Russia Unit Study

Fast Facts

Capital: Moscow

Continent: Europe, Asia

Languages Spoken: Russian

National Anthem: State Anthem of the Russian Federation

Population: 144 million

Type of Government: Federal Republic

Currency: Russian Ruble

Flag: 3 horizontal stripes of white, blue, and red

Picture Books

I See the Sun in Russia by Dedie King

Anton is a young boy growing up in St. Petersburg. Follow him as he navigates his home city, displaying the sights, people, and rich culture that make up Russia.

My Mother is the Most Beautiful Woman in the World by Becky Reyner

A little girl gets separated from her mother, and as strangers attempt to help them find their way back together again, the little girl describes her mother through the eyes of her heart. 

Babushka’s Doll by Patricia Polacco

Natasha isn’t known for her patience, and Babushka is often kept busy-busy caring for her needs. One day Natasha sees a doll sitting on a shelf, and Babushka tells her she only played with it one time as a girl. But when Babushka leaves to get groceries, Natasha’s curiosity gets the best of her and she begins to play with the doll, only to realize the reason why her grandmother only played with it one time. 

Babushka Baba Yaga by Patricia Polacco

Baba Yaga is feared all throughout Russia, as rumors fly that she eats children. But really, Baba Yaga is desperately lonely, and only wants one thing–a grandchild she can love. 

Peter and the Wolf by Sergei Prokofiev

Peter accidentally leaves the gate open one day, and his duck wanders out and to a local pond. When Peter’s grandfather sees Peter outside, he quickly brings him inside, citing a dangerous wolf nearby. Soon, the wolf does come out of the woods and captures the duck, but his victory is short-lived as Peter soon catches him by the tail and puts him on display at a parade. 

Moscow

This capital city of Russia is the center of politics, industry, education, and home to the headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church. Here two worlds collide: a modern, bustling European city and the remnants of the USSR and communism. Moscow boasts several gorgeous cathedrals dedicated to the Orthodox faith as well as the famous Red Square. 

Read more about Moscow here:

  • Eloise in Moscow by Kay Thompson
  • The Metro Dogs of Moscow by Rachelle Delaney
  • Mockba (Moscow): Portrait of the City 

St. Petersburg

Founded in 1703 by Peter the Great, St. Petersburg is a famous tourist destination today for its Mariinsky Theatre that boasts operas and ballets as well as several art museums that display works by Kandinsky, religious pieces, and more. This port city butts up against the Baltic Sea and is known as the “window on Europe”, combining the best of the modern continent while also maintaining the rich cultural heritage of Russia.

Read more about St. Petersburg here:

  • Bella and Harry: Let’s Visit St. Petersburg! by Lisa Manzione

Try these art projects inspired by Russian Culture:

Artists

Wasily Kandinsky

Wasily Kandinsky is a Russian artist who is considered to be the pioneer of abstract art. As a child, Wasily was very drawn to bright colors in nature. He was also very musical and played both the piano and the cello. He went to university to become a lawyer, but when he turned thirty he decided to leave that life behind and develop his talents as an artist. He first created pieces that were landscapes influenced by Pointillism and Fauvism. Later in life, he refined his style by playing with geometric shapes and bright colors which became the first abstract art. 

Art projects inspired by his works: 

Ilya Repin

Repin was born in 1844 in Russia. He studied under an icon painter before becoming an art professor and an artist in his own right. His artwork typically focuses on Russian history and portraits. 

Art projects inspired by his works:

Musicians

Pyotr Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky was born in the mountains of Russia. When he was 8 years old his family moved to St. Petersburg, where he stayed until he left to study law at university. Eventually, Tchaikovsky left law to study music full time. To assist him in these endeavors, a wealthy patroness named Nadezhda von Meck regularly sent cash so that he could continue to produce music. Today, his works are widely known and his legacy lives on through well-known pieces like Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. 

Enjoy these works by Tchaikovsky:

Books about Tchaikovsky:

  • Famous Children: Tchaikovsky by Ann Rachlin
  • The Story Orchestra: Swan Lake by Katy Flint
  • Peter Tchaikovsky by Mike Venezia
  • Tchaikovsky Discovers America by Esther Kalman
  • Ella Bella Ballerina and the Nutcracker by James Mayhew

Igor Stravinsky

Stravinsky was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1882. His father was an opera singer and Stravinsky often hung around the opera house, where he was exposed to lots of music and even met some famous composers like Tchaikovsky! He began taking piano lessons at a young age, but went to university to study law instead of music. However, when he composed The Firebird and it became a great success, he began to write ballets full time. 

Enjoy these works by Stravinsky:

Books about Stravinsky:

  • Igor Stravinsky by Mike Venezia
  • Masters of Music: The Life and Times of Igor Stravinsky by Jim Whiting
  • When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky: Two Artists, Their Ballet, and One Extraordinary Riot by Lauren Stringer

Notable People

Peter the Great

Peter the Great was a Russian czar who founded the city of St. Petersburg and ushered in the Age of Enlightenment in his country. He was a military leader who led his people through three wars and is the subject of much popular culture, artwork, and legend today. 

Books about Peter the Great:

  • Peter the Great by Diane Stanley

Lev Tolstoy

Lev Tolstoy was a Russian author best known for his works like Anna Karenina and War and Peace. His parents died when he was young, leaving his siblings to be split among relatives. He studied law and languages for a time before dropping out of university and racking up deep debt from gambling. This led to a career in the army where his writing began to take off. Tolstoy’s faith became very important to him later in life, and he wrote several books focused on spirituality. His deeply-held convictions eventually earned him an excommunication from the Russian Orthodox church. He spent his old age writing books for peasant children.

His books are primarily for adults, but The Three Questions by Jon myth is a beautifully illustrated picture book based on Tolstoy’s work.

Recipes

Russian Apple Cake (Sharlotka)

Kids will love making this yummy dessert that perfectly combines apples, cake, and sugar into a delicious sweet treat.

Russian No-Bake Cookies (Perozhina Kartoshka)

Perfect for kids who just can’t wait! These chocolately cookies are a quick mix-and-serve for a speedy snack. 

Russian Vareniki

This simple Russian-style Pierogi can be stuffed with potatoes, cheese, mushrooms, or meat. Kids can whip up a batch of one kind or several different varieties in no time!

Olivier Salad

This traditional potato salad is typically served as a side to most Russian meals. 

Borscht

Delve into a true Russian experience with this beet-based, deep-red soup. 

Movies

Anastasia

When the Romanov palace is invaded, Anastasia disappears. Years pass, and a reward is set up for her safe return. Two con men, looking for some fast cash, find an orphan that looks like Anastasia and plan to pass her off as the real girl. 

Battery Number One

During WWII, Soviet soldiers instructed to pass through a bridge near a deserted monastery discover a secret school for deaf-mute children and their teacher. 

Learn Some Russian:

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here