Last updated January 14, 2021

Today’s Status, Looking Towards Spring 2021 — Yellow

We’re hearing good things from our local friends who are living in and traveling around Russia, but right now there are limitations about foreigners crossing borders and entering the country. Airports opened recently to some countries and Russian consulates in the US began processing visas in August after being closed for months, but then after the surge in US cases visa processing became very limited again. Passengers from the US are still not allowed to enter. ILP does not host a program in Russia during the Summer semester, so we’re setting our sights on a Fall 2021 semester here.

Check below to get more details on some key aspects that we’re watching. Each of these components help us determine when we’ll be able to send volunteers to Russia again (it’s stuff you’re going to want to know).  Also, this info changes often. Our goal is to keep things current with weekly updates, so check back frequently.

Getting There

Since March, Russia has had some pretty tight border restrictions that are currently still in place. Right now, most foreigners aren’t allowed in. 

Starting August 1st, 2020, the Russian Federation started allowing entry to nationals and residents of some countries (though not including the US). Travelers from these approved countries will need to arrive with proof of a negative COVID-19 test (issued no more than 72 hours before arrival). We’re hoping to see more and more countries added to Russia’s list of travelers, or see the nation roll out a “test-upon-arrival” strategy which would allow more travelers.

Russian consulates in the US have started processing visas again, but because of the increased number of cases in the US, many Russian employees at the consulates have returned to Russia. Visa processing is very limited right now. Since ILP volunteers are required to have a visa before entering, this is a major obstacle to re-opening programs there. We hope things can get sorted in time for a Fall 2021 semester. 

As of mid-July, flights are opening again …. kind of. For now, only selected categories of people are allowed into Russia but progress is progress. We’re hoping the United States is soon added to the list of countries Russia is allowing travelers from.

Daily Life

Moscow’s case numbers went down by the end of summer but have been rising since the start of fall. There is no indication that they will resort to lockdowns that happened in fall and are having more selective restrictions to help curb infections.

Testing in Moscow and other urban centers is robust and widely available, with workers in some industries having mandatory regular testing. The healthcare system in urban centers is good, with private hospitals offering good quality care.

As of January 14th, Russia has 376.8 active cases per 100,000 which is significantly lower than current cases in the United States.

All of Russia’s regions began mass vaccination against the coronavirus starting December 10th. Later that month, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko announced that those who had received the vaccine will also receive immunity passports.

The Russian ministry of education had schools open in September for the normal school year, with some grades learning online. Distance learning for Grades 6-11 and for college students have switched to remote learning until early February.

Things are opening up, with the opportunity to shop around, dine outdoors, and visit parks and beaches.  As of July 13, nearly all businesses, schools, and universities are allowed to operate. And as of August 1, theaters, movie theaters, and concert halls reopened (with limits on the number of people that can attend).

Out & About

Just like at home, there are some precautions to take even though lots of aspects of life have opened right back up. Recently President Putin instituted a national mask mandate to hopefully reduce the number of infections in the country. Thermal imagers were installed at entrances to Moscow’s public transportation as an added precaution. Most schools and businesses are now allowed to operate fully which is something we love seeing. 

Masks, social distancing, and limiting capacity are all things you’ll run into on a visit to Russia right now.

We have heard great things from our local friends about travel in Russia, with a handful of our Local Coordinators traveling around the resort towns, enjoying beach days, and visiting some of our favorite spots in Russia. Right now, it’s looking like inner-country flights, train trips, and bus rides are all a go. You can soak up everything from dreamy mountain lakes to sandy beach towns, plus all of our go-to cities in this huge country!

As things stand now (and the direction Russia is moving), if we were able to send volunteers, they would likely need to stay in Russia for their semester. Plan on a seaside resort trip to sunny Sochi, falling head over heels in love with St. Petersburg, and soaking up the European charm of Kaliningrad. Nizhny Novgorod isn’t to be missed either — same with charming towns along the Golden Ring. There’s a lot to see in Russia, that’s for sure. 

Okay, now what?  Should I still apply for Russia

If you’re thinking “that’s all really good to know, but what does that mean for me?” we have some good news to share: time is still totally on your side.

We’ve seen policies change without notice that have made the difference between us thinking we’ll need to wait longer and helping us determine that a location is something we’re pretty optimistic about. Sometimes that has happened in the span of just a couple of weeks or even in a single day. A lot could be decided before Fall 2021 (remember, ILP doesn’t have a summer semester in this location, so Fall is up next). 

So we say start your application now so that you’re ready when the time comes. We are going to need volunteers who are ready to go right when things change for the better, which is why we think it’s a good idea to have your application in (even if things potentially look uncertain right now). Time really is on your side.

We’re also here for all of your questions. We’d love to talk about deferring to a later semester if things still need more time or finding a country right now that’ll be a good fit for you. You can bet that once things open up, you’ll be the first to know!