There are plenty of ways to explore the Russian society and culture without visiting Russian soil. Forget about applying for a visa and try these places with an overwhelmingly Russian population or culture.
Russians love their country but the fact is when Soviet broke down, millions of Russians were left outside today’s Russian borders. This makes up the view of many towns in the former Soviet Union. And Russians also love vacation and when they find a spot, they come in hordes.
It is estimated that 20-30 million Russian lives outside the borders. Here are some examples.
East Estonia particularly Narva
Russians in Estonia are estimated to be 24% of the total population (320.000 inhabitants). The more east you go, the closer to Russia you come. In the most Eastern town of Estonia, Narva, Russian-speakers represents 93,85% of the population. Ethnic Estonians are just 3,86% of Narva’s population. In Narva, you could get a true feeling of Russia, both in buildings and people.
The Russians in Estonia is a sad chapter in the history. Many of them haven’t any Estonian citizenship but that’s a subject for a separate article. Also, Tallinn has a big Russian population, but not that dominating.
Russians in Latvia
Since the two last centuries, Russians have been the largest ethnic minority in Latvia and is counted to be 24,4% of the population. Riga and Daugavpils have the largest Russian populations. In Riga, about 40% of the inhabitants are Russians and in the second biggest city Daugavpils 53,5% (the year 2006) Russians are the majority which can be seen in the street life.
In both Estonia and Latvia, the most non-Russian speak and understand little or much Russian.
Ukraine of course
Of course, Ukraine should be mentioned among countries with a big Russian population. If you’re not well informed, entire Ukraine could look like a smaller Russia but it isn’t.
The Russian influence is for sure most visible in the eastern parts of the country and sadly has the war between Russia and Ukraine made a gap between the peoples.
The number of ethnic Russians in Ukraine is estimated to around 8,3 million. Russian’s and Ukraine’s understand each other’s language pretty well but especially in the western parts, it’s important to speak Ukrainian. If you enter a store, the behavior of the staff could be crucial if you say “privit” (hello, Ukrainian) or “privjet” (hello, Russian).
Largely I find the culture in these countries quite similar, but some reader might tell me some big differences?
Moldova – Russians spending money in the capital city
When I visited Moldova’s capital Chisinau, I often heard the Russian language on the streets. Russian differs a lot from Moldovan cause Moldovan is well connected to the Romanian language which in turn is connected with Italian.
On the better restaurants, Russians are frequent guests. I think Moldova fit on this list because I think the Russian influences in Chisinau are big.
In the small inofficial country Transnistria (in Moldova or not depending who you ask), Russians are a majority and everything is written in Cyrillic letters.
The Balkan coastline
The sun-loving Russians have settled on the Balkan coastline by the Adriatic sea. Russian could be heard anywhere on the streets of tourists-crowded villages. One example is Budva on the Montenegrin coastline. I don’t have any official figure, but locals talk about 10.000 residents from Russia in the surrounding district.
Budva is the city in Europe with the highest amount of millionaires per capita. You can see plenty of extremely big and luxurious Russian yachts in the harbor of Budva.
Also Montenegrin and Serbs understand Russian.
There are many more places on the earth where Russians have made a footprint. For example, USA has 3.1 million Russians, but the impact isn’t that big cause America is such a big country with a large population. Also, Germany has over 1 million Russian inhabitants.
The summer towns of Bulgaria (Sunny Beach and many more) is also popular holiday spots for Russian tourists.