GUIDE TO RUSSIA
RUSSIAN VISA SERVICE
BUSINESS HOURS & HOLIDAYS
Government offices, should you need them, open from 9am or l0am to 5pm or 6pm weekdays. Banks usually open from 9am to noon Monday to Friday; those in major cities often also open from 1pm to 6pm. Currency exchange booths open long hours, and on Saturday and sometimes Sunday too.
Most shops are open Monday to Saturday. Food shops tend to open from 8am to 8pm, except for a pereryv (break) from 1pm to 2pm or 2pm to 3pm ; some close later, some open Sunday until 5pm. Other shops mostly operate from l0am or 11am to 7pm or 8pm, with a 2pm to 3pm break. Department stores may run from Sam to 8pm or 9pm without a break. A few shops stay open through the weekend and close on Monday.
In major cities there are more and more 24hour kiosks selling food and drink. Restaurants typically open from noon to midnight except for a break between afternoon and evening meals.
Museum hours change often, as do the weekly days off. Most museums shut entrance doors 30 minutes or an hour before closing time, and may have shorter hours on the day before their day off.
PUBLIC HOLIDAYS & SPECIAL EVENTS
The main public holidays are:
New Year's Day 1 January
Russian Orthodox Christmas Day 7 January
International Women's Day 8 March
International Labor Day/Spring Festival 1 & 2 May
Victory Day (1945) 9 May
Russian Independence Day (when the Russian republic inside the USSR proclaimed its sovereignty in June 1991) 12 June
Day of Reconciliation and Accord (the rebranded Revolution Day) 7 November
Other widely celebrated holidays are Defenders of the Motherland Day (23 February), Easter Monday and Constitution Day (12 December). Much of Russia shuts down for the first half of May.
The Russians do a delightful job of finding reasons to hold a festival. Some of the more important are as follows:
Russian Orthodox Christmas (Rozhdestvo; 7 January). Begins with midnight church services
February to April
Pancake Week (Maslennitsa; late February and/or early March). Folk shows and games celebrate the end of winter, with lots of pancake-eating before Lent (pancakes were a pagan symbol of the sun)
Festival of the North (last week of March). Murmansk and other northern towns hold reindeer races, ski marathons and so on
Easter (Paskha; March/April). The main festival of the Orthodox Church year. Easter Day begins with celebratory midnight services. Afterwards, people eat kulichy (dome-shaped cakes) and paskha (curd cakes), and may exchange painted wooden Easter eggs. The devout deny themselves meat, milk, alcohol and sex during Lent's 40-day pre-Easter fasting period
Graduates Day (traditionally 25 May). A day for those finishing school, who parade about their hometowns in traditional student garb
St Petersburg White Nights (June). Involves general merrymaking and staying out late, as well as a dance festival. Many other northern towns have their own version.
National Reconciliation Day (7 November). The old Great October Socialist Revolution Anniversary - still a big day for Communist Party marches. Otherwise, monarchists mourn and others drink while closing down their dachas for winter.
Sylvester and New Year (31 December & 1 January). The main winter and gift-giving festival when gifts are put under the yolka, the traditional fir tree. See out the old year with vodka and welcome in the new one with champagne while listening to the Kremlin chimes on TV. 2