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Russia

Geography & Topography

Capital:  Moscow, 10.126.000 inhabitants

Area:  17,098,242 square kilometres. Russia is the largest country in the world in terms of area but unfavourably located in relation to major sea lanes of the world.

Language: Russian

Religion: Russian Orthodox 15-20%, Muslim 10-15%, other Christian 2%

Currency: Russian rubles (RUB)

History

Russia is the country of vast landscapes, vibrant life, beautiful contrasts, and interesting people. Taking an immense space of 9000 kilometres from west to east and 5000 from north to south, being home to people of so many different nationalities and traditions, Russia is often called a “bridge” between Europe and Asia, both and culturally and geographically.

Since the ancient times Russia has been transforming and re-shaping itself, its boundaries, its culture. In the ancient times, the Slavs, Finn tribes, Tatars, had made their way through Russia, and this mix of many different nations and their traditions has defined the unique Russian character and culture.

Performing Arts

Music

The most recognisable instruments in traditional Russian music are:

Balalaika

Balalaika: The balalaika is a stringed musical instrument popular in Russia, with a characteristic triangular body and three strings.

The balalaika family of instruments includes instruments of various sizes, from the highest-pitched to the lowest, the prima balalaika, secunda balalaika, alto balalaika, bass balalaika and contrabass balalaika. All have three-sided bodies, spruce or fir tops, backs made of 3-9 wooden sections made usually from maple, strung usually with three strings.

The prima balalaika is played with the fingers, the sekunda and alto either with the fingers or a plectrum, depending on the music being played, and the basses and contrabasses (equipped with extension legs which rest on the floor) are played with leather plectrums.

Gudok

 

Gudok: The gudok or hudok is an ancient Eastern Slavic string musical instrument, played with a bow. A gudok usually had three strings, two of them tuned in unison and played as a drone, the third tuned a fifth higher. All three strings were in the same plane at the bridge, so that a bow could make them all sound simultaneously. Sometimes the gudok also had several sympathetic strings (up to eight) under the sounding board. These made the gudok’s sound warm and rich.

Gusli

 

 

 

Gusli: Gusli is the oldest Russian multi-string plucked instrument. Its exact history is unknown, but it may have derived from a Byzantine form of the Greek kythare, which in turn derived from the ancient lyre. It has its relatives throughout the world – kantele in Finland, kannel in Estonia, kankles and kokle in Lithuania and Latvia. Furthermore, we can find kanun in Arabic countries and the autoharp in the USA. It is also related to such ancient instruments as Chinese gu zheng which has a thousand year history and its Japanese relative koto.

Russian Guitar

 

 

Russian Guitar: The Russian guitar (sometimes referred to as a “Gypsy guitar”) is a seven-string acoustic guitar that arrived in Russia toward the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, most probably as an evolution of the cittern, kobza, and torban. It is known in Russian as the semistrunnaya gitara (семиструнная гитара), or affectionately as the semistrunka (семиструнка), which translates to “seven-string”. These guitars are typically tuned to an Open G chord as follows: DGBdgbd’. An alternative, the so-called Gypsy tuning, is DGBgdcd’. The latter is sometimes said to be typical of the Ukrainian kobza in the preceding century.

 

Dance

Traditional Russian dances have a long history. Historians think that the elements of these famous dances were originally invented by workers in order to stretch their body and keep warm. Obviously it became more than simply stretching, but it was the physical benefits that developed many of the dance moves.

It was customary that each Russian Duke (and later the Tsars) had many special entertainers, such as dancers, and actors, to perform for them, and perhaps this is one reason why the traditional dances have remained such an important aspect of Russian culture.

Examples of traditional Russian dances are:

Barynya

Barynya: Barynya, which literally means “landlady”, is a traditional Russian folk dance that combines chastushka, a traditional folk poem that is often in the form of satire, with spirited dancing. The dancing usually has no set choreography and consists mostly of fancy stomping and squatting. The refrain “Barynya, barynya, sudarynya-barynya” (landlady, landlady, madam-landlady), is also typically repeated throughout the course of the dance.

 

Komi Dance: Komi is a folk dance originating from the Komi peoples of north European Russia and northwestern Siberia (mostly west, but also east of the Ural mountains). While long amalgamated into the broader Russian culture, many remnants of the Komi culture still exist. This includes a living language belonging to the “Uralic” language family, a strong subsistence based economy in more northerly Komi territiorries (which includes reindeer husbandry), as well as traditional Komi song and dance.

 

Some interesting facts:

  • It is the largest country in the world with an area of 17,075,400 square kilometres (6,592,800 sq mi).
  • Russia is the 9th most populated country in the world.
  • Russia spans 9 time zones and spreads across the top of Asia and 40 % of the European continent.
  • It has the world’s largest reserves of mineral and energy resources
  • The lakes in Russia contain approximately ¼ of the world’s fresh water
  • In the 18th century, Russia was the 3rd largest empire in earth’s history; it covered the area from Poland in Europe to Alaska in North America,
  • Russia was the world’s first constitutionally socialist state, as the Soviet Union (USSR).
  • Russia was responsible for the world’s first space flight and launching the first satellite.

Russian Community in Australia:

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