Russia is a great place to live and work, and we would like to give you some practical advice as to how to make it even greater! But first, let’s review the country profile.
Russia (official: “The Russian Federation”) is the largest country in the world, with an area of 17 million km2. Russia is divided into nine federal districts and within these districts a total of 85 regions. Each district has its own presidential envoy. 15 cities have a population of over one million people, these are:
- Moscow (capital)
- St Peteresburg
- Nizhny Novgorod
Russia can be estimated to have the ninth largest population in the world, with 143,5 million people based on UN’s calculations as of March 2016. Its population is equivalent to 1.95 per cent of the total world population. The population seems to be rising slowly but at a steady pace. Population density is 9 per square kilometer. Urban population is high at 73.3 per cent of the population (105 022 052 people). In 2014 the population was 46 per cent male and 54 per cent female. The median age in Russia is 38.9 years. In 2014, 59.3 per cent of the population were of working age, 23.4 per cent were retired and 17.2 per cent below working age (according to “The Digest of Education Statistics in Russia).
The official language in Russia is Russian. It is a Slavic language, and also a co-official language in many former Soviet republics. Most schools require students to study foreign languages, English being the most commonly selected. According to Rosstat (Federal State Statistics Service), in 2014/2015 the 950 institutions of higher education had 5.2 million students. Mandatory education in Russia is primary and secondary school comprising of either a nine-year basic or an eleven-year comprehensive system. The school system is however currently being revised.
Russia is a democratic federally structured republic with a government based upon the rule of law, according to The Constitution, adopted in 1993. Russia has a president (currently Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin) who is the head of state, and a prime minister who is the head of government.
Legislation is in the hands of the Federal Assembly which consists of the State Duma (the lower house of the parliament) and the Federation Council (the upper house). The State Duma makes the legislation drafts and amends the Constitution when they consider it necessary. The Federation Council then approves or rejects these drafts, and they can also appoint high court judges.
The Government has executive power. Here there are the prime minister, deputy prime ministers and federal ministers.
There are multiple court levels within the judicial branch:
- Constitutional Court (highest)
- Supreme Court (highest judicial body for courts with general jurisdiction, such as civil, criminal and administrative cases)
- Supreme State Arbitrazh Court (the highest instance for economic disputes)
Russia’s various regions, territories, autonomous regions, federal cities and republics each have their own legislative and executive bodies.
How can You make the most of Russia?
1. Build a network
Make contacts with locals – both personal as well as business relationships. It cannot be emphasized enough how helpful it is to have a solid network of people whom you can rely on when in need and to sail across the system, and heck, just for a more fun experience in Russia!
2. Learn Russian
Possessing a knowledge of the language will help you in your daily life – both in business and during your private time, as many people do not speak English (for example in shops, markets or even restaurants). Being able to understand what is spoken about during meetings, and having the skills to say a line here or there in Russian will make you feel more comfortable not to mention make a good impression, and it serves as a good ice-breaker!
3. Watch out for traffic!
Like in any mega-city, traffic is very hectic in Moscow and there are many unskilled and careless drivers. Keep your eyes on the road whether you are walking, driving or a passenger in a car or using public transit. The old saying goes – “don’t text and drive”, but let’s extend it to “don’t text and walk either”…
4. General Safety
Other than traffic, on many scales Moscow is a lot safer than even many other major Western cities, meaning much less crime-ridden. But again, do not walk around quiet neighborhoods late at night and of course hold on tight to your belongings especially in crowded places.
5. Medical Services
Russia has an abundance of qualified doctors, thus visiting local clinics and hospitals (both public and private) can be perfectly fine. However, if you want to guarantee yourself a doctor who speaks English or another foreign language, you may opt for one of several western medical clinics in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
6. Emergency Numbers
Write down the emergency numbers in easily accessible places that are always near you, for example: your cell phone, wallet or other place in your pocket in case you get robbed or lose your phone/wallet, and your fridge at home. The General Emergency Number is 112, and below you will find a list of specific service numbers.
Unfortunately, racism may be an issue, although it is not too common. Especially if you do not physically look native Russian, beware especially when you are alone or on public transport. No need to panic, most Russians are not racist, and on the contrary very welcoming and hospitable to foreigners. However, it is advisable to be cautious.
8. If you are moving to Russia…
- You can be exempt from customs duties for bringing household goods within certain limitations (check agreements of the Customs Union)
- Expat networks (such as expat.ru and companies specializing at this) can help you to find qualified housekeepers and nannies with diverse language skills
- There are many foreign language schools in Moscow and St. Petersburg: English, French, German, Japanese, Scandinavian, and others.
9. Travelling in and out of Russia…
- Do not forget that unless you possess ‘highly qualified’ visa status, each time you travel into and out of Russia you must register and deregister.
- If you have a car, it may take 1-2 days to register it. Having someone else (e.g., your driver) do it for you, you must remember to grant him/her a power of attorney (which also entails a bit of work and must be updated 2-3 times annually).
10. Last but not least…
Enjoy the myriad good restaurants and bars all around the country, especially in the big cities! Although customer service in Russia is usually polite and friendly, at times, waiters will tell you that the venue’s bank card machine is not working and ask you to pay cash… it is often not so but just a bluff to pocket the money. Insist on paying with your card or ask to speak to the manager – that often helps!