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Snapshot of Russia – Russian is the official language of Russia, though several other languages are given co-official status in certain regions, the most-spoken being Tatar and Ukrainian. The largest church in Russia is the Russian Orthodox Church, which claims about 40% of the population. Another 40% does not practice religion. Several other religions are also present, with certain southern regions having majority populations of Muslims or Buddhists. Russia has a rich and diverse history in areas such as architecture, literature, philosophy, science, music, and dance, especially ballet. Modern Russian rock and pop are also popular. Ice hockey, basketball, and soccer are all popular sports in Russia. Another popular activity is washing in banya steam bath houses. Some elements of folk culture remain, such as matryoshka dolls and other art forms. Russian cuisine is varied across the country, but several different types of bread are common. Soups (both hot and cold) are also popular parts of Russian meals, such as shchi, a cabbage and beef soup. Several meat dishes are also popular, such as shashlik (a marinated kebab) and pelmeni (dumplings filled with minced meat).
The Church is still small in the Russia St. Petersburg Mission area. There is one stake that is centered in St. Petersburg, as well as a CES Institute. There are also a few branches that fall under jurisdiction of the mission. The closest temple is located in Helsinki, Finland. While it is not very close, the members living in St. Petersburg are much closer to the temple than most other Russian members of the Church.
Missionaries serving in Russia can expect to eat a lot of meat, potatoes, and dumplings. Soups (especially the sour cabbage stew shchi) are often served with meals as well. Soups may be served either hot or cold. Other food items include pirozhki (a type of meat-filled pastry) and thin pancakes. Many Russians drink hot tea with their meals.
A popular street food in St. Petersburg is shashlyk, a type of shish kabob. It is also sometimes made at outdoor social gatherings.
Missionaries generally rely on their own two feet and public transportation to get around. St. Petersburg has an extensive bus and metro system. It is also a hub for several railways, which make many connections to other nearby nations. Another form of public transportation in St. Petersburg is the Marshrutka, a type of share taxi or minibus.
St. Petersburg was once known as the crime capital of Russia, though the situation has dramatically improved in recent years. There is still some activity by organized crime groups and white supremacist groups that sometimes target foreigners. Missionaries should always be aware of their surroundings and ask local members or leadership about areas that should be avoided.
St. Petersburg is considered the cultural capital of Russia. The city is home to many theaters and ballets (including the famous Mariinsky ballet company). It is also regarded as a center for Russian literature and film.
A major cultural event in St. Petersburg is the Scarlet Sails celebration, an event that commemorates the end of the school year with fireworks, concerts, and a popular water show. 3 million people attended the event in 2010.
Many locals shorten the name of the city to “Petersburg” (Петербург) or “Piter” (Питер).
St. Petersburg was established in 1703, and is home to a wide variety of interesting historical and cultural sites. The city’s Historic Center is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The city of Vyborg also has several interesting historic sites, including the Vyborg Castle, which was built in the 13th century. While currently a part of Russia, the area has also been under Swedish and Finnish control in the past, creating a unique cultural area.
Pr Malookhtinsky 16/1
POM 11-H, 12-H
Saint Petersburg 195112
Straight from the Russia St. Petersburg Mission:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
*What did you eat the most of?
“Dumplings, potatoes, and meat”
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“People were more polite than I taught they would be.”
*What advice would you give to someone going to the Russia St. Petersburg Mission?
“Love the people despite their beliefs and practices, because lots of things there are because of tradition, not because of choice.”
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“I wish I had known more about the gospel. I was 1.5 years as baptized in this Church. I had hard time because I had little knowledge about the gospel and about the Church overall.”
**Did you serve in the Russia St. Petersburg Mission? If so we could love to hear your advice and your stories! Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org**