The Russian language is extraordinarily difficult, as anyone who's attempted to learn it and even native speakers themselves will tell you. Unfortunately, knowledge of English is not widespread even in St. Petersburg and Moscow, and outside of Russia's two major cities it is virtually non-existent. This is slowly changing, but for now learning the Cyrillic alphabet and a few key phrases will go a long way towards getting you around and about. There is also good news in that foreigners have become more and more common in Russia and people are accordingly more patient in their attempts to understand and help visitors. Still, one shouldn't rely entirely on the kindness of strangers and basic greetings, requests and responses are best learned beforehand. For those wishing for a bit more, there are courses available in Moscow and St. Petersburg that range from survival conversation to full-blown 40 hour intensives.