Today, there is a real surge of interest in everything to do with fashion. Thousands of young people dream of becoming fashion designers, and competition at the leading fashion colleges is formidable. This may be with the result of rapid growth of the Russian clothing market - approximately 20pc per year. Moreover, Russian consumers spend on average twice as much on clothes as Europeans (13pc of income as opposed to 6pc in Europe).
The first Russian invasion was in 1814, when Cossacks and hussars flooded Paris after the defeat of Napoleon. Culturally, however, it was a century later that France began to feel the Slavic influence, when Diaghileff's Saisons Russes set a trend that saw Russian style dominate the era. Here Alexander Vasilyev, historian of fashion and Russian emigre, gives us his take on the Russian haute couture, the parallel reality behind the Iron Curtain.
It is well known that we Russians don' t find it easy to talk about such delicate matters as love. So when we call to ask what kind of vegetables to buy on the way home, we are reluctant to add : " I love you, honey." We need a more serious reason to express our affection. And St Valentine's Day seems to be the perfect excuse to allow ourselves to be that little bit more sensitive and romantic.
Last November, Musical America named Russian Opera singer Anna Netrebko its "Musician of the Year," describing her as "a genuine superstar for the 21st century." In doing so, the magazine placed the young soprano in the same league as Placido Domingo, Marilyn Horne, Karita Mattila, Beverly Sills and Leontyne Price. However, unlike these stars, Netrebko traces her roots to Southern Russia.