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How do Russians survive winter?
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Author:  wiz [ 23 Nov 2011 17:42 ]
Post subject:  How do Russians survive winter?

How do Russians survive winter?

I was browsing through some of my old photos, taken in Russia during my winter trips there and I thought writing about my experiences and observations, which may help some people who are thinking travelling there during the winter months!

Travelling to Ufa, my final destination, on November 2006, I first flew to Moscow arriving at Sheremetovo airport at terminal B where I had to change terminals as my onward internal flight was departing from Terminal A, which is situated on the other side of the airport. Those years Aeroflot was providing the transport service after we cleared immigration and customs. Today most of their international flights arrive on the new terminals, D, E, F that are right next to each other and from there most internal flights depart too. I have not visited Russia for two years now, so I am not sure which one serves the international and also the internal flights but I expect one of our members will clarify this.

Ufa city, is situated on the European side and west of the Ural Mountains. Arriving at 5 AM was still dark, I was met with a -25 C temperature and yes it was very cold. Plenty of snow on the ground and on the roads but slowly, I got used to it and learned to enjoy the Russian winter, despite that was very hard, bitter and extreme. Living in the UK with its ever changing but mostly mild weather for over 30 years, who grew up with only a few days of snow, in Greece and the UK, being in Russia is just like visiting another world.


A very modern Baboushka

After the initial shock to my system, slowly started getting use to it and pretty soon I had no problem walking around and enjoying the snow and the white scenery despite the low temperatures. In actual fact, soon I have to admit, I was having fun going out shopping in -25 C observing the Russians and how they were behaving under such a severe weather.

To be honest, I don’t remember hearing anybody complaining about the weather or talking about it, which is the usual subject for conversation in the UK. In my experience most if not all the roads are open after a snow fall and the bad weather lasts from November to next March or April. The public transport, trams, minibuses, trains, taxis still working and I have never experienced any plane delays or cancellations, due to bad weather, when I flew to St Petersburg, Moscow, and Archangelsk in the north and several times in Ufa.

The airport in Archangelsk it’s very small, has a small terminal building and doesn’t have any air bridges. When I first flew to Ufa it was the same and there was only a small hut to collect our luggage, while waiting outside in the cold in -25 C. Now a large new terminal has been build with several air bridges and has developed to a very modern international airport.

Yet despite the snow and ice, the runway in all airports that I have been through, have remained open. In the UK, we are not used to such frequent bad weather and whenever snows most airports are closing down. I’m sure the British airport operators with much larger budgets, especially at Gatwick and Heathrow could take a leaf and learn from their Russian counterparts.


Temperature - 30C but works has to go on.

In Great Britain, whenever we get few millimetres of snow the whole country is paralysed. The British driver’s are never prepared for the winter, neither wear winter tyres in their cars, have no idea how to drive in snowing conditions and we have a high number accidents and the roads turn into a great and pathetic traffic jam.

As about our trains, most of the time services are cancelled because “of the wrong kind of snow”, a standard announcement by the train operators and the company that’s running the train lines. The council’s grit only the main roads and if it continues snowing more that 2 days they run out of grit. Schools are closing and parent’s complaint because they have to stay home and look after their children and many villages in the countryside become cut off and inaccessible.

On the other hand, as you can see, in the pictures that I have taken, in Russia life goes on despite the very low -20 or -30 C temperatures.


Nice clean pavement

Author:  wiz [ 11 Dec 2011 21:02 ]
Post subject:  Re: How do Russians survive winter?

So how do Russian people cope with the winter weather?

Simply, they just prepare, expecting the worst and get on with it! Winter comes every year at the end of October or beginning of November and sometimes last until the end of next April or the beginning of May, so they deal with it!



During the winter in Russia nobody leaves house without having been dressed properly. Getting ready is like preparing your self to join an Arctic expedition and obviously it does take a long time. When I was there during winter, I was wearing heavy boots that I bought here in the UK, with a pair of thermal socks over my normal winter shocks.

The first time I went to Russia, I wear thermal long johns, that I bought there to use under my normal winter court Roy trousers, a sweater, and then a very light black coat, lined inside with specially made material to keep out the cold, snow and rain. It’s also essential to wear a hat, scarf and gloves. Don’t even think of going outside without wearing a hat, because your head will get very cold quickly and you will suffer with pain or if it’s snowing you will become a snow man!

Children also are wrapped up in many layers of clothes, until they can barely move their arms and legs.

Many women wear long expensive fur coats and my Russian friends and family tell me, these fur coats are much warmer than anything else and last longer. Russian men, mostly, wear heavy leather or sheepskin coats and all of them various types of hats.



All old Russian flats and offices have double glazed windows. The old Soviet (Brezhnev) era windows are not very attractive, but they have two sets of simple single pane of glass with few inches of space between them to trap air and they seem to work well. The more modern apartment blocks have of course modern double glazed, similar to those in the west.

Most of the flats have small balconies too, which are fitted with single pane windows as well and they are cold, during the winter, but they still act as a buffer and keep the flat a little warmer.

The Double glazing, in our flat, has only a few millimetres of space between the panes of glass, as opposed to a good few inches of air between the panes, as in the older windows but works very well. When the heating is on 24/7 during the winter period, it’s on until the council switch it off, and there is nothing you can do about it. Needless to say, this means that it can often be stiflingly hot and stuffy and in our new modern flat often we have the need to open slightly the window for fresh air.

Because of the above, many western men complaint about their Russian wives habit to have the heating on all the time, especially when they first arrive to live in the west because they do feel cold even on mild weather, like ours in the south of England. It has taken sometime for my wife to adjust to the temperatures here and was horrified when I showed her the first 6 months winter bill. Of course I blamed the Russian Government for the high cost prices they charge us…… [lol.gif]


How do Russians heat their apartments?

How they can afford to keep warm in these very cold temperatures?

The heating and hot water services are not autonomous, as in the west and the local council provide these services but we must not forget that Russia is a large producer of gas, so prices are ridiculously low, making us envy of their costs and charges they have to pay.

As I discovered, like the good old days of the USSR, the local council takes care of everything. Every apartment has a few central heating radiators and heating is switched on around the end of October and work 24/7 until April/May. There are not on/off switches or controls to raise or lower the temperature, because the Soviets didn’t think this was necessary as the main thing was keeping the population as warm as possible.


I often hear stories of poor old pensioners in England, (I am one of them), who suffer illnesses and possible death because they can’t afford to put the heating on for a couple of hours, due to the rip-off prices of the English utility companies. In Russia the heat is on permanently ON all winter and it never goes off. The only possible temperature control for apartments is opening and closing a window. At the old type of windows they have a small one that opens, in the top of a larger window. This does work, but soon you are told by the family the flat is getting very cold from the draught, if you dare to open it. I read somewhere, that it’s a widely held belief in Russia that any slight draught will kill you!


Hot water is also supplied by the councils, made in the council’s old Soviet hot water factory and piped underground throughout the city! Of course it does arrives, it’s amazingly hot, almost scolding. Every year, around June, the hot water supply is turned off for maintenance and it’s not a good time or pleasant experience for the people to shower in cold water. I never had this experience but other people did.

In my experience, most of the Bathrooms don’t have windows and usually feature a helpfully heated towel rail/water pipe which acts as a little radiator. This means bathrooms are always hot and in the summer their temperature is very uncomfortable. When I am in Russia, if possible, I try to leave the bathroom door open to try to cool the bathroom.



All Russian cars change over to winter tyres before the start of the winter. Not sure if this is the law, but it does save lives and makes driving much easier because using summer tyres you have more chances for an accident or getting stuck in the snow and the bad roads. An expensive necessity for the poor Russians and difficult as they must have two sets of tyres and also a place to keep them, when not used.



The Russians try and keep open all the roads with a vast number of snow ploughs and gritters going out every time is snowing. The local councils employ a huge number of people to shovel the snow clearing pavements and the entrances to the apartment blocks.

I have very often seen old women shovelling snow to clear the paths around the apartments with no proper or expensive equipment and that is how the paths and roads remain open during the winter in Russia. Here in the UK we always receive “the wrong kind of snow and the country gets paralysed”. [very_funny.gif]


So if you visit Russia in the winter, just remember – be prepared!

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