Russia is a complex country that has developed a unique culture all its own. Part and parcel to this culture is the fact many people have the impression Russians are unfriendly. Is it true?
When discussing people of any country, it is dangerous to generalize excessively. Every country, city, town and block has good people and slugs. Hey, welcome to the human condition. Russia is no different, but many of the conceptions about Russians are wrong.
Russia has a unique culture that has been formed by many different things. One of them is the torturous political machinations the country has gone through. From the royalty/peasant times of the Czars to the mass exterminations of Stalin, it is rather amazing the country is still...well, a country. Can you imagine living in a country where your paranoid leader would randomly order the death of millions of your fellow citizens and likely yourself? Welcome to Russia.
The unique culture of Russia manifests itself in many ways. One definite method has to do with how people act. Describing the standards is a bit difficult, but it goes something like this. If a person knows you or is introduced to you, they will be open and talkative. If you are just randomly walking down the street, they will not. It has nothing to do with you per se. It is just the norm. So, how does this work in daily life.
In your local town, walking around with a big smile on your face may be the norm. In Russia it is not. A person walking around smiling at everyone is considered rude and/or a scam artist. Since they don't know you, why would they be smiling? So goes the Russian way of thinking. This is why pictures of Russians walking down the street always seem to show a dour, unhappy group of people. Such an interpretation, however, is wrong.
So, are Russians unfriendly, particularly to tourist? Nope. Not at all. Russians are exceedingly friendly. If they take a liking to you, they will treat you like a family member. The key is to overcome that initial dour look. It can be difficult to walk up and talk to someone who looks like they have the urge to kick someone's butt. Do so, however, and you will be surprised. That dour expression will suddenly be smiling and friendly. It can be shocking the first couple of times, but this is the way things are. In truth, you will find Russians to be some of the friendliest people you will ever meet.
There are exceptions to the above rule of thumb. If you are in a touristy area, all bets are off. Tourists are rude and annoying because they often don't understand they are being so. Russians in such areas will quickly get tired of such conduct, as will just about any person in any area of the world.
Also, you need to realize there are exceptions to Russian friendliness. As with any locations, there are always a few bad apples. While Russians are generally very friend, watch out for the overly friendly person who is setting you up for something. The same goes for just about any location in the world.
If you travel to Russia, you will probably be surprisingly startled at just how friendly Russians are. Don't let the dour expressions fool you. Just walk up and start talking to people. You will soon happily be drinking vodka in someone's kitchen!