Russians have a deep love of literature and the performing arts. All Russians are exposed to the cultural arts throughout their period of formal Education.
Literature, music, and dance have historically occupied the most prominent places in Russian cultural life. Russia’s best-known writers are those of the 19th and early 20th centuries whose influence has been felt throughout the world. They include Aleksandr Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy (War and Peace) Anton Chekhov, Nikolay Gogol, Ivan Turgenev, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Maksim Gorky.
Russia’s best-known and influential composers were Peter Tchaikovsky, Aleksandr Borodin, Modest Mussorgsky and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. Their legacy is evident in more contemporary music, notably that of Sergey Rachmaninoff, Igor Stravinsky, Sergey Prokofiev, and Dmitry Shostakovich. One of the most popular composers is Peter Tchaikovsky who wrote the music for three well known ballets: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and the Nutcracker Ballet. Another famous Russian composer is Sergei Prokofiev who wrote Peter and the Wolf where each of the characters is represented by a musical instrument.
Russia is known for its folk dances which are lively and fun to watch. The dances usually describe village life and Russian customs. The tradition of Russian realist theatre was exemplified in the work of Konstantin Stanislavsky of the Moscow Art Theatre.
Russian ballet is famous throughout the world. Ballet is also very important in Russian culture. The leading theatre companies for ballet are the Bolshoi in Moscow (dating to 1776) and the Kirov in St. Petersburg (founded in 1735). Many of the world’s greatest ballet dancers were born in Russia, including Mikhail Baryshnikov and Anna Pavova.
Figure skating has gained in world wide popularity and Russian skaters enjoy recognition as some of the best in the world. Competitive achievements of Russian skaters is a result of the country’s social and emphasis on the performing arts..
Libraries & Museums
Russia has over 50,000 state public libraries (39,000 of these rural) in total possession of over a billion books, and the collection is steadily growing. Every general-educational school and the majority of offices and large factories have their own libraries.
Close to 1,500 museums cover practically all fields of knowledge-historical, natural sciences, technology, fine and applied arts, theatre, music, ethnographic, memorial, folk crafts and many others. Museums-reserves have lately come into the foreground. Twenty open-air ethnographic museums present folk architecture, arts and everyday life. All museum collections, with a total exceeding fifty million items of historical, scientific and artistic value, comprise Russia’s precious national treasure.
Theater & Art
Despite all the problems of contemporary Russian life, the number of theatres in Russia is growing. Russia now has over 400 theater companies, with drama accounting for over half. Since 1989 local budgets have financed theatres to encourage provincial theatre. There are 31 languages of acting in Russia’s multi-ethnic country. Some ethnic companies are top-notch, and worthy rivals of Moscow theatres.
The new Artists’ Union Charter, adopted in 1993, enjoys freedom of creativity, high professionalism and humane goals among its basic principles. The union arranges exhibitions for its 13,000 members, and helps them with Picture sales in its many salons. Private galleries are also burgeoning throughout the country. Moscow alone has over a hundred.
Today, folk art in Russia survives in two basic forms - handicrafts practiced on a broad scale and works of art created by gifted persons working in home studios. Articles fashioned from marble, glass, ceramics, metal, or ornamental textiles have really become part of our lives, adding a touch of beauty and harmony to our daily existence.
The most popular handicrafts in present-day Russia are: wood carving and painting, artistic ceramics, clay toys, lacquer painting, decorative tray painting, artistic metalworking, bone carving, artistic stone working, lace making, embroidery, golden thread needlework, pattern weaving and rug making. Whatever kind of folk art is looked at, it reflects the richness and diversity of the Russian soul and the splendor of the works crafted by its hands.
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