This is an old thread, but I found it interesting enough to pick up. I lived in Russia for 4 1/2 years, from 1992 to 1996. I've learned enough facts about Russian/Soviet airliners to be pretty specific about their strengths and shortcomings. I've flown on the TU134, the TU154, the IL62 and the IL86, and other than their rather primitive accommodations, I've had no complaints, and would not hesitate to fly on any of these again.
As far as strenths, the airliners typically are built like tanks. Very solid, durable airframes. Their landing gear is also designed for landings and take-offs from unpaved landing strips in varying conditions. The Ilyushin IL86 widebody even has lower lobe passenger doors for entry and exit from the plane through the bottom of the fuselage, eliminating the need for jetways or stairways so that it can be used at primitive airports. And speaking of the IL86, there has never been a single crash since its introduction in 1980.
With most Russian jets, their biggest problem lies in engine maintenance, reliability and fuel economy. Most Russian commercial aircraft engines require frequent servicing and overhaul, by comparison with Western engines. They guzzle fuel, spew exhaust and are noiser than even the old JT3s on a 707. In particular, the IL62 has had problems with uncontained engine failure, and its four engines in pairs at the tail guarantee that if one engine spews its guts out, then another will surely be lost, and the controls will probably be affected.
Russia is very new to the high-bypass turbofan arena, having designed only two - the Perm/Soloviev PS90A (for the IL96-300 and TU204-100) and the Lotarev D18T (for the AN124). The PS90A was so unreliable at the outset, I've seen IL96s at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport with at least one engine off the wing every time I've been there (2 - 3 times per year since 1992 and twice this past summer). I've heard these engines have a tendancy to shut down in flight. Even once, an IL96 on rotation at SFO lost two engines just as it was rotating, and the pilot had to do some fancy footwork to keep that bird from wiping out. The D18T is somewhat better, but not much.
Many of the Russian commercial aviation industry's problems will be solved or alleviated due to joint operations with Western companies. The newest airliners, the IL96M, the TU204-124 and the IL114, are being equipped with Western engines and avionics, and fitted with Western-built cabin interiors, while being produced at half to a third the cost of their Western counterparts. Hopefully, these types will find customers worldwide, ensuring their continued production and success.