40 Awe-Inspiring Photos That Reveal the Reality of Russia

When we think of Russia, certain images appear in our minds. Influenced by movies, TV, and other forms of media and even political propaganda, we’ve developed a lot of associations and stereotypes about Russia, but the reality of the world’s biggest country is actually very different from what you might be imagining.

The country was famously closed off to foreigners for nearly a century, finally opening up again in the 1990s. For such a long time, we knew so little about Russia, its people, its culture, and its traditions. Now, with more and more travelers choosing to visit the land once known as the USSR, we’re starting to get a clearer picture of what Russia is really all about. These photos give us a powerful glimpse into Russian life.

The Importance of Fishing

Since Russia has such a huge coastline and such easy access to so many bodies of water, fishing has always played a key role in the country’s development and culture. Fish is very commonly enjoyed by Russian people.

A cheerleader for fisherman wearing a fish-themed outfit in Russia.
Source: pixmafia.com

This intriguing photo shows us a Russian lady wearing some kind of fish-themed outfit. She’s sitting next to the water, with fish-style earrings, little fish on her tights, and even bits of seaweed over her face and shoulder.

An Innovative Solution

This Russian lady has decided to wear a tub on her head to stay dry as the rain falls all around her. She must have forgotten to take an umbrella with her that day.

An older Russian woman with a basket upside down on her head to keep dry from the rain.
Source: xdpedia.com

A lot of rain falls in Russia, and the country has actually invested millions of dollars in technology to try and keep the cities dry, especially for public holidays. Would you wear a bucket on your head in the rain?

The Truth about Babushkas

The word “babushka” technically means “old lady” or “grandma.” Every country has its grandmas, but the babushkas of Russia are extra special. They can often be spotted at train and bus stations in cities and towns all over the country, selling fresh fruit and veggies.

Babushka vendors line up to sell vegetables.
Source: theguardian.com

Despite their seemingly friendly appearance, many travelers are taken aback by the serious nature of the babushkas. They sell things to make a living, and without the sales of their veggies and other goods, they can struggle to survive.

The Hottest Nightlife

Even if you’ve partied in the hottest clubs of New York, London, Paris, and Bangkok, nothing can prepare you for the incredible nightlife scene of Moscow. The Russian capital goes hard with its parties, and it’s the perfect place for people who love to hit the town and stay up late.

A female bartender is enjoying Moscow nightlife.
Source: imagez.co

There are countless clubs all over Moscow, but you’ll often need to spend a whole lot of cash in just one night, as the drinks are quite expensive and the clubs are very exclusive.

Crime Doesn’t Pay In Russia

When we think of Russia, we imagine quite a strict and severe place, and that’s definitely true of the country’s police force. You don’t want to mess around with the cops in Russia!

Two female Russian police officers holding a baton and soft drinks while protecting and serving.
Source: Barbie’s Land

They won’t stand for any bad behavior, taking people down with ruthless efficiency. As this photo shows, the female officers are just as tough as the men, ready and able to dish out some justice to anyone who breaks the law.

The Sun is Shining

Many people wrongly assume that Russia is always cold and frosty. It’s important to remember that the nation is absolutely enormous, so it covers a lot of different climate zones and has plenty of sunshine, too, in some places.

People on the Sochi beach tanning and playing on the ground covered in stones.
Photo by Fabian Muir / theguardian.com

This photo was taken in Sochi, looking out onto the Black Sea. Sochi is one of Russia’s biggest cities and one of its prettiest locations too. It draws in millions of visitors each year due to its pebble beaches and relatively warm waters.

A Special Love of Carpets

Russia is associated with fashion, but that doesn’t mean everyone has the best sense of style there. Russian people love their carpets, but this guy decided to wear his on his back!

A Russian man standing on the train wearing a sweatsuit that seems to be made out of an antique red carpet.
Source: izismile.com

His carpet-style tracksuit is a real eyesore, but it’s just one of many examples of apparent fashion faux-pas we see in Russia. Take a ride on the Moscow metro, and you’ll be blown away by the way some people choose to dress.

BBQ Any Time of Year

We typically think of BBQs as a summer or spring activity. They’re best enjoyed when the sun is shining, and you can stand out in the yard with your family or buddies, enjoying refreshing drinks and freshly grilled burgers.

A man and woman are sitting next to a lake grilling in what looks like freezing temperatures.
Photo by Gary4 / theguardian.com

Over in Russia, where people are much more used to colder temperatures, BBQs can be enjoyed all throughout the year. Russian people have no problem loading up the grill, even in the middle of winter.

Beautiful Russian Girls

Just like all women, Russian women come in all shapes and sizes. But if you walk down the streets of big cities and towns in Russia, you’ll see a whole lot of fashionable ladies with stick thin figures and a flawless fashion sense.

Four Russian women are walking through the mall with their hands full of bags of new clothes and accessories.
Photo by Andrey Arkusha / Shutterstock.com

Style is of huge importance to a large part of the Russian female population, with Russian girls often spending days shopping in their favorite stores for new outfits and accessories.

Table Tennis Is Super Popular

Several sports are popular in Russia, and table tennis, aka ping pong, is definitely one of them. If you head into a typical park in Russia, you’ll usually see a lot of table tennis tables set up, ready for public games between families, friends, and even total strangers.

An old and young man playing table tennis in the park on July 20th, 2016, in Gorky Park, Moscow.
Photo by Konstantin Puz / Shutterstock.com

Russia is table tennis mad, with the whole nation getting in on the fun. So, if ever you happen to be visiting Moscow and want to play a game, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a table.

Women in The Army

In terms of gender equality and feminism, Russia is lagging behind in some ways, but they still allow women to do plenty of things that men can do. The female population of the country actually outnumbers the male population by quite a lot.

Female Russian soldier medic in universal camouflage army uniform and stethoscope.
Photo by Presslab / Shutterstock.com

This means that women can thrive in Russia; like being able to enlist in the military, where they are often given roles in offices and admin rather than heading into combat. They can, however, become soldiers and fight.

Super Strong Ladies

Russian women are stereotypically associated with beauty, fashion, makeup, and style, but Russia’s female population is just as diverse as anywhere else on Earth. Girls and women are free to enjoy all kinds of sports and hobbies in Russia.

A strong Russian woman at the gym flexing her large biceps.
Source: Youtube.com

One of the most popular sports among women is bodybuilding, which is very common in Moscow and St. Petersburg, in particular. This stunning and strong lady shows how the classic image of a Russian beauty can combine with physical power.

Fashion Comes First

When the weather gets cold, we tend to dress warmly. It’s natural for people to want to stay toasty in frosty weather, covering their bodies as much as possible with gloves, scarves, hats, and thick coats.

A group of approximately 20-year-old girls wearing shorts, short dresses and tall heels on St. Patrick's day with a man who looks the same age dressed warmly.
Source: NB Press

In Russia, people think a little differently. Over there, people are quite used to the cold weather, as winters can last many months and reach super-low temperatures. And Russian women in particular love to stay fashionable and can be spotted in light outfits, even with snow and ice on the ground.

Size Matters

As the largest country on the planet, Russia tends to do everything a little bigger than the rest of us, as we can see here. This photo shows an enormous piece of mining equipment and a group of gleeful miners standing before it.

A photo of minors back in the day on their lunch break standing next to a large mining wheel.
Source: wixsite.com

Back in 2005, Russia became the number one country in the world for its mining industry, producing a huge array of mineral commodities. Mining is considered a noble profession in Russia, and miners like these are well-respected.

Russian Snow Can Be Severe

If you think you have it bad with a little bit of snow from time to time, try living in Russia! There, the snow can fall in enormous amounts, blocking off entire buildings and trapping people inside their own homes.

A tractor plowing two stories of snow in a severe Russian snowstorm.
Source: msustinov.livejournal.com

This photo shows just how bad it can be at times, with bulldozers and serious equipment needed to push the snow out of the way and free the residents of this building.

Native Shaman

When we think of shamanism, we don’t necessarily associate the concept with Russia, but Siberian shamans most certainly exist and can still be seen today. This ancient religion actually originated in Siberia and since spread around Asia and elsewhere.

A native Siberian shaman sitting with beads and other holistic items with the beautiful ocean and mountains in the background.
Source: risu.org.ua

This picture shows us a rare sight of a Siberian shaman on Olkhon Island in Eastern Siberia. This is one of the most amazing sights any traveler in Russia could hope to see.

A Natural Wonder

There are some gorgeous natural landscapes in Russia, with the country being famed for its extensive, fairy tale forests and snowy scenes. It also happens to be one of the best places in the world for spotting the Northern Lights.

Fabulous Northern Lights in the sky above the Russian Arctic.
Photo by Yongyut Kumsri / Shutterstock.com

Many people head to Russia specifically to see the Northern Lights, with this beautiful natural wonder lighting up the night sky with a myriad of magical colors.

A Land Of Diversity

One of the common misconceptions about Russia concerns its diversity. Some people think of Russia as a not very diverse place, but people from all origins, ethnicities, and religious beliefs can be found there, especially in the bigger cities.

Photographed above are hundreds of Muslims taking part in daily prayer in the streets of Russia while multiple soldiers are standing amongst them.
Source: thebestofrussia.ru

You can find Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, and more in Russia, just like you would in many other countries. This image shows us a huge crowd of Muslims taking part in daily public prayers.

Lovers of Soccer

Soccer, or football, is the most popular sport in Russia. Russian people absolutely love the beautiful game, and the nation has proven to be quite successful at it over the years.

A man playing soccer next to his dog in one of Russia's many squares.
Photo by Petr Lovigin / Artsy.net

Russia hosted the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and despite heading into the tournament as quite a low ranked team, they exceeded expectations and performed very well, winning over lots of new fans around the world and uniting the country, too.

A Powerful Military Presence

We all know that Russia is one of the most powerful countries on Earth, and this can be seen in the nation’s military spending and enormous military presence. Russia is a country that is ready for war, with highly trained soldiers and state of the art equipment.

Russian military helicopters flying over the local military parade with a beautiful view of the Red Wall in Moscow.
Source: Pinterest

While some countries don’t put too much money into military spending, Russia always wants to be prepared for anything. This picture shows us a couple of Russian helicopters flying over a military parade.

The Realities of the Russian Police

Russian police are known for being tough and strict, and that’s certainly true, but they’re still just regular people, trying to get by and make a living like anyone else.

Russian police officers hang out at the playground with a few young boys with a random man sitting on the side.
Source: wp.com

This charming photo shows a couple of Russian cops taking a break and spending some time playing around with local children. It’s a touching image, revealing a more human and natural side to the seemingly severe officers or Russian law enforcement.

Parkour Is Popular

The term “parkour” originated in France, but it’s very popular all over the world now, especially in Russia. Some of the world’s best and bravest parkour technicians can be found among the streets and buildings of Moscow, and the capital is also home to its own Parkour Academy.

A man in a jump on the 5th parkour contest to move at the University of Physical Education, Max Attack: Death Circle, on Nov 17, 2012, in Moscow, Russia.
Photo by Pavel L Photo and Video / Shuttestock.com

The Moscow Parkour Academy is one of the most successful parkour teaching institutions in the world, training people in the art of moving around cities and urban spaces in acrobatic ways, leaping and diving from one spot to the next.

Splashing Around

Graduation is one of the most exciting and memorable moments in the life of any young person. Many people choose to celebrate by hosting parties or heading to the beach, but these girls decided to do things differently.

Female Russian students splashing around and taking photos in the fountain outside of the university.
Source: livejournal.com

Instead of setting off for a party, these Russian students decided to dive into this public fountain for some funny photos with their friends. It’s the perfect act of rebellion and celebration before their professional lives begin.

Fighting For Their Rights

Just like in many other countries around the world at the moment, female empowerment and feminism, on the whole, are becoming more important in Russia. This can be seen in schools, where girls are getting sick of being forced to wear outdated attire.

Russian school girls sitting cross-legged and wearing a white or black apron over their uniforms.
Source: Pinterest

This photo shows us a group of Russian girls choosing to rebel against the rules by wearing aprons over their uniforms, making a statement about feminism, and expressing themselves in a totally original way.

Always in High Heels

Women in Russia love to be fashionable, and a big part of fashion is high heels. You’ll rarely see girls without makeup in Russia, and you almost definitely never see them without high heels either.

A few female police officers in Russia dressed in short skirts and four-inch stilettos while holding batons.
Source: Twitter

Especially in big cities, Russian women can always be spotted wearing their high heels. The higher the heels, the more fashionable they tend to be, and you can even see women wearing heels in gyms while running on the treadmill!

Russians Adore Karaoke

Russian people are stereotypically associated with seriousness and stoic attitudes, but the reality is very different. In fact, one of Russia’s favorite pastimes is busting out the karaoke machine for a sing-a-long.

A wedding attendee with the local MC doing karaoke at a wedding in Russia.
Photo by Nadir Khabdulin / theguardian.com

At weddings and other social occasions, a karaoke session is inevitable, and Russian men and women love to head out on the dance floor and sing at the top of their lungs late into the night. If you ever get invited to a Russian wedding, be sure to go!

Siberia Isn’t Always Snowy

We tend to think of Siberia as a super snowy, frosty, inhospitable place, and it can get very cold there. However, it doesn’t snow all the time in Siberia.

A photo of an older man sitting next to a haystack while a younger boy holds a gardening tool and a middle-age man stands by.
Photo by Barbara Guthrie / theguardian.com

The winters can be long and hard, but in the summer months, the temperatures can get quite warm, as we see here with this young farmer wearing a T-shirt. The temperatures can get quite extreme there, dropping to 40 below zero in winter but rising beyond 100 in August.

A Glimpse of The Past

Many of the photos on this list were taken relatively recently, but this one takes us all the way back to the early 20th century.

A group of Greek female workers harvesting tea.
Photo by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii Collection (Library of Congress)

The nation of Russia has changed a lot since then, but we can see that the clothes worn by these girls and young ladies are similar to the babushkas of modern times. That means that for an entire century, the same classic style of clothing has managed to stay relevant in Russia.

A Russian Delicacy

Russian food is very different in many ways to what we can eat in other countries. One of the top delicacies in Russia is actually dried fish, which may or may not sound appealing to you, based on your own dietary preferences.

Baikal fish hot smoked, and dried at the street market in Listvyanka, Siberia, Russia.
Photo by Zakirov Aleksey / Shutterstock.com

Back in the days when times were tough, and food was hard to come by, Russian families used to rely on dried fish to survive. Over the years, it went from a necessity to a delicacy, becoming one of Russia’s most popular foods.

Hoping For Food

This is a fascinating photo, showing us the harsh realities of life in the Soviet Union. In the toughest times, people weren’t able to simply go to the grocery store. Instead, they had to wait in lines like this one.

An elderly woman stands with a brave face near the back of a queue for a market in the Russian capital.
Photo by Peter Turnley / Corbis

Those at the front of the food lines would have the best chance of feeding their families and receiving the limited amount of food available, so it was vital to arrive early.

Russians Are Resourceful

If there’s one thing we can say about Russian people, it’s that they’re very resourceful. They can come up with all kinds of innovative solutions to common problems, and we see an example of that here.

Above is a photo of a broom head attached to the back of a car's windshield to fix the broken windshield wipers.
Source: Pinterest

This person’s car has lost the rear windshield wiper. Instead of taking it to be fixed, they decided to simply attach an old broken broom head to the window and use that instead. What a genius invention!

The Most Northern City

Russia is home to the world’s northernmost city: Norilsk. It’s actually quite a big industrial city, with a population of around 175,000 people in total. The incredible location of Norilsk means that the people there have to deal with some pretty extreme conditions.

A beautiful view of buildings lined up in Norilsk City, Russia, with the sun low in the background.
Photo by IlblXAPb / Shutterstock.com

The weather can get immensely cold, dropping to -63 on the thermometer, and the city also suffers from acid rain due to the huge amount of mining and pollution in the area.

Expect the Unexpected

Many people travel to Russia and head home with a whole host of unique memories and amazing experiences they definitely would never have expected when they first set off. It’s one of the most unpredictable places in the world.

A blonde woman is sitting on a red chair thinking.

An important rule to remember for any Russian vacation is that what happens in Russia, stays in Russia. You don’t know who you might meet and what might happen, so be sure to stay safe and have fun!

Odd Things Happen

One of the most interesting parts about going to Russia is seeing all the strange things that can happen out on the streets, or especially on public transport. Many people head home with lots of stories to tell.

A Russian woman on the train with a fox on her shoulder riding along with her.
Source: ntv.ru

For example, just look at this photo, showing a girl with a fox on her back while getting ready to ride the metro. In other countries, this would be considered super strange and totally abnormal, but in Russia, it’s the sort of thing that can just happen.

Barbie Girls

We’ve seen multiple times that Russian women and girls put a lot of focus into their appearance and sense of style, and some of them, like this woman on the left of the photo, can go to very extreme lengths in their quest for aesthetic perfection.

Three young Russian women with blonde hair, contoured makeup, and specially made outfits.
Source: userapi.com

This lady is known as the ‘human Barbie doll,’ due to her slim figure, blonde hair, and general resemblance to the famous toy. She’s had a lot of surgery to look that way, needing to follow a strict diet and wear specially made clothes.

Conscription in Russia

The military is important to Russia and its people, and almost everyone has to get involved with it. All male 18-27-year-olds in Russia have to spend at least 12 months in the military.

Russian male soldiers standing together with rifles held vertically.
Source: wikiwand.com

There are some exceptions to this rule, but if you try to get out of it illegally, you can be sentenced to up to two years in prison. This is just one example of how Russian people are brought up to be patriotic and respectful of their armed forces.

Female Pilots in Russia

Did you know that back in World War II, Russia had three regiments of fighter pilots made up of nothing but women? This was ordered by Stalin himself, making Russia the first country to use female pilots.

A photo of Ana Hickmann, a model who became a fighter pilot.
Source: Pinterest

The 100 women involved in those regiments actually flew around 30,000 missions during the war, and Russia still trains some of the best female pilots in the world to this day, just like this lady in the picture.

Ruthless On the Ice

Ice hockey, as well as many other sports, is quite popular in Russia. There are many different teams, and people of all ages can get involved. This image shows us a female ice hockey goalie named Elizaveta Kondakova.

Photo of Elizaveta Kondakova holding on to the top of the net next to the goal she is guarding.
Source: hyperactivz.com

She’s one of the best players in the business, and we can see how concentrated she is in this image as she gets ready to guard the goal and guide her team to a championship victory.

President Putin’s Fangirls

We’re all familiar with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Everyone has their view on Putin and his policies, and over in Russia, he even has his own female fan club, just like a boy band or movie star.

A female part of the Pro-Putin activists with a shirt that has
Source: imnews.imbc.com

The girls of “Putin’s Army” are a group of women who absolutely adore their president and will frequently write messages all over their clothes in his honor, singing songs and doing all kinds of things to prove their patriotism.

Russian Ballerinas Are The Best

Ballet is one of the most beautiful forms of dance known to man, and it has historically been associated with Russia, despite originating in France. Russia has been responsible for producing some of the best ever ballet dancers and shows over the years.

Russian national ballet performs Swan Lake ballet at Jincheng Art Theater on October 2, 2010, in Chengdu, China.
Photo by df028 / Shutterstock.com

There are more than 15 different premium Russian ballet companies, performing shows like Swan Lake at venues all over the globe, with their highly talented and trained dancers entertaining and inspiring audiences of all ages.