There are another thirteen cities with populations above one million.
This is also a country of countless smaller towns, rising out of the woods and the fields and always (you sense) on the brink of being swallowed up again by rurality.
There are a wide range of climates and (mostly vast) landscapes to explore.
Not that Russian is the only language, in those parts, mind. The Russian Federation, no less than the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire before it, is a multinational state, with many other indigenous languages. Let Russian be your lingua franca as you travel, but be aware of the struggles of other, equally valuable, languages for survival before it. After all, the country may have expanded it all directions but, at its core, it was a north-east European country, sharing a climate and fauna with its immediate western neighbours: long, dark, snowy winters, pine and birch trees, wolves, boar and bears.My flawed, stumbling efforts leave me ever more humbled before this immense language.Challenging though the process often is, learning Russian has immensely enriched my life. The land of Russia itself is a huge argument for learning the Russian language.This post is all about reasons why Russian should be on your radar and how it could benefit you, too. If you can, visit the country and get a taste of its tongue even if, unlike me, you’ve no intention of living and working there and becoming a lifelong explorer of the place and its culture.You know the stats: the Russian Federation is the largest country in the world, covering about one eighth of the world’s land mass and spanning eight time zones (nine if you count the enclave of Kaliningrad in the West).It was only years later that I got it, when I arrived on another train, this time from far to the north-east, after a month working in the town of Vologda in the Russian north, which still has its share of traditional wooden houses and where the odd proverbial cow really does still roam the streets.