Can I use my American cell phone in Russia? It depends on your mobile phone. All major American cell phone companies do offer global roaming capabilities with their phones, allowing you to make calls in Europe in general and in Russia in particular.
CDMA vs. GSM
The cell phones in Russia, as well as in the rest of Europe, use GSM network. American mobile phones utilize CDMA. You can read about the technical details and compare the advantages and disadvantages of both systems elsewhere. The key question for you is whether your cell phone will work in Russia or not.
Will my cell phone work in Russia?
If you have a world-capable multiband phone that enables you to use GSM network you will be able to use in Russia. In the United States, AT&T Wireless and T-Mobile carry such phones. Verizon and Sprint Nextel also offer dual-band global phones. Note that phones and plans of this kind are very expensive. If you are going to Russia for a short visit it's hardly worth investing in it.
How much will it cost to use my mobile phone in Russia?
It depends on your provider and plan. This information is readily available from your customer service. On average, it will cost you around $5 a minute for international roaming in Russia. This is in addition to special international plans, if applicable.
What are the alternatives to using my cell phone in Russia?
If you really need the mobility, the way to go is to buy a prepaid cell phone in Russia and leave your American mobile at home. Mobile phone are very common thing in Russia with a number of well established wireless providers offering all kinds of phones and plans. If you don't speak Russian or don't have friends in Russia to help you with making the right purchase, this might be a difficult (but possible) task. It is worth investing in a Russian cell phone if your planning to stay in Russia for a lengthy period.