
• Construction and renovation projects for several orphanages. Projects include kitchen renovations, sewage system and ventilation repairs, and completion of the boys’ transitional home. Cribs and other furnishings also provided.