Torzhok: Ancient Crossroads Between Moscow and St. Petersburg

Russia seems to have a never-ending supply of historical cities. And if you’ve lived in Russia for 22 years, like me, you might start getting a little cocky thinking you know all of the historical and even lesser-known cities such as Kostroma, Petrozavodsk, or Vyborg. So, when my Russian friend Zhenya suggested we visit Torzhok with our Russian-language YouTube channel, I wasn’t just surprised, I honestly had no idea what he was talking about, but we quickly agreed to make the trip.

Torzhok is conveniently located halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg. This was doubly convenient in our situation as I am in Moscow and Zhenya hails from St. Petersburg. You can travel to Torzhok by train from Moscow via Tver, for less than 1000 rubles. There is a direct overnight train from St. Petersburg. And, of course, travel by car has become much easier to Torzhok from either city with the new Moscow-St. Petersburg superhighway.

The Tvertsiy River courses through the heart of the ancient city of Torzhok

Torzhok was first mentioned in an ancient chronicle in 1139 as “Novy Torg”, which means “New Trade”. It was a commanding point on a trade route to Novgorod. And although it once held a key position in trade, it now has the feel of a sleepy provincial town that has been left to remember its rich history.

A birds-eye view of the Boris and Gleb Monastery that overlooks Torzhok from a hilltop.

I understand there is a Shell oil refinery on the edge of town that perhaps keeps the local economy alive, but when in the city there is only a very real sense of history.

Of course, Moscow and St. Petersburg are cities that have invested massive resources into renovating their historical architecture, and rightly so. But sometimes, the feeling is that the renovation has been done so well, that the feeling of history is lost. And this is what I loved about Torzhok most: They are renovating, but there is much work to do, and this is a chance to not just see, but feel the history.

Zhenya and I met a church photographer who argues that renovations must be done using ancient tools, rather than modern construction methods. An interesting point.

If you’ve been to both Moscow and St. Petersburg and are looking for a short getaway nearby, or on your trip between the two major cities, Torzhok is definitely worth stopping overnight and for a day. Or you can do what I did, and meet your friend from the other city at what is roughly the halfway point.

Trying out some of the local cuisine at the “Onyx” restaurant, with our guide Sergei

If you’re looking for a guided trip, check out this site. We weren’t able to work out our schedule to make it to any of their events, but they recommended Sergei to be our guide, and he was fantastic.

A local man presumably enjoying the weather and the fact that he is avoiding the hustle and bustle of Moscow

I would be interested to hear what other less-famous and historical gems are worth visiting in Moscow? Please comment with your ideas.

And here is the Russian-language video version of our visit to Torzhok. Enjoy.

4 Americans come to Russia for obscure medical treatment

Inclusion body myositis is a rare condition that is described by the Cleveland Clinic as “an inflammatory and degenerative muscle disease that causes painless weakening of muscle”.

Inclusion body myositis (or IBM) is widely considered not just to be incurable, but untreatable. Receiving this diagnosis is discouraging, to say the least. Alan, Ken, Hannah, and Bruce were four men who received this diagnosis but never dreamed that their search for treatment would take them to Russia.

In a previous post, I wrote about the Lymphatech Clinic in the city of Perm, Russia that is providing treatment of conditions as wide-ranging as chronic leukemia, lymphedema, Type-2 diabetes, arthritis, and much more. The clinic’s treatment approach can be traced back to Soviet times and is bringing promising results.

The first American patient with IBM came to Russia from El Paso, Texas. Alan Spencer first heard about the clinic in early 2020. Alan had been diagnosed with IBM and when he heard about the Lymphatech Clinic, he approached them about potential treatment. The clinic offered a treatment plan and Alan came to Russia. This video by Russia Today tells that story.

Since IBM is a rare medical condition, it is a relatively small community of affected individuals and their families. So after the Russia Today broadcast, the clinic started receiving inquiries from around the world.

4 Inclusion Body Myositis patients and their families in Perm, Russia

As an American who lives in Russia, I understand that for me, medical treatment in Russia is no stretch. As a matter of fact, it would be a challenge for me if I had to go anywhere else outside of Russia! And I have had the privilege of knowing the folks at Lymphatech as they treated some of my relatives from the States, and I even went for snoring treatment (it worked!).

Visas to Russia, the Easy Way

But I can’t imagine what it would be like for someone in America to have been diagnosed with IBM and being told your only chance for treatment is to visit a place in Russia you’ve never heard before. As I’ve thought about that, I’ve come to understand that hope requires courage.

It is because of this that I’m proud to know both know this clinic and to have also met the four men in this video. Four men who not only had the courage to believe that it was worth pursuing treatment but were ready to take the risk to come to Russia to do so.

Meet Bruce, Ken, Hanna, and Alan, together with Dr. Nadia, Vadim, Igor, and Alex in this in-depth video as each side describes their medical treatment in Russia:

If you are interested in a more detailed treatment explanation from the clinic, follow this link.

As a patriot both of Russia and the USA (yes, you can be both!), I firmly believe that we have much to learn from each other. As a friend of the clinic, I believe that their message of both science and hope must be known around the world. We don’t know everything yet. No one is saying they are providing a cure. But I love what each of these men said. Sitting around and waiting for a “silver bullet” wasn’t an option for any of them. So, they came to a clinic in Perm, Russia.

Russia’s Formula for Coronavirus Easing

Russia is currently number two in the world for confirmed coronavirus cases. But with the statistics starting to show a welcome drop in new cases, it’s time to turn our attention to how Russia will begin to ease from the current “self-isolation” to life as usual.

Russia’s Rospotrebodnazor (fabulously translated on their own web-site as the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing) is largely responsible for this process.

What drew me to study the Rospotrebodnazor details was some comments by Moscow regional Governor Andrey Vorobyev, mentioning that the region was ready to begin the easing process because, “We create hospital beds every day, therefore, most likely, by all three indicators we will be ready (for the start of easing) by Monday.”

In the midst of the madness that the world has found itself in, I love a formula.  So, here are the three phases, and three key indicators to ease to each phase, according to this May 8th document from Rospotrebadnozor, with my best attempt at explaining them.  It is important to note that, given Russia’s enormous land area, this will be controlled and processed on a regional level.

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It seems it will be a long time before we return to life with scenes like this from Red Square.  But there is a formula on how to move in that direction.

Phase 1:

In this first phase of easing, you are permitted to:

  • Exercise outside (until now prohibited), but not more than 2 people in one place, and they must be 5 meters apart.
  • You may walk outside (until now, also prohibited, unless you are walking to essential work, the grocery store, or a pharmacy), but not in groups of more than 2 people while maintaining social distancing.  During your walk, you must avoid “places of mass congregation”, including playgrounds.
  • Service-based businesses can re-open.  I’m unsure which services might qualify or not.
  • Non-grocery stores may open if they have their own separate entrance, if their space is 400 square meters or less, and if they can control that there is not more than one shopper in the store per 4 square meters.
  • What I do NOT see in Phase 1: Construction and manufacturing.  Both of these were re-instated in Moscow on May 12th, and my assumption is that they are considered pre-Phase 1.  Please correct me in the comments, if I’m wrong! 🙂

And now, perhaps more interesting, the criteria to enter Phase 1:

  • The Rt Index must not be greater than 1.  My understanding is that this means that one infected person must not infect more than one other person on average.
  • “Availability of free bed capacity at least 50% of the normative need for infectious beds.”  I understand this to mean that there needs to be a certain percentage of open hospital beds ready to treat COVID-19 patients.  This is why I found Governor Vorobyev’s comments to be interesting.  There certainly is the feeling that they are creating as many beds as possible in order to expedite the ability to enter Phase 1.
  • There must be a daily average of not less than 70 PCR tests per 100,000 population (taken over a 7-day average).

Phase-2:

In Phase 2, you are permitted to:

  • Open stores of up to 800 square meters, provided there is a separate entrance and you control that there is not more than one customer per 4 square meters.  Street markets and points of sale may also open at this point.
  • Certain educational institutions will open.  The document does not specify which ones.

Phase-2 criteria:

  • The Rt Index must not be greater than 0.8.  My understanding is that this means that one infected person must not infect more than one other person on average.
  • “Availability of free bed capacity at least 50% of the normative need for infectious beds.”
  • There must be a daily average of not less than 90 PCR tests per 100,000 population (taken over a 7-day average).

Phase-3:

In Phase-3, the restrictions are relaxed to:

  • All shopping centers are opened, with no restriction on the number of shoppers or floor space.
  • All public eateries are opened, with the restriction that tables must be 1.5-2 meters apart.
  • All educational institutions re-opened.
  • All hotels open.
  • Public “rest” areas: parks, squares, etc. re-opened.

During all phases:

  • People with health risk-factors and anyone 65 years of age or older must remain self-isolated.
  • Masks must be worn in all public spaces, including public transport.
  • Social distancing must be maintained (1.5 meters).
  • Upon re-opening, businesses and other organizations are required to hold health safety meetings with their employees.

My understanding is that if there is a degrading of the COVID-19 situation that there will be a return to full self-isolation or perhaps a step back in the phasing.

Most interesting is what appears to be a determination on the part of Governor Vorobyev to reach these criteria as quickly as possible through the enforcement of social distancing, health care, and continued increase in available hospital beds.

DISCLAIMER:

I am no expert in these area.  This is my attempt to cut through the coronavirus information overload and share my understanding of Russia’s formula for easing the current restrictions.  If you speak Russian and really want to geek out on the formula, you can either check out the document yourself or just take a quick look at the exact formula here:

Снимок экрана 2020-05-18 в 14.19.02 As always, be sure to use the comment section to let me know where I have made mistakes! 🙂

And most importantly, stay healthy!

 

 

American Football 🏈 In Russia

The city of Izhevsk, Russia is probably best known as being the birthplace of the AK-47.  But the hidden surprise for me in my visit to this industrial city located a 16-hour train ride east of Moscow was the local American Football team.

Russians are known both for their love and mastery in sports from hockey and gymnastics, to weight-lifting and cross-country skiing.  But in 20 years of living in Russia, I had no idea that there was a small, but incredibly enthusiastic American football movement around Russia.  These are men who have taken the effort and time to learn the rules of American football, train, acquire the necessary equipment, and even travel around Russia to compete with similarly fanatical teams.

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A muscular Rafis looks more like a linebacker than nose guard to me, but as he happily exclaims “It’s fun to beat up people!”.

We caught up with the team during an evening practice and were able to hear their views on playing a completely obscure sport that they love, and also their views on their favorite NFL teams.

It was fun to ask them their opinion on my beloved, yet historically beleaguered Cleveland Browns, and be pleasantly surprised as they rattled off some of the Browns’ players’ names.

The team’s defensive coordinator gave an interesting viewpoint, saying that for the team members, playing football is a fight, and seemed to suggest that it is metaphorical for the fight that they face every day in their jobs and other life circumstances.

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Even acquiring the necessary equipment is no easy task as it must be sourced from the United States.

My Russian friend Zhenya is also a big American football fan.  He and I run the Russian language “The Amerikanets” YouTube channel.  I even wrote a blog post on why my YouTube channel is in Russian, instead of English.

But the passion of these American football players in Russia challenged Zhenya and me to start another very big project:  an English-language YouTube channel about life in Russia.

With that, here is our English-language video report from our time with the Izhevsk American Football Team:

I love the fact that every Russian city holds so many hidden surprises, and I hope that we can continue to show them to you as we travel around the nation.  Who knows, we might even break some stereotypes as we journey together.

And we will continue to create Russian language videos as well.  Here is our Russian video report of the same team:

I would love to hear your ideas for future videos.  What would you love for me to not just write about, but show?

BONUS: Check out the Izhevsk team in action as they take on the American football team from Perm, Russia.

 

Soviet Medical Treatment Finds Rebirth With Foreign Patients

“Those who have had lymphedema know how it feels.”

I’m talking to Natalia in a clinic in the city of Perm, a two-hour flight from Moscow.  She is describing the 14 years of pain and swelling in her legs that no doctors had been able to alleviate until she came in for treatment with the Lymphatech Clinic.

Natalia probably has no idea that this “miraculous” treatment began many years earlier during Soviet times.  It was already in 1986 that the Soviet medical authorities first approved further development of medical treatment through the lymphatic system.

ALSO READ: 4 Americans come to Russia for obscure medical treatment

Natalia’s story of lymphedema being treated with lymphatic methods is perhaps unsurprising, but surprising are the results that the clinic is now seeing treating arthritis, diabetes, certain types of cancers, pneumonia, asthma, and even mouth-breathing and snoring.

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The Lymphatech Clinic’s chief doctor, Professor Nadezhda Garyaeva, or as most of her foreign patients affectionately refer to her, “Doctor Nadya”.

The Lymphatech Clinic is housed in an unassuming two-story brick building not far from the center of the city of Perm.  Nobody would pick out this city on the edge of Siberia as the birthplace of innovative medical treatment.

But the Lymphatech clinic’s chief doctor, Professor Nadezhda Garyaeva, begins to tell her story:

In 1983, I went to Professor Borisov in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) to start a scientific career in lymphology – a branch of medicine about which many knew almost nothing. Namely, the lymphatic system largely determines the course and outcome of almost all diseases. We conducted research on the lymphatic vessels – I wrote a doctoral dissertation on this topic. I met with the academician Yuri Borodin, who headed the valuable Institute of Lymphology in Siberia. I was inspired by the possibilities that the lymphatic system offers to the doctor – a completely different approach to the treatment of the entire spectrum of diseases.

It is, of course, more than a little interesting that the lymphatic system, which affects so much of our health has remained largely ignored.

Visas to Russia, the Easy Way

It is also unfortunate that the political and economic events in the Soviet Union, and then Russia, in many ways hampered the further development of these ideas.  During the 1990’s, although Professor Garyaeva headed the largest department of the Perm Medical Academy, there was no funding for research, so she bravely created a private research institution that carried on this important work. As a result, 9 medical method patents were developed. 

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A Soviet medical document from 1987, related to lymphatic treatment.

For many years, the Lymphatech Clinic both successfully and quietly handled its work among local patients and was mostly known for its cutting-edge cancer treatment.  However, it is now starting to receive some international attention, and patients are making the trek internationally to this city in the heart of Russia.

Mike French has suffered from asthma and chronic sinus issues for many years.  Listen as he tells his story of visiting the Lymphatech Clinic in Perm.

Susanne Trokhymenko of England talks about how she was unable to find relief from her lymphedema, even after seeking medical attention for many years.  But at the Lymphatech Clinic, she was able to find relief after just two treatments.

Wee Tiong Howe is the head of an investment capital company in Singapore.  He describes his time at the Lymphatech Clinic as “Amazing. They were able to solve all of my issues in an extraordinarily short period of time.”

Patients are surprised to learn the benefits of this innovative treatment and how the lymphatic system affects so much of our health. But even more surprising is how the Lymphatec Clinic doctors take the time to thoroughly study their situation before moving into the treatment phase.  A first visit with Professor Garyaeva generally lasts at least two hours, as she is careful to look through all of the details and listen to the patient attentively.  The treatment itself is outpatient and usually involves a daily injection with the purpose of bringing health through the lymphatic system.  Since the injection is targeted, the dosage is lower and more effective than what a patient would experience elsewhere in the world.

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The blue highlights in this heart mark the lymphatic system.  When most patients see how significant the lymphatic system is for human health, their only question is “Why haven’t we heard about this before?”.

John is a retired plumbing contractor from the State of Ohio in the USA who was diagnosed with chronic leukemia a few years ago.  His latest tests showed a spike in his white blood cell count, but his American doctors offered him no options except to wait.

John decided to send his tests to the Lymphatech Clinic.  Three oncologists at the clinic, including Professor Garyaeva, spent 4 hours each, studying John’s test results.  They then sent him a detailed report in English. It was surprising for John to learn as the Lymphatech doctors explained that as they are members of both the Russian and American Cancer Societies, that they understand the approach to cancer treatments in both nations.  They then explained that with his present white blood count, that in Russia, chemotherapy treatments would have already been prescribed.  

The Lymphatech doctors’ report for John then explained that they had a high level of confidence that they could at least positively affect John’s situation, with a lymphatic system treatment.

Pleasantly surprised both by the doctors’ thoroughness, the price, and also simply an option other than “just waiting”, John immediately made plans to fly to Perm.  Listen as John describes his experience at the Lymphatech Clinic in detail on the clinic’s Facebook page.

Much of the clinic’s results can only be treated as anecdotal as there is not a large enough sample size to predict future results.  But the list is more than fascinating: Alzheimer’s, Type 2 Diabetes, multiple sclerosis, arteriosclerosis, and much more.

If you just have a question or are looking for a second opinion, you can contact the Lymphatech Clinic.  

On a personal note, I am proud to say that I am working with the Lymphatech Clinic.  And it is without reservation that I can say that this is one of the most both intriguing and useful of Russia’s gems that I have been able to uncover in 20 years of living in this great nation.

Russia’s Authentic Pop-Star Babushkas (VIDEO)

“Party for Everybody, Dance! Come on and dance!”

It was 2012, and a ensemble of babushkas from an unknown Russian village were taking the Europe pop-music scene by storm.

Eurovision is an annual song competition, where each country in Europe can submit one song and then vote for the other countries.  In recent years, it has offered a mix of some quality music, but also some bizarre performances.

But no one saw the babushkas from the village of Buranovo coming.  Their smiles, glowing faces, and mix of English, Russian and native Udmurt language lyrics disarmed the audiences.

In the end, they won 2nd place in the Eurovision contest with their hit “Party For Everybody”

Fast-forward 7 years later.  A couple of weeks ago I was traveling through the Udmurtia Republic with our YouTube channel, and was told that the Buranovo Babushkas were only a 60-kilometer drive away.

To be honest, I thought it might just be a cute or entertaining story, but then I met the Babushkas of Buranovo.

Not only are they incredibly authentic, but their story and continued drive to serve those around them with what they have is a direct challenge to everyone they meet.

As it turns out, their dream was for a church for the village of Buranovo.  And with proceeds from Eurovision and other concerts, they built that church.

The babushkas are all now 80 years old or older, but they are not stopping with the church.  Their new project is building an assisted-living facility for the elderly in the area.

Be sure to watch this video until the end, and allow yourself to be challenged by the Buranovo Babushkas.

“It is only the love of the people that supports us and we continue to live…”

The Soviet Arcade Museum

My kids like video games, and I like history.

When you’re 42, have 4 kids, it’s raining, and your wife is gone for the week, you start to think about stuff, you know?

The main thing you think about is how to get the kids out of the house!  This can be one of the challenges of raising kids in Russia.  The weather isn’t always delightful in the Motherland, and you want to stay active.

After doing a quick internet search, I was happy to be reminded of the Soviet Arcade Museum.

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The Soviet Arcade Museum is currently located at VDNKH

The Soviet Arcade Museum is located at the VDNKH park complex.  From what I understand, it has moved from the city center, due to renovations, so not sure how permanent the location is.

VDNKH is one of my favorite places to takes guests when they come to Moscow, and it’s a bit strange to me that I don’t see more tourists there.  But I’m not complaining, because the crowds there can be overwhelming, particularly on the weekends.  The complex has some of the most fantastic architecture in Moscow, a fascinating history, a huge aquarium, a robotics museum, and much more.

Point is, the Soviet Arcade Museum can be a great part of a day spent at the VDNKH complex.

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The “Sea Battle” puts you in command through a submarine periscope

The entry cost is 450₽ per person, or if you’re like me and have 3 children or more, it is 350₽.  The admission cost also includes 15 tokens (in this case, 15 Soviet kopecks) for game play.

So, if you’re keeping score, my kids and I had a total of 75 game plays ahead of us.

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Success:  4 kids happily playing, in this case soccer and basketball

There are, of course, plenty of racing games, some ultra-simple “Pong” style games, sports, and war.  Our favorite though, was the simple basketball game in the above photo.

Here’s a “Prove Your Strength” attraction that just might leave your back aching.

It seemed that either a few of the games weren’t working, or we didn’t understand how to use them.  There was a kind and talkative gentleman, walking around and fixing the games.  I assume we could have asked for a refund for some of those games, but we didn’t as 75 total game plays was more than enough.

IMPORTANT:  Game instructions are provided in English, and the staff also speak great English.

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A Hunting Game

I was thrilled that the kids liked my idea for afternoon fun, as that is probably the exception more than the rule.  I think it was fun for them to play games where you can actually see how it works mechanically.

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TORPEDO ATTACK!  (Not sure how this is different from “Sea Battle”)

If you’re looking to get out of the house with kids.  I also did overhear my teenage offspring comment that “this would be a great place for a date”.  The Soviet Arcade is in Pavilion 57 at VDNKH, which is in the very back of the park complex, in a large building that is mainly devoted to Russian history.  Point is, you might not see the signs, so best to know which Pavilion.

And there is also a Soviet Arcade Museum in St. Petersburg.  Enjoy, and let me know what other ideas you have to get the kids out of the house.  With this one we all won, I enjoyed the history, and they enjoyed the games.

A Guy In Russia Is Carving 1000 Stone Rabbits

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Perhaps it was this ageless wisdom that inspired Sergei Gapanovich, Petrozavodsk, Russia businessman, to remove graffiti on a rock face next to the road… with multiple rabbit sculptures.

The “Rabbit Valley” project has now received attention by media from all over Russia, and when our YouTube channel team was visiting the capital city of Russia’s Republic of Karelia, I knew we needed to visit Sergey and try our hand at the art of stone-rabbit sculpting.

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This humble blogger’s first attempt at Russian stone-rabbit sculpting

Why rabbits?  “When I was six years old, I became lost in the forest,” recounts Sergei, “and as I lay shivering in the cold, some rabbits came and kept me warm throughout the night, and in the morning led me home.”

Never one to let the facts get in the way of a good story, Sergey also doesn’t seem to let his successful business ventures in Petrozavodsk get in the way of his passion of stone-carving.

He is currently working on a giant rock bench on a Karelian island, and plans to take on even more difficult stone-sculpting projects.  At the moment of this publication, Sergey has sculpted 400 rabbits, which means there are only 600 rabbits to go.

Have you ever dreamed of having a certificate of your own personal rabbit sculpture from the Republic of Karelia.  It’s possible, by visiting the Rabbit Valley web-site.  You can choose the type of rabbit that you love the most and will get a certificate of ownership.  Dreams can come true.  And with just a flew clicks of a mouse, you can have your own stone rabbit.

Because “only in Russia” is only possible because of people just like Sergey.

Check out our video of the project and more from the city of Petrozavodsk:

 

Visas to Russia for Americans and Canadians

As an American who has made Russia my home for the past 20 years, I am often asked about how best to get a visa to Russia. Truth be told, I have been here so long that I have lost track of many of the visa requirement changes for newcomers to Russia.

With that, I have found myself frequently recommending the services of Marcus Hudson of Let’s Russia for Americans and Canadians who are looking to get visas to Russia.

I asked Marcus what some of the most frequently asked questions are for folks who are looking to apply for Russian visas and how he would answer. Here they are. Please keep in mind that the Russia visa application process can vary per country, so these questions and answers are at times specific to Americans and Canadians who wish to apply for visas to Russia.

Can I do business on a tourist visa? Can I travel around Russia on a business visa?
Yes and yes. But if you have a tourist visa and you’re doing some business, have intentions to do tourism as well. It’s best if can prove your intentions in the rare case you’re asked by passport control.

Will I be at risk of visa denial or getting arrested in Russia if I have served in the US military?
You will if you are a spy or if you are involved in spy activities. In all other cases, no. Having served in the military does not disqualify you from getting a visa to Russia. In circumstances when you have or had high security clearance to sensitive information or highly-qualified specialist in military technology, the Russian government most likely already knows about you.

I’m going to Russia to start doing business. I understand I need an invitation letter from a Russian organization. How can I get a business invitation letter to Russia if I haven’t establish business contacts in Russia yet?
This is a common question from small businesses, entrepreneurs, self-employed and digital nomads. In order to make business contacts you need to travel to Russia. In order to travel to Russia, you need an invitation from a business contact. And around it goes….
The best option is order a business invitation letter from an intermediary like Let’s Russia because we have contacts in Russia that will legitimately invite you as a potential business partner of theirs. We also assist in drafting the accompanying business letter to reflect actual intentions and plans for your trip. Some Russian consulates have been requiring an explanatory letter from the Russian organization inviting guests.

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Marcus Hudson of Let’s Russia

How can I get a visa transferred to a new passport if my old one has been damaged or I’ve run out of pages?
You can have a visa transferred in Houston for $69 if the original visa was issued in Houston. Otherwise, you would need to apply for a new visa.

I was adopted from Russia and never had a Russian passport. How can I get a Russian visa?
Typically, you don’t. You have to apply for your Russian passport. This takes awhile because you’ll need to gather proof of your citizenship first. Russian children who are adopted from Russia do not lose their citizenship.

In which situations should an American apply for a 3 year multiple entry visa?
There’s no reason not to apply for the multiple entry visa! Starting March 2019, the consulate fees are all the same price, regardless of visa type or number of entries. With this change, we recommend applying for the multi-entry visa up to 3 years. If you’re passport is expiring before then, you can still apply for a multi-entry visa up to 6 months before your passport expires.

Can members of the same family travel to Russia on different visa types?
Yes. But minors accompanying parents usually need to have the same visa type as their parents.

How do I decide which visa to apply for?
Many people want to travel to Russia for a specific period of time. That’s their priority. They don’t care so much about the purpose of travel. We’ve created a specific tool to help people through this process. Check it out here. This is useful for most passport holders, not just Americans.
This way, you can decide on the type of visa based on the time they want to spend in Russia rather than the other way around, and you are not limited by time based on your purpose of visit.
However, we recommend all our customers that the rule of thumb is that when going through passport control, you need to be prepared to answer, “What’s the purpose of your visit?” You should not get a business visa if you do not intend to do business.

These questions are perhaps just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to applying for a visa to Russia. That is why I always recommend using a visa service to take away any stress related to the red tape. I am happy to recommend Marcus and the Let’s Russia team as I have personally seen both their professionalism and patience in answering the many questions that can arise before and during the Russia visa application process. You can begin the visa application process with Let’s Russia by filling out this quick form here.

Russia is open for tourism and business. To simplify the visa process, I recommend a service like Let’s Russia.  Your situation might be unique and it is helpful to have someone working with you and answering your questions as you apply. We look forward to seeing you in the Motherland! 🙂

Cherepovets: Russian City of Steel and Hockey

You know Moscow and St. Petersburg, of course.  And you probably have at least heard of cities such as Novosibirsk, Sochi, and Vladivostok.  But what do you know about Cherepovets?

In my traveling with my Russian language YouTube channel, I have particularly enjoyed going to cities where I knew almost nothing about the city.  And the visit to Cherepovets was no exception.

A quick diletant-level history of Cherepovets will quickly take us from ancient times and a pagan tribe that lived on the shores of the Sheksna river to a Soviet “Mono-City” to a modern city working to develop and diversify.  During Soviet times, there were quite a few cities created around one major enterprise, and in the case of Cherepovets, that would be the Severstal steel factory.

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The Severstal steel factory dominates much of the horizon in Cherepovets

The Severstal factory is the largest steel factory in Russia, so it would be hard to miss, particularly since it’s located right next to the city.  I reckon this harkens back to a time when ecology wasn’t the first thing on anyone’s mind anywhere in the world.

I will leave the subject of ecology to others as it is not a topic that I pretend to know much about.  I can only say that when I arrived in Cherepovets, the smell from the factory in the city center was quite strong, but in talking to locals, it seemed to not be a major concern.  Most folks pointed to the fact that the factory has been working hard to filter much of the emissions in recent years.  And it seems that new apartment buildings in the city are being built in areas farther away from the factory.

Cherepovets is located almost the exact same distance from both St. Petersburg and Moscow.  It is working hard to attract investment and also diversify, and has created tax incentives for new business in the city.

But what I learned the most when I was in Cherepovets is that the local people are incredibly proud of their city and also are crazy about ice hockey.  Their team, also called “Severstal”, is in the professional Continental Hockey League.  We were able to go to a match that Severstal played against the visiting team from Chelyabinsk and also talk with a couple of Severstal’s Canadian players.

The atmosphere at the match was incredible.  Imagine a city, anywhere in the world, where their local team, regardless of the sport, is THE main event in town.  The arena held about 5000 fans, and everyone seemed to know each other and really enjoyed supporting their hometown team.

The word on the street is that there is some fear that the Continental Hockey League will exclude Severstal from its ranks in the future.  I think that would be a criminal move.  You take a city like Moscow- there are at least 5 major league hockey teams in the city.  Each of those teams, of course, has die-hard fans.  But none of those teams are as vital to the city life as the Severstal team is to Cherepovets.  For in this steel-town north of Moscow, I found real Russian hockey.

We thought it would be fun to also video me trying to train with some hockey players.  The Severstal press service, ever so diplomatically suggested I start out with their ten year old team.  This is how that training event went:

In Russia, whether it be art, music, or sport, the children often have to choose one discipline to focus on and become excellent at.  The guys in the Severstal boys team were a lot of fun, and also not only happy to share their opinion on my budding hockey skills, but also give me some quick pointers on working as a goalie.  I found it interesting that they pay nothing to be a part of the team; from what I understood costs are covered also by the steel factory.

We enjoyed walking the streets and talking with the locals.  We had done a video last year in the city of Vologda, and were later inundated with comments that Cherepovets is better than Vologda.  We decided to ask folks why they think that Cherepovets is better than Vologda, and I was sort of surprised to find that Cherepovets has some of the most positive citizens from any city I’ve ever visited in Russia.

Of course, coming in from the outside, this city rivalry was mostly amusing.  I think Vologda is a fantastic city with tremendous tourism potential, and Cherepovets is an industrial city with investment opportunity.  But in both cases, I really enjoyed getting to know a couple cities that are a bit off the beaten path in Russia.

Now, I’m thinking where to travel next.  Any ideas?