I was in Russia for a few months a long time ago and told it would be impossible to get an un restricted visa without pre booked accomodation.
I just rolled up to the Russian embassy filled out the paperwork, explained what I wanted to do and rubber stamps pounded all over the place.
Just give it a go and have lots of paperwork, proof of funds, an idea on paper etc... Do a bit of research
and find what that area is known for and say you want to visit it.
If they say no then try some other tactic.