Russia Today

In many parts of the world, Russia is known for its powerful Soviet history and the past glories of the USSR (1922-1991).

This story was created for the Google Expeditions project by MediaCombo, now available on Google Arts & Culture

Russia Today by MediaCombo

This expedition briefly explores modern day Moscow and Siberia, the day to day lives of Russians, and the remnants of a Soviet past.

Revolution Square Metro Station

The Ploshchad Revolyutsii, or Revolution Square, is one of the most famous stations of the Moscow Metro built during the Soviet Union. Opened in March 1938, the Moscow Metro encompasses 12 lines and 196 stations, which is 204 miles (328 km) of track in total. Since Moscow is a radial city with concentric zones, parts of the metro go in a loop. This makes the metro map look really cool! 

Palaces for the People

Moscow's metro stations were built with the intention of being 'palaces for the people'. Their marble walls, chandelier lighting, and other precious materials make the interiors resemble palaces or cathedrals, as opposed to practical transport hubs. 

Moscow Metro

Metro stations are indicated with a large, red “M” and are located, as you can guess, underground. Passengers pay the same fare per ride regardless of distance and can purchase many rides on a single transport card. 

Bronze Sculptures

Each arch in the Ploshchad Revolyutsii is adorned by a pair of bronze sculptures by Matvey Manizer. They depict the people of the Soviet Union as farmers, soldiers, athletes, writers, aviators, industrial workers, and schoolchildren. There are a total of 76 sculptures in the station.

Lucky Hen

Russian people believe that rubbing some special parts of the bronze statues in the station will bring them good luck. This hen is shiny and worn out because so many people have rubbed it for good luck. 

GUM Department Store

Red Square, 3, Moscow, Russia, 101000 is the address of the GUM Department Store, also known as the “main universal store” in Russian. GUM was built at the end of the 19th century as a trading center. At time of the Russian Revolution in 1917, the GUM building housed over 1,200 stores.

After the Soviet Union was established, GUM became the showcase shopping center for the masses. Today, GUM is an exclusive department store and featuring Western luxury retailers such as Burberry and Hermes. 

State Universal Store

GUM used to be known as “state universal store,” but was changed to “main universal store,” while still maintaining the original GUM abbreviation in Russian. Other cities in Russia have similar historical department stores. 

Glass Ceiling

The GUM's most impressive architectural feature is the glass ceiling designed by engineer Vladimir Shukov. It is very light and is held up by over 100 tons (91 tonnes) of metal. It has a clear roof and can support a heavy snowfall.

Art of GUM

Although merchandise in GUM can range anywhere from affordable to the price of your house, it is still worth a walk through because of its splendid history, decor, and art. GUM hosts many art events, has spectacular holiday displays, and even has a Soviet-style grocery store. 

Soviet GUM

Under Joseph Stalin in the 1930’s, the trade centers of GUM were removed to make room for various institutions of the USSR. Even a printing house of the Communist Party was set up inside.

Ballet Class

European ballet came to Russia from France in the late 1600’s through Peter the Great who wanted to adopt western culture in Russia. In the 1700’s, Catherine the Great organized prestigious schools, like Bolshoi, and built theatrical palaces. Ballet was not only a form of entertainment; it was also a means of cultural transition and transformation. 

In Russia today, ballet is still considered one of the most esteemed artforms and Russians take great cultural pride in their reputation for producing world class ballet performers. 

Ballet Companies

Bolshoi Ballet and Mariinsky Ballet are Russia’s two internationally renowned ballet companies. They trained some of the world’s best dancers and developed a style of ballet unique to Russia. This particular class is taking place at the Choreographic School VEK with the head ballet-master Vladimirova Ekaterina Krasnoslavovna. 


Ballet is a dance form that is highly formalized and precise as it uses many different formations. Some of these formations include pirouette, arabesque, grand jete, and pliés. Here, the ballerina is in the midst of doing a pirouette. 


Training to become a professional dancer takes 8 to 10 years. Students begin at about age 7 and may take about 1 or 2 ballet technique classes a week. These young students are practicing pliés. 


Fun fact: At first, only men danced ballet because women were not allowed to dance in public! The world's first Prima Ballerina was Mademoiselle De Lafontaine. Male ballet dancers are called ‘danseurs.’ 

Meat Counter at the Market in Ulan Ude

At the Central Market in Ulan Ude you can find almost everything: food, clothes, household supplies, and equipment. This is the meat section of the market where there are rows and rows of fresh and local meat products. Let’s have a look around.

Old School Market

Although all kinds of the latest technology is readily available in Russia, instead of using an industrial scale, this meat counter still uses traditional scales and hand calculators for its business. 


Kolbasa is a type of Russian sausage made from ground meat and wrapped in a special casing. During soviet times, kolbasa was difficult to come by. Today, it is available in many varieties and in various forms in the meat markets of Russia. 

Russian Meat Dishes

Common Russian meat dishes include: Pelmeni, dough wrapping a savory meat filling, Kholodets, a meat dish set in gelatin made from a meat stock or consommé, and Chicken Kiev, pounded chicken breast rolled around seasoned butter. 

Russian Currency

The Russian currency is called the Ruble (RUB) and has been used since the time of the Russian Empire (1721-1917). This woman is paying for her purchase in rubles. In Russia, it is also customary to pay tip for various services. 


MUZEON Park of Arts (formerly called the Park of the Fallen Heroes) is not only a place for preserving historical artifacts, but also an open-air contemporary art museum, a special exhibition space, a music festival venue, and a massive creative workshop.

It is the largest open-air sculpture museum in Russia, with more than 700 artworks currently on display and another 200 in storage. There are a half a million visitors every year. 

MUZEON Displays

The MUZEON displays the works of avant-garde sculptors, which were not displayed under the soviet regime, because they did not fit in the official art form of that time. This sculpture reads “Soviet Stronghold of Peace.”

Joseph Stalin

Joseph Stalin led the Soviet Union from 1922 from 1953. He transformed the nation from a peasant society into an industrial and military superpower. Although he was a highly controversial figure because of human rights abuses, Stalin was surprisingly nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Alexei Kosygin

Alexei Kosygin was a Soviet statesman during the Cold War. In 1964, Kosygin and Leonid Brezhnev became Premier and First Secretary respectively. They were members of the newly established collective leadership in the Soviet Union.

Leonid Brezhnev

Leonid Brezhnev was the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1964 to 1982. During his rule, the Soviet military was expanded resulting in a dramatic growth in global influence of the the Soviet Union. 

Lenin’s Head Statue in Ulan Ude

The largest head of Vladimir Lenin is in the town square of Ulan Ude, the third largest city in Siberia. Vladimir Lenin was the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution in October 1917, founder of Russia's Communist Party, and premier of the Soviet Union. Under his administration, the Soviet Union became a one-party communist state. 

Vladimir Lenin

Lenin was a Russian communist revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. Ideologically a Marxist, his political theories are known as Leninism. He served as head of government of the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1924. 

Lenin Head Statue

Built in 1970, this colossal bronze Lenin head is 7.7. meters (25 feet) tall and weighs 42 tons. It is a common meetup place and is also a wedding photo site.

Lenin Statues Around the World

There are Lenin statues in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and even Antarctica. Although he is a controversial figure, he is considered a hero of socialism and the working class to people around the world. 


Russia’s breakthrough in the world’s professional skateboarding scene started with Maxim Kruglov’s win at the 2013 Simple Session in Estonia, beating top Europeans and Americans in the sport. Since the late 2000’s, Russia has seen a boom in the construction of skate parks and skate gear sales. 

Yaroslavsky Railroad Station in Moscow

Yaroslavsky Railroad Station serves the highest number of passengers of all the nine Moscow stations. It serves eastern destinations, including the Russian Far East and is the western terminus of the Trans-Siberian Railway, the longest railway in the world. 

Russian Rail System

The Russian rail system is one of the largest in the world and trains serve almost every city or town in the country. Train travel is more efficient than air travel and is safe, affordable, and fun.

Trans-Mongolian Train

The Trans-Mongolian Railway follows an ancient tea-caravan route from China to Russia by way of Mongolia. A traveller can get from Moscow to Beijing, China, in one week with plentiful stops and beautiful scenery along the way. 


Riding the Train-Siberian or Trans-Mongolian Railway is on the to-do list of avid travelers and study-abroad students in Russia and China. Since the journeys can take many days, it proves to be a great bonding experience for passengers. 

Changing Wheels

The railway systems of Mongolia and Russia use a different size gauge than in China. So, when crossing the border from or into China, every carriage of the train has to be lifted and the wheels changed in order to continue the journey. 

On Trans-Siberian Train

This is the interior of a 2nd class train car on the longest railway in the world: the Trans Siberian Railway. It is traveling from Moscow to the Russian Far East town of Vladivostok--a distance of 5,772 miles (9,289 km). It is about the same distance as going from America’s east coast to the west coast--round trip!

Train Class

Russian trains usually have 3 classes of travel: Platskartny, Kupé, and 
Spalny Vagon. Platskartny (3rd class) has open dormitory cars. Kupé (2nd class) has 4-berth (bed) compartments. Finally, Spalny Vagon (1st class) has 2-berth compartments and offers the most privacy.

Bunk Beds

Whatever the class of service, passengers have their own bunk bed. The 3rd class train car does not have cabins so it is like an open dormitory. Passengers and train staff have many interactions with each other and become well acquainted.

Making the Journey

Throughout the journey, passengers will make several stops in small towns and cities. Passengers often bring with them tea, hard boiled eggs, bread, instant noodles and coffee, and smoked fish. Trains cars also boast nice restaurants and service for passengers.

Passing Time

A Trans-Siberian train will pass through 7 time zones, which is a world record. However, in Russia all timetables, station clocks and train clocks remain in Moscow time, while in Mongolia and China they revert to local time. 

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