Cultural events will be a major part of your experience in Russia, and going to the movies is a favorite leisure time activity. Ask acquaintances which Russian films are worth seeing and invite them along. A native speaker will be very helpful in explaining the finer nuances (or even the basic plot), which may be elusive during your first months abroad. Films are an entertaining way to become more proficient in Russian and learn about the host country’s society — though the profusion of dubbed foreign (often American) films in Russian theaters can sometimes make good Russian movies hard to find.
Opera, ballet, and classical concerts are much more widely attended in Russia than in the U.S. Locals are proud of their theater and musical culture. Theater can also be very entertaining, but it is best to ask local acquaintances about which plays are worth seeing. If possible, read or get a brief summary of the play before the performance. Theater tickets are bought the same way as movie tickets.
Remember that when getting to your seat in a Russian theater, it is considered impolite to move past seated patrons facing the stage (bluntly, putting your rear in their faces). Be sure to move down the row facing those who are already seated.
Local museums and art galleries contain wonderful collections. The admission price is usually nominal, and, except for special exhibitions, there are rarely lines. Look for information about student tickets, which are usually considerably less expensive. Also, don’t miss the “local history” museums in smaller cities. They often have wonderful relics of Soviet propaganda as well as displays of pre-revolutionary (and sometimes, pre-historic) artifacts.
Tickets for sporting events such as hockey, basketball, and soccer are available at stadium ticket kiosks. Ask friends which matches are the best to see, or read the sports pages. If you are in a large city, make sure you know where the match is being played before you buy the ticket.
The uneven development of post-Soviet mass media since 1991 has meant an explosion of news sources and competing points of view. All the of the prominent journals, newspapers, etc. have online versions now. Among the better-known websites and publications are:
Известия – A leading relatively, independent newspaper; a good source for national and international news.
Литературная Газета – A weekly newspaper geared toward intellectuals, containing important literary and cultural articles as well as articles on current social and economic issues.
Комсомольская Правда – A sometimes gossipy but always interesting daily.
Новый Мир – The most prestigious monthly literary journal.
Московский Комсомолец (МК) – The largest circulation Moscow daily newspaper. Combination of news and entertainment/gossip.
Аргументы и Факты (АиФ) – A popular weekly newspaper. It often provides information on the latest economic statistics or hot political issue, as well as interviews with leading political and cultural figures.
Коммерсант – A daily newspaper and a weekly magazine on economic and business issues
РБК – a large Russian media group headquartered in Moscow, established in 1993
Meduza – A Riga-based online newspaper and news aggregator in the Russian language.
TV is still one of the major sources of entertainment and news in Russia. Especially, with people of older generations and in the provinces. TV could be an interesting source for learning more about Russia as well as mastering your listening skills. At this point in time, however, most national channels support the official point of view on current events. For the most part, this has affected only news broadcasts. Entertainment based channels and shows continue as they have for the past several years.
The main national channels are Первый канал, Россия, НТВ, Культура. A variety of smaller television stations are also broadcast in large cities (СТС, ТВЦ, Рен-ТВ), focusing almost entirely on entertainment shows and not news.