The European part of Russia is the one located west of the Ural Mountains.
Because of its large size, this country has different types of climate, but almost everywhere winter is freezing, and summer is moderately rainy.

The main climatic zones are the following: arctic and subarctic in the far north, with only a long freezing winter and a brief cold summer, in which the average temperature remains below 10 °C (50 °F); continental in inland areas (with freezing winters and summers which are progressively warmer towards the south); moderately continental in the western Baltic region (with freezing winters, though more temperate than in inland regions, and mild summers, with frequent rains, possible thunderstorms in the afternoon and cool nights); arid continental in the Pontic-Caspian steppe region, with cold winters, hot summers and low annual rainfall; and finally, Mediterranean on the coast bordering the Black Sea, with mild and rainy winters, and warm and sunny summers.

Proceeding from west to east, there is typically an increase in continentality (especially with regard to the winter cold), and a decrease in precipitation.

Russia is the cold country par excellence: apart from the climatic differences, the common feature of most of the country is the winter cold.
The European side is less cold than the Asian one, however, here the lowest temperatures of the European continent are recorded.

This country is exposed to different influences, warm and cold, so that its climate is characterized by chronic instability, due to the absence of major mountain ranges (excluding the Caucasus in the south). The influence of air masses from the Atlantic Ocean is not remarkable, though they can bring a wet and mild weather; from the Arctic Ocean, the blizzard is able to bring dreadful snow storms in winter; from Siberia, frigid air masses in winter may arrive, and from Central Asia warm winds in summer, called Sukhoviei.

The only area with a mild climate, which is sheltered from the winter frost, is the southern coast of the Black Sea, where the climate is almost Mediterranean, with mild and rainy winters, and warm and sunny summers, in which strong thunderstorms occur.

The north

Northern European Russia, map

Franz Josef Land

In the northernmost islands of Russia (see Franz Josef Land), the climate is Arctic, with an average temperature in the coldest months (which at high latitudes are February and March) around -23 °C (-9 °F), therefore colder than the Svalbard Islands (which belong to Norway), and an average in the warmest month (July) around 1 °C (34 °F).
Here are the average temperatures of Franz Josef Land.
Franz Joseph L. - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-25-25-26-22-11-30-1-4-12-19-24
Max (°C)-20-20-21-16-7021-2-9-15-20
Min (°F)-13-13-15-8122732302510-2-11
Max (°F)-4-4-631932363428165-4

Novaya Zemlya

South of Franz Josef Land, in the islands of Novaya Zemlya, which separate the Barents Sea from the Kara Sea, the climate is Arctic in the northern tip, where the average in July is still around 1 °C (34 °F), while it becomes progressively milder as you move south: in Malye Karmakuly, in the south-central area, it becomes subarctic, with about 4 months above freezing (0 °C or 32 °F), from June to September, when, however, the average temperatures remains below 10 °C (50 °F). In inland areas, especially in the northern island, there are hills, in which perennial snows are found, already at a few hundred metres above sea level.
Malye Karmakuly - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-16-17-14-13-61552-3-9-13
Max (°C)-12-12-10-7-2410950-6-9
Min (°F)3179213441413627169
Max (°F)101014192839504841322116

Along the northern coasts of mainland Russia, bordering the Barents Sea, the climate is subarctic, with a long and cold winter, and a cold summer, which lasts for three/four months. The Barents Sea remains ice-free even in winter, because the last branch of the Gulf Stream arrives here. The average temperatures in winter are around -5 °C (23 °F) in the western part of the Kola Peninsula, and decrease progressively towards the east, until they drop to about -20 °C (-4 °F) in the eastern part (see Amderma). As we have said, along these coasts the summer is cold, and the temperature rises a few degrees above freezing in the warmest months, in which highs are around 10/12 °C (50/54 °F).

In the north of Russia, at a certain distance from the sea or along the shores of bays and sheltered inlets, there is a large area where the climate is cold continental, with a long, cold winter (often colder than in the previous area, due to the increased continentality), and a cool summer, in which the maximum temperatures get close to 20 °C (68 °F).


For example, in Murmansk, in a fjord on the Kola Peninsula, the average temperature in January is -10 °C (14 °F), while in summer the temperature is steadily above freezing for about 5 months and a half, from May to mid-October, and the average maximum in July is around 17 °C (63 °F).
Murmansk - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-13-13-9-4169840-7-11
Max (°C)-7-7-238141715104-2-5
Min (°F)9916253443484639321912
Max (°F)191928374657635950392823

Precipitation in Murmansk, not abundant, amounts to 480 mm (19 in) per year, with a minimum in winter and spring, when light snowfalls occur, and a summer maximum. Here is the average precipitation.
Murmansk - Average precipitation

In Murmansk, the sun, which is practically absent in winter, also because of the very short days (from December 1 to January 10, the sun does not even rise), appears among the clouds for a few hours per day in spring and summer (also because the days are very long, and from May 22 to July 22 the sun does not even set).
Murmansk - Sunshine

Along the shores of the White Sea, which freezes during winter, being sheltered from the Gulf Stream, the average temperature in January, in cities like Archangel and Onega, are around -12/-13 °C (9/10 °F), while in summer the maximum temperature reaches on average 20/22 °C (68/72 °F).
Further east, in the vast plains of the Arkhangelsk Oblast and the Komi Republic, there are areas where the lowest temperatures of the European continent have been recorded: -52 °C (-61.5 °F) in Vorkuta (in 1978), and -56 °C (-69 °F) in Pechora (in 1946).
Here are the average temperatures in Pechora, located at a latitude of 65 ° N.
Pechora - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-23-21-14-8071184-3-14-20
Max (°C)-14-13-4310182217102-7-12
Min (°F)-9-67183245524639277-4
Max (°F)7925375064726350361910

Here in summer the average maximum temperature is around 22 °C (72 °F), with short periods above 30 °C (86 °F). Precipitation is around 550/600 millimetres (22/24 inches) per year, and summer is the rainiest season (winter is too cold to have substantial precipitation, which, however, are frequent and weak, in the form of light snow, for many months).

The big cities

Central European Russia, map
Further south, we enter a wide flat area that includes Moscow, St. Petersburg and the major cities of European Russia. This area has a continental climate, with cold winters, though the temperature remains below freezing for a shorter time than in the north. Summer is warm, and precipitation is frequent throughout the year, though with a summer maximum. In this vast area, the climate becomes progressively more continental as you move towards the east, mainly because of the colder winter, so much so that in Ufa, more than 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) east of Moscow, the average in January is -12 °C (10 °F), therefore a few degrees lower than in the capital (see below), while the summer become slightly warmer.

Saint Petersburg

In St. Petersburg, the influence of the sea is not substantial, because the Gulf of Finland during winter is often frozen. Winter is freezing: the average in February is -6 °C (22 °F), although a little less cold than in Moscow. On the contrary, in the other seasons the maritime influence is evident, so that the summer is mild, with highs around 21/23 °C (70/73 °F), but also humid and rainy. August is usually more rainy than July. Occasionally, however, warm air masses from the continental area can arrive here (which reminds us of the hot and muggy St. Petersburg described by Dostoevsky).
St Petersburg - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-8-8-42712151394-2-6
Max (°C)-3-329162023211592-2
Min (°F)181825364554595548392821
Max (°F)272736486168737059483628

In St. Petersburg, precipitation is not abundant during the long winter months, when it often occurs in the form of light but frequent snowfall, while it is more abundant in summer (August is the rainiest month). Here is the average precipitation.
St Petersburg - Average precipitation

The sea in Saint Petersburg is cold all year round, and as mentioned in winter it can freeze.
St Petersburg - Sea temperature
Temp (°C)100148131513963
Temp (°F)343232343946555955484337

St. Petersburg

In the great Russian plains, winter used to be colder: the average temperature in recent decades has increased by a few degrees, and cold waves from Siberia have become more rare.


In Moscow, the average January temperature of the last 30 years is -7 °C (20 °F); the average daily temperature remains below freezing from November to March. Summer is warm, with a July average of 19 °C (74 °F), but sometimes it can get hot. In summer there is a moderate amount of rainy days, while in periods of good weather, thunderstorms may break out in the afternoon.
Moscow - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-9-10-42812141273-3-8
Max (°C)-4-4311192224221691-3
Min (°F)161425364654575445372718
Max (°F)252537526672757261483427


Outside of the main territory, in the west, between Poland and Lithuania, we find the small exclave of Kaliningrad (formerly Königsberg). Here the climate is Baltic semi-continental, with cold winters (but less than in Moscow and St. Petersburg), and mild summers.
Kaliningrad - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-4-4-137111413951-2
Max (°C)1261218202323181262
Min (°F)252530374552575548413428
Max (°F)343643546468737364544336

Precipitation in Kaliningrad amounts to 800 mm (31.5 in) per year, with a minimum in spring, and a maximum in summer and autumn. Here is the average precipitation.
Kaliningrad - Average precipitation

The sun in Kaliningrad is rarely seen from November to February, while from May to August it shines for a decent amount of time (the days are very long, so the total sunshine is not low).
Kaliningrad - Sunshine

The Baltic Sea is very cool even in summer, however, the water temperature reaches 18 °C (64 °F) in August.
Kaliningrad - Sea temperature
Temp (°C)43348131618161296
Temp (°F)393737394655616461544843

The south

Southern European Russia, map
In the southern region of Russia, in the plains between Ukraine and Kazakhstan, winters are still cold but shorter, while summers begin to be hot. In this area we find the steppe, due to the scarcity of precipitation.
Already in Volgograd, where the average temperature in January is -6 °C (21 °F), in summer highs are normally around 29/30 °C (84/86 °F), but sometimes they can reach 40 °C (104 °F); annual precipitation amounts to only 350 millimetres (13.8 inches).

The only part of European Russia where the average in January exceeds freezing, is the coast of the Black Sea. It should be noted, however, that in this area the winter is not mild everywhere: it's still cold in the Sea of Azov, where the average temperature in January is -0.5 °C (31 °F), while along the coast of the Black Sea it gradually increases, from 2.5 °C (37 °F) in Anapa, to 6.5 °C (43.5 °F) in Sochi.


So, the only really mild area is that of Sochi, and in fact this was the winter holiday resort of the Soviet nomenklatura: while in the northern coast of the Black Sea some outbreaks of cold air are possible, in Sochi the northern wind blows as a warm and dry down-slope wind coming from the mountains. In summer, the temperature is high: the average in July and August is 23/24 °C (73/75 °F).
Sochi - Average temperatures
Min (°C)435913172020161386
Max (°C)101012172125272825201512
Min (°F)393741485563686861554643
Max (°F)505054637077818277685954

On the other hand, in this area it rains a lot all year round, even in summer, due to showers and thunderstorms which occur in the afternoon. In the northern coast of the Black Sea it rains less, so that in summer only 30/40 mm (1.2/1.6 in) per month fall, compared with more than 100 mm (4 in) per month in Sochi. Here is the average precipitation in Sochi.
Sochi - Average precipitation

Sochi may have some sunny days also in winter, while in summer the sky is often clear, especially in the morning (in the afternoon the sky can be covered by thunderclouds).
Sochi - Sunshine

The sea temperature in Sochi is warm enough for swimming in summer, especially in July and August, when it reaches 24/25 °C (75/77 °F).
Sochi - Sea temperature
Temp (°C)1099111621242523191511
Temp (°F)504848526170757773665952

In the Caspian Sea, the situation is quite different, and the climate is not so mild. Along the northern coast, the climate is semi-desert, with hot summers, when the daily average is around 24/25 °C (75/77 °F) in July and August, and cold winters, with an average in January of -3.5 °C (26 °F) in Astrakhan, and -2 °C (28 °F) in Lagan' (formerly Kaspiyskiy). More to the south, along the coast of Dagestan, winter becomes progressively less cold and a little less arid: the average in January reaches 2 °C (35.5 °F) in the southernmost part of Dagestan, near the border with Azerbaijan, more or less in the middle of the Caspian Sea.


Here are the average temperatures of Astrahan, a city located on the banks of the Volga River, north of the Caspian Sea.
Astrakhan - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-6-7-26121720181260-5
Max (°C)0181724293231241671
Min (°F)211928435463686454433223
Max (°F)323446637584908875614534

In Astrahan, precipitation amounts to only 215 mm (8.5 in). Here is the average precipitation.
Astrakhan - Average precipitation

In Astrakhan the amount of sunshine is very good in late spring and summer.
Astrakhan - Sunshine

In winter, the Caspian Sea is colder than the Black Sea, while in summer it becomes equally warm.
Makhachkala - Sea temperature
Temp (°C)6448142024252318128
Temp (°F)433939465768757773645446

Between the two seas (the Caspian Sea is actually a huge salt lake), we find the Caucasus Mountains, where Mount Elbrus stands out, with its 5,642 metres (18,510 feet). Here the climate varies with altitude and slope exposure: it becomes cold and snowy at high altitudes, while at low altitudes, at the foot of the mountains, it's continental, with cold winters: in Grozny, the average in January is -3 °C (27 °F). On the contrary, summers are warm or hot: the average in July is 24 °C (75 °F) in Grozny, and 20 °C (68 °F) in Vladikavkaz, at 650 metres (2,100 ft) above sea level.


Here are the average temperatures of Grozny.
Grozny - Average temperatures
Min (°C)-6-5-15111518171362-3
Max (°C)1391824283130251793
Min (°F)212330415259646355433627
Max (°F)343748647582888677634837

The western part of the Caucasus is more rainy (and more snowy in winter) than the eastern one. Precipitation in Grozny, not abundant, amounts to 440 mm (17.5 in) per year, and is scarce in winter, and relatively more abundant in late spring and summer. Here is the average precipitation.
Grozny - Average precipitation

When to go

The best time to visit most of European Russia is generally the summer (late May to early September in Moscow and St. Petersburg, only July and August in the northernmost areas), which allows to avoid the discomfort of the cold and the bad weather, while in the southern regions (Caspian Sea, steppe areas, the foothills of the Caucasus), where the summer is hot, you may prefer May and September.

In St. Petersburg, even in summer there can be cool and rainy days; in June, here as in other areas located at high latitude, you can enjoy the famous white nights (in which it never becomes completely dark), described by Dostoevsky.

In Moscow, where in winter the temperature can drop to -30 °C (-22 °F) and below, the summer can sometimes be hot, with highs about 30 °C (86 °F) and even above; in the afternoon there may be some thunderstorms, while sometimes days can be cool even in mid-summer, with maximum temperatures below 20 °C (68 °F).

The worst time in Russia is probably the thaw: unpaved roads are often impassable because of mud and melting snow. Depending on the area and the year, this phenomenon, called rasputitsa, occurs in different periods. In the Arctic it occurs in summer, while in Moscow it usually occurs on late March or early April, and it lasts about a fortnight. The Russians prefer the winter frost to these cold and wet periods.

If you intend to visit Russia in its winter look, the second half of February has longer days, and temperatures often less cold, though still below freezing.

What to pack

In winter: cold weather clothing, synthetic thermal long underwear, fleece, parka, wind jacket, warm boots. For Sochi and the Black Sea: warm clothes, sweater, jacket, raincoat or umbrella.

In summer: in Moscow and St. Petersburg: spring/autumn clothes, T-shirts and shorts for hot days, jacket and sweater for the evening and for cooler days; raincoat or umbrella.
In the Arctic coasts and islands: warm clothes, down jacket, hat, gloves.
In the south, the coast of the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea: light clothing, sweatshirt or light jacket for the evening.