Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Russian Language: Culture

Fairy Tales is a great site to get an overview of Russian fairy tales in English.  Along with the full text of the fairy tales there are also excerpts from explanatory literature on the Russian fairy tale. For more information check out Zeluna.Net. 

One of the most famous compilers of Russian Fairy Tales was A. Afanas'ev.  His multi-volume compilations have been published in many editions and are broadly available. 

The Zoo

The Ленинградский Зоопарк (Leningrad Zoo) was founded in 1865 as a private menagerie.  While the zoo continued to be operated and became a public facility after this date there are few records that have survived the turmoil the city has experienced.  Today the city is still called by its Soviet name the "Leningrad Zoo".  Of course the city name was changed back to St. Petersburg.  However, to honor of the workers that stayed and defended the zoo animals during the WWII blockades the zoo retained its old name. While the zoo is a very popular part of the cities culture its well-developed website can be used for a variety of things. 

For example, using photos and images to learn vocabulary is a great method to use, and a nice change from the usual method of translating words.  The photo gallery of the zoo's inhabitants provides captions with the names of the animals under each picture.

Due to a common problem for many zoos across Russia - congestion and lack of space in the city, The Leningrad Zoo held an international competition for a new design of the zoo.  The winners of the competition, a French team, came up with a futuristic and environmentally conscious zoo, that is sure to impress - the Primorskiy's Zoological Park. More can be read on the topic here.


Russian folklore

The Slavic & East European Folklore Association, or SEEFA, is an organization with a mission to promote the instruction of Slavic and E. European folklore, and the exchange of knowledge among scholars interested int he field.  You can find more information on their website. They also have a journal which is published once yearly which include articles, surveys, announcements, reviews, and notices of conferences or expeditions.


Folk Remedies

Like every other country, Russia has a long tradition of folk remedies. 

 The web site Народная Культура has information on many of Russia's traditions but some very interesting remedies.


 Music and Dance

Musical and dance performance hold a special place in Russian culture and are a part of most folk traditions.  The video below shows just one of the many Russian folk dances that are popular to this day.  Russian folk dancing is popular in this country as well with many folk dance groups including it in their repertoire.


Russian Folk Culture

As with any culture Russia has a rich and varied cultural heritage.  From the national costume to children's toys there are many fascinating traditions.  Wood has played a major role in much of Russia's history.  One product that almost everyone in the West associated with the Russians are the little nesting dolls - the matyroshki.  These traditional toys have a very well-established place in Russian life.  To read more about them click on the image above. (Informaion in Russian).

An excellent overview of Russian material culture is available at the website of the Российский этнографический музей.  All aspects of Russian culture are addressed. There is a wealth of images here on everything from traditional wedding garb to children's toys.  There are also brief essays on a wide array of topics.  The site is in Russian but well worth the effort for those who are interested. 


Russian Traditional Architecture

Russia has a rich architectural tradition of wooden structures.  While this style is most frequently associated with the Russian churches of the past.  However there are many secular structures with this style as well. The image shown here illustrates some of the remarkable detail that was common on these buildings. For an overview of the history of this architecture in Russian go here.

If you are interested in Russian architecture and would like more information take a look at Russia Beyond .  If you click on "Discovering Russia" you will find an excellent set of lectures by a leading authority on Russian architecture, Professor William Brumfield.  It is well worth reviewing for the images alone!