Russia has a federal structure and includes 85 federal subjects, consisting of:
46 ‘oblasts’, or regions. Usually consisting of a city and the area surrounding it;
22 republics. They can also be called states inside the state, as they have their own constitutions and legislature (the Russian constitution still has an upper hand in resolving conflicting issues);
9 ‘krais’, or ‘frontiers’. In fact, they have the same legal status as oblasts, but historically they have stood on the frontier of Russia’s borders - thus the name;
4 autonomous ‘okrugs’, or ‘areas’. They have their own laws and are usually formed around an ethnic majority. They can participate in international business affairs, however, they don’t have their own constitutions like republics, for example.
3 federal cities (cities that are de jure separate subjects). Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sevastopol;
1 autonomous ‘oblast’, or region. The Jewish Autonomous Oblast is Russia's only autonomous region.
Here’s the complete list of Russian regions sorted by their codes - these are the numbers you can find on the right side of Russian car license plates. The codes were assigned in the 1990s, but since then many regions were merged or dissolved, so now the numeration principles might appear a bit abstract. Still, it’s the easy way of guessing where the certain car on the road comes from.
The Republic of AdygeaLegion Media
The North Caucasus republic, with the capital city of Maykop, is, first of all, famous for its Adygei cheese. The republic has a relatively small area, but is packed with wonderful nature, mountains and waterfalls and offers the whole extreme package for active travellers. The total population of the republic is around 380,000, with the majority of Russian descent (around 270,000), and local Adygei people making up the rest.
The territory is completely landlocked by Krasnodar Krai, No. 23 on our list.
Read more about the traditions and local cuisine here.
Bashkiria is situated in the southern Urals. It joined Russia in the mid-16th century and the local Bashkirs asked Ivan the Terrible to build the city there. That’s how the capital city of Ufa appeared. By the way, it's one of 15 Russian cities with a population of more than a million - 1.12 to be exact.,Bashkiria is 67% Muslim republic. It’s also home to one of the most beautiful mosques, Sufiya, that’s very similar to the Taj Mahal.
Read more on how Muslim spirit and the Soviet legacy affected the republic’s image.
The Republic of BuryatiaLegion Media
Buryatia is considered to be in Russia’s Far East, having Lake Baikal as the northern border and the country of Mongolia as the southern one. Historically, this land has always had close ties with Buddhism.
The Altai Republic is situated in the very south of Siberia - in the Altai mountains. These mountains and steppes used to be part of the Dzungar Khanate that fought against the Russian Empire and Peter the Great for these lands in the early 18th century.
The capital city is Gorno-Altaysk and was founded in 1830 (‘gorno’ is derived from the Russian word for mountain).
Oh, and by the way - don’t mix up The Altai Republic with another subject of the federation - Altai Krai (No. 22 on our list).
The Republic of DagestanKommersant
Locals used to complain that even other Russians didn’t always know that Dagestan is part of Russia, not a separate country (promptly asking things like which currency they have, etc.). The capital is Makhachkala and the republic is flanked by both seaside (The Caspian) and mountains (The Caucasus). The republic is 96% Muslim and is the birthplace of famous UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, while also becoming a kind of ‘fight factory’ for budding wrestlers. Actually, there is no such thing as ‘Dagestani’ ethnicity - the nation consists of more than 40 nationalities. Read more about this diverse population here.
This North Caucasus area joined the Russian Empire back in 1770. After the Revolution of 1917 and Civil War it was united with Chechnya and was included in Soviet Union as a united Checheno-Ingush republic with the city of Magas as its capital. In the mid 1940s, Stalin signed an order to expel Ingush people from their native lands to Siberia and other remote regions, and only after Stalin’s death did they get permission to come back. After Perestroika, local authorities provoked autonomy for Ingushetia, which raised a hot territorial conflict with neighboring North Ossetia. As a result of the Caucasus stand-off in the early 1990s, many Ingush people fled and lived in refugee camps for many years.
Read more about how the Ingush, ‘people of the towers’, live now
The Kabardino-Balkar RepublicGlobal Look Press
Usually pronounced just Kabardino-Balkaria, this republic is another found in the Caucasus region, with its capital being Nalchik. This area is a mecca for climbers, due to Europe’s tallest mountain, Mount Elbrus, which is situated here. One of the most beautiful natural wonders, the Chegem waterfalls, can also be found here. It’s also right on the border with another of Russia’s republics - Karachay-Cherkessia, No. 9 on our list!
Historically, there were two areas: Kabarda and Balkaria - which united in 1920s, after the Bolshevik Revolution. There are two different ethnics and languages - both are still official in the region, alongside Russian.
Read more about the Balkar people here.
To the north of the Caucasus and south of the Volga River estuary lies the only region in Europe to practice Buddhism (Check out some photos depicting how buddhists live there). The Kalmyk people predominantly inhabited this land and previously suffered much at the hands of Stalin’s resettlements of these and neighboring ethnic areas.
Kalmykia has a very high education standard and is the only region of Russia to have chess included in school programs. In its capital, Elista, there is even a City Chess complex - a giant palace to train and study chess - and a museum.
Watch our short video about Kalmykia here.
The Karachay-Cherkess Republic, ArkhyzGetty Images
On the border with Georgia lies the republic of Karachay-Cherkessia, another republic of the Caucasus. Its capital is Cherkessk.
Europe’s highest mountain, Mount Elbrus, is situated on the border with the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic (No. 7 on our list) and the Teberda natural reserve.
Read about the brand new Arkhyz ski resort and how to spend a perfect weekend in Karachay-Cherkessia here.
“Russian Finland”, located not far from St. Petersburg, is a land of waterfalls, stones, forests and more than 60,000 stunning lakes. It’s a mecca for those who are keen on water tourism, kayaking and hiking.
The capital is Petrozavodsk and there is also the port city of Kem on the shore of the White Sea - this is the closest land city to the Solovki islands (famous for its monastery and Gulag). The pearl of Karelia is Kizhi island in Lake Onega with the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kizhi Pogost, a complex of ancient wooden churches.
Check out what people post on Instagram when geotagging Karelia here!
The Komi RepublicSerguei Fomine/Global Look Press
This republic is located in northern Russia and its capital is Syktyvkar (don’t even dare to pronounce it!). This region joined ancient Russia in the 15th century and supplied Russian traders with fur. The Komi people have their own Komi language that has Finno-Ugric origins.
The industrial and economical development of the region in the 20th century was primarily due to the Gulags, prison camps and settlements that Stalin set up there. Vorkuta is one of the cities completely built by prisoners, alongside railroads and other facilities, which made this harsh northern region inhabitable.
Situated on the banks of the Volga River, this is the republic of the Mari people, who also speak in their own Mari (Finno-Ugric) language - however, it’s the second biggest population of the republic after Russians. Incidentally, this area used to be part of the Golden Horde that invaded ancient Russia.
The capital is Yoshkar-Ola. It has an embankment called ‘Brugge’, which actually uses the same architectural motives as the famous Belgium city. Russia’s “youngest” kremlin can also be found here, built only in 2009, and it resembles Moscow’s kremlin a lot.
Check out photos of how life in Mari El looks like here.
The Republic of MordoviaGetty Images
The world learned about Mordovia after its capital Saransk became one of the FIFA World Cup 2018 host cities. The majority of the population is now Russian, however, in close second are the Mordvins, which consist of two ethnic groups: Erzya and Moksha, with Finno-Ugric roots. Mordovia is the closest republic to Moscow - only 330 km away.
By the way, after visiting Mordovia, famous French actor Gerard Depardieu was granted Russian citizenship - and he officially has an apartment in Saransk.
Check out 5 interesting things to do in Saransk here.
You’ve seen girls with frozen lashes or kids going to school in -50 C temperatures! It most likely happened in Yakutia (or Sakham as the local Yakut language calls it). This is Russia’s (and the world’s) biggest subdivision. However, on its 3 million square meters there are only 900 thousand inhabitants, due to the climate. The majority of the population are ethnic Yakuts, followed by Russians and Evenks.
One of the most breathtaking natural wonders of Yakutia are the giant ‘Lena Pillars’ rock range. They are part of the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Read more about Yakutsk, the city built on permafrost, here.
The Republic of North Ossetia – AlaniaLegion Media
North Ossetia is the native land of the Ossetian stuffed pie, one of the greatest dishes in Caucasus cuisine. Vladikavkaz is the capital of the republic and many tourists choose it as a transit point on their way to Georgia along the beautiful Georgian Military Road (a historical naming, which doesn’t reflect any modern military affairs.)
Check out 10 photos guaranteed to make you fall in love with North Ossetia! Oh, and don’t mix it up with South Ossetia - that’s not part of Russia!
Tatarstan has two official languages: Russian and Tatar. The most common religions in the region are Islam and Orthodox Christianity. In fact, the republic was formed being influenced by two civilizations: Eastern and Western, and due to this fact, the region is famous for its cultural diversity.
The city of Kazan on the Volga River is the capital of the republic. It became a part of Russia in 1552, during the reign of Ivan the Terrible.
Kazan has become a popular tourist destination, not only among Russians, but also among foreign travellers. There are three UNESCO world heritage sites in Tatarstan — the Kazan Kremlin, the Bulgarian state Museum-reserve and the Uspenskiy monastery on the island Sviyazhsk.
Check out 10 things you must do when visiting Kazan here.
The Tyva RepublicAlexandr Kryazhev/Sputnik
The Tyva Republic (aka Tyva or Tuva) is situated in the south of Siberia on the border with Mongolia. In 1912, after Chinese Xinhai Revolution, Tuva's princes asked to join Russia and the tsar agreed. But then the region fell on turbulent times with Russia…
Find out why Tuva joined the Empire twice here!
Tyva is considered a mysterious Buddhist land (read more about Buddhism in the region here) and is a favorite place for the gatherings of shamans from all across Russia and abroad. Some claim the spirits of ancestors hear them more clearly here.
You won’t believe it, but Tyva is also one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s favorite holiday places - he’s keen on fishing there with Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s Minister of Defense, who was also born in Tyva.
Udmurtia is situated in the southern Urals and is the birthplace of the Kalashnikov, Makarov and Yarygin guns, which are all still produced here. Besides its military links, the capital Izhevsk is famous for car production, as it’s where Russia’s Lada brand is made.
The republic has an enormous amount of small rivers and underground springs, making it an important source of drinking water - locals have even come up with an unofficial name for their land, ‘The Spring Edge’ (Rodnikovy Krai).
Read our report and check out photos from the capital, Izhevsk.
The Republic of KhakassiaGetty Images
In the 18th century, Russia and China divided these lands in Eastern Siberia that used to be ruled by Kyrgyz princes and then Mongolia. But in 1727, Khakassia became part of Russia. Nowadays, the majority of the population is Russian, while the Khakas people make up just over 10%.
Khakassia’s capital is Abakan, which lies partly on The Sayan Mountains. The republic is also home to Russia’s largest power plant - the Sayano–Shushenskaya Dam.
This is the republic in the North Caucasus, where the majority - more than 90% - of the population are Chechen people practicing Islam. There is a beautiful ‘The Heart of Chechnya Mosque’ in Grozny. Interestingly, the main street in the capital Grozny is called ‘Prospekt Putina’, after the Russian President.
The Chuvash RepublicLegion Media
Cheboksary, the capital of Chuvashia, is situated on the beautiful banks of the Volga River (which is up to 4 km in width here!).
Historians have debated that originally, 'chuvash' was not the name of the ethnic group, but a social status of people in the Khanate of Kazan that ruled this territory. Kazan and the modern republic of Tatarstan are Chuvashia's eastern neighbors.
Read about must-see places in Cheboksary here.
Altai Krai is predictably situated in the Altai mountains. One of the most attractive destinations for tourists is Chuysky Road, a road that every extreme seeker should drive on! Here are 10 tips for travelers to Altai.
Remember, don’t mix up Altai Krai (‘territory’) withThe Altai Republic (No. 4 on our list)! They are neighbors, but are different subjects of the federation and have different statuses.
And read more about Altai Krai’s capital, Barnaul, here.
Krasnodar KraiNina Zotina/Sputnik
There is a popular advertising for tourists that says: “If there is a heaven on earth, it’s Krasnodar Krai!” It’s the home of popular Black Sea resorts, such as Sochi, Anapa and Gelendzhik, as well as a ski resort in the Caucasus mountains - Krasnaya Polyana. Incidentally, this territory is also unique, because there is another subject of the Russian federation within its borders - the Republic of Adygea (No. 1 on our list).
Its capital, Krasnodar, unfortunately doesn’t have access to the sea, but it’s a very nice, modern city, with a great new park and stadium. And it’s No. 2 on the list of cities Russians want to live in (after Tyumen). Here are some reasons why!
The region is situated in Eastern Siberia and is a neighbor of big and cold Yakutia (and actually the climate here is also very harsh: incredibly cold in winter and very hot in summer).
One of the natural miracles here is the Stolby Nature Reserve - mysterious stone rocks within the taiga - a popular place for hikers and climbers. The capital city Krasnoyarsk stands on the banks of majestic Yenisei River.
Read about a hermit who lives in the Stolby Reserve forests here.
Primorsky Krai, a lighthouse in VladivostokSergei Bobylev/TASS
This name translates as “Maritime Territory” and stands on the eastern edge of Russia. Its capital is Vladivostok, the famous free port, a city of lighthouses, bridges, hills, seafood and arts. For those who dream of traveling along the Trans Siberian road, Vladivostok is considered the final destination on the epic route.
The area borders with China and Korea, which has a great influence: there are lots of Asian cars, food and other goods.
The territory is located not far from the Black Sea and is famous for its healing mineral water and resorts: Kislovodsk, Essentuki, Pyatigorsk. Its capital is the city of Stavropol, which in tsarist Russia was an important fort, built during the Russo-Turkish wars in the 18th century.
The region used to be inhabited with the so-called Kuban Cossacks and many local museums preserve the memory of their everyday life.
Khabarovsk Krai (The bridge over Amur River on the Chita-Khabarovsk highway )Vitaliy Belousov/Sputnik
Another of Russia’s Far East edges, it is situated on the Sea of Okhotsk and is the closest land territory for Sakhalin Island. Russia's expansion to these lands was arranged by ‘general governor of Eastern Siberia’, Nikolay Muravyov, who even got an honorary second surname, ‘Amursky’, because of the Amur River flowing there.
Muravyov-Amurksy founded the city of Khabarovsk in 1858 and named it after the 17th century discoverer of Far East territories - Yerofei Khabarov. Another big city in the region is Komsomolsk-on-Amur.
Read more about Khabarovsk, the city on the 5,000 ruble banknote, here.
The Amur River, which also partly runs through Khabarovsk, is one of the Far East’s longest rivers, and is also a natural border with China. The river gave the name to this region, while the capital city is Blagoveshchensk. And it’s kind of an exception, because the rest of the ‘oblasts’ are named after their capital cities.
Explore the life of the Nanai, small-numbered ingenious people of Amur Basin, here.
Solovki islands, Arkhangelsk RegionGetty Images
The city of Arkhangelsk is the informal capital of ‘Russian North’ - a land of ancient wooden churches. The region includes several big archipelagos more or less remote to the land. The Solovetsky Islands (‘The Gulag Archipelago,’ as Solzhenitsyn called it), Novaya Zemlya (literally ‘New Land’) archipelago in the Arctic, and Franz Josef Land, which hosts Russia’s most northern point - Rudolf island.
There are lots of natural preserves, including “The Russian Arctic” in the Arkhangelsk region. The tundra and taiga zones can also be found here - and lots of rare wild animals living in these forests and arctic deserts.
A land of fishermen and river navigation, this region lies along the southern part of the Volga River and follows its flow into Caspian Sea. The huge delta of Volga splits the southern part of the region into multiple rivers and lakes. One of the most famous places here is the Baskunchak salt lake, a popular destination for tourists.
Read more about the history and sightseeing of Astrakhan region here.
Belgorod RegionLegion Media
Belgorod Region is situated in the south west of Russia, on the border with Ukraine.
These lands were a strategic point for Soviet troops during The Battle of Kursk (a neighboring region) in WWII.
Regions such as Belgorod and its neighbors (Voronezh, Kursk, Lipetsk and Tambov) are very important for Russian agriculture, because of its chernozem (literally “black earth”), an extremelyfertile soil. Together, these lands form the Central Black Earth economic region. Russians used to joke that you could simply put a stick in this soil and it would germinate!
Read more about Belgorod, the city guarding Russia’s western borderlands, here.
Bryansk is one of the oldest Russian cities and celebrated its 1,000th anniversary in 1985. It is situated in the south-west of the country and borders with both Ukraine and Belarus.
The city’s name origins imply it was founded on the steep slope of the Desna river that was covered with dense forest. And one of Russia’s biggest nature reserves - Bryansky Les (“Forest of Bryansk”) - is located in the region. It covers more than 12 ha and contains a lot of rare birds. The park is most proud of its black stork - so much so that even became its symbol!
This region is one of Russia’s must-visit destinations, considering its ancient history and heritage. The city of Vladimir and Suzdal together were a strong principality on the rise of Russian statehood.
Now it’s included in the so-called Golden Ring of Russian towns and has a lot of worth exploring, including churches, monasteries and other historical sites.
Read about Vladimir’s most interesting sides here.
Volgograd, the administrative center and capital of the region, changed its name several times during its history: firstly, the city was called ‘Tsaritsyn’, then ‘Stalingrad’, after Joseph Stalin. The city was then renamed to ‘Volgograd’ in 1961, as a result of the policy of overcoming Stalin’s cult of personality.
Volgograd stretches along the bank of the Volga River for almost 60 kilometers, while the width of its territory is no more than 5 km.
The battle of Stalingrad was one of the bloodiest and most significant battles during World War II. Russian soldiers defeated the Nazi troops, but the city was almost destroyed, and the entire region was seriously damaged.
The "Motherland calls" sculpture in Volgograd, situated at the Mamayev Kurgan WWII memorial, is one of the tallest statues in the world. The woman symbolizing the Motherland has a height of 52 m, and the length of sword she holds in her hand is 29 m!
Check our video report from Volgograd here.
Vologda Region, located in the northwest of Russia, is rich with historic monuments, such as the Kirillo-Belozersky and Ferapontov Monasteries with the frescoes of Dionisius, medieval buildings in Belozersk and baroque churches in Totma and Ustyuzhna.
Veliky Ustyug is considered to be the birthplace of the Russian Santa Claus - Father Frost.
Read about the 10 must-see places in the Vologda Region here.
While establishing the navy in Russia, Peter the Great decided to build the first ships of the Imperial Russian Navy in Voronezh (and sail them down the Don River), which is situated roughly 500 km south of Moscow.
Although Voronezh was seriously damaged during Nazi occupation, many medieval buildings have been preserved in the region. The most wonderful of them are churches and monasteries - located underground! Today tourists go to Voronezh region to see the 3 cave orthodox architectural ensembles: Belogorie, Divnogorie and Kostomarovo.
Read about why you should chuck everything and head to Voronezh here!
Ivanovo RegionLegion Media
Ivanovo Region is located in the central part of Russia; and is famously known as the "city of brides". One of the theories behind the origin of this nickname is the specialization of the region. The leading industry of the region is the textile industry and there are many garment factories here, where many single women work.
Ivanovo and nearby Ples, a small and beautiful ancient city of the Volga banks, are two of the towns along Russia’s Golden ring route, as there are many historical and cultural monuments in the region.
Check out photos of Ivanovo’s lonely brides and read their stories here.
Most tourists come to Irkutsk, located in south central Siberia, to see Baikal – the deepest lake on Earth and the largest natural reservoir of fresh water with unique flora and fauna. The length of the lake from north to south is 636 km and its maximum depth is 1,642 meters.
This is the westernmost Russian region. Its location is rather peculiar: the region is an exclave, as it does not have a common land border with main territory of Russia, but it is still connected to Russia by the sea.
For a long time, Kaliningrad was a German city called “Königsberg”, that was built by the Teutonic knights. It only became a part of Russia as a result of WWII and was renamed in honor of Soviet politician Mikhail Kalinin.
On the Kant island in the city center there is a beautiful 15th century catholic cathedral and the tombstone of the famous philosopher Immanuel Kant, who was born and lived in Königsberg.
Kaliningrad Region is also called the “Amber region”, because it is extremely rich in this particular gemstone.
Outside the city, one can find the Curonian Spit natural preserve, a 98 km long, thin, curved sand-dune spit that separates the Curonian Lagoon from the Baltic Sea coast.
Kaluga Region is located in the European part of Russia and is Moscow’s south-west neighbor.
Many tourists come here to visit the Optina Pustyn monastery, as well as the Svyato-pafnutyev monastery in the town of Borovsk. The most popular cities among tourists are Kozelsk, Maloyaroslavets and the administrative city of Kaluga.
Read more about the Nikola Lenivets art village, Russia’s biggest art park, here.
KamchatkaSerguei Fomine/Global Look Press
Kamchatka Krai is located in the Far East of Russia and covers the territories of the Kamchatka Peninsula, the adjacent territories of the mainland, the Karaginsky Island and the Commander Islands. The capital is Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and it is the oldest city in Russia’s Far East.
On the Kamchatka Peninsula, there are 29 active volcanoes and about three hundred dormant ones. The largest active volcano in Kamchatka is called Klyuchevsky.
There are many nature reserves in the region. The most visited place among tourists is the Valley of geysers. You can get there only by helicopter, as well as to many other unique places in Kamchatka.
Find out 7 things that amaze travelers in Kamchatka here.
Kemerovo Region is located in the middle of Siberia. The region covers the largest part of the Kuznetsk (Kuzbass) Coal Basin.
There are many wildlife preserves in the region. The biggest ones are the Kuznetsk Alatau reserve and the Shor national Park.
Check out our epic photo gallery from the Kuzbass coal mine here.
Kirov regionLegion Media
Kirov Region, situated roughly 1,000 km east of Moscow, and north of Kazan, has its administrative center in the city of Kirov that for many centuries was named Vyatka. In 1934, it was renamed in honor of the Russian revolutionary and soviet politician, Sergei Kirov.
The city of Kirov is built on seven hills, like Moscow and Rome. A famous local handicraft are the ‘Dymkovo’ clay toys, first created about four centuries ago.
Read more about this beautiful medieval handmade art here.
Kostroma is one of the cities included on the famous Golden Ring tourist route of Russia, with lots of ancient monasteries and churches.
There are also many elk farms in Kostroma Region, where one can even try rare elk milk.
Check out some awesome aerial views of Kostroma here.
Kurgan regionGoogle map
The region is located in the Urals.There are several health resorts here, like ‘Sosnovaya Roshcha’ (Pine grove), ‘Gornoe Lake’, (Mountain lake) and ‘Medvezhie Lake’ (Bear Lake). Locals also call Medvezhie lake “mini Dead Sea”, as the chemical composition of the water is rather similar.
The original attraction of Kurgan Region is a giant phrase, “Lenin is 100 years” made out of strategically planted trees. 40 thousand pines were used to “write” it. It’s impossible to see this phrase from the ground, but you can’t miss it when you get a bird's eye view!
Kursk Region is situated on the border with Ukraine. During its history, the city of Kursk was totally destroyed three times by the Tatar-Mongols, and then by the Crimean Tatars. During WWII, the city was occupied by the Nazis for 15 months, followed by the biggest tank battle of the war - The Battle of Kursk in 1943.
The Kursk magnetic anomaly, located in the Kursk and Belgorod regions, is the largest iron ore deposit in the world.
Korennaya Pustin is also located in the region, a famous Russian monastery that annually attracts thousands of pilgrims who make the journey from Kursk by foot.
Leningrad RegionLegion Media
Leningrad Region doesn’t actually include the city of St. Petersburg and borders Estonia and Finland. From the West, the region is washed by the Gulf of Finland. In the 1990s, when St. Petersburg returned to its historical name, Leningrad Region citizens voted to leave its Soviet one.
Vyborg, Gatchina, Ivangorod and Koporye are the most visited cities of the region by tourists. Alexander Palace, Gatchina Palace, the palace & park ensemble of Peterhof, Vyborg Guildhall and Castle, Koporye Fortress, Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo and the Italian Palace in Kronstadt are all outstanding architectural objects of the region - and all are worth visiting and seeing!
Read more about the offbeat spots with an imperial history near St. Petersburg here.
Lipetsk Region is located in the European part of Russia. The largest cities of this region are Lipetsk (the administrative, cultural and industrial center), Yelets (a city of rich history and national traditions), Gryazi (the main transport hub of the region) and Zadonsk (the main religious center).
Read more about Kudykina Gora (‘Wherever Mountain’), a fairy tale park where the Slavic dragons live, here!
Magadan regionAlexander Krylov/Sputnik
Magadan Region is located in the North-East of Russia on the coast of the Sea of Okhotsk. The region is most known for Stalin’s Gulag prison camps, where thousands of people died from starvation and illness. The extremely harsh climate of these lands made prisoners’ life here even more hellish.
There’s an interesting story connected with the Nedorazumeniya Ostrov (Island of Misunderstandings) located here: A hydrographic expedition had been working in the Sea of Okhotsk at the beginning of the 20th century, but failed to notice and subsequently didn’t mark a small island located three kilometers from the shore on the map. Later, the mistake was corrected, and the island was given the peculiar name!
Read more about Magadan, a far-flung town in Russia’s Far East, here.
The city of Moscow itself is a separate subject of the Russian Federation and is not even a part of the region. Public authorities’ offices are partly located in the town of Krasnogorsk.
Most of Muscovites’ country houses, or dachas, are situated in Moscow Region. Citizens also often come here for different types of entertainment - nature resorts, sanatoriums, health spas or to simply have riverside picnics along the Moscow River, for example. (Read more about unusual things to do in Moscow Region here)
In the region, there are many small towns famous for their history and cultural heritage. You might want to read about Sergiev Posad, where Russia’s main monastery, the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius, is situated. Pavlovsky Posad (home of famous shawls with traditional colorful pattern), Mozhaysk, Zvenigorod, Dmitrov, Kolomna and Serpukhov are all also worth visiting.
Read more about 5 stunning historical places for a day trip to the Moscow Region here.
By the way, the Odintsovo district of the Moscow Region is an administrative center for the Baikonur cosmodrome. Yes, it’s geographically part of Kazakhstan, but Russia has rented it up until the year 2050!
Murmansk RegionLegion Media
Murmansk Region borders with Russia’s republic of Karelia, as well as Finland and Norway. The region also has a coast along the White and Barents seas. The city of Murmansk has the only non-freezing northern port in Russia.
Tourists come to the region to have fun at ski resorts - Kirovsk and Khibiny, and, of course, to see the Northern Lights. The brightest ones occur between November and February.
Besides that, you can experience other unusual natural phenomena in the region: polar days and nights!
Nizhny Novgorod RegionLegion Media
Nizhny Novgorod lies on the Volga River. In Soviet times, the city was called Gorky in honor of the famous proletarian writer Maxim Gorky, who was born here (his real name was Alexei Peshkov). In the 1990s, the city was reverted back to its original name.
Nizhny Novgorod’s own kremlin was built in the early 16th century. It is located on a picturesque bank, in the place where the Volga and Oka rivers meet. Locals say the kremlin offers the most beautiful sunset views.
One of the most popular souvenirs that tourists can bring from Russia are Khokhloma, Russian wood paintings and national ornaments, known for its curved and vivid, mostly flower, berry and leaf patterns.
By the way - don’t call this city ‘Novgorod’. If you want to shorten it, always use just ‘Nizhny’. Because Novgorod is another city - and our next subject of the federation (see No. 53 on our list).
Novgorod RegionLegion Media
Roughly two-three hours drive from St. Petersburg lies the ancient city of Veliky (“Great”) Novgorod, or just Novgorod. According to legend, the Varangian prince Rurik was called upon by the Russians to rule here, and that was how the first dynasty of Russia (the Ruriks) began.
Read more on the early rulers of Russia here.
In medieval times, Novgorod Region was an independent republic on the territory of feudal Russia. Decisions were made by veche, a public assembly of noblemen, while princes were elected.
Novgorod was one of the few areas of Russia not affected by the Mongol invasions.
In the Novgorod region there are a lot of objects of cultural heritage. The most famous ones included on the UNESCO world heritage list are the St. Sophia Cathedral (1045-1050) within the kremlin, the oldest stone Orthodox Church Russia, and the Chamber of Facets (1433), the oldest civic building.
Read more about the city and check out photos here.
A great stop along the Transsiberian railroad, Novosibirsk was founded in 1893 on the banks of the Ob river during the building of the railroads across Russia. This is the biggest city in Siberia, the most populous city of Siberia and the third most populous city in Russia after Moscow and St. Petersburg. In Soviet times, the city was developed as an industrial hub and these days many gas, metallurgy and chemistry production plants are located here.There are also many beautiful natural attractions in Novosibirsk Region. The most popular among tourists are the Barsukovskaya cave, the Belovsky waterfall and lake Glubokoye (“deep”).
Read our guide to Novosibirsk, the unofficial capital of Siberia, here.
Omsk RegionLegion Media
Omsk Region is located in western Siberia. In the early 20th century, during the Bolshevik revolution, the region pretended to be the central part of Russia. The White Army, which stood for monarchism and capitalism, proclaimed Omsk as the capital of Russia.
There are many universities, historical buildings, museums and industrial enterprises in Omsk. Ironically, only one metro station was ever built, a fact that’s become a favorite joke among locals.
There is a unique natural phenomenon in Omsk region — the Five Lakes. Thousands of years ago, five fragments of a huge meteorite hit Siberia in the region of Omsk which created round holes that were then filled with water of an underground river!
Read more about Omsk here.
Orenburg Region is situated on the border with Kazakhstan. The city of Orenburg was founded in the 18th century to establish trade relations with Asian countries and to protect the southern territories of the country from nomads. It’s also unofficially called the Asian capital of Russia.
The region's economy is based on developed gas and metallurgical industries.
Between 1938 and 1957, Orenburg was referred to as Chkalov, after the famous Soviet pilot, Valery Chkalov, who was the first to cross the Arctic Pole.
Orenburg is famous its downy shawl. The wool of Orenburg goats is very thin, making the products from this wool extremely soft.
Orel Region ('orel' in Russian means 'an eagle')Legion Media
Orel Region is located in the central part of Russia. During WWII, it was completely occupied by the Nazis, and almost all its cities were seriously damaged.
Many sights of the region are located in the city of Orel and beyond. In Bolkhov, there are many old churches and merchant mansions, built in the 18-19 centuries. Historical and cultural buildings are also preserved in the city of Mtsensk.
Russian writer Ivan Turgenev was born in the Orel province. Turgenev spent his childhood in the Spasskoye-Lutovinovo family estate, where a museum of the writer is now located.
Read more about Spasskoye-Lutovinovo and other Russia’s foreign-friendly literary museums and estates here.
Penza Region is roughly 800 km southwest of Moscow and one of its most famous sights is Tarkhany estate, where the great Russian poet, Mikhail Lermontov, spent his childhood.
There is also a unique museum in Penza - the Museum of one painting. It always displays just a single painting and has no permanent exhibition.
Penza is considered to be the birthplace of Russian circus - as it was here where Russia’s first stationary circus was opened in 1873.
Perm KraiLegion Media
Perm Territory is located near the Western slopes of the Urals and it’s the birthplace of Russia’s salt mining industry. It earned the locals a funny nickname: "salt ears", as many of them are involved in the industry.
It was previously known as Yagoshikha (Yegoshikha) (until 1781) and from 1940 to 1957 it was named Molotov in honor of Soviet politician Vyacheslav Molotov (the title presented as a “gift” to locals for his 50th anniversary).
Perm became the first Russian city to have its own special font: it was named ‘Permian’ and is used in the design of signs, logos, etc.
Perm stands on the banks of the Kama River, and one of the most recognizable sights is a huge art object that says: “Happiness is not far away” (“Счастье не за горами”). The city is considered the Urals’ art capital. Since 2008, famous Russian gallerist Marat Guelman has started a “cultural revolution” here, bringing contemporary art and opening the PERMM museum for contemporary art in 2009.
Read more about Perm and its surroundings here.
Pskov Region borders Belarus, Estonia and Latvia.
The city of Pskov has its own ancient kremlin which stands on a rocky promontory, where the rivers Velikaya and Pskov meet. In Pskov, there are also many other medieval buildings – examples of the unique northern monumental architecture and the beautiful Pskov-Caves Monastery.
Recently, several churches and towers of Pskov were included in the UNESCO list of world heritage sites. (Read more about them and check out photos here)
During WWII, the city was occupied for three years by the Nazis and was seriously damaged.
In Pskov Region, you can find the Mikhaylovskoye estate, also known as Pushkin Hills, a family estate of famous poet Alexander Pushkin, where he spent his exile. Not far from Pskov you can also find an ancient fort called Izborsk.
Read more about Pskov here.
Voroshilovsky Bridge in Rostov-on-DonLegion Media
In Rostov Region, you can swim in the smallest sea in the world - the Sea of Azov. One of the most interesting cities on the banks of the Azov is Taganrog, where Anton Chekhov was infamously burned. Follow his footsteps by reading our article here.
A wide variety of museums dedicated to the history of the Don Cossacks that attracts most tourists to this region. Cossacks had their own independent Republican state. They constantly help Russia to protect its southern borders, but officially, the Don Cossacks state only became part of Russia in the 17th century.
Read more about Cossacks capital here.
Don’t mix up the southern city of Rostov-on-Don with Rostov Veliky, a small ancient city in the Yaroslavl Region (No. 76 on our list).
The administrative center of this region is the city of Ryazan. The local kremlin the oldest part of the city and is a unique historical and architectural object.
The history of famous cosmetics brand ‘Max Factor’ began in Ryazan. The company was founded by Maximilian Faktorovich, and he opened his first store in Ryazan in 1895 (!). After his successful work in the Russian Empire, the brand owner decided to move to the United States, where he continued his business.
Famous Russian poet Sergei Yesenin was born in a village Konstantinovo in Ryazan Region where a museum dedicated to him on picturesque banks of the Oka River is now located.
Check out a video of the Ryazan kremlin as well as some epic panoramic views here.
Samara RegionAlexxx Malev/Flickr
Samara Region is one of the largest centers for Russia’s space industry and lies roughly 1,000 km southeast of Moscow and it’s capital, Samara, was formerly a closed city.
One of the oldest breweries in the country - Zhiguli - originates in Samara. It was founded in 1881 by Austrian nobleman and philanthropist Alfred von Vacano.
From 1935 to 1991, the city of Samara was known as Kuybishev, after the Soviet politician Valerian Kuybishev.
During WWII, Kuybyshev was the reserve capital of the Soviet Union. Many ministries and departments, as well as diplomatic missions, were evacuated here in 1941.
Read more about Samara here.
Saratov RegionLegion Media
Saratov, the capital of this region, lies on the banks of the Volga river (the river is often dubbed “the mother of Russian cities”) and has always been a big industrial and trade center of Russia. It’s also included in the top-20 biggest Russian cities. The Saratov metropolitan area, which includes the city of Engels, has a population of 1.2 million and is one of Russia’s “millioniki” cities.
In early Soviet times, the autonomous national territory of the so-called “Volga Germans” was established inside the Saratov region. These were descendants of Germans who lived in Russia from the time of Catherine the Great. In 1941, under Stalin’s orders, most of them were deported to Kazakhstan and Siberia.
Read more about Saratov here.
Aniva island, Sakhalin regionGetty Images
Sakhalin Region is located in the Asia-Pacific region; it is one of the easternmost territories of Russia and the only region entirely located on Islands (Sakhalin Island and the Kuril Islands). The administrative center of the region is the city of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.
In the Russian Empire, Sakhalin was used as the faraway exile for prisoners sentenced to life. Great Russian writer Anton Chekhov was among the first tourists who came here after which he then described the life of locals in his book ‘Sakhalin Island’ (read more about his journey here!)
The region’s economic specializations are oil and gas production, as well as fish and seafood production.
Sakhalin Region has high seismic and volcanic activity. This is especially relevant for the Kuril Islands, where earthquakes occur quite often.
Watch our video: Sakhalin Island on $200: Seafood, skiing and sushi here.
Sverdlovsk RegionLegion Media
Although the name of this region is connected with the city of Sverdlovsk, you won’t find it on modern maps anymore. Sverdlovsk is how the city of Yekaterinburg was renamed in Soviet times (after the Bolshevik, Yakov Sverdlov). Back in 1991, Yekaterinburg returned to its original name, although citizens of the region had voted not to change it.
Yekaterinburg is a big road, rail and air hub of the Urals and is the largest city near the invisible border between Europe and Asia. Rich in natural resources, the region is especially famous for metals (iron, gold, platinum), minerals, marble and coal. Ural steel was used in the construction of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and Ural copper – for the construction of the Statue of Liberty in New York.
Moreover, Yekaterinburg is famous for its constructivist architecture. It may even have more Soviet-style buildings than Moscow - read more about it here.
There is also a bloody page in Yekaterinburg’s history. On the night of 16-17 July, 1918, the family of the last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II, was infamously shot and murdered here.
Smolensk is one of the most ancient cities of Russia, however, in the early 17th century, it was invaded by the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and only returned under Russia’s rule in the late 17th century.
For two months in June-September 1941 there was the Battle of Smolensk when the city held the Nazis siege and tried not to let them advance further into the country. Now the city is frequently dubbed the “shield of Russia”.
Smolensk Region has a lot of picturesque nature. For example, Smolenskoe Poozerie is a beautiful National Park with 35 lakes, which has the status of a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
Yellow taxi cabs – symbols of New York City – also have ties with this Russian region. Born in Smolensk, Maurice Markin moved to the United States and became the owner of the Yellow Cab company that began production of the famous ‘Marathon’ taxi car model in the 1960s. These yellow cabs immediately gained popularity, especially when people saw Robert De Niro driving it in the film ‘Taxi Driver’.
Read more about the history of the city and check out some photos of early 20th century here.
Tambov RegionLegion Media
Tambov was originally founded as a fortress in the 17th century to protect Russia’s southern borders. Located in the central part of modern Russia, Tambov Region is now famous for its great agricultural opportunities and its unofficial symbol – the Tambov wolf born from a Russian idiom: “a Tambov wolf is your comrade”, which is used to emphasize your distrust with the person you’re talking to.
Incidentally, Tambov Region is one of the places where you can encounter a ‘yeti’ - or Big Foot - in Russia! Read more about it and the other nine places here!
Tver, the capital of the region, is one of the oldest cities in Eastern Russia, and was founded in the 12th century. As the city is situated on the road linking Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russian emperors frequently made stops here - and built special travel palaces for that reason (in some of them they only stayed once!) Read more about Catherine the Great’s palace here.
Tver and the cities in the region like Torzhok, Toropets and Bezhetsk have an eight centuries-long history and are popular travel destinations. They are famous for their historical sites and ancient churches.
Tver itself lies on the picturesque banks of the Volga river and one can travel on river trams here.
Read more about Tver, the city sandwiched between Moscow and St. Petersburg, here.
Tomsk RegionMarco Fieber/Flickr
Tomsk is one of the largest cities in Western Siberia and plays an important role in economic development of the whole region. Some territories of the region are inaccessible, because they are covered with taiga woods and swamps. The Vasyugan Swamps located here make up the biggest swamp ecosystem in the northern hemisphere. Tomsk is also famous for its wooden architecture, perfectly preserved from the 19th and 20th century. Check out photos of some fascinating Tomsk wooden houses here.
Tula is an industrial hub not far from Moscow. Most of the production is weapons-based (and there is a weapons museum designed in the shape of a huge helmet!). Another popular industry is samovar (a heated metal container traditionally used to heat and boil water) production (and once famous playwright, Anton Chekhov, even said a phrase that became an aphorism: “Going to Paris with your own wife is equal that going to Tula with our own samovar.” Which means no one does it! Another famous thing about Tula is the pryanik, a type of imprinted Russian gingerbread.
Leo Tolstoy was born and lived most of his life in Tula Region - in his estate, Yasnaya Polyana. The author of ‘War and Peace’ and ‘Anna Karenina’ was also buried here. Check out photos from his estate here.
Also, read about awesome reasons to escape Moscow to Tula for the weekend here!
Tyumen Region, TobolskLegion Media
The must-visit city in Tyumen Region, besides the capital Tyumen itself, is Tobolsk, one of the oldest cities in Siberia. Tobolsk is famous for its kremlin, a truly amazing architectural and historical monument. The fort was built between 1683-1799, when Russia was developing Siberia. Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug have the status of autonomous subjects of the Russian Federation, but, situated on the territory of Tyumen region, they are considered to be parts of it. These subjects have this special status because they are also store the bulk of the country's oil and gas reserves.
Incidentally, the city of Tyumen was ranked first among Russian cities with the highest quality of living. Read more about Tyumen and other Russian cities worth relocating to here.
This region is located in the west of Siberia. Walking the streets of Ulyanovsk, the capital of the region, one can probably understand how the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 happened. Because it was here, where its leader Vladimir Lenin was born. His real surname is Ulyanov and the city was renamed in honor of him after his death.
The city was actually built back in 1648 to protect ancient Russia from nomads’ invasion - and was the city on the very Eastern border of Russia at the time.
Ulyanovsk is also famous for its UAZ truck factory - its most famous production is the UAZ-469 - a popular Soviet military off-road vehicle.
Read about and check out funny GIFs of Ulyanovsk's extraordinary mechanical puppet theater here.
Chelyabinsk RegionGlobal Look Press
Citizens of Chelyabinsk are considered to be the toughest people in Russia. Workers living here have been surrounded by endless Ural megafactories and industries for centuries.
The city became a source of jokes and memes back in 2013 when the so-called Chelyabinsk meteorite fell and many locals captured it on their dash cams while heading to work…
Read about the Chelyabinsk ‘Batman’ in a green mask who’s saving the country from trash here!
Zabaykalsky Krai (literally “the land behind Baikal”) in the Far East has its administrative center in the city of Chita.
This region attracts tourists with its picturesque nature: pristine forests, lakes, waterfalls and rivers. One of the main natural sights here is Lake Ares.
Traditional beliefs, such as shamanism and totemism, still exist in the Zabaykalsky region. Plus, the Zabaykalsky region is one of the biggest centers of Buddhism in Russia. One of the most beautiful datsans (Buddhist monastery) in Russia is located here.
Read more about it and others here.
Yaroslavl RegionLegion Media
Yaroslavl is considered to be a capital of the so-called Golden Ring of Russia - a tourist route that unites the oldest cities of ancient Russia: Pereslavl-Zalessky, Rostov, Uglich, and others. Most of them are situated in the Yaroslavl Region.
The historical center of the city is included in the UNESCO heritage list and there are lots of beautiful ancient churches on the picturesque banks of the Volga River ( Yaroslavl was actually the first city that Russians built on this river - more than 1000 years ago).
Check out some beautiful photos of Yaroslavl here.
Moscow is the capital of Russia and the most populous city in the country and was founded in 1147. You probably know more about Moscow than any other regions of Russia - and yet there is still so much to say about this beautiful and great megalopolis, that we just don’t know where to begin!
So instead, please find everything you ever wanted to know about Moscow - here!
St. PetersburgLegion Media
St. Petersburg is the second most populous city in Russia, after Moscow. It was founded by Peter the Great in 1703.
The historical center of St. Petersburg and the palace and park architectural ensembles of the suburbs are all included in the UNESCO world heritage list. The city is one of the most important tourism centers in the country. People come here to see the Hermitage, the Kunstkammer, the Mariinsky Theatre, the Russian Museum, the Peter and Paul fortress, St. Isaac's Cathedral, Nevsky prospect, among many other wonderful sites.
Read more about all you ever wanted to know about St. Petersburg here.
At one point, Stalin decided that all the Soviet Jews should live in their own area… yet very far from the Promised Land. The Jewish Autonomous Territory in Russia’s Far East was established in the 1930s, with Birobidzhan its capital.
However, the plan to resettle Jews there failed: in the 1930s, only 16 percent of the population was Jewish (the rest were Russian and Ukrainian settlers) and now only 1 percent remain.
Read more on how Stalin created the Jewish state here.
Nenets Autonomous OkrugSergei Fadeichev/TASS
Nenets Autonomous Okrug is the most sparsely populated region of Russia.
The administrative center (and the only true city) is Naryan-Mar, established in 1931. The title translates from the Nenets language as, "red city". Most likely the city was named this way in honor of “Red Communism”. Naryan-Mar is rich with oil and gas.The territory of the Nenets Autonomous Okrug is the original residence of the Nenets. These indigenous people of the region have distinctive cultural traditions that are well adapted to the conditions of the harsh Arctic. The main specific activity of the Nenets is reindeer husbandry.
The Okrug is, in fact, a part of the Arkhangelsk region, but it also has a status of autonomous subject of Russian Federation. Naryan-Mar is also a perfect place to witness the Northern Lights - read about it and other six places you can see this incredible show here.
The region was named after the Khanty and Mansi - the indigenous peoples living here.
Khanty-Mansi Okrug is a part of the Tyumen region, but it has its own autonomous subject status of Russian Federation.
The administrative center of the region is Khanty-Mansiysk, however the largest city is Surgut. In the 19th century, it was the place of exile for Russian revolutionaries, but today it is one of the most economically developed cities in the country.
Watch our video from Khanty-Mansiysk here.
Chukotka Autonomous OkrugGetty Images
Most of the region’s territory is situated within the Arctic Circle. Therefore, the climate here is extremely harsh. Two of Russian “extreme cities” are located in the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug: the northernmost city, Pevek, and the easternmost city, Anadyr, (which is also the administrative city of the region).
The distance from the easternmost island of this region (Ratmanov’s island) to Alaska is only 4 kilometers.
Foreigners need a special permit to visit Chukotka - here is our guide on how to get it.
Check out some breathtaking photos of picturesque Chukotka here.
Not to be mixed up with the Nenets Autonomous Okrug.
The capital of the Yamalo-Nenets territory, Salekhard, is the only city in the world located on the latitude of the Arctic Circle.
The Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug is a part of the Tyumen region, but also has the status of an autonomous subject of Russian Federation.
The name “Yamal” means "the edge of the earth" in the language of the indigenous inhabitants of this region – the Nenets.
Read more about life in the only town in the world on the Arctic Circle here.
Crimea republicLegion Media
The republic of Crimea is a peninsula in the Black and Azov seas. The region is characterized by a variety of climatic zones, which attracts many tourists. The most famous resort areas are Yalta and Alushta, Evpatoria and Theodosia.
The longest trolleybus route in the world is the Simferopol-Yalta route - 85 kilometers and a 2.5 hours ride!
Sevastopol, situated on the Black Sea coast at the Crimean Peninsula, is a separate subject of the Russian Federation. This city is the main port of the Black Sea fleet of Russia.
In ancient times, the fortress Chersonesos (located on the territory of modern Sevastopol) was part of both the Roman and Byzantine empires. In 988, the city of Chersonesos was captured by the Prince of Kiev, Vladimir, who with his druzhina were christened the Ancient Russia. A museum and ruins of Chersonesos are available to visit.
Read more about Sevastopol, the historical resort on a Black Sea naval base, here.
Prepared by Alexandra Guzeva and Polina Kireeva
If using any of Russia Beyond's content, partly or in full, always provide an active hyperlink to the original material.
to our newsletter!
Get the week's best stories straight to your inbox