Last year I ran a creative writing workshop near Plymouth where we focused on the styles of the Russian writers. Each literary gem has something to teach us.
The first image of Russia is one of bleak Siberian winters, heavy fur coats, Communism and the Kremlin. Scratch behind this imagery and you will find something far different. All of this is reflected in their highly successful literature which stands as a classic on the world stage.
What is their technique? Don't forget many writers who put their feelings onto paper were locked up and/or disappeared under the Communist regime. Some will say things haven't changed. However, as artists we are not here to judge that per se. We just want to look and enjoy.
If you want to get started on a good Russian short story then look no further than Anton Chekhov. His short story The Cherry Orchard stands alone as a wonderful work of art which grasps the cusp of change in 'old' Russia when we see that a family hanging onto old, traditional standards are 'in the way' of financial property development. It shows the first type of capitalism entering Russia when the poor peasant is no longer poor. Servant turned master and all the rest of it. At the end of the story, only the truly traditional servant is left caring about the family, the house and the orchards. Money talks.
At school, a truly wonderful teacher of Literature, Mrs Barbara Allen, took us through some of the work of Nikolay Vasilyevich Gogol. Gogol carries something into his work which makes us all look at ourselves from time to time. He puts his finger on the pulse of human frailties. If you haven't read any of his work then it's worth a try.
Russian Flash Fiction? How about reading some of the work of Mikhail Mikhailovich Zoshchenko to give you a stunning overview. Quick reads such as The Bathhouse, The Galosh and The Hat are food for thought.
In Russia it was important to be successful in both the short story form and poetry before even contemplating the novel. It was a true marathon. So, if you haven't yet looked at Russian literature then it is worth a go and is something more accessible than you think.