Russia, once the largest and most powerful member of the former USSR, nonetheless remains a fascinating country to visit. It is a country of contrasts, from great subtropical beaches to bitterly cold winter regions in the north. The east may have fewer people, but its lovely cities are among the most popular places to visit in Russia and can hold their own against the west. Russia is steeped in history everywhere a traveler goes, from vicious battles to great classical music and literature. And almost everywhere visitors can see examples of magnificent art, not only in museums but also in its churches.