With Russian culture on the world stage amid Olympics fever in Sochi, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has shared his thoughts on what makes Mother Russia tick.

The retired commander of the International Space Station speaks fluent Russian after having spent 20 years studying the language and then serving as NASA's director of operations in Russia from 2001 to 2003. In fact, had Hadfield not been so immersed in Russian culture, he says, he probably would never have ended up getting the opportunity to command the ISS.

"When you get inside, when you open the door either to a Russian apartment or to the Russian soul, it is warm and friendly and prideful of their history and culture, and extremely generous," he told CBC Radio.

Growing up, Hadfield said, the Soviet Union was seen as a "great, menacing bear on the horizon." But after getting to understand Russia better after the fall of the Soviet Union, it changed his perspective.

Click the embedded audio player to hear more about Hadfield's reflections on Russia and its people.