Federal Subjects: Oblasts, Krais, Republics, Etc
The Russian Federation consists of subjects (analogous to US states). There are several ranks of subjects: the oblast ("area") is the most generic type, the krai ("territory") is usually more remote or close to borders, the respublika (republic) is a subject populated with an ethnicity other than Russian, and usually has some special rights; there are also "autonomous" districts or oblasts, that were part of another subject in Soviet times. The cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg are subjects in their own right, as is the Baikonur space launch facility that is
surrounded by in Kazakhstan, but rented and administered by Russia.
For those intending to travel to Russia, it is highly advisable to read on these cities, as their inhabitants often do not take it kindly if foreigners know nothing about places other than Moscow and St. Petersburg.
- Novosibirsk, Novosibirsk Oblast: Third largest city in Russia and the unofficial capital of Siberia, as well as the home to quite a few heavy industry and military objects (namely, a SLBM storage that somehow ended up deep south and well away from, say, Murmansk and Novorossiysk, the Baltic home ports, located far behind the Arctic Circle). It is also unofficially known as 'third capital' or 'fallback capital', as it is rumored to be fallback for government residence in case of nuclear war and other disasters. Novosibirsk was founded in 1893, so it's little over a century old; it is often compared to cities like Chicago and Atlanta, since, like them, it grew big very rapidly thanks to the development of transportation. It is somewhat famous for having some of the components of the LHC built there; it is, after all, considered a scientific center on par with Moscow and St. Petersburg. Within Russia, it also has a reputation for being rather dull-looking. The weather is not very predictable, with midwinter being known to hit anything between 0°C and -40°C and midsummer anything between +5° and +35° - the result of the city being situated on a plain in the middle of the continent.
- Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk Oblast: Formerly known as Sverdlovsk (after old Bolshevik Yakov Sverdlov) during Soviet times and reverted to the original name after The Great Politics Mess-Up. Named after Catherine I, Yekaterinburg is Russia's fourth-largest city and unofficial capital of the Urals, although people from Chelyabinsk may disagree (and if they disagree, you better run). One of Russia's oldest industrial centers at the heart of a region rich with mineral resources. Notable in 20th-century history history for being the place where Tsar Nicholas II and his family were executed (yes, including Anastasia), one of the largest suppliers for the war effort in World War II, and the hometown of Boris Yeltsin, Russia's first post-Soviet president.
- Nizhny Novgorod, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast: The fifth-largest city. Formerly known as Gorky. Somewhat similar to New York, it has grown much, much larger than its namesake (Veliky Novgorod).
- Kaliningrad, Kaliningrad Oblast: Formerly known as Königsberg (it was a Prussian city until after World War II), Kaliningrad is the capital of the same-named oblast, an enclave completely surrounded by Poland and Lithuania. It is also a military base. The oblast contains over 90% of the world's amber deposits. As Königsberg, the city was the hometown of Immanuel Kant, who reportedly never traveled more than 100 miles from there. Also famous for its seven bridges. One of the only Russian cities named after a Bolshevik leader (Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet Mikhail Kalinin) not to be renamed once the Soviet Union fell. Some Kaliningrad residents would prefer for the city to be called Kyonigsberg (the Russian translation of its former German name), and it's sometimes called "Kyonig" in tourism advertisements.
- Severomorsk, Murmansk Oblast: Located in the north-west of Russia, this closed city is the headquarters of the Northern Fleet of the Russian Navy.
- Vladivostok, Primorski Krai: The eastern end of the Trans-Siberian and home of the Pacific Fleet, and capital of the southeasternmost territory of Russia and the most populous in the Russian Far East. The taiga forests of this krai are home to the Ussuri tiger and many other Far Eastern species. Famous for cheap Japanese cars (Japan is next door); nearly everyone drives a Japanese car in Vladivostok.
- Sergiyev Posad, Moscow Oblast: A monastery town that is essentially the Vatican City of the Russian Orthodox Church.
- Volgograd, Volgograd Oblast: Once called Stalingrad, and Tsaritsyn before that, this city in southern Russia was the site of one of the most famous battles of World War II. One of the largest cities in Southern Russia. The Motherland Statue is located here. The same-named oblast also contains Uryupinsk, a town that enjoys the reputation of a stereotypical boring hicksville. The joke goes: When people from Uryupinsk die, they go either to heaven or back to Uryupinsk.
- Chelyabinsk, Chelyabinsk Oblast: An industrial city in the Urals and capital of the same-named oblast. Famous for the "Stern City" Memetic Mutation; popular joke says that the people of Chelyabinsk are unrealistically manly, tough and stern (an old gag resurrected by the Nasha Russia TV show; it's a wonder it doesn't have its own page yet). It has a notable Finnish population. After the Finnish Civil War in 1918, numerous "Red Finns" as they were known came to the Soviet Union and ended up here. The oblast was the site of an infamous nuclear leakage in 1950s, and some areas are still radioactive. Due to the nuclear accident, and several decades of military and weapons production, it has become known as one of the most polluted places on earth. Only until recently was it a closed city. Was also the site of a meteor strike in 2013.
- Omsk, Omsk Oblast: A city in southern Siberia about halfway between Novosibirsk and Chelyabinsk that has gained a reputation of the drug capital of Russia, as internet meme goes. Home to the infamous Bird-Man of Omsk. Also known as the Omskian Mushroom Reich.
- Before the Internet, Omsk was infamous as the provisional capital of Admiral Kolchak's White Russia during the Red October era.
- Samara, Samara Oblast: Formerly known as Kuibyshev, this city on the Volga almost became the national during the siege of Moscow; embassies, manufacturing plants and government facilities were evacuated there, but Stalin showed his courage and didn't leave Moscow. The same-named oblast also contains Togliatti/Tolyatti, the city where they make Alleged Cars. Not to be confused with the Lada Samara series of cars, named after the city (and one of the models made in Togliatti).
- Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan: This city on the Volga is the capital of the home to the Tatars, Russia's largest ethnic minority (although most of them live outside Tatarstan nowadays). Their language belongs to the Turkic family and their main religion is Sunni Islam. This makes Kazan an important cultural center for Russia's Muslim population. However, it is also an important site for Russian Orthodox believers, since Our Lady of Kazan is one of their holiest icons. Because of this the city's architecture reflects both Christian and Islamic influences. In 2009 Kazan acquired the exclusive right to the brand "Third Capital of Russia". The final scene of Quantum of Solace takes place there.
- Rostov-on-Don, Rostov Oblast: Located on the Don River in Southern Russia, this million-plus-population city is a major port, with canals linking it to five seas. The Don region is home to the Don Cossack Host, the largest group of Russian Cossacks, although their HQ is in neighboring Novocherkassk.
- Magnitogorsk, Chelyabinsk Oblast: Just east of the Urals, this Stalin-era city was the centerpiece of the Five-Year Plans, especially its steel works. A closed city from 1937 to perestroika. A famous Soviet movie about its construction Vremya, vperyod! ("Time, Forward!") was released in 1956 and the theme from that movie was also used for the Soviet news programme Vremya.
- Sochi, Krasnodar Krai: A not-so-small resort town bordering the Black Sea, Sochi came onto international focus as the host of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, owing to its proximity to the Caucasus mountains. It's also Russia's best resort, because the famous resorts of Crimea belonged to Ukraine for a long time and are unstable disputed territories now.
- Anadyr, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug: The last major settlement before crossing the Bering Sea and into Alaska, Anadyr is the easternmost capital in Russia, and de facto center of Chukchi culture. Chukchi song and dance ensemble Ergyron are based here.
- Ufa, Republic of Bashkortostan: Capital of the home of the Bashkir minority and unofficial Islamic capital of Russia. Ufa started out as a fortress built by Ivan the Terrible. In the days before the Trans-Siberian Railroad was built, it was an important center of trade due to its location. When oil was discovered in Bashkortostan, the city became an important base for oil extraction within the region, and an asset for the Soviets, naturally. During WWII, Ufa became the base for the besieged Soviet-Ukrainian government.
- Elista, Republic of Kalmykia: Capital of the largest Buddhist-majority nation in Europe. Elista is known for it's uniquely Buddhist architecture, and is home to many chess grandmaster. It is the capital of the Kalmyk people, who are very closely related to the Oirats of western Mongolia.
- Izhevsk, Republic of Udmurtia: Capital of the Udmurts, an Uralic people whose language is distantly related to Finnish and Estonian, best-known for its main export: the AK-47 (it is home to the state corporation known as the Kalashnikov Concern, which produces this and many other Russian guns). Buranovskiye Babushki, a group from Udmurtia representing Russia, came in second in the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest.
The Transpolar Mainline (a.k.a. Stalin's Dead Road, a.k.a. Construction Project 501-503, the modern politically correct name is "Northern Latitudinal Way")
The northernmost wide gauge railroad in the world, connecting several Company Towns such as Labytnangi, Salekhard, Bovanenkovo, Novy Urengoy, Yamburg and Nadym, all located in the Yamalo-Nenets district. It is also a road with a tragic and unfortunate history. It was first built in Stalinist times by gulag inmates, but only the initial part of the railroad was completed by the time of Stalin's death. Most of it was unfinished and left to rot in the tundra, and all those dead prisoners died for nothing. In the 1970s-1980s, rich deposits of natural gas were prospected in the district, and the state gas monopoly that would later become Gazprom started to repair and renovate the road, this time using paid labor. Their efforts were half-assed, and during the late Nineties the renovated parts once again rotted and went into disrepair.
Currently, the railroad can be split into four spans, with two working right now and two still rotting.
- Span 1: Tchum - Labytnangi. Never ceased working, was maintained in order the whole time.
- Spur 1a: Obskaya-Bovanenkovo. A modern addition by Gazprom, built for service and maintenance of several newly discovered natural gas reserves on the Yamal Peninsula.
- Span 2: Salekhard - Nadym. Currently rotting, scheduled for renovation in 2013; the main thing in the way of renovation is lack of bridges and trestles over the rivers Ob and Nadym. The first was never built (the Ob is huge near its mouth), the latter rusted and decomposed to unusability. This span was brought to the attention of the Russian wild tourist / hiker community by an expedition of several Moscow hikers in the late 1990s.
- Span 3: Nadym - Novy Urengoy - Korotchaevo. This one was reconstructed by Gazprom two times and is currently up, running and connected to a longitudinal railway to the south.
- Spur 3a: Novy Urengoy - Yamburg. Another recent addition by Gazprom.
- The very lonely Span 4: Korotchaevo - Yermakovo - Igarka. Was abandoned after Stalin's death and never revisited since then. Gazprom has plans of renovating this part, but they are far-off and far-fetched.