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Russia Myths and Truths

There are many myths and prejudices about Russia, most of which are far from the truth.

The most widely held illusion is that Russia is a very dangerous country to visit and mafia are everywhere. The truth is that mafia does exist but they do not mess with travelers. Mafiosi mind their own businesses, and unless you specifically go looking for them, you're unlikely to even realize they're around. As for street safety, big cities have a large police force. Moscow in particular is safer than many European cities - Its police force has been compared to the NYC task force in efficiency and quality of response. Common sense applies, of course. Just stay away from dark, suspicious places and avoid walking alone late at night.

Another myth is that Russia is so cold that the only time is worth visiting is during the summer. Of course you could do this and avoid Russian winters altogether, but you would be missing out on a lot. St. Petersburg transforms into a fairyland during winter months and it's a sight worth seeing. Sure, it does get cold, but the average winter temperature is around minus 4. Travel towards the east and it does get colder. Omsk and Novosibirsk easily reach minus 30 in December and January, but keep in mind that this is dry cold with no wind, so it doesn't feel quite as extreme as it sounds.

Finally, Russia is not the poor, devastated country that many foreigners imagine. Central Moscow is full of Jaguars, shopping malls, and women dressed in the latest fashions. There are many 24-hour shops and everybody owns a cell phone. It's also true that there a lot of poor, unemployed people, but not to the level most people imagine. Even homelessness is not as big a problem as it is in other countries.


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