With the start of campaigning for the parliamentary elections, the BBC's Steve Rosenberg has embarked on a trip across Russia to find out more about life in a country which has undergone rapid change in the last 15 years.
Exploring Russia diary :: 9 November, leaving Moscow
"Moscow's a dangerous place," a Russian friend once told me.
Images of mafia killings instantly filled my head.
Followed by thoughts of being stabbed by killer icicles plummeting from rooftops. Or of being poisoned by radioactive mushrooms.
But he did not mean anything like that.
"It's dangerous," he explained, "because it can give you the wrong image of Russia."
I now understand what he means. These days Moscow looks like any western capital - albeit with a few more onion domes than you will find in London or New York.
There are skyscrapers, and hypermarkets; bank machines and boutiques; western fast food chains, and Mercedes dealerships. The people you see walking down the street wear Italian overcoats, or Manchester United football shirts.
In a word, it looks comfortingly normal.
But Moscow is not Russia - anyone who has been outside the Russian capital will tell you that. Places look different, people think different.
Now we are going to find out just how different.
We are setting off on a two-week journey across Russia which will take us more than 9,000 kilometres east of Moscow.
We will cross two continents, seven time zones, 16 rivers and 20 Russian regions.
We will travel by train on the world's longest railway, the Trans Siberian, deep into snowy Siberia. And then on by plane, to the Far East port of Vladivostok.
On the way we will stop off in towns and villages to see what life is really like far from the metropolis.
The timing could not be better. With political battles raging in the Kremlin, and the Russian authorities set for a show down with the country's richest tycoons, we want to know what people in Omsk, Novosibirsk and in the Siberian forests think of it all.
Do they view jailed oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky as a political prisoner, or a criminal?
And with parliamentary elections due in December, what do ordinary Russians make of democracy?
The suitcase is bulging. Thermals, extra coats, umpteen boxes of packet soups.
So it is off to Yaroslavsky Railway Station. And all aboard Train No.2
1. Leave Moscow: 9 November
2. Yekaterinburg: 10 November
3. Omsk: 11-13 November
4. Novosibirsk: 14-15 November
5. Krasnoyarsk: 16 November
6. Irkutsk: 16-19 November
7. Vladivostok: 20-24 November