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The central fact of the Russian climate, which has a deep effect on the national psyche, is its long, dark, very cold winters, whose severity is explained by the fact that so much of the country is so far north and so far from the open sea. The same geographical factors also create light, hot summer days. For weather forecasts for most Russian cities, check on­line at http://meteo.infospace.ru .

Moscow & St Petersburg

The two main cities are warm from about mid-May to early September. Summer days in these northern latitudes are long – so long that at midsummer in St Petersburg there’s no real darkness. Autumn is brief, and by the end of November Moscow is frozen most of the time. Serious snow arrives in December and stays until late March/early April. St Peters­burg, beside an arm of the Baltic Sea, is a few degrees milder than Moscow in winter but in midwinter is reduced to about five hours of murky light per day. Spring arrives fast, with a great thaw a month or so long, in March and April, and people go a touch crazy. Thou­sands of extra cars emerge from winter stor­age onto city streets.

The South

South of Moscow the inland climate is simi­lar to that in Moscow, though perhaps a few degrees warmer in summer. The Black Sea coast is mild – it rarely freezes, and typical mid-May to early September temperatures reach between 20°C and 27°C. Coastal wa­ters of the Black Sea itself are usually in the low 20°Cs from June to September.

The North

Up north, as you’d expect, it gets even colder than in Moscow. Arkhangelsk, despite being on the coast, averages around 5°C below Mos­cow’s temperatures, and inland it’s even more bitter. Murmansk, which benefits from the dying eddies of the Gulf Stream, is a bit warmer, and its port is ice-free all year round – but here, 200km inside the Arctic Circle, there’s permanent darkness in December and January.


July and August, the warmest months, are also the wettest months in most places, with as many as one rainy day in three. But only the Caucasus region receives really serious precipitation.

The area between Moscow and St Peters­burg is marginally wetter than most of the rest of European Russia, but it still gets only half as much rain in a year as New York, and even receives less than Rome. The lower Volga region, from around Saratov, is a bit drier.