Horseback riding in Siberia

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Equestrian tours in Siberia

 Russia - Siberia Mini Guide
    Source: World Travel Guide

The history of the Russian Federation is long and brutal. It is apparent on every corner of the country's awesome cities, such as Moscow and St Petersburg, as well as in its lesser-known towns such as Novgorod, Kazan and Tomsk. But it also dwells in huge and remote expanses such as Siberia, filled with ancient forests and the world's largest lake. Everything exists here on an inhuman scale.

Since the 15th century, when the Grand Prince of Moscow, Ivan III (the Great), annexed the rival principalities of Rus, Russia's ambitions have been as great as this first national sovereign's appellation. It took Ivan the Terrible's capture of the Tatar capital Kazan in 1552 and his subsequent annexation of Siberia, followed by Peter the Great's expansion to the Baltic and the building of St Petersburg as his ‘window on Europe' in the early 18th century, to create the vast nation we know as Russia today.


Altai Mountains:

Area: Western Siberia, south, Altai mountains (3.5 hours from Moscow by plane, 48 hours by train).
Nearest cities: Gorno-Altaysk, Barnaul (300km), Novosibirsk (600km).
Activities: trekking, rafting, hiking, climbing, horseback riding

The name "Altay" (or "Altai") comes from Mongolian "Altan", which means "golden". Altay mountains are truly one of the nature's most marvelous gems, amazing by its diversity and beauty.

The Altay ecoregion covers vast 845,000 square kilometer area at the junction of four countries: Russia (largest part), Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China. Novosibirsk, the city through which the Trans-Siberian route goes, is about 600 km far, which is very not far for Siberian scales.
Altay is a land where myths and legends are incarnated into reality. It's one of those rare corners on the Earth where Nature decided to show everything it was capable of. Broad and boundless views of steppes, luxuriant varieties of taiga thickets, modest charm of deserts, severe splendor of snowy peaks, laconic beauty of tundra - the diversity of landscapes here is so rich, it is as if you are turning over pages of a geographical atlas!


Highlights.
Three major factors make Altay mountains a recreational domain of great value: amazing natural diversity (various landscapes, climates, abundance of wildlife); thin population, historically nomadic (Mongolian and Kazakh ethnos), who have a very natural way of life; and remoteness from any industries (the region lives only for tourism and agriculture). All this has ensured that Altay region stayed untouched by industrial development and is still a very natural place. Besides, such diversity makes it possible to involve in almost any possible activity: from rafting to trekking, from speleo to skiing.
Stretching for nearly 2000 km from north-west to south-east, Altai mountains form a natural border between the arid steppes of Mongolia and the rich taiga of Southern Siberia. Both climatic zones create the landscapes of striking diversity, ranging from the Mongolia-like steppes (at the area of Kosh-Agach village, south east) to those of the Swiss Alps (along Chuysky Trakt).
During the Soviet times, Altay was a mecca for adventure tourism, especially rafting. Altai mountains have a lot of rivers, Katun, Biya, and Chuya being the longest of them. There are also myriads of smaller mountain rivers that are fed by Altay's glaciers. Along all these rivers there's a lot of places for recreation and fishing. You can easily put a tent anywhere you want.


Altay's Nature. 
The wildlife vary from big mammals (bear, lynx, glutton, Siberian stag, even reindeer and snow leopard above the tree line) to small birds (230 species) and fishes (20 species - umber, loach, white fish among them). Many species and plants are really unique.
Camel and yak are a good Mongolian touch to the picture of the Russian Altai. Another, and very pleasing touch is no mosquitoes and such-like making life miserable in Northern Siberia. Cedar is a very common tree in the rich mountain forests as well as pine, birch, spruce, fir, larch. Berries and mushrooms are abundant in the season.
There are four main plants that grow in Altay mountains and that are widely used by local people. On the photo below, from right to left are:
Cedar (Kedr) is a pine-like tree, its pines contain a lot of little nuts.

You can cook the whole pine in fire or boil it and then take out the nuts, they are very tasty and nutricious. Badan is a plant that usually grows on heights starting from 1000 m and its dry (brown) leaves are used to make tea. Kuril tea is another nice plant to make tea with and has many positive effects also. Cannabis selvia is also quite widely spread.


Altay Weather.
The weather and climate at Altay is as diverse as its nature. Generally, the summer starts in May-June and finishes in September. During that time it's quite warm during the daytime (about 20 - 25 celcius) and cool in the night (about 5-10 celcius), so it's better to have a sleeping bag with you, if you are traveling on your own. During June and July there may be quite a few rains, but the August and September are the sunniest months (more than 60% of the time there's no rain at all). In the Summer the snow is left only on the heights of 2600 meters and higher. The winds in the valleys are not very strong. So, to sum everything up, the best months for traveling at Altay in Summer are July, August, and first half of September: warm, sunny in the day, no mosquitoes.
The winter in Altay starts in October-November. That's when it starts snowing and the mountains are covering by snow from top to bottom. The best months for traveling in winter are November and December. During that time, there's mostly good weather and not very cold. The coldest months are January and February. The average temperature goes down to minus 15-20 celcius. The coldest place at Altay is Chuyskaya steppe, which is along the way to Mongolia. After that, in February and March the weather is quite good again. There are a lot of activities possible, like skiing, auto tours, animal watching, and even swimming in frozen lakes. And, of course, the main activity: alpinism.
The snow usually starts to disappear in the first half of May, so it is a beatiful Spring time in Altay at this period.


Ethnography and Inhabitants.

For innumerable centuries being the cross-roads of human migration, the Altai has a long and rich history. A lot of archaeological finds prove that. Those of the Ulalite paleolithic site (in the town of Gorno-Altaisk) are 900-800 thousand years old. So, man's ancestors lived in the Altai long before the pithecanthrope of Java. The number of younger sites (mainly in caves) comes to dozens. So, going from cave to burial mound, from graffito to graffito you will get the stereoscopic picture of man developing from the Stone to Bronze and Iron Ages. The modern population is a mixture of indigenous Altais and Russian settlers, some of the latter still leading in their villages the life of Old Believers, with strict rules and very much isolated from civilization. There are few remote villages in Altai where you can see wool being spun on a hand and hear traditional Altai throat singing (a very interesting and strange technique).


Best Places to Go: 
Katun river starts its way near the highest point of Altai mountains (4620 m) and goes down through pristine alpine scenery, with a number of remote Altai villages along the way to Ob' river, that crosses the west Siberia from North to South and brings its waters to Karskoe more, in the ocean. Katun river is very good for rafting as it offers many exciting routes and magnificient views at Altai mountains.
Altyn-Kyol
(in Russian means "Golden Lake") is the native Altai name for Lake Teletskoye. This lake is considered to be a smaller replica of Baikal lake, however, we would not recommend you to go there, because it is quite unaccessable and there are rumours that it is polluted by the remains of Soviet space ships that were launched in 80s from Baikonur space (in Kazakhstan).
Aktru glacier is a beautiful and the most accessible of Altay's glaciers. It is located about 500 km along Chuyski trakt, which leads to Mongolia. You can arrive to Aktru alpinist base and make short 1-day walks to glaciers. The walks are not hard and picturesque, so perhaps Aktru is one of the best place to visit in Altay if you have more than 3 days. Aktru is also loved by snowboarders who ride there even in Summer months. It is a remote area and very pristine and clean. The best place to rest from civilization and enjoy the nature.
Beluha mountain is considered to be a sacred place. Local people believe that Belovodie (the region around Beluha) is where the new civilization will start. However strange it may sound, but historical researches prove that many civilizations started their way from this region. It is hard to access Beluha by car, the nearest village is Tungur, where there's a good alpinist base, and Beluha is within 3 days walk (or 2 days horseriding) from there.
The Cordon of Chelush is a lonely place on the shore of the amazing highland lake, not far from the mouth of a mountain river. It is only possible to get there by water or by helicopter. The picturesque landscapes of the cordon may give a great pleasure to the real connoisseurs of Natural beauties and wonders.
The Biya
is the only river flowing out of Lake Teletskoye. A rafting journey down the Biya is considered a classic route of water tourism. The mixture of impetuous rapids and calm, extensive sections of the river allow enjoying the beauty of the surrounding landscapes and at the same time receive a sufficient dose of adrenalin.
Around 100-150 years ago there was a great mountain avalanche, but it couldn't stop the impetous Chulcha river and from a great height it falls down by cascades, forcing its way to the Chulyshman RiverUchar Waterfall (in Russian means "Unapproachable"). The Uchar Waterfall was discovered only about 20 years ago, so not many people have had a chance to see it yet.


Nearest Towns and How to Get There.
 
Altai montains is a quite remote region. The closest big (more than 50,000 inhabitants) city is Gorno-Altaisk, located just at the beginning of Altai mountains, on Katun river. Slightly further is Biysk. Many tourists go to one of these two cities, and it is a big mistake. Gorno-Altaysk and Biysk are completely run-down Soviet style cities with quite depressive mood. Besides, it's almost impossible to find a good guide from there.
We recommend you to go to Barnaul, which is 300 km far from Altay. It is a beautiful nice provincial town, which surprises with availability of good-quality accommodation ($3/night for western-style shared room!), original restaurants, and friendly people. Also, most Altay tour operators base in Barnaul, so it's a practical place to start your trip.
Novosibirsk (around 600 km far), which is located on Trans-Siberian railway, can also be a good starting point.
The most convenient way to get to Altay is to take a
plane from Moscow to Barnaul (from $230 return, 4 hours flight) and then take a bus or personal mini-bus to Gorno-Altaisk.
The cheapest way to get to Altai area is to take a train from Moscow to Novosibirsk (from $70 one way), then take a train to Biysk (through Barnaul - about 370 km and $5 one way), then take a car or a bus (cheap) to Gorno-Altaisk (just at the beginning of Altai mountains) and further - take local buses to Altai mountains along Chuisky Trakt (the auto-road that goes through Altay to Mongolia).

Passport/Visa

Passport Required?

British

Yes

Australian

Yes

Canadian

Yes

USA

Yes

Other EU

Yes

Visa Required?

British

Yes

Australian

Yes

Canadian

Yes

USA

Yes

Other EU

Yes

Return Ticket Required?

British

Yes

Australian

Yes

Canadian

Yes

USA

Yes

Other EU

Yes

Passports

To enter Russia, a passport valid for six months after the visa expires, and with at least two blank pages, is required by all nationals referred to in the chart above.

Visas

Visas to Russia are required by all nationals in the chart above.
Your visa for Russia is also an exit permit and must be presented on departure

Visa Note

Nationals not referred to in the chart are advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements for Russia.

Those who are travelling in groups and tours should submit all documentation to the tour operator making the travel arrangements. For visits to relatives/friends in Russia, enquire at the consulate for details of application procedures.
All travellers staying in Russia for longer than seven days must register their visas with the Federal Migration Service. Most major hotels will do this automatically. Private visitors must register with local police on arrival. For business/professional stays, foreign nationals may register under the address of the Russian business and do not have to provide the address of the actual accommodation.
Visitors requiring visas are advised to carry their visa registration documents with them during their stay in Russia. You must also hold onto your migration card, which you fill in at passport control on arrival.
Visitors must have confirmed accommodation or transit information for every night of their stay in Russia.

Types and cost

Visa prices vary depending on the nationality of the applicant. See http://ru.vfsglobal.co.uk or contact your nearest Russian embassy for details.
Single-entry tourist/business visa: £50; double-entry visa: £65; multiple-entry visa (business only): £200. These are the current fees for UK nationals. 
As well as the visa fee there is a service charge of £32.40 for seven-day processing or £39.60 for one-day processing. (Note that for next-day processing, the visa fees increase too.)

Validity

Single- or double-entry tourist visa: 30 days.

Single- or double-entry business visa: 90 days. 

Multiple-entry visa: 12 months with unlimited entries/exits. 

Applications to:

Consulate (or consular section at embassy); see Contact Addresses .

Working Days Required

Depending on type of visa and amount paid (see above). Postal applications usually take eight-12 working days.

Money

Currency

Rouble (RUB) = 100 kopeks. Notes are in denominations of RUB5,000, 1,000, 500, 100, 50 and 10. Coins are in denominations of RUB10, 5, 2 and 1, and 50, 10, 5 and 1 kopeks.

Currency Exchange

Foreign currency should only be exchanged at official bureaux and authorised banks, and all transactions must be recorded on the currency declaration form which is issued on arrival. It is wise to retain all exchange receipts. Bureaux de change are numerous and easy to locate. Large shops and hotels offer their own exchange facilities. All major currencies can be converted in big cities. Outside the main cities, travellers are advised to carry US Dollars or Euros. It is illegal to settle accounts in hard currency and to change money unofficially.

Credit/Debit Cards and ATMs

Major European and international credit and debit cards, including Visa and Mastercard, are accepted in the larger hotels and at foreign currency shops and restaurants, but cash (in Roubles) is preferred. American Express cards may be turned down. ATMs are widely available.

Traveller's Cheques

Cash is preferred. If carrying traveller's cheques, major currencies are accepted in big cities, but US Dollars and Euros are preferred elsewhere.

Banking Hours

Mon-Fri 0930-1730.

Health

Vaccinations

Special Precautions

Certificate Required?

Yellow Fever

No

No

Cholera

No

No

Typhoid and Polio

1

N/A

Malaria

No

N/A

Inoculation regulations can change at short notice. Please take medical advice in the case of doubt.

1
Poliomyelitis occurs. Immunisation is advisable.

Visitors staying for more than three months must produce a certificate proving they are HIV-negative. The certification requirements are exacting and detailed; a medical examination may also be required. Foreign tests may be acceptable under certain conditions. Check details with the Embassy.

There have been reports of outbreaks of Avian Influenza (bird flu) in a number of regions of Russia, including Tula, Tambov, Kurgan, Chelyabinsk and Novosibirsk. As a precaution, the European Union has banned the import of live birds and feathers from Russia.
No human infections or deaths have been reported but travellers to the Russian Federation should consult their healthcare provider for travel medical advice before departure.
The risk from Avian Influenza is believed to be very low provided visitors avoid live animal markets, poultry farms and other places with close contact with domestic, caged or whild birds. Ensure poultry and egg dishes are throughly cooked.

Food and Drink

All water should be regarded as being a potential health risk. Water used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should have first been boiled or otherwise sterilised. Contaminated tap water contains a high prevalence of gastrointestinal infections. The water supply in St Petersburg especially has been linked to giardiasis. Bottled water is widely available. Milk is pasteurised and dairy products are safe for consumption. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish, preferably served hot. Pork, salad and mayonnaise may carry increased risk. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.

Other Risks

Dysentery is common throughout the country. Hepatitis A occurs. Widespread outbreaks of diphtheria have been reported. Consult a doctor regarding inoculation before travelling to the Russian Federation. Tick-borne typhus has been reported from east and central Siberia. Tick-borne encephalitis and Lyme disease occur in forested areas throughout the Russian Federation. Vaccination is advisable. Outbreaks of Japanese encephalitis have been reported from the southeast. Leishmaniasis can occur in the south. Outbreaks of meningitis have been reported from Volgograd.
Rabies is present and increasing. For those at high risk, vaccination before arrival should be considered. If you are bitten, seek medical advice without delay. For more information, consult the Health appendix.

Health Care

The highly developed health service provides free medical treatment for all citizens. If a traveller becomes ill during a booked tour, emergency treatment is free, with small sums to be paid for medicines and hospital treatment. If a longer stay than originally planned becomes necessary because of the illness, the visitor has to pay for all further treatment. This can be very expensive; air evacuation can cost up to £80,000. All visitors are strongly advised to have full medical cover that includes medical evacuation. It is advisable to take a supply of medicines that are likely to be required (check first that they may be imported legally). A reciprocal health care agreement is in operation between the UK and the Russian Federation, allowing citizens to receive free treatment. Private medical care can be expensive.

Top Things To See

• The focal point of Moscow is Red Square, on one side of which is the Kremlin surrounded by a thick red fortress wall containing 20 towers altogether. The Sobakina Tower, designed to withstand sieges, contains a secret escape passage. The Tainitskaya Tower translates as the ‘Tower of Secrets’, because it also had a secret subterranean passage leading to the river. The Trinity Gate is the tallest of the towers. The Water-Hoist Tower conveyed water to the Kremlin. The Nabatnaya Tower contained an alarm bell that was rung in times of danger. In the Kremlin grounds, the Uspensky Cathedral (1475-79), designed by the Italian architect Aristotle Fioravanti, contains three of the oldest Russian icons. The tsars were crowned here; Ivan the Terrible’s throne is situated near the entrance. Also within the Kremlin stand the 14th-century Grand Kremlin Palace and the golden-domed Belfry of Ivan the Great. St Basil’s Cathedral (built 1555-60), at another end of the square, famous for its brightly coloured domes. As the story goes, Ivan the Terrible was so overwhelmed by its beauty that he blinded the architect so that he could never create another building as impressive as this. Opposite St Basil’s, the Spassky (Redeemer’s) Gate is the main entrance to the Kremlin, built in 1491 by Pietro Antonio Solario. The Blagoveshchensky (Annunciation) Cathedral was built for Ivan III. It is extravagantly decorated, from its copper domes to its agate- and jasper-tiled floors. It contains 16th-century frescoes and a precious collection of icons. Although there is talk of finally burying Lenin’s embalmed body, Lenin’s Mausoleum is still open to the public on certain days. Arbat Street is the main thoroughfare of a traditionally bohemian quarter. Today it is a pedestrian zone with crafts and artists’ stalls and street performers. Novodevichy Convent near Sportivnaya metro station houses a museum of rare and ancient Russian art, and is one of the finest examples of 16th- and 17th-century architecture in the city. The neighbouring Ostozhenka and Prechistenka Streets feature urban mansions and estates associated with many classic Russian authors, including Tolstoy. Herzen Street is one of the oldest in Moscow. A boat tour on the Moskva River is a pleasant way of discovering the city. Excursions start at the Kutuzovskaya Pier, accessible from Kutuzovskaya Metro. The river is a superb vantage point to view the White House (the Parliament Building), scene of the dramatic siege of 1991, as well as many of the sights listed above.

• Several ancient towns of great historical, architectural and spiritual significance make up the Golden Ring, extending northeast from Moscow. They are a rich collection of kremlins (citadels), monasteries, cathedrals and fortresses. Since many were founded on river banks, a cruise is a pleasant way of discovering the region. Modern boats plying the Volga afford comfortable accommodation. In Sofrin, the literary and artistic museum of Abramtsevo houses paintings by Repin, Serov and Vrubel. The museum is surrounded by parkland and birch woods. Ornate traditional Russian huts are dotted around the estate. Rostov Veliky, founded in the ninth century, has a beautiful Kremlin and Cathedral of the Dormition, and overlooks the shores of the Nero Lake, surrounded by ancient monasteries. Neighbouring Yaroslavl lies on the banks of the Volga, and contains a host of ancient churches, most notably the Transfiguration of the Saviour Cathedral, built in the early 16th century. Kostroma is a renowned cheese-making centre. Its most outstanding building is the Ipatievski Monastery-Fortress. Built during the first half of the 14th century, it became the Romanovs’ residence three centuries later. Suzdal is perhaps the most important town in the Golden Ring. It boasts 50 well-preserved examples of ancient architecture contained within a relatively small area, providing a wonderfully coherent vision of its past. The wives of tsars and boyars were exiled to the Blessed Virgin Convent. Uglich is another beautiful town on the banks of the Volga, notable for its Kremlin and the Chambers of Prince Dmitry. Prince Dmitry, son and heir of Ivan the Terrible drowned here, after accidentally being dropped in a river by his nurse.

• Spend some time in the Federation’s second-largest city, 715km (444 miles) northwest of Moscow, and known both as a cultural centre and for its elegant buildings. St Petersburg is spread over 42 islands in the delta of the River Neva and, in comparison to Moscow, tends to be more Eastern in character. It was built by Peter the Great in 1703 and remained the capital for 200 years of Tsarist Russia. Known as Petrograd after the civil war, and Leningrad during the Soviet period, the city reverted to its original name in 1991 by popular demand. Wide boulevards, tranquil canals, bridges and some of the best examples of tsarist architecture gave rise to the epithet the ‘Venice of the North’. Although badly damaged in World War II, much of it is now reconstructed. In June and July the city has the famous ‘White Nights’, when darkness recedes to a brief twilight and the city is imbued with an unusual aura. The Palace Square and the Winter Palace are among the most popular attractions for followers of Russian history. The Hermitage houses the vast private collection of the tsars. While exploring the city the visitor will inevitably see the Alexandrovskaya Column. St Isaac’s Cathedral is one of the biggest dome buildings of the world and, like the Kazansky Cathedral, houses a museum. The gorgeously decorated Yusupov Mansion was built for the Romanovs. Its rooms are sumptuousy decorated in mid-19th-century style. The mansion’s concert hall is now a venue for recitals, theatrical productions, opera and ballet. A waxwork exhibition commemorates Rasputin, who died in the building. The grand Nevsky Prospekt, dominated by the spire of the Admiralty Building, is one of the city’s main thoroughfares and is lined by opulent buildings. These include the Kazan Cathedral and the Church of the Resurrection. The collection at the Russian Museum covers nearly 1000 years of Russian art history. Nevsky Prospect crosses the Fontanka River at Anichkov Bridge, and continues to Palace Square. The homes of Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Anna Akhmatova and Rimsky-Korsakov serve as museums dedicated to their former occupants. The cruiser Aurora is berthed on the Neva. A blank shot was fired from her bow to give a signal to start the assault on the Winter Palace in 1917. Lenin also announced the victory of the Revolution from here.

• The following palaces beyond the outskirts of St Petersburg are collectively known as the Summer Palaces. Petrodvorets is a former summer palace of Tsar Peter the Great and is known for its beautiful cascades and fountains. Oranienbaum was built as the summer residence of Alexander Menshikov, Peter the Great’s associate. From here, Alexander oversaw the construction of the Kronstadt naval fortress on the nearby Kotlin Island. Its Chinese and Sliding Hill Pavilions are exceptionally beautiful. The Grand Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo was built for Peter the Great’s wife. The Scottish architect Charles Cameron designed some of the interiors, although a greater number by Bartholomeo Rastrelli survive. Cameron also designed the subtle buildings at nearby Pavlovsk, which were intended to complement the parkland’s beauty. The park itself, designed by the Italian Gonzago, is one of the finest landscaped parks in Europe.

• Locate some of the Russian Federation's wonderful wildlife. The Kursche Spit is a beautiful sand peninsula extending nearly 100km (63 miles) along the coast, and is a rich habitat for plants and animals. Near Vladivostok is the Ussuriysk taiga, a unique habitat for plants of the pre-glacial period, as well as tigers, leopard, bison, boar and bears.

• Recreate on some of the Russian Federation's lovely beaches along the Black Sea. Rostov-on-Don contains several parks, four theatres, an orchestra and a racecourse, as well as a beach. Sochi is a popular resort with a subtropical climate and famous health spa, situated on the Black Sea’s eastern coast beneath the dramatic Caucasus Mountains. For those who want a resort-based holiday, Dagomys is ideal. Overlooking the Black Sea, it is beautifully located amongst thickly wooded hills and subtropical greenery.

• Step back into a momentous time at Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad. The Victory Museum celebrates the victory over the Nazis, and the whole city is a monument to the year-long battle that took place there. Tours to the battlefields are available. The town stands at the confluence of the Volga and Don rivers. Visits to outlying Cossack and Volga-German villages provide a further glimpse of the region’s history.

• Find utter isolation in Siberia, which covers an area of over 12,800,000 sq km (4,000,000 sq miles), containing unimaginably vast stretches of marshy forest (taiga). This ‘sleeping land’, the literal translation of its name, possesses a million lakes, 53,000 rivers and an enormous wealth of natural resources. Although the temperature in winter falls well below freezing point, the weather in summer can be very warm. Much of the region has been opened up, including Sakhalin Island and the Chukchi Peninsula just across the Bering Strait from Alaska. The taiga is within easy reach of many of the region’s cities. Air-hopping is one way of discovering the wilderness. A famous alternative is the Trans-Siberian Railway, the longest continuous railway in the world, a journey which is one of the greatest travel adventures. The line cuts through an area bigger than Western Europe, crossing a landscape which includes arctic wastes, tundra and steppe. The most scenic part of the journey is between Irkutsk and Khabarovsk.

• See the world's deepest lake, Lake Baikal, which is accessible from Irkutsk by hydrofoil during the summer. With a depth of 1637m (5371ft), it is the world’s deepest lake. Its surface area equals that of Belgium and The Netherlands put together. It is 25 million years old, and it would take three months to walk around its 2000km (1243 mile) shoreline. The purity of its water is maintained by millions of tiny crayfish, providing a habitat for a wide variety of fish, including sturgeon, loach, grayling and omul (a type of salmon), one of many species unique to Baikal. Its shores are a feeding ground for wildfowl and the occasional bear. Freshwater seal colonies are found around the Ushkan Islands in the centre of the lake. Olkhon Island is the site of primitive rock drawings and a unique necropolis of an ancient Siberian tribe whose members are thought to have been ancestors of indigenous North Americans. The local climate is often harsh; the surface of the entire lake often freezes over in winter (trains were moved across the ice during the Russo-Japanese war). The sarma wind can sink boats and rip the roofs off buildings.

• Experience Buddhism in Russia – what many might consider to be a surreal sight. But many of the inhabitants of the Buryat Republic are, indeed, Buddhists. Dozens of picturesque temples (datsans) sprang up round Lake Baikal after Empress Elizabeth, Peter the Great’s daughter, recognised the Buddhist religion in the Russian Federation. Although most datsans were destroyed during the 1930s, many of their treasures were preserved in the Russian Orthodox church in Ulaan Ude, the capital. The Sandalwood Buddha, on display in the town’s Exhibition Hall, is said to have been made with the Buddha himself sitting as a model.

Tourist Information

Russian National Tourist Office in the UK
70 Piccadilly, London W1J 8HP, UK
Tel: (020) 7495 7555.
Website: www.inntel-moscow.co.uk or www.visitrussia.org.uk

Intourist Ltd in the UK
7 Wellington Terrace, Notting Hill, London W2 4LW, UK
Tel: (020) 7727 4100 or (0870) 112 1232 (reservation line).
Website: www.intouristuk.com

Russian National Group in the USA
130 West 42nd Street, Suite 1804, New York, NY 10036, USA
Tel: (212) 575 3431 or (877) 221 7120 (toll-free in USA).
Website: www.russia-travel.com

Getting There

Getting There by Air

The national airline is Aeroflot (SU) (website: www.aeroflot.com).

Flight Times

From London to Moscow is 3 hours 50 minutes, and to St Petersburg is 3 hours 25 minutes.

Main Airports

Moscow (SVO) (Sheremetyevo) (website: www.sheremetyevo-airport.ru) is 35km (22 miles) northwest of the city. To/from the airport: Taxis are available at the airport to the city centre (journey time – 30 to 40 minutes). ‘Autoline’ fixed-route taxis and buses are also available. Express coaches depart for the city regularly. Coaches depart for the airport from the Central Air Terminal in Moscow, 37 Leningradsky Prospekt (journey time – 50 minutes for international flights). Express trains leave regularly also. Facilities: Outgoing duty-free shops, banks/bureaux de change, post office, car hire, restaurants and first aid. Moscow also has three primarily domestic airports: see Getting Around.

St Petersburg (LED) (Pulkovo) website: http://eng.pulkovo.ru) is 17km (10.5 miles) south of the city. To/from the airport: Buses are available to the city centre frequently throughout the day (journey time – 10 minutes). Taxis are also available (journey time – 15 minutes). Facilities: Banks/bureaux de change, flight information, duty-free shops, restaurant, bar, snack bar, left luggage and first aid.

Departure Tax

None.

Getting There by Rail

There are various connections from London. The main route is: London–Brussels–Cologne/Berlin–Moscow/St Petersburg. The journey from London to Brussels can be made by a variety of train and ferry services (including via Eurostar), or via the Channel Tunnel. There is a sleeper service from Cologne to Moscow.

The Moskva Express runs from Berlin to Moscow (website: http://bahn.hafos.de). There are through trains or coaches from other Western and Eastern European cities, from CIS countries, and from China (PR), Iran, Mongolia and Turkey. See also Trans-Siberian Express in Getting Around.

Getting There by Road

Foreign tourists may drive their own cars or may hire cars (see Getting Around). Those entering by car should have their visas registered at the hotel, motel or campsite where they will stay for the first night, and must also ensure that the car registration number is recorded in the visa. Travellers driving their own vehicle will get a temporary permit from customs to be able to use their car legally in Russia. Travellers should also insure their vehicle with Ingosstrakh, which has offices at all crossing points and in most major cities, and to purchase service coupons at the border.

The speed limit is 60kmph on minor roads, 90kmph on major roads and variable on highways. A road tax is payable upon entry to the country.

The following crossing points between Finland and the Russian Federation are available: Vaalima–Torfianovska; Nuijamaa–Brusnichnoye and Rajajooseppi–Lotta. There are also crossing points between the Russian Federation and all neighbouring countries although, at present, there are restrictions on cross-border travel to Azerbaijan and Georgia. Plans to simplify this process are currently underway.

There are numerous and excellent road links with neighbouring countries: Eurolines (tel: 0870 514 3219; website: www.eurolines.com) and National Express (tel: 0870 580 8080; website: www.nationalexpress.com) run regular coach services from the UK to the Russian Federation. Travellers can either choose Mini-Pass breaks or book a 15-, 30- or 60-day pass. The six Mini-Passes gave travellers the freedom to visit three cities, with prices starting from £55. Travellers can stay as long as they like in each city.

Novosibirsk / Barnaul:

Population: 1.5 Mln (3rd in Russia)
Telephone code: 3832
Distance: 3303km from Moscow, 48 hours

General

Novosibirsk is not Moscow or St. Petersburg. You cannot find amenities such as cash machines here, nor can you expect to be able to use your credit card very often. The Intourist hotel (Sibir) accepts Visa and Mastercard for room payments. Both TransAero and Lufthansa accept payment with Visa, Mastercard and American Express for tickets. Cash advances can be made with an American express card at Credobank, and a Visa card at Siberian Bank, Siberian Trade Bank, Novosibirskvneshtorgbank, Mosbusiness Bank, and Credobank. For all other restaurants, stores and transactions, rubles must be used. You can exchange money at any bank, and new and unblemished bills are recommended. Money can be wired to the Western Union office at the Siberian Bank.

The area code in Novosibirsk is 3832. Local calls can be made at any pay phone and from the hotel phones. Pay phones work on a special 15 kopeck piece that can be purchased at Metro stations for 100-200 rubles. To dial out, first dial 8 and wait for a dial tone. Then dial 1, the country code and the full number (including area code). For example, to dial the Washington area, dial 8 (wait) 1-01-202...

Transportation

Airlines: Novosibirsk and Barnaul are serviced by Aeroflot, Aviation company "Sibir," Lufthansa, and TransAero. Aeroflot: 29-19-99 (general)
Aviation company "Sibir": phone 66-90-78, fax 22-75-72
Lufthansa: phones 69-63-77 (reservations), 22-71-51 (general), fax 22-71-51
TransAero: phone 23-19-17 (general), fax 23-03-21
Airport(Tolmachevo): 29-89-41 (general)

Altai Mountains:

Area: Western Siberia, south, Altai mountains (3.5 hours from Moscow by plane, 48 hours by train).
Nearest cities: Gorno-Altaysk, Barnaul (300km), Novosibirsk (600km).
Activities: trekking, rafting, hiking, climbing, horseback riding

The name "Altay" (or "Altai") comes from Mongolian "Altan", which means "golden". Altay mountains are truly one of the nature's most marvelous gems, amazing by its diversity and beauty.

The Altay ecoregion covers vast 845,000 square kilometer area at the junction of four countries: Russia (largest part), Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China. Novosibirsk, the city through which the Trans-Siberian route goes, is about 600 km far, which is very not far for Siberian scales.
Altay is a land where myths and legends are incarnated into reality. It's one of those rare corners on the Earth where Nature decided to show everything it was capable of. Broad and boundless views of steppes, luxuriant varieties of taiga thickets, modest charm of deserts, severe splendor of snowy peaks, laconic beauty of tundra - the diversity of landscapes here is so rich, it is as if you are turning over pages of a geographical atlas!

Highlights

Three major factors make Altay mountains a recreational domain of great value: amazing natural diversity (various landscapes, climates, abundance of wildlife); thin population, historically nomadic (Mongolian and Kazakh ethnos), who have a very natural way of life; and remoteness from any industries (the region lives only for tourism and agriculture). All this has ensured that Altay region stayed untouched by
industrial development and is still a very natural place. Besides, such diversity makes it possible to involve in almost any possible activity: from rafting to trekking, from speleo to skiing. Stretching for nearly 2000 km from north-west to south-east, Altai mountains form a natural border between the arid steppes of Mongolia and the rich taiga of Southern Siberia. Both climatic zones create the landscapes of striking diversity, ranging from the Mongolia-like steppes (at the area of Kosh-Agach village, south east) to those of the Swiss Alps (along Chuysky Trakt).
During the Soviet times, Altay was a mecca for adventure tourism, especially rafting. Altai mountains have a lot of rivers, Katun, Biya, and Chuya being the longest of them. There are also myriads of smaller mountain rivers that are fed by Altay's glaciers. Along all these rivers there's a lot of places for recreation and fishing. You can easily put a tent anywhere you want.

Altay's Nature
 
The wildlife vary from big mammals (bear, lynx, glutton, Siberian stag, even reindeer and snow leopard above the tree line) to small birds (230 species) and fishes (20 species - umber, loach, white fish among them). Many species and plants are really unique.
Camel and yak are a good Mongolian touch to the picture of the Russian Altai. Another, and very pleasing touch is no mosquitoes and such-like making life miserable in Northern Siberia. Cedar is a very common tree in the rich mountain forests as well as pine, birch, spruce, fir, larch. Berries and mushrooms are abundant in the season.
There are four main plants that grow in Altay mountains and that are widely used by local people. On the photo below, from right to left are:
Cedar (Kedr) is a pine-like tree, its pines contain a lot of little nuts.
You can cook the whole pine in fire or boil it and then take out the nuts, they are very tasty and nutricious. Badan is a plant that usually grows on heights starting from 1000 m and its dry (brown) leaves are used to make tea. Kuril tea is another nice plant to make tea with and has many positive effects also. Cannabis selvia is also quite widely spread.

Altay Weather

The weather and climate at Altay is as diverse as its nature. Generally, the summer starts in May-June and finishes in September. During that time it's quite warm during the daytime (about 20 - 25 celcius) and cool in the night (about 5-10 celcius), so it's better to have a sleeping bag with you, if you are
traveling on your own. During June and July there may be quite a few rains, but the August and September are the sunniest months (more than 60% of the time there's no rain at all). In the Summer the snow is left only on the heights of 2600 meters and higher. The winds in the valleys are not very strong. So, to sum everything up, the best months for traveling at Altay in Summer are July, August, and first half of September: warm, sunny in the day, no mosquitoes.
The winter in Altay starts in October-November. That's when it starts snowing and the mountains are covering by snow from top to bottom. The best months for traveling in winter are November and December. During that time, there's mostly good weather and not very cold. The coldest months are January and February. The average temperature goes down to minus 15-20 celcius. The coldest place at Altay is Chuyskaya steppe, which is along the way to Mongolia. After that, in February and March the weather is quite good again. There are a lot of activities possible, like skiing, auto tours, animal watching, and even swimming in frozen lakes. And, of course, the main activity: alpinism.
The snow usually starts to disappear in the first half of May, so it is a beatiful Spring time in Altay at this period.

Ethnography and Inhabitants

For innumerable centuries being the cross-roads of human migration, the Altai has a long and rich history. A lot of archaeological finds prove that. Those
of the Ulalite paleolithic site (in the town of Gorno-Altaisk) are 900-800 thousand years old. So, man's ancestors lived in the Altai long before the pithecanthrope of Java. The number of younger sites (mainly in caves) comes to dozens. So, going from cave to burial mound, from graffito to graffito you will get the stereoscopic picture of man developing from the Stone to Bronze and Iron Ages. The modern population is a mixture of indigenous Altais and Russian settlers, some of the latter still leading in their villages the life of Old Believers, with strict rules and very much isolated from civilization. There are few remote villages in Altai where you can see wool being spun on a hand and hear traditional Altai throat singing (a very interesting and strange technique).

Top Things To See

Katun river starts its way near the highest point of Altai mountains (4620 m) and goes down through pristine alpine scenery, with a number of remote Altai villages along the way to Ob' river, that crosses the west Siberia from North to South and brings its waters to Karskoe more, in the ocean. Katun river is very good for
rafting as it offers many exciting routes and magnificient views at Altai mountains.
Altyn-Kyol
(in Russian means "Golden Lake") is the native Altai name for Lake Teletskoye. This lake is considered to be a smaller replica of Baikal lake, however, we would not recommend you to go there, because it is quite unaccessable and there are rumours that it is polluted by the remains of Soviet space ships that were launched in 80s from Baikonur space (in Kazakhstan).
Aktru glacier is a beautiful and the most accessible of Altay's glaciers. It is located about 500 km along Chuyski trakt, which leads to Mongolia. You can arrive to Aktru alpinist base and make short 1-day walks to glaciers. The walks are not hard and picturesque, so perhaps Aktru is one of the best place to visit in Altay if you have more than 3 days. Aktru is also loved by snowboarders who ride there even in Summer months. It is a remote area and very pristine and clean. The best place to rest from civilization and enjoy the nature.
Beluha mountain is considered to be a sacred place. Local people believe that Belovodie (the region around Beluha) is where the new civilization will start. However strange it may sound, but historical researches prove that many civilizations started their way from this region. It is hard to access Beluha by car, the nearest village is Tungur, where there's a good alpinist base, and Beluha is within 3 days walk (or 2 days horseriding) from there.
The Cordon of Chelush is a lonely place on the shore of the amazing highland lake, not far from the mouth of a mountain river. It is only possible to get there by water or by helicopter. The picturesque landscapes of the cordon may give a great pleasure to the real connoisseurs of Natural beauties and wonders.
The Biya
is the only river flowing out of Lake Teletskoye. A rafting journey down the Biya is considered a classic route of water tourism. The mixture of impetuous rapids and calm, extensive sections of the river allow enjoying the beauty of the surrounding landscapes and at the same time receive a sufficient dose of adrenalin.
Around 100-150 years ago there was a great mountain avalanche, but it couldn't stop the impetous Chulcha river and from a great height it falls down by cascades, forcing its way to the Chulyshman RiverUchar Waterfall (in Russian means "Unapproachable"). The Uchar Waterfall was discovered only about 20 years ago, so not many people have had a chance to see it yet.

Nearest Towns and How to Get There

Altai montains is a quite remote region. The closest big (more than 50,000 inhabitants) city is Gorno-Altaisk, located just at the beginning of Altai mountains, on Katun river. Slightly further is Biysk. Many tourists go to one of these two cities, and it is a big mistake. Gorno-Altaysk and Biysk are completely run-down Soviet style cities with quite depressive mood. Besides, it's almost impossible to find a good guide from there.
We recommend you to go to Barnaul, which is 300 km far from Altay. It is a beautiful nice provincial town, which surprises with availability of good-quality accommodation ($3/night for western-style shared room!), original restaurants, and friendly people. Also, most Altay tour operators base in Barnaul, so it's a practical place to start your trip. Novosibirsk (around 600 km far), which is located on Trans-Siberian railway, can also be a good starting point.
The most convenient way to get to Altay is to take a plane from Moscow to Barnaul (from $230 return, 4 hours flight) and then take a bus or personal mini-bus to Gorno-Altaisk.
The cheapest way to get to Altai area is to take a train from Moscow to Novosibirsk (from $70 one way), then take a train to Biysk (through Barnaul - about 370 km and $5 one way), then take a car or a bus (cheap) to Gorno-Altaisk (just at the beginning of Altai mountains) and further - take local buses to Altai mountains along Chuisky Trakt (the auto-road that goes through Altay to Mongolia).


Getting Around

Getting Around by Air

The internal network radiates from Moscow’s four airports. Aeroflot runs services from Moscow to most major cities. All-inclusive tours are available from specialist tour operators.
Note: In the 1990s, Aeroflot was broken up into many small airlines which led to a catalogue of air disasters earning it a reputation for poor safety. Thankfully, its safety record has improved in recent years.

Vnukovo Airport (VKO) (website: www.vnukovo.ru) is 29.5km (18 miles) southwest of Moscow. To/from the airport: Coaches go to the airport from the Central Air Terminal (travel time – one hour 15 minutes). Taxis are available to the city. Facilities: Outgoing duty free.
Domodedovo (DME) (website: www.domodedovo.ru) is 48km (25 miles) southeast of Moscow. To/from the airport: An Aeroexpress train goes from Moscow to the airport (travel time - 40 to 50 minutes). Express buses and a 24 hour shuttle service are also available. Two official taxi firms operate at the airport. Facilities: Duty free, shops and restaurants.
Bykovo Airport (BKA) is the smallest of Moscow’s airports, 35km from the city. To/from the airport: Coaches go to the airport from the Central Air Terminal.

Getting Around by Water

Owing to its geographical position, the Russian Federation has ports on its Pacific and Baltic shores and in the south on the Black Sea.
Main ports: Kaliningrad, Murmansk, Sochi (website: www.moport-sochi.ru), St Petersburg and Vladivostok (website: www.vladcomport.ru).

Cruises and excursions are available on many of the Russian Federation's rivers. The most popular cruises are on the river Don and the Volga. Many companies offer cruises onboard comfortable, modern boats. The Volga towns, the Golden Ring and Moscow–St Petersburg are popular routes.

Getting Around by Rail

The railway is a vital part of the infrastructure of Russia because of the poor road system. The largest and busiest rail network in the world is predominantly for freight traffic. Only a few long-distance routes are open for travel by tourists, and reservations must be made on all journeys. Children under five years of age travel free. Children aged five to nine pay half fare. Rail travellers are advised to store valuables in the compartment under the bed or seat and not to leave the compartment unattended.
The Trans-Siberian Express, probably the most famous train in the world, is one of the best ways of seeing the interior of the country. It runs from St Petersburg to the Pacific coast of Siberia and on to Japan. There is a daily service, but the steamer from Nakhodka to Yokohama only sails approximately once a week. The through journey from Moscow to Yokohama takes 10 days. It is the world’s longest continuous train journey, crossing seven time zones and 9745km (5778 miles) from Europe to the Pacific, with 91 stops from Vladivostok to Moscow. Bed linen and towels are provided in the ‘Soft Class’ (first-class) berths, and there is a toilet and washbasin at the end of each carriage. Second-class cabins have four berths. Attendants serve tea from samovars for a small charge and there is a restaurant car on every train where meals can be purchased (however, no alcohol is available on the train, so passengers are advised to bring their own if desired).
The Trans-Manchurian Express follows the same route, before heading southeast into China and down to Beijing. Another, slightly shorter but no less epic journey can be made on the Trans-Mongolian Railway to Beijing. It runs from Moscow to Irkutsk (Siberia), skirting Lake Baikal and then entering Mongolia. The journey to the Mongolian capital, Ulaan Baatar, is remarkable for its dramatic scenery. The journey concludes in Beijing.

Rail Passes

The EuroDomino pass enables holders anything from three to eight days' extensive travel within a one-month period on the entire rail network of their chosen country. It is valid in 26 European countries. To purchase a EuroDomino pass you must have been resident in Europe for at least six months and a passport number is required at time of booking. It is not permitted to purchase a pass for travel within your own country of residence. To qualify for the youth rates, you must be under 26 years on the first date of validity of the pass. Children aged four to 11 years inclusive pay half the adult fares rounded up to the nearest pound. Children under four years travel free. Seat reservations, couchette and sleeper charges are not included in the cost of the pass and are payable at the normal rate. Passholder fares are payable on some services. Available from Rail Europe (website: www.raileurope.co.uk/railpasses/eurodomino.htm).

Getting Around by Road

The European part of the Russian Federation depends heavily on its road network. Generally, the few roads in Siberia and further east are impassable during the winter. It is a good idea to arrange motoring holidays through a reputable agency. It is also advisable to pre-plan the itinerary and accommodation requirements. On the majority of tourist routes, signposts are also written in the Latin alphabet. Travellers can take their own car (see Travel – International) or hire a vehicle; tariffs include the cost of insurance. Chauffeured cars are available in major cities. Sample distances: Moscow to St Petersburg: 692km (432 miles); Moscow to Minsk: 690km (429 miles); Moscow to Rostov-on-Don: 1198km (744 miles); Moscow to Odessa: 1347km (837 miles).
Bus: Long-distance coach services have only recently become open to foreigners. They are a great way of seeing the country but patience is a necessity and getting lost is commonplace.
Traffic regulations: Traffic drives on the right. Speeds are limited to 60kph (37mph) in built-up areas, 90kph (55mph) in non-built-up areas and 100kph (62mph) on highways (visiting motorists who have been driving for less than two years must not exceed 70kph (43mph)). Hooting the horn is forbidden except when to do so might prevent an accident. Motorists should avoid driving at night if possible. It is forbidden to carry unauthorised passengers or pick up hitch-hikers. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is forbidden. Every car must display registration plates and stickers denoting the country of registration and be fitted with seat belts, a first-aid kit, a fire extinguisher and an emergency sign (triangle) or red light. In case of an accident, contact the nearest traffic inspection officer and make sure all participants fill in written statements, to be witnessed by a militia inspector. All repairs will be at the foreign motorist’s expense.
Documentation: An International Driving Permit and a national licence with authorised translations are necessary. Visitors travelling in their own cars must also possess the following documents at all times: passport and visa; itinerary card bearing visitor’s name and citizenship, car registration number and full details of itinerary presented upon entry to the Russian Federation relating to the route to be taken and the date and place of stopovers; form provided by Customs on arrival guaranteeing that the car will be taken out of the Russian Federation on departure; petrol vouchers purchased at the border; and insurance cover documents. A road tax is payable upon entry to the country (see end of Travel – International). Motor insurance for travel within the Russian Federation should be arranged prior to departure, or upon entry to the Russian Federation at the offices of Ingosstrakh, the Russian Federation foreign insurance agency. Contact the Embassy or a specialist tour operator for further details.

Getting Around Towns and Cities

Public transport in the cities is comprehensive and cheap. Many services are electric traction (metro, tramway, trolleybus). Stations on the Moscow and St Petersburg metros are always elegant and often palatial. Entry to the underground is by tokens, which are inserted into the ticket barrier. Fares are standard for the various forms of transport; weekly and monthly passes are available. Buses operate 0500-0000. Tickets are available in strips or booklets from people outside the metro station or from the drivers directly. Tickets must be punched in the machine provided on the bus. Taxis are also available; they can be hailed in the street, hired at a rank or booked by telephone. It is safer to use officially marked taxis; they are yellow with chequered signs on the doors. Taxis should not be shared with strangers.

Journey Times

From Moscow to Bratsk is six hours 45 minutes, to Donetsk is one hour 30 minutes, to Irkutsk is seven hours, to Khabarovsk is seven hours 30 minutes, to Kharkov is one hour 15 minutes, to St Petersburg is one hour 30 minutes, to Volgograd is one hour 50 minutes and to Yalta is two hours 15 minutes.

The following chart gives approximate travel times (in hours and minutes) from Moscow to other major cities/towns in the Russian Federation:

Air

Rail

Sea

Khabarovsk

7.30

-

-

St Petersburg

1.30

9.00

-

Irkutsk

7.00

88.00

-

Volgograd

1.30

-

-

Communications

Telephone

IDD is available. Country code: 7. When dialling the Russian Federation from abroad, the 0 of the area code must not be omitted. Some Moscow hotels have telephone booths with IDD. For long-distance calls within the CIS, dial 8 then wait for the dial tone before proceeding with the call. Collect calls, calls placed using credit cards and calls from direct dial telephones in hotels can be extremely expensive. International calls can be made from phones in the street and phonecards are available from many shops and kiosks in the street. The emergency services can be reached as follows: fire – 01; police – 02; ambulance – 03. For enquiries regarding Moscow private telephone numbers, dial 09; for businesses, 927 0009. For national directory enquiries regarding the Russian Federation and the CIS, dial 927 0009.

Mobile Telephone

Roaming agreements exist with international mobile phone companies. All major cities are covered by at least one operator. Handsets can be hired from some companies.

Internet

Public access is available in hotels in larger cities and in Internet cafes.

Post

Airmail to Western Europe takes over 10 days. There are postboxes and post offices in every hotel. Inland surface mail is often slow. Post office hours: 0900-1900.

Media

Over recent years, the Kremlin has secured greater control over Russia's media.

Press

The main dailies in the Russian Federation are Izvestiya (website: www.izvestia.ru) and Komsomolskaya Pravda (website: www.kp.ru), both published in Moscow. Newspapers and magazines are published in some 25 languages. Multilingual editions of the Moscow News (website: www.english.mn.ru) are available weekly. The Moscow Times (website: www.themoscowtimes.com) and St Petersburg Times are published in English. There is also a daily Internet newspaper, Russia Today (website: www.russiatoday.com).

TV

Russia TV Channel is state-owned. NTV is a national netowork owned by the gas company, Gazprom. Centre TV is a commerical network and Russia Today is an international English news channel. Other networks include Channel One and Ren TV.

Radio

Radio Russia and Radio Mayak are state-run networks. Russkoye Radio and Moscow Echo are privately run. Voice of Russia operates programmes in English and other languages.

Climate

Northern & Central European Russia: The most varied climate; mildest areas are along the Baltic coast. Summer sunshine may be nine hours a day, but winters can be very cold. Siberia: Very cold winters, but summers can be pleasant, although they tend to be short and wet. There is considerable seasonal temperature variation. Southern European Russia: Winter is shorter than in the north. Steppes (in the southeast) have hot, dry summers and very cold winters. The north and northeastern Black Sea has mild winters, but heavy rainfall all the year round.


Contacts:
Embassy of the Russian Federation in the UK

13 Kensington Palace Gardens, London W8 4QX, UK
Tel: (020) 7229 3628.
Website: www.great-britain.mid.ru
Consular section: 5 Kensington Palace Gardens, London W8 4QS, UK
Tel: (020) 7499 1029.
Website: www.rusemblon.org
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 0830-1200 (visa section: applications not accepted on Wednesdays).

Russian National Tourist Office in the UK

70 Piccadilly, London W1J 8HP, UK
Tel: (020) 7495 7570.
Website: www.visitrussia.org.uk

Embassy of the Russian Federation in the USA

2650 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20007, USA
Tel: (202) 298 5700.
Website: www.russianembassy.org
Consular section: 2641 Tunlaw Road, NW, Washington, DC 20007, USA
Tel: (202) 939 8907.

Russian National Group in the USA

224 West 30th Street, Suite 701, New York, NY 10001, USA
Tel: (646) 473 2233 or 1 877 221 7120.
Website: www.russia-travel.com

General Information

Location

Eastern Europe/Asia.

Time

The Russian Federation is divided into 11 time zones. Summer time is + 1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October.
Kaliningrad: GMT + 2 (GMT +3 from the last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).
Moscow, St Petersburg, Astrakhan: GMT + 3 (GMT +3 from the last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).
Izhevsk and Samara: GMT + 4 (GMT +5 from the last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).
Perm', Ekaterinburg, Surgut: GMT + 5 (GMT +6 from the last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).
Omsk and Novosibirsk: GMT + 6 (GMT + 7 from the last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October.
Abakan, Norilsk, Tura: GMT + 7 (GMT +8 from the last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).
Bratsk, Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude: GMT + 8 (GMT +9 from the last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).
Mirnyy, Tynda, Yakutsk: GMT + 9 (GMT +10 from the last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).
Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Yuzhno- Sakhalinsk: GMT + 10 (GMT +11 from the last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).
Magadan, Chirskiy: GMT + 11 (GMT + 12 from the last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).
Anadyr, Kamchatskiy, Petropavlosk: GMT + 12 (GMT +13 from the last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October).

Area

17,075,400 sq km (6,592,850 sq miles).

Population

141.5 million (UN, 2005).

Population Density

8.28 per sq km.

Capital

Moscow. Population: 8.3 million (2005).

Geography

The Russian Federation covers almost twice the area of the USA, and reaches from Moscow in the west over the Urals and the vast Siberian plains to the Sea of Okhotsk in the east. The border between European Russia and Siberia (Asia) is formed by the Ural Mountains, the Ural River and the Manych Depression. European Russia extends from the North Polar Sea across the Central Russian Uplands to the Black Sea, the Northern Caucasus and the Caspian Sea. Siberia stretches from the West Siberian Plain across the Central Siberian Plateau between Yenisey and Lena, including the Sayan, Yablonovy and Stanovoy ranges in the south to the East Siberian mountains between Lena and the Pacific coast, including the Chukotskiy and Kamchatka peninsulas.

Government

Republic since 1991.
Recent history:
Vladimir Putin was elected to a second term as Russian President in March 2004. His nearest opponent, the Communist candidate, only obtained 14 per cent of the votes. United Russia, the party backed by the President, won a landslide victory in Parliamentary elections in December 2003. Mr Putin has promised to continue to reform the economy. He has taken a very tough line against Chechen rebels

Head of State

President Vladimir Putin since 2000.

Head of Government

Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov.

Language

Russian. English, French or German are spoken by some people.

Religion

Mainly Christian with the Russian Orthodox Church being the largest Christian community. Muslim, Buddhist and Jewish minorities also exist.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz.

Social Conventions

It is customary to shake hands when greeting someone. Company or business gifts are well received. Each region has its own characteristic mode of dress. Conservative wear is suitable for most places and the seasonal weather should always be borne in mind. Smoking is acceptable unless stated otherwise. Avoid ostentatious displays of wealth; it is advisable to keep expensive jewellery, watches and cameras out of sight and take precautions against pickpocketing.
Photography: It is prohibited to take photographs of any military installation and/or establishments or sites of strategic importance. Failure to abide by this could result in police arrest.

*Until 1992, the territories of the Republic of Chechnya and the Ingush Republic were combined in the Chechen-Ingush autonomous republic (area 19,300 sq km).


 

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