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The largest country in the world, Russia has a diverse and rich history with cultural treasures in every corner of its vast geographical area. On our circumambulation of the 'Golden Ring' of Russian towns we encounter monuments, churches and monasteries that date from pre-Mongol and Muscovite times, whilst the northern reaches of Karelia and Archangel are home to unique monastic communities and splendid wooden churches. St Petersburg, seemingly impervious to the ravages of time, siege and communist levelling, retains much of its pre-revolutionary magnificence. Peter the Great aspired to rival the capitals of Europe in the layout of avenues and embankments as well as in the construction of the Winter Palace, now part of the Hermitage Museum, one of the great world art collections.