Russia played an important role in Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Russia has peacekeeping forces in Tadjiskistan and much helped the restoration of peace in this republic. Russia helps the Tadjikistanian government to protect its borders of illegal drug and gun smuggling from Afghanistan. Russian peace keeping forces made a number of joint training with the military representatives from the Republics of Central Asia and NATO. Great Russian history shows that many times Russia had to face the difficult and challenging times and still was managed to survive as a nation and was not dissolved by foreign invaders. The problems in Russia are immese, but Russia will be able to cope with all its problems and will rise again as a great power on the world stage.
Russia's population, the crux of Russian reform, of 148 million is shrinking annually by 0.7 percent. Ethnic Russians form 82 percent of the entire population. Other groups include Tartars (4 percent), Ukrainians (3 percent), Chuvashes (I percent), Byelorussians (almost I percent), Udrnurts, Kazaks, Buryats, Tuvinians, Yakutians, Bashkirs, and others. The capital and largest city is Moscow, with a population of more than 10 million. Other large cities (one to three million residents each) include St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Nizhniy Novgorod, Yekaterinburg, Saratov, and Samara. Most Russians still live in rural areas, but young people are moving to the cities. Russia's Human Development Index' value (0.792) ranks it 67th out of 175 countries. Serious gaps between rich and poor, skilled and unskilled, and healthy and ill are widening and threatening Russia's future development. Women earn only one-fifth of the nation's income. Migration of ethnic Russians from the republics of the former Soviet Union to Russia increased the total Russian population but not significantly enough to offset the gap between mortality and birth rates in Russia.
Russian language belongs to Slavic group of languages and is the official language in Russia. Other Slavic languages are Ukrainian and Belorussian. It uses the Cyrillic alpha- bet, which consists of 33 letters, many of them unlike any letter in the Roman (Latin) alphabet. Non-Russians also usually speak Russian, especially in urban areas. Rural minorities more often speak their own languages at home or within For example, Tartars speak Tartar, Chuvashes speak Chuvash, and Udmurts speak Udmurt. These individual languages are only taught at schools in areas where the ethnic group is prominent. Ethnic Russians are not required to learn other local languages, but students are increasingly studying foreign languages (especially English, French, German, and Spanish). In Soviet Union Russian language was main language to connect Republics of the former Soviet Union to each other and establish the united territorial- economic complex. As a result Russian is widely spoken outside Russia itself. In Uzbekistan people speak Russian mainly in the cities while Uzbek language is dominated in rural areas. However, many so-called ethnic Russians or the Russian-speaking population residing in areas other than Russia feel abandoned by the break up of the Soviet Union. They tend to be closer to Russia than to their local states.
The Russian Orthodox Church is the dominant religion. After the October Revolution (1917), the Communists separated the church from the state (which were previously tightly bonded) and discouraged all religious worship. Soviet regime did not tolerate any independent way of thinking and many religious leaders were killed, jailed or sent to exile. Many churches were forced to close under Lenin. Mikhail Gorbachev was the first Soviet leader to officially tolerated and even supported religion. Yeltsin also embraced the church, which is rapidly regaining its influence. Churches other than the Russian Orthodox are scarce in rural areas, but nearly every major religion and many Christian churches have members in cities. Some Tartars and Bashkirs are Muslim, and some Tuvinians and Buryats are Buddhist. Despite the years of Communist rulings and oppression the religion played and important role in the rural areas. More and more Russian are getting more involved in religion now. Religion is thought to fill the spiritual gap in peoples souls and help them reevaluate their moral values.
Russia's long history of totalitarianism have denied its inhabitants opportunities to make their own decisions, whether ruled by a Czar or the Communist Party. Personal initiative, personal responsibility, and the desire to work independently were suppressed by the state, and one was expected to conform to official opinion and behavior. In the current climate, Russians are searching for new social values. The resulting confusion and chaos have led many people to wonder if the old ways were not better. Many people are tired of the economic instability, rapidly changing society, characterized by high prices, increasingly violent and rampant crime, loss of income and a reduced quality of life. However, many Russians, especially in the younger generation, are eagerly taking advantage of the open environment. Indeed, Russians are learning the value of discussion and compromise, personal creativity, and risk-taking. This long-term process carries hard lessons such as financial loss, political polarization, economic instability, and social disruption.
Friendship is extremely important in Russia. Russians are warm and open with trusted friends. They rely on their network of friends in hard times and will go to great lengths to help friends whenever possible. Although intensely proud of "Mother Russia" and its achievements, Russians are a basically pessimistic people and usually do not express much hope for a better life in the future (except among the youth). Even generally happy and optimistic Russians might not show their true feelings in public but rather express frustration with everyday life. A general feeling in Russia is that the "soul" of Russia is different from that of other countries, that development cannot take the same course as it has in Europe, for example. Russians often believe they must find a different path that takes into account their unique historical heritage and social structure. In general, Russians desire to be remembered not for the negative aspects of the Soviet period and its aftermath, but for Russian contributions to world literature, art, science, technology, and medicine.
Social customs in Russia are very similar to the United States. When meeting, Russians shake hands firmly and say Zdravstvuyte (Hello), Dobry Deny (Good day), Dobroye utro (Good morning), Dobry vecher (Good evening), or Privet (a casual "Hello"). Good friends say "hello" with the more informal Zdravstvuy or Zdorovo. Friends, but not strangers, might also ask Kak dela? (How are you?) and wait for a response. Russians are introduced by their full name (given, patronymic, surname). Surnames are not used without titles, such as Gospodin (Mr.) and Gospozha (Mrs.). The military, police, and some citizens continue to use the Soviet-era title tovarishch ("friend" or "comrade"). At work or in polite com pany, Russians address each other by given name and patronymic (the possessive of the father's first name). This is also the most appropriate form of address for a superior or a respected elder. Close friends use given names alone.
Hand gestures carry much significance in Russian culture. Pointing with the index finger is improper but commonly practiced. It is impolite to talk (especially to an older person) with one's hands in the pockets or arms folded across the chest. To count, a Russian bends (closes) the fingers rather than opens them.
Russians like to visit and have guests. Sitting around the kitchen table and talking for hours is a favorite pastime. One usually removes shoes when entering a home. Hosts generally offer refreshments, but guests may decline them. Friends and family may visit anytime without notice but usually arrange visits in advance. They make themselves at home and generally can expect to be welcomed for any length of time. Visits with new acquaintances are more formal.
Giving gifts is a strong tradition in Russia, and almost every event (birthdays, weddings, holidays, etc.) is accompanied by presents. For casual visits, it is common (but not required) for guests to bring a simple gift (flowers, food, or vodka) to their hosts. The object given is less important than the friend ship expressed by the act. Flowers are given in odd numbers; even numbers are for funerals. If friends open a bottle of vodka (which means "little water"), they customarily drink until it is empty.